Posted by: rcottrill | April 16, 2014

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

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Words: Avis Marguerite Burgeson Christiansen (b. Oct. 11, 1895; d. Jan. 13, 1985)
Music: Harry Dudley Clarke (b. Jan. 28, 1888; d. Oct. 14, 1957)

Wordwise Hymns (Avis Christiansen)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Avis Christensen was one of the major gospel song writers of the twentieth century. She lived her whole life in the Chicago area. Harry Clarke was a Welshman who emigrated to America. He served as song leader for evangelist Billy Sunday and later became a pastor. This song (sometimes entitled What Must I Do?) was published in 1920. I’ve retained the original “thee’s” and “thou’s,” but this is one time they can be replaced by you and your (e.g. “And you shall be saved from sin,” CH-1) without disturbing the metre or the rhyme.

T his is a simple song about the simple gospel. It is based on an incident in Acts 16. Missionaries Paul and Silas were preaching the gospel at Philippi, when they ran afoul of some locals who were using a demon possessed girl as a fortune teller, and making a lot of money through her pronouncements (vs. 16). When Paul delivered her from demonic bondage in the name of Jesus Christ, her masters had the two missionaries arrested (vs. 18-19).

The accusation was, “These men exceedingly trouble our city,” and they teach customs which are against Roman law (vs. 20-21). This got the watching crowd stirred up, and the magistrates–likely fearing a riot–had Paul and Silas beaten and cast into prison, with their feet secured in stocks (vs. 22-24). The two had just suffered an unjust arrest, a painful beating, and had been thrown in jail, deprived of their freedom, their future uncertain. But what happened then?

“At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (vs. 25).

What a wonderful demonstration of faith and courage! And we need to go back to an earlier persecution of the believers to understand the attitude of these faithful servants of the Lord. After others had been arrested and beaten we read, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His [Jesus’] name” (Acts 5:41).

I don’t think the prayer meeting of Paul and Silas was a mournful affair, do you? In spite of the pain they were in, and being unsure of what would happen next, they were rejoicing in the Lord.

The prisoners must have enjoyed the concert. However the jailer didn’t. He was fast asleep (vs. 27). But the Lord was going to get his attention in a big way. There was a sudden and severe earthquake. The prisoner’s chains were shaken from their attachment to the walls, and doors of the prison were wrenched open (vs. 26). Jarred into wakefulness, the jailor panicked. He was sure the prisoners had all seized the opportunity to escape.

Under Roman law, he would be executed for that. So he determined to fall on his sword and die by his own hand (vs. 27). But Paul’s voice rang out, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here” (vs. 28). And what happened next calls for a bit of speculation. It seems to me that the encounter the jailer has with Paul at this point suggests that he knew something of the Christian message. He may have heard Paul preach, or Paul and Silas may have witnessed to him earlier. Clearly his concern is for more than his physical safety. He has been driven to consider his eternal destiny.

“Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household [that is, the same applies to those in your household as well]’” (Acts 16:29-31).

The apartment where the jailor lived seems to have been attached to the prison. He took the prisoners there, and kindly washed their wounds. After Paul and Silas preached the gospel to all who were present, each member of the household–perhaps including servants–put his or her faith in Christ, and they were all baptized (vs. 32-34).

I referred earlier to “the simple gospel.” It was not simple in the divine or cosmic sense. For God to plan, before we even came to be, that His Son would die for lost sinners (Rev. 13:8), and then to execute that plan, at just the right time (Gal. 4:4), through a complex series of events, was far from simple.

But something over a hundred times in the New Testament, we are told that the blessing of that salvation is received through simple faith in Christ. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31; Jn. 3:16), receive or accept Christ as your personal Saviour (a synonym for believing, Jn. 1:12-13; Col. 2:6) and God will cleanse your sin and give you everlasting life. Good works are a loving response to God’s salvation, but they can do nothing to earn it (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 3:8; cf. Rom. 4:4-5)

CH-1) “What must I do?” the trembling jailer cried,
When dazed by fear and wonder;
“Believe on Christ!” was all that Paul replied,
“And thou shalt be saved from sin.”

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
And thou shalt be saved!

CH-2) What must I do! O weary, trembling, soul,
Just turn today to Jesus;
He will receive, forgive and make thee whole–
Christ alone can set thee free.

1) Have you accepted God’s offer of a full and free salvation through the finished work of Christ?

2) What verses of Scripture give you the assurance of salvation?

Wordwise Hymns (Avis Christiansen)
The Cyber Hymnal


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