The true knowledge of the distinction between Law and Gospel is not only a glorious light, affording the correct understanding of the entire Holy Scriptures, but without this knowledge Scripture is and remains a sealed book. – CFW Walther
28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. – Romans 3:28
The hymn “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” was written by Paul Speratus, who lived from 1484 to 1551. He assisted Martin Luther in compiling Etlich Christlich lider, a collection of early Lutheran chorales in polyphonic style for choir. Salvation Unto Us Has Come was included in that collection and has endured to this day because it is possibly the best Lutheran hymn ever written. It preaches Law and Gospel so clearly that it gives us the fullness of the Gospel story and gives us a framework from which we can understand all of Scripture. The tune is from the same collection and is also a favorite of mine. The tune is fun to sing without being excessively difficult.
Paul Speratus was born in what is now Germany in 1484 and became a preacher in 1518. He believed Luther’s teachings to be in accordance with what Scriptures teach and he was persecuted for his faithfulness to the pure Gospel. He was fired from his early preaching posts for expressing his views too openly. He was also one of the first priests to get married during the reformation period. He received his Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Vienna, but was later condemned by the Vienna faculty for defending marriage and the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. His preaching, however, became very popular with the people and he was thrown in prison for it in 1523, where he stayed for three months. It was while he was in prison that he wrote this hymn, based on Romans 3:28 (see above).
I don’t have any other comments to make about this hymn because it leaves very little unsaid. Our current hymnal includes 10 of the original 14 stanzas and we will be singing all 10 on Sunday, with some sung by the choir and one played by the organ. I wish that all Christian churches in all places could sing this wonderful hymn on Reformation Sunday and throughout the year.
Salvation unto us has come
By God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and fail us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.
What God did in His law demand
And none to Him could render
Caused wrath and woe on every hand
For man, the vile offender.
Our flesh has not those pure desires
The spirit of the law requires,
And lost is our condition.
It was a false, misleading dream
That God His Law had given
That sinners could themselves redeem
And by their works gain heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright
To bring the inbred sin to light
That lurks within our nature.
From sin our flesh could not abstain,
Sin held its way unceasing;
The task was useless and in vain,
Our guilt was e’er increasing.
None can remove sin’s poisoned dart
Or purify our guileful heart
So deep is our corruption.
Yet as the law must be fulfilled
Or we must die despairing,
Christ came and has God’s anger stilled.
Our human nature sharing.
He has for us the law obeyed
And thus the Father’s vengeance stayed
Which over us impended.
Since Christ has full atonement made
And brought to us salvation,
Each Christian therefore may be glad
And build on this foundation.
Your grace alone, dear Lord, I plead,
Your death is now my life indeed,
For You have paid my ransom.
Let me not doubt, but truly see
Your Word cannot be broken;
Your call rings out, “Come unto Me!”
No falsehood have You spoken.
Baptized into Your precious name,
My faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish.
The Law reveals the guilt of sin
And makes us conscience- stricken;
But then the Gospel enters in
The sinful soul to quicken.
Come to the cross, trust Christ, and live;
The Law no peace can ever give,
No comfort and no blessing.
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.
All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God who saved us by His grace;
All glory to His merit.
O triune God in heav’n above,
You have released Your saving love;
Your blessed name we hallow.