Eliminated from contention for a place in the new Presbyterian Church (USA) hymnal is the contemporary Keith Getty/Stuart Townend hymn, “In Christ Alone.” Why is such an overwhelmingly popular hymn disqualified?
The Committee on Congregational Songs proposed to Getty and Townend that the words in verse 2, “Till on the cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied,” be amended, deleting “the wrath of God was satisfied” and replacing it with “the love of God was magnified.” The hymnwriters rejected the proposed change, thus “In Christ Alone” will not be in the new hymnal.
What’s the big deal? Isn’t it wonderful and true that God’s love was magnified when Jesus died on the cross? Yes, Powerfully true! Why then are Getty and Townend so entrenched in opposition to the change?
While it is true that God’s love was magnified through the dying of Jesus on the cross, that is not what is at stake here. By attempting to remove the words, “the wrath of God was satisified,” the committee has actually denied the Gospel and not magnified, but tragically dimmed the love of God into nothing more than emotional and exemplary niceness that won’t save anyone.
Getty and Townend are committed to what they call “the whole Gospel.” The very heart of the Gospel is the Substitutionary Atonement. This means that Jesus, as he suffered on the cross, took our place under God’s judgment and took the punishment that we deserve. In fact, Jesus took our sins upon Himself and was punished in our place, our substitute. Thus, “the wrath of God [against us sinners] was satisfied.”
“psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19 NIV) not only give voice and vent to our emotions in worship, but teach and confirm good theology, the truth of the Gospel, increasing our understanding and enhancing our worship. Praise God for many contemporary hymn writers, led by Getty and Townend, who are committed to the Gospel without compromise and know that “the wrath of God was satisfied” is the most powerful expression of love ever.
For an excellent book that will help you better understand the importance of God’s wrath and why it can’t be ignored, I highly recommend The Holiness of God by R C Sproul.