And Can It Be – A Meditation on a Hymn

  1. And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Saviour’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain?

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, should die for me?

2. ‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the firstborn seraph tries

To sound the depths of love divine!

‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

3. He left His Father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace;

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race;

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me.

4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free;

I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

5. No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus, and all in Him is mine!

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

This hymn is one of the best-known of the more than 6500 hymns written by the prolific hymn-writer, Charles Wesley. It is a heart-felt, theologically-rich and biblically grounded poem that speaks of the great work of salvation applied to the believer.

Who can understand the depths of our salvation? Who can comprehend the glories of God’s grace? That is the theme of this hymn.

We begin by singing of the incredibly personal nature of Christ’s redemption. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). If you are a Christian today, you can know that it was for you specifically that Jesus suffered. The fact that Christ died for you while you were his enemy should cause you to cry out “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, My God, shouldst die for me?!”

This love of God is so beyond understanding that we consider in the next verse how even the angels cannot comprehend the depths of God’s love. These glorious creatures, prefect in thought and word and deed try without success to dig into the depths of “love divine”. And again, we are simply left with an exclamation “Tis mercy all!” God’s mercy is too much for us as our words fail to do it justice.

The next three verses take up this mind-boggling salvation and consider it in narrative form.

First, we sing of what Christ actually did. We are reminded of the humility of Christ explained in Philippians 2 who, though he is God, ‘emptied himself of all by love” (speaking poetically, not theologically) by taking on flesh, living in this cursed world and bleeding “for Adam’s helpless race.” But again, Charles Wesley cannot help but remember that this wasn’t some impersonal sacrifice – it was a sacrifice that “found out me.”

Next, the hymn looks at the experience of the Christian. In our sin we are in slavery and bondage. We are in prison and cannot escape. We need the light of Christ and the work of the Spirit to burst into our cell and break us free, which is exactly what happens to every Christian. The freedom that follows this rescue is wonderful, but it isn’t a freedom to do whatever we want – it is a freedom that results in us rising, going forward and following Christ.

Lastly, we rejoice in the final hope of our salvation. Charles Wesley takes our minds over to Romans 8 where we find that there is “no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”. Our victory is assured as we are reliant not on our own good works, but on the pure and radiant clothes of righteousness given to us by Christ. This fact should give us boldness to come to God claiming the sacrifice of Christ as payment for our sins and the righteousness of Christ as our own knowing that we will receive “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:8).

– Tom Eglinton