Ministerial Alliance Program- KLMX

Hymn Theology-

April 21-28, 2008

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM


Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program on KLMX radio.   I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines.  This week we’ve been looking at the theology behind several classic hymns. They’re classic for good reason and that reason is that they have some deep, God-honoring themes in their words.  We’ll finish up the series today but if you’ve missed any of these, check out the church website at and you’ll find the text of all my KLMX messages there.  May today’s message bless you and grow you in a deeper relationship with God Almighty.  May He be glorified by this message and may the light of Jesus the Christ shine into hearts of darkness.  Amen.


The last hymn we’ll examine is “Rock of Ages.”  As with the others, there’s some good stuff in this song that we too often casually sing.  “Oh, not that old thing again!” some say.  I’m likely to say “Let’s sing it again!  Slower this time!”   For a 46 year old, I can be awfully old-fashioned.  Praise the Lord!    “Rock of Ages” was written by Augustus Toplady in 1776.  Toplady was given the inspiration after taking refuge in a cliff during a thunderstorm.  Over the years, “Rock of Ages’ has proven itself as a long-lasting hymn. 


Here’s the first verse:


Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.


Whew… there’s a lot there!  First, the “cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee” is very reminiscent of Moses in:


Exodus 33:18-23  And he said, "Please, show me Your glory."  (19)  Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."  (20)  But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."  (21)  And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.  (22)  So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.  (23)  Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen."


You know, so many people think that when they die, they’re going to just stride up to God’s throne and tell Him a thing or two, or plead their case or whatever.  But God tells Moses…I mean, c’mon, MOSES!!!... that "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."   What hope is there going to be for you and me.  Actually, on our own, none.  This is why we need Christ, of whom Paul tells Timothy:


1 Timothy 2:5  For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,


Speaking again of Jesus, the author of Hebrews says:


Hebrews 8:6  But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.


So, Christ is our mediator.  Christ is our rock and the only way we can see God is to hide ourselves in Him. 


The last 4 lines of the 1st verse need to be read together:


Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.


“The water and the blood” refer to this moment, when Jesus is on the cross:


John 19:32-34  Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him.  (33)  But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.  (34)  But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.


The significance of “the water and the blood” is this:  Upon a death such as crucifixion water collects on top of the heart.  When the solider pierced Jesus’ side and water and blood flowed out, it was proof that he was indeed dead.  He wasn’t just unconscious as some liberal scholars like to believe.  He was dead.  The payment had been made.


The line “be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure” is a very, very significant line.  It refers to what is often called the “double imputation.”  In this, our sins are laid upon the pure unblemished Christ and he takes them upon Himself to take the punishment of God’s wrath.  We can see this truth in several passages, including:


1 Peter 2:24  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness- by whose stripes you were healed.


Hebrews 9:28  so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.


1 Peter makes it pretty clear that Christ Himself literally bore our sins in his own body.  When you read in Mark 14 and Luke 22 about Christ asking God to remove, if possible, the cup He’s about to bear, it’s not death that He fears.  It’s the burden of carrying the sins of the world in his pure and holy body and separation from God the Father that had to result.  What a horrible thing to experience.  But, as our sins were imputed to Christ, so also is His righteousness imputed to us.  When our sins were laid on him, Christ was not a sinner.  He only bore our sins.  Likewise, when His righteousness is laid on us, we’re not righteous.  We only receive the credit for His righteousness.  Listen to what Paul says:


Philippians 3:8-9  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ  (9)  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;


Paul says that he desires to be found in Christ and that he, Paul, has no righteousness of his own, but only that which comes by God through faith.  In:


Romans 3:21-22  But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,  (22)  even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;


Note that the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, is to all and on all who believe.  Christ’s righteousness is laid upon believers, just as their sins were laid upon Christ.  This is the double imputation and this is what the hymn “Rock of Ages” is referring to with the line “be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure.”  We are saved by Christ from God’s wrath, and we are made pure by His righteousness.   Our own works are worthless when it comes to salvation. 


I’ve spent a lot of time on the 1st verse of this hymn, but that’s okay; it’s a very important verse, theologically speaking.  I just said that our own works are worthless in achieving salvation.  Listen to the next two verses of “Rock of Ages” and see if you think the author agrees.


Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.


 “Not the labor of my hands…could my tears forever flow…all for sin could not atone.”  This shows the futility of man’s works toward his salvation.  Isaiah said it best in 64:2  “…all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…”  There is absolutely no way that man can atone for his sins based on his successive good works.  We must look to Christ “Thou must save, and Thou alone.”


In Fanny Crosby’s “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” we saw the necessity of a contrite and broken heart.  We see it here, too, in the 3rd verse of “Rock of Ages.”


Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.


Here’s what we contribute to our salvation: “nothing…naked…helpless…foul.”  Here’s what do, though: “to the cross I cling…come to Thee for dress…look to Thee for grace…to the fountain fly.”  And the simple truth of the matter is summed up in the last line:  “Wash me, Savior, or I die.”  There’s the simple message of the gospel summed up in one line of one verse of a hymn.  “Wash me, Savior, or I die.” 


And now, the last verse of “Rock of Ages.”


While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Hebrews tells us:


Hebrews 9:27-28  And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,  (28)  so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.


Everyone dies.  We all know that.  The Bible says that men die once and then the judgment.  At this judgment, each of us will give an account to God (Romans 14:9) and the dead will be judged (2 Corinthians 5:10, 2 Timothy 4:1, Jude 1:15, Revelation 20:11-15).   Those who are not found in the lamb’s book of life will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).   This is what the last verse of “Rock of Ages” is talking about.  “When I soar to worlds unknown, see Thee on Thy judgment throne…”  When that happens, the author says “Rock of Age, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”  In other words, “let me be found in Christ.”


What a rich and powerful hymn “Rock of Ages” is!  It touches on the inapproachability of God apart from a Mediator, it brings up double imputation, it shows the futility of our own works in securing salvation, and ends with God’s righteous judgment on the last day.  In all of this, Christ is our rock and in His cleft, we must be found.


Are you in Christ?  Are you safe in the Rock?  Has Christ taken your sins or are you still holding fast to them yourself?  Have you claimed His righteousness for your own, or do you still think your own good deeds will tilt the balance in your favor?   Don’t be a fool.  The author of “Rock of Ages” knew the gospel message and the Bible covers it front to back.  “Wash me, Savior, or I die.”  That’s the gospel message.


I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines, NM.  Thanks again for tuning in to KLMX this week.  If you missed any messages, see our church website at   I hope you’ve learned something and I hope you grown a little bit in the faith.  I especially hope that someone out there has seen the light and grasped faith for the first time.  All of these are reasons why we preach and teach.  The main reason, though, is so that God’s grace and mercy are magnified.  To God be the glory, through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ.  Amen.


Back to Hymns Part 4