Posted by: rcottrill | March 5, 2018

O What Love!

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Words: William Marion Runyan (b. Jan. 21, 1870; d. July 29, 1957)
Music: Wendell Philip Loveless (b. Feb. 2, 1892; d. Oct. 3, 1987)

Wordwise Hymns (William Runyan)
The Cyber Hymnal (William Runyan)

Note: The words were written by pastor, evangelist, organist and song writer William Runyan. (He also gave us words and music for the hymn Lord, I Have Shut the Door.)

The tune was supplied by Wendell Loveless, who’d served in the Marines in the First World War, and was saved through his own reading of the Scriptures. For many years, he directed the programming of the radio station WMBI, operated by Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, and later served as the pastor of several churches. (It’s a small irony, perhaps, that the music for a song about God’s love was written by a man named Loveless.)

It comes around every year on February 14th. Valentine’s Day, a day for expressions of love. To trace its origin, we have to go back to the early Christian era–and the details are a little uncertain. The day was designated to honour a saint in the early church. But there were at least a couple of men bearing the name Valentinus who might be involved, and we can’t be sure which one came to be honoured with a special day.

There was a Roman Christian named Valentinus who was imprisoned for his faith in Christ, and for his ministry to the persecuted people of God. He was finally executed in AD 269, on what is now the day that bears his name. Before his death, Valentinus wrote a farewell letter, signing it “Your Valentine.” Possibly that’s the man honoured on St. Valentine’s Day.

Though some church groups still give the saint his day, what began as a part of religious liturgy, was gradually adapted by secular society as a time for the expression of romantic love. And today, there’s a strong commercial element, perhaps involving a dinner date, as well as the purchase of flowers, candy, and greeting cards for the favoured recipient.

But let’s move on to a consideration of biblical love? In the New Testament, we are told a dozen times to “love one another,” beginning with the words of Jesus:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn. 13:34; cf. 15:12, 17).

Actually, the command to love others was not “new,” having been given in the Law of Israel, in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18). What was new concerning the command in John was the standard exemplified by the Lord Jesus. We are to love “as I [Christ] have loved you.”

John later explains, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us” (I Jn. 3:16). Calvary, a day for love, indeed! And, when we trust Christ for salvation, we’re given a new power to love, “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Love in this highest sense is a translation of the Greek word agapé. It signifies a self-sacrificing giving for the good and blessing of another person. While lust selfishly seeks to get, true love is expressed in giving.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16) and, “the Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:10).

Salvation is a gift of God, through what Christ did for us (Rom. 6:23). “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

Little wonder that many of our hymns and gospel songs speak of this love. Several come to us from Charles Wesley (1707-1788): Love Divine All Loves Excelling; Jesus, Lover of My Soul; And Can It Be? And there’s also Jesus Loves Even Me, by Philip Bliss (1838-1876), Loved with Everlasting Love, by Wade Robinson (1838-1877); and Jesus Loves Me, by Anna Warner (1827-1915), just to name a few.

In 1934, a gospel song called Oh, What Love! was published. It was originally designed to be a solo number, or be sung as a duet, not as a congregational song. However it’s used, it clearly explains the gospel.

1) Wonderful it is that Jesus cares for me,
Coming from His home on high,
Into pain and sorrow, poverty and woe,
On Calv’ry’s cruel cross for me to die.

Oh, what love, that He should die for me!
Saving grace thus to supply for me;
Oh, what love! Oh, what love!
Evermore I’ll sing it–Oh, what love!

2) Not by works of righteousness which I had done.
But through grace He set me free;
I could not by merit ope redemption’s door,
Salvation was His own free gift to me.

1) What hymns do you know that explain God’s plan of salvation especially well?

2) When and where was the last time you witnessed to someone about God’s love for them?

Wordwise Hymns (William Runyan)
The Cyber Hymnal (William Runyan)


  1. I woke up the past two days with this song running through my head. I remembered most of the words but am grateful for finding them here to record in my journal. Thank you! Oh, what love!

    • Thanks for your note. It’s neat how a particular song can start running through your mind. I woke up this morning humming the melody of Twila Paris’s lovely 1985 hymn Lamb of God.


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