And Can It Be?
w/m - Charles Wesley, Thomas Campbell
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’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, shouldst die for me?
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!
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
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 is one of the old standard hymns of the faith from Charles Wesley. And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood. When Jesus shed His blood on the cross, He paid the debt of everyone who has ever trusted in Christ as Savior. It is not a one-for-one exchange. Because Jesus is God, His blood is sufficient for many. That I personally would be a partaker in that sacrifice is amazing to me. It certainly is not deserved, but as Ephesians 1 tells us, “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
Died He for me, who caused His pain, for me, who Him to death pursued? John 6:37 reveals an amazing truth, that we are a gift from the Father to the Son. “Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.” How amazing is that? As a gift from the Father to the Son, the Father pursues us, like the shepherd with the lost sheep, who “goes after the lost one until he finds it” (Luke 15:4).
When we look at our state of sin and rebellion, enemies of God, His grace and mercy merit the only response we can give, Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? Did God die? Yes and no. The entire Trinity did not die on the cross, but Jesus is God, just as the Father and the Holy Spirit are God, one God! So if Jesus died, then in that sense, God died for me.
He left His Father’s throne above. So free, so infinite His grace. John 6:38 says, “For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” It was because of grace, according to to the will of God, that Jesus would come to earth and endure such loss for us. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich.”
Emptied Himself of all but love and bled for Adam’s helpless race. Philippians 2 speaks of the “kenosis”, “But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” The emptying Himself refers to Christ’s taking upon Himself a human nature, thus becoming functionally subordinate to the Father, veiling, though not divesting Himself of His divine attributes (Biblical Doctrine, MacArthur, Mayhue, pg, 932). I’m not sure whether Wesley just didn’t understand the kenosis, or whether this is just hyperbole, but Jesus did not empty Himself of “all but love”. He was still God, He did not empty Himself of that. He still had all of His attributes, but chose to “veil” them while here on earth. It could be, and I sing it as an exaggeration telling that instead of the perfect fellowship of the Godhead, Jesus came and suffered and died here on earth because of love. Jesus bled for people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, those of Adam’s race. Jesus, as the “second Adam” was able to undo the curse that sin brought on us.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free for O my God, it found out me! Our God is rich in mercy. It is not something we can ever deserve or purchase, but when God shows His mercy to you and saves you, you will want to sing of His “Amazing Love.”
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night. This line speaks of our depravity and sin nature that we are all born into. We are bound and cannot break free, not only that, in our sinful state, we love the bondage. We crave our sin and choose it daily. The Psalmist speaks of those who do not serve the Lord as “Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron.” John 8 speaks of the lost as “Servants of sin”.
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. This is a picture of the regeneration, the “making alive” spoken of in Ephesians 2:5. Romans 6:18 says, “Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.” What a wonderful day when we were once blind to our condition, dead in our trespasses, and God calls us, the Holy Spirit draws us, and we are released from our chains! Praise God, we rise and follow Him. This is physically seen many times in Jesus’ earthly ministry, but it is true of everyone who has been made alive by the Spirit of God.
No condemnation now I dread. Romans 8:1 assures the believer that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Jesus, and all in Him, is mine. Alive in Him, my living Head and clothed in righteousness divine. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” Isaiah 68:10 says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness”
Bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown, through Christ my own. Ephesians 3:12 says, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Heb 4:6 says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” And Hebrews 10:19-22, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” As we approach the throne of the Almighty Holy God, we should be bold, but should constantly be in awe as we exclaim, “And can it be?”
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for over 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship around the country. Bill and his family attend Belcroft Bible Church in Bowie, MD. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.