What Happened to the Third Stanza?

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By Freddie Smith

I grew up in church singing the hymns of the church, but often wondered why we generally neglected to sing the third stanza. The third stanza has as much Gospel in it as the others. Here is the third stanza of the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross,” written by Rev. George Bennard.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see;
For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

I know that no one would refute the Gospel in that stanza. Any weary journeyman attending a gathering of God’s people would find those words as refreshing as a cold drink of water on a hot, wearisome day.

This is not a commentary on hymnology, but how does one regain the doxology in life? And what happened to revival? It is God’s way of bringing back the springtime to a wintry soul or a refreshing rain to a parched, stagnant church.

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones spoke of the appalling need of revival in the church. He said that revival is God’s remedy for a lifeless, non-responsive, mundane activity in the name of spirituality. A Christian cannot shake off spiritual lethargy by singing the third stanza with greater enthusiasm, nor can a Christian regain that wonderful, blessed experience of his first love by writing a larger check to the church. Furthermore, the church can’t accommodate what won’t legitimately fit into the church and expect God to anoint what He doesn’t will.

The psalmist understood God’s unwavering posture in dealing with His people’s spiritual wanderings by crying, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation” (Psalm 51:9). The salvation experience is not ours to do the best we can, but it is living in appreciation that we have been privileged to experience what our goodness could not acquire except by His grace.

The psalmist understood that disobedience is not resolved by simply changing the attitude. He realized that he had lost something that only God could restore. When the refreshing breeze begins to blow, one will experience revival invading the territory of the soul.

A strong voice calling for revival was Dr. Stephen Olford. He spoke a solemn word: “I see no hope whatsoever outside of the coming of Jesus or spiritual awakening.” Revival is not choosing to sing the stanzas we like best. It is singing all the stanzas or living in complete obedience if we are to experience spiritual awakening and the anointing of God.

Revival is God’s prescription that cannot be interpreted as a subscription. In subscribing to something, if one decides he doesn’t like the product he can cancel the subscription. God’s prescriptions always cure! Where there is coldness, confession must be made to God. When sin has been committed and contaminated one’s witness and testimony, confession must be made to God. God’s prescriptions cannot be ignored or refused without serious consequences.

How often did we hear Dr. Vance Havner say that the important things have never changed! Our Lord expresses that to the church at Laodicea as He stands on the outside, knocking on the door. “If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20) This may sound good as an evangelistic verse, but it is a solemn exhortation to His church. It is a disturbing picture of Jesus standing outside, when His presence should be welcomed inside the church.

He knocks and waits. He is addressing the obvious absence of His presence as Lord of the church. God’s people can experience nothing of importance until his Lordship is acknowledged and embraced.

Job acknowledged his consciousness of the Lord when he said: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see You” (Job 42:5). Revival leads the believer not only to acknowledge His Lordship, but also to experience the power He makes available to those who submit to His sovereignty. May the showers of blessing from God flood the life of the church and bring anew the flood tide of devotion and delight among His people.


Freddie Smith serves as pastor of Sweat Memorial Baptist Church in Waycross.

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