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Victory, Somehow

27 February 2012 by Tom Chantry

Q. 58. How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured?

A. We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ has procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.

I love Southern Baptists. My first pastorate was in a Calvinistic SBC church in a remote area short on fellowship. The SB pastors up there in the hills didn’t care that I was an oddball who had gone to a Presbyterian seminary; they loved Jesus and anyone who preached Him. When I think of Southern Baptists, I don’t think about the power brokers of the national convention, I think about the preachers in little, out-of-the-way places who live, eat, sleep, and breathe gospel.

One thing you automatically learn when you go to Southern Baptist meetings each month is the hymn “Victory in Jesus.” Since the pastors only get together in the fellowship hall around coffee you have to sing a hymn they already know, and everyone knows that one, right? So I learned to sing that hymn, and then I learned to love it. It expresses a joy in the sacrifice of Christ for sins which ought to lie at the heart of every Christian’s experience.

But when I walk around whistling it (as I do until my family is driven to distraction) I am sometimes frustrated - not by what the song says as by what it is missing.

We rhapsodized about Christ’s sacrifice for sin, and at the conclusion of the first verse sang (quite truthfully) “then I repented of my sin and had the victory.” Of course that’s true, but how did it happen? It seems the hymnist asked that too, because the second verse ends with “and somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory.”

And that one line sums up why I love the hymn and why I’m frustrated by it. That sense of mystery - how did He ever bring me the victory? - is exactly the sense every Christian ought to have when he first realizes that he, chief of sinners though he may be, is victorious in Christ. And yet, it isn’t as though the Bible leaves this particular mystery unsolved. “Somehow” is “the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.”

So yes, I hope I can retain that sense of joyful awe at what Christ has done for me, and at the same time I am glad that the Scriptures reveal to me the Triune God, each of the Persons of which loved me with an everlasting love and played an indispensible part in giving me the victory.

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