“GRACE GREATER THAN OUR SIN”
Wayne S. Walker
“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through
righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ…” (Rom. 5.21).
INTRO.: A song which praises God for His grace which reigns unto
eternal life is “Grace Greater Than Our Sin” (#474 in “Hymns for Worship
Revised”). The text was written by Julia Harriet Johnston (1849-1919).
A native of Salineville, OH, in Columbiana County, she moved with her
family to Peoria, IL, at six years of age and spent the rest of her life
there. Her father was a Presbyterian minister, and she became a Sunday
school teacher. Also a prolific author, she wrote Sunday school lesson
material for the David C. Cook Publishing Co. of Chicago, IL, and had
several of her own works published.
In addition, Miss Johnston produced about 500 hymns, with music
provided by a number of different composers. This one is dated 1910, and
the tune (Moody) was composed that same year by Daniel Brink Towner
(1850-1919). The director of the music department at the Moody Bible
Institute in Chicago, IL, he gave us several well-known hymn tunes, such
as those used with “Anywhere with Jesus” and “At Calvary.” The first
appearance of this song seems to have been in Towner’s “Hymns Tried and
True,” published in 1911.
This hymn emphasizes the importance of God’s grace for our
I. In stanza 1, we are told that God’s grace sent Jesus to die for our
A. The grace of God toward sinful mankind is certainly marvellous: Eph.
B. Because of God’s grace, we can be saved by the blood of the Lamb: 1
C. This is the result of the fact that yonder on Calvary’s mount, that
blood was shed. The original uses the word “spilt” to rhyme with
“guilt.” Several books, such as “Hymns for Worship” have changed it to
shed because some have objected to the word “spilt.” It has been argued
that it implies something accidental, such as spilt milk. But that is
not necessarily true. When there is too much rain, sometimes engineers
“spill” water out of a lake–that is intentional, not accidental. When
soldiers go to war and their blood is “spilt” in defense of their
country, we do not consider that an accident but a sacrifice. In fact,
many dictionaries give one meaning of “spill” with blood as “to shed
blood.” Thus, when we say that some one’s blood was spilt, we simply
mean that he died; and that is exactly what Jesus did for us by God’s
grace: Rom. 5.8
II. In stanza 2, we are told that GOd’s grace enables us to be washed
whiter than snow
A. Because of sin, we have a dark stain that we cannot hide: Prov. 28.13
B. Thus, our greatest need is to have our sin washed away so that it
might be covered by the grace of God: Acts 22.16, Rom. 4.6-8
C. And sice God’s grace has provided a way to do this through the
crimson tide of Jesus’ blood, we can indeed be made whiter than snow:
III. In stanza 3, we are told that God’s grace will allow us to see His
A. This marvelous, infinite, matchless grace is freely bestowed–we do
not have to pay for it or earn it on our own; indeeed, there is nothing
that we can do to pay for it or earn it–it is a free gift from God: Rom.
B. God, by His grace, has thus made it possible for those now separated
from Him by sin to have the hope of seeing His face: Matt. 5.8, 1 Jn.
C. However, in order to do so, we must receive His grace. The fact that
it is free does not mean that there are no conditions attached to it.
Thus, we receive God’s grace by meeting the conditions that He has
attached to it in faith and obedience. And we need to do so “this
moment” for we never know when life will end or the Lord will return: 2
Cor. 6.2, Heb. 5.8-9
CONCL.: The chorus continues to extol the grace of God for what it
can do for us. The main problem with which mankind has to deal is not
economic, political, or social–it is spiritual; it is sin. And the
solution to the problem is to look to God for “Grace Greater Than Our
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