Why this song?
Despite being one of the more recent additions to corporate worship, it has been my experience that Confession is one of the more beloved parts of a worship service. Many parishioners I have spoken have expressed that the service feels incomplete without it.
While we are certainly not commanded to have Confession in corporate worship, I think the feelings of these parishioners reflect that of Martin Luther who saw the benefit of Confession “for the sake of Absolution.” This song paints a vivid picture of how and why we receive that absolution: through our great High Priest.
This hymn is a beautiful expression of Subjective Justification. Because of Christ, I have a perfect plea. Christ, my great high priest, intercedes with the Father on my behalf. He made an end to all my sin.
With so many personal pronouns, this song could easily have fallen into the trap of being self-focused and trivial. However, the lyricist never loses focus of Christ. The lyrics repeat over and over the works that Christ has done for me. While the personal pronouns are there to bring me comfort, the focus is still on the one whose works give me that comfort.
Use in Worship
The song is at it’s best when used in conjunction with Confession and Absolution. After the congregation is assured they are forgiven, they can sing this song reminding them of where that assurance is rooted. It can also, for similar reasons, be used in conjunction with Communion.
While the lyrics were written in the 1800’s the melody most often used with it today was written in 1997 by Vikki Cook. Cook’s new melody is extremely accessible and easy to pick up.