Posted by: rcottrill | August 1, 2012

Wonderful Grace of Jesus

Words: Haldor Lillenas (b. Nov. 19, 1885; d. Aug. 18, 1959)
Music: Haldor Lillenas


Wordwise Hymns (birth of Haldor Lillenas)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: In the early years of his pastoral ministry, Mr. Lillenas and his wife struggled to make ends meet. Though both musical, they had no instrument in their home to play–until Haldor bought a decrepit old reed organ for five dollars. This inspiring gospel song, along with many others, was composed on it. Wonderful Grace of Jesus was published in 1922 and the author sold the rights to for four or five dollars. He would later have to pay many times that for the privilege of using it in one of his own song books!

This hymn quickly became extremely popular, and it has been used by both choirs and congregations with great effect. The stirring melody tends to gallop along, and Pastor Lillenas felt that many sang it too quickly. He commented, “A song should be [sung] in such a fashion that the words can be comfortably pronounced without undue haste.” (Amen to that! For more about the pace of our singing see Tempo of Congregational Hymns.)

The word “grace” is found about 120 times in the New Testament. It represents God’s unearned, undeserved favour and blessing. Grace is closely linked to the Greek word for “gift,” indicating that it’s not something that can be earned by human effort or merit (Rom. 4:4-5). Grace cannot be earned, but grace can be rejected (II Cor. 6:1-2).

It can also be abused. Jude speaks of those who “turn the grace of God into lewdness” (Jude 1:4), likely meaning they were teaching that, since salvation is by grace, we can live as we please! But the Word of God says just the opposite–that grace should inspire holiness (Tit. 2:11-12).

In grace, God has blessed us, even when we deserved just the opposite. And though His grace was evident in the Old Testament too, it was the coming of Christ that brought an avalanche of grace upon the earth. He was “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (vs. 16-17).

It was infinite grace that caused God the Son to lay aside the glories of heaven and come to earth as Man to die for our sins. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9; cf. Heb. 2:9). When we put our faith in Christ as Saviour, we are “justified [pronounced righteous] freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24; cf. Eph. 2:8-9).

We are to continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever” (II Pet. 3:18). And our experience of God’s grace does not end when we depart this mortal life. It’s His plan “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).

So, “be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace of God” (Heb. 12:15, Philips paraphrase)

CH-2) Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned,
Saved to the uttermost,
Chains have been torn asunder,
Giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious name of Jesus.
Praise His name!

1) What do you love most about the grace of God?

2) What do you find most difficult to appreciate or understand about God’s grace?

Wordwise Hymns (birth of Haldor Lillenas)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. A beautiful thought that struck me like never before… “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2v7)
    Thanks for the post.

  2. We sang this hymn last Sunday — requested by an 18-year-old young man. For a small church, we did very well on the parts.

    • Yours is a well-tuned harp indeed. In our “small church” there often only three or four of us that can be heard at all. When I taught at a large Bible college, we had a Sunday morning congregation of about a thousand, with an full orchestra to accompany us. Quite a contrast! But I’m often reminded of my adapted version of First Samuel 16:7, “The Lord does not hear as man hears; for man listens to the outward sound, but the Lord listens to the heart.”


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