Home > Uncategorized > Watering Down "Amazing Grace": Salvation is by Grace through Faith

Watering Down "Amazing Grace": Salvation is by Grace through Faith

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in Saworship.com.

Years ago, a former teacher of mine died. I attended the funeral and paid my final respects. It turned out to be a sad occasion, in more ways than one. “Mrs. Evans” died relatively young, in that her mother outlived her. I also felt that she had years of teaching left in her. But neither of those reasons was why I went to the funeral with a heavy heart. On a few occasions I had spoken to her about the Lord, going through the plan of salvation as she read a short story of mine that dealt with the White Throne Judgment. She seemed very entrenched in the idea of hoping her good works would outweigh her bad, despite the verses I quoted that showed that salvation is by grace through faith.

At the funeral the church was packed with Mrs. Evans’ family, friends, work colleagues and former students. Her family cried as they spoke of their fond memories of her. We learned from her friends and professional colleagues of what a wonderful person this woman was.

A few songs were sung in the service. One of them was “Amazing Grace,” that great autobiographical hymn of the faith. Written by John Newton, “Amazing Grace” details how an evil man, a slave trader, came to know Christ and was changed into a totally different man.

The first stanza captures Newton’s testimony eloquently:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

The first verse summarizes Newton’s testimony. God’s grace and desire for us to come to Christ and have eternal life are so strong that they can save even the most wicked of sinners. Even one like the Apostle Paul. Even one like a gang leader from San Antonio’s south side. Even one like Newton, who at one point reportedly said he didn’t want to get saved because he loved sin so much. But eventually, he did accept Christ and experienced salvation.

But during Mrs. Evans’ funeral, someone got up and sang this hymn. Here’s how they sang it:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved and set me free…

I’ve also heard that it’s sometimes sung this way:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved someone like me…

John Newton is in heaven, but to borrow a popular clichĂ©, he must be turning in his grave. How sad is it that a song that illustrates such a basic Gospel truth can be so readily watered down? These two versions of “Amazing Grace,” both of which should be called “Amazing Disgrace,” completely miss the point of Newton’s words.

Why do some churches choose to water down Newton’s song? Perhaps because it contains a truth that modern man detests: that hell and the lake of fire are real and await those who die without Jesus Christ. That before God we are all sinners in need of repentance. Granted, you and I might not be slave traders, but Isaiah 64:6 tells us that before God, all our righteousness is as filthy rags (which, in this context, were used to wipe the sores of a leper). Moreover, James 2:10 tells us that if we’re guilty of breaking even one of God’s laws, we’re guilty of breaking all of them.

I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was eight and reaffirmed my salvation three years later. I wasn’t a drinker, junkie, womanizer, murderer or thief, but I was still in need of a savior. We all are.

And that’s something to remember the next time you sing “Amazing Grace” or go to see the movie of the same name.

  1. Bill
    March 29, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I find your comment about the Baha’i Faith strange. Some Baha’is do not know how to teach their faith, but that is also true of some Christians. I suspect you did not investigate the primary sources of the Baha’i Faith. Too many people mistake the Baha’i Faith for a mere new age mishmash. But it is a revelation with its own scriptures and a sophisticated theology (even if you would not agree with it). Try reading th Kitab-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude) revealed by Baha’u’llah, or some of the works by John S. Hatcher or Udo Schaefer.

  2. March 29, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Bill, you’re referring to the column above it, about my friend keeping his faith at college. The comments on Baha’i were from him. In my experience, Bob’s always been a very trustworthy, objective guy.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: