Posted by: rcottrill | May 11, 2011

Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Words: John Fawcett (b. Jan. 6, 1740; d. July 25, 1817)
Music: Dennis, by Hans Georg Nageli (b. May 26, 1773; d. Dec. 26, 1836)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Dennis is the tune that is most often used with this hymn, but its repeated downward cadence has always seemed to me rather mournful. As an alternative, I suggest the tune St. Thomas, to which I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord is usually sung.

There are many products on the market designed to glue one thing to another. They have impressive names such as Weldbond, Bondfast, and Super Glue. They sometimes claim the ability to join anything to just about anything, making the connection virtually impossible to break apart.

The Bible speaks of the marriage bond as one that is at least very difficult to sever. God’s plan is that “a man shall…be joined to [united with] his wife” (Gen. 2:24; cf. Matt. 19:6). The Hebrew word for “joined” is dabaq. The Lord uses it in speaking to Job about the monster Leviathan. The scales of the animal, perhaps now extinct, were like armour plate. He says of them, “They are joined [dabaq] to one another, they stick together and cannot be parted” (Job 41:17). And that is what God expects of the marriage union.

However, we know that divorces do happen, for a variety of reasons–and the Lord recognizes that this act dissolves the marriage tie. But not without damage. It is like breaking apart two pieces of wood that have been joined by a powerful glue. The break will not be clean. Splinters from each piece will likely adhere to the other, or be broken off. And it is the same with marriage and divorce. The breakup is painful, and does harm to both partners, and their children–and more.

There are other bonds spoken of in the Word of God as well. One is the union of believers in the church, the spiritual body of Christ. The word “fellowship” is sometimes used of this–a word I’ve heard described as two fellows in one ship–an image that certainly has some relevant implications. When we were saved, “God…called [us] into the fellowship of His Son” (I Cor. 1:9), and we’re also called into a fellowship with one another, as Christians.

There is a positional reality to this–we are one in Christ, one body of which He is the head (I Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 1:22-23). But there is also to be a conditional or practical outworking of it. We have a responsibility to maintain fellowship with other believers. To be continually “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). We are to “put on love, which is the bond of perfection [the perfect bond of unity]” (Col. 3:14).

When Christians in the local church are each walking with the Lord, and in unity with one another (I Jn. 1:3), it is a blessed thing. It was experienced by the early Christians, as they “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). They served the Lord together and had “fellowship in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5). It is that kind of fellowship of which Pastor John Fawcett’s hymn speaks.

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

When we are truly experiencing that bond, “our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares” (CH-2), and “we share each others woes, our mutual burdens bear” (CH-3).

We “have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (I Cor. 12:25-26). We “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15), bathing these relationships in mutual prayer, and nurturing them with practical support.

Pastor Fawcett added a couple of stanzas that point to the eternal fellowship the saints will enjoy in the heavenly kingdom. Many hymn books do not include them, but here they are:

(CH-5) This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

(CH-6) From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.

1) What are some hindrances to a vital Christian fellowship among believers?

2) What kind of actions are helpful if we are to nourish and strengthen Christian fellowship?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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