Day 4

And Can It Be?

from the Hymns reading plan


Philippians 2:5-8, Acts 12:6-8, Acts 16:25-26, Romans 8:1-4, Hebrews 4:14-16

In 1738, Charles Wesley was struggling to find peace with God. He had served as a missionary to Georgia, but that had turned out disastrously bad. Peter Bohler, the leader of the London Moravians, asked Charles if he hoped to be saved. Charles replied that he did. Bohler pressed, “Upon what basis do you hope to be saved?” Wesley said, “Because I have used my best endeavors to serve God.” Bohler shook his head sadly and walked away.

Wesley recorded his reaction in his journal: “What, are not my endeavors a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavors? I have nothing else to trust to.”

Wesley was stuck in the tension that many raised in church have experienced. It is all too common to confuse the fruits of the gospel at work in our lives (good endeavors) with the root of spiritual life (the gospel promise believed).

The problem with trusting our good works is that they are not perfect works. Jesus said that we are to love Him with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength, and this is a considerably higher bar than just offering Him our best endeavors.

God requires that we love Him perfectly from the moment we are born until the moment we die, with no lapses. Faced with this impossible requirement, many religious people attempt to take solace in such empty hopes as our best, though imperfect, endeavors. But this hymn points us to a higher ground of hope—the power of the gospel.

Later in 1738, Wesley’s friend, John Bray, discovered Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians and brought it to Wesley, who was sick in bed. Luther had famously once said that the whole of the gospel was found in the personal pronouns, and Wesley found peace as the Lord gave him faith to believe that Jesus had died for him. Wesley wrote in his journal, “I spent some hours this evening in private with Martin Luther, who was greatly blessed to me, especially his conclusion of the second chapter. I labored, waited, and prayed to feel ‘Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.’”

It is sometimes said that “And Can It Be” was Wesley’s first hymn, written soon after his conversion. Hymn scholars are now convinced that “Where Shall My Wondering Soul Begin?” was actually his first hymn. But “And Can It Be” was written soon after and expresses beautifully and powerfully the converting power of the gospel that he had experienced.

Wesley is one of our most skilled hymn writers. He begins with a piercing question to which no real answer can be given: “How can it be, that thou my God, shoulds’t die for me?” If we ever get to the point where God’s grace seems deserved or expected, we are in deep trouble.

We see Wesley’s grasp of Luther’s point in his use of personal pronouns: “my God,” “for me.” But it is in the last verse where Wesley reveals the heart of his new-found hope. “Alive in Him, my living head, and clothed in righteousness divine.”

Wesley had come to understand that the gospel Christ gives us what God requires—His perfect righteousness through our union with Him. What Christ does, we get credit for; what He deserves, we get!

Rather than trusting in our best endeavors, Wesley gives us words to praise God for our only true hope, the righteousness of Christ imputed to His people through faith. This brings us not only hope, but boldness to claim the crown—not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done in our place.

Written by Kevin Twit 

And Can It Be That I Should Gain?
Charles Wesley, 1738

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?
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!
’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.
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 th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

For an added layer of worship during reading plan, we’ve created a Spotify playlist for Hymns. You can find the complete HRT Hymns Playlist here, or listen to the first track on the player below. Enjoy!

Post Comments (81)

81 thoughts on "And Can It Be?"

  1. Jarod Workman says:

    God is less concerned with our works, than he is with our basic belief. Works will come out of a heart of belief

  2. Jarod Workman says:

    It’s free, based on our belief.

  3. Jarod Workman says:

    We can do nothing to deserve salvation.

  4. Kyle says:

    We can often try to work our way to please God instead of focusing on the Gospel and what Jesus has already done for us.

  5. Kyle says:

    How much he loves us. That he came down to meet us where we’re at, so we are no longer bound to our works to try to get to him.

  6. Kyle says:

    We are set free through Jesus. He has done the work for us and there are no amount of works we can do to try to earn more of God’s love because Jesus has already done the ultimate work for us.

  7. Kyle says:

    How can it be? Because our God’s mercy and love is unfathomable. He is unfailing in His love for us. Though we may be unfaithful, God will remain faithful because He cannot deny who He is.

  8. Kyle says:

    I will try to harvest the fruits of the gospel by doing works to show Christ’s love, but I will not have that as the basis for my spiritual life. The only foundation is Jesus Christ and His promise to us– salvation!

  9. Kyle says:

    Man tries to earn grace, but we never can. Our works are our best efforts but they are not perfect. We are required to be perfect since birth, and since that is impossible we have been given the free gift of salvation. We are undeserving, but God still loves us.

  10. Kyle says:

    The Gospel is the good news of salvation! It’s the best news ever! There is life after death because of the grace of Christ Jesus, our Savior.

  11. Kyle says:

    Dear Lord,
    Help me never to be complacent in my faith. I am SO undeserving of Your grace and love. I want to run towards you and seek Your face. Use me to show Your love to others and lead them to a belief in the promise you have given– life.

  12. Kraymer Lorig says:

    By loving God with my fullest being. By doing the will of the Father and by receiving grace that is offered to me every day, by not taking advantage of it but simply being thankful for the fact that the Lord has offered me such an amazing, undeserved gift.

  13. Kraymer Lorig says:

    The Gospel is great news! We have a savior who can relate to us! Who can feel what we feel and who has been tempted as we are tempted. There is nothing that we go through that he has not already taken on himself. Jesus has won!

  14. Kraymer Lorig says:

    We try to compensate for things done wrong by doing things that are good in hopes that they will balance each other out.

  15. Kraymer Lorig says:

    God’s love is amazing. We do not deserve it yet he offers it to us every day! God does not require us to do good works, he requires of us our full amount of love for Him.

  16. Kraymer Lorig says:

    Lord may Your will be done in me. Thank you for your love and for your grace that you pour out every day, and thank you for the many many blessings that you have give me throughout my life. I ask that you would guide my feet and my heart through your Word so that you may work through me and that I may love you will all of my heart.

  17. Andrew C says:

    That we constantly try to “do our best” to please God. Our best works and things are not what pleases God. Good works come from the joy of your heart that is in you from serving The Lord. God wants our heart, not our best of “works”.

  18. Andrew C says:

    I will try my best to let others know the Truth and The Gospel. I will submit my heart to The Lord instead of trying to do good things to please Him.

  19. Andrew C says:

    That God gives us strength and calls us to be courageous and go out and take the crown that He’s offered us. That He views us not only as not sinful, but as righteous.

  20. Andrew C says:

    That The Good News that Jesus gives to us is that we don’t have to be perfect and follow these crazy laws to get to The Lord. Jesus died for us and in doing that bridged the gap between man and God. And God gives us what only His son deserved. We deserve the opposite, but God gives us mercy and grace and we get to inherit the Kingdom of God.

  21. Joel Selby says:

    God is perfect and holy; only a perfect and holy sacrifice may be made to allow sinful man to approach His throne.

  22. Joel Selby says:

    I will respond by continually holding fast to the confession of faith I made when I died to myself in baptism and rose again to walk in newness of life. I will renew my commitment to God every moment that I can.

  23. Joel Selby says:

    The good news for me is that Jesus did all of the atoning work for me; His sacrifice was perfect and satisfied God’s holy requirements. It is through Jesus that I have access to God.

  24. Joel Selby says:

    I am sinful and imperfect; no works of mine, no matter how good, will give me access to God.

  25. Peter MacDiarmid says:

    God knows what it is to be human, it is his plan of salvation that is acted out not anything we do

  26. Peter MacDiarmid says:

    We are fallen and try to save ourselves (even by doing the best we can – good works) but we cannot manage it without God’s saving grace

  27. Peter MacDiarmid says:

    It is not by works we are saved, that it is undeserved but freely available!

  28. Peter MacDiarmid says:

    By giving him my life, my all, but as a proper response to my salvation, not to earn it

  29. Peter MacDiarmid says:

    For a deeper revelation of my salvation, and a deeper understanding of the love that moved God to save all of humankind!

  30. Letto says:

    Repentance and worship

  31. Letto says:

    Trust in the root ! (Christ) and not the fruit ( works) good fruit comes and goes the root of Jessie remains forever.

  32. Letto says:

    We all too often than not take credit and depend on our own works when those are the very things that condemn us.

  33. Letto says:

    That the only way for me to get to God is for God to first get to me.

  34. Letto says:

    Greatly

  35. Jantzen says:

    Taken from the reading it is- “our only true hope, the righteousness of Christ imputed to His people through faith”

    It tells me we must be saved.

  36. Jantzen says:

    That God will and can do what I can’t do myself: save me

  37. Jantzen says:

    Father
    I
    Am
    Yours
    Use
    Me
    As
    You
    Wish

  38. Jantzen says:

    We need a savior and our works we do on our own aren’t good enough.

  39. Jantzen says:

    Continue to repent and confess and ask Christ to continually give me faith that I may glorify him in how I conduct My life. Continually ask for Jesus’ blood to wash over every area in my life and let it lead to good works for him and his work.

  40. Steve says:

    We strive to often in our own strength believing we can have salvation through our actions.

  41. Steve says:

    God is ever faithful.

  42. Steve says:

    The good news is Jesus is sufficient. I do not have to work for salvation. Upon the gift of salvation I work naturally for his glory.

  43. Steve says:

    Lord. Take my will.

  44. Steve says:

    I must hand over my will to him.

  45. Matt Rouse says:

    God is staggeringly merciful! Though I deserve hell and destruction he gives me a place as his son. He gives me credit for righteousness that was not my own! Amazing love indeed.

  46. Matt Rouse says:

    We are bold in Christ! I love the idea of coming boldly to the throne to claim our crown. Our salvation is secure the moment we trust Jesus to save us!

  47. Matt Rouse says:

    I don’t have to change myself or strive any longer. The power of love will bring about that change in me. The more I try to force my faith, the farther I will be from God. The more I rest in Jesus the closer I am to God. His righteousness is now my own!!

  48. Luke McCall says:

    God does not base his grace off of our works but our spirit

  49. Isaac Jones says:

    God saved a sinner. He took a guy who was irreverent, ungracious, hypocritical, angry, rude, vulgar, greedy, idolatrous, adulterous, slanderous, and unclean. With that man He covered him in the blood of the sin offering; covered in the blood he put His living water inside him.

  50. Isaac Jones says:

    This is real. God is real, and He saves sinners. I know because I look at my own life and He saved me; He is calling to save you too.

  51. Isaac Jones says:

    I will pray to Him prayers of regret asking for forgiveness and my repentance. I will pray prayers of confidence in the truthfulness of His existence and mature. I will pray praises about all the things we take for granted or even deny God does, because I know He really is the one who’s works all things out for the good of those who love Him.

  52. Isaac Jones says:

    I was a bedpan and filled with refuge. God took me and scoured me clean, then he reformed me around a center of gold and played me in gold. I am redeemed.

  53. Isaac Jones says:

    God,
    you are enthroned in Haven; your victory is won.
    You have promised deliverance and you have fulfilled your promise. You promised to your son will come back, and He will; father forgive me for my sin; i have not been pressing into your truth and you know.i pray that you open up my heart to obedience, faith and love. Please allow me to repent and turn from my sim. You are great and mighty , and your mercy rains upon us,

    Amen.

  54. Braden Mcalister says:

    God loves us no matter what we do. He will always love us all the same as the guy next to you. He sent his son to die for us but God was his son so God sent himself to die for your sins.

  55. Braden Mcalister says:

    This preaches the gospel on how our God sent himself to save us for our sins. But it shows us that God did this because he loves us. And it troubles me how he could love us that much.

  56. Braden Mcalister says:

    This teaches me that man can’t be close to God without faith, works can not alone get you to God. This always shows me that despite our faults man still has a chance to with God.

  57. Braden Mcalister says:

    I will try to love like God loves us, because it is love that brings others to Christ.

  58. Braden Mcalister says:

    I will pray for the mindset to love all and be joyful when needed and there for everyone.

  59. andrew says:

    our good works are hopeless endeavors and should not be considered worthy of even mentioning. we do not deserve the grace we receive. we hate Jesus’ very name from birth. and we cannot claim our love for Him came from ourselves.

  60. andrew says:

    Lord, i pray i will not take for granted my very breath. i pray that You will show me more of You, and that i will not grow tired of hearing Your name. Jesus, thank You for the sacrifice You made Yourself. thank You for your grace being sufficient enough to blot out my transgressions against you.

  61. andrew says:

    He gives so freely. He holds no grace back for His elect. He made Himself a man, humbling Himself to the utmost. even to die for all of those who spit at His name. we, as believers, should never grow tired of hearing about our perfect God.

  62. Benjamin McKnight says:

    My response should include a much different prayer life, and while I want to show the world how much I love God, it’s much more important just to love Him.

  63. Nick S says:

    This teaches me that God loves us so much. He is humble and came to serve even though he deserves to be served by everyone and everything. He is our example of obedience. He was without sin. God wakes us up breaks the chains and frees us from sin. God commands us to follow him. He is full of power, righteousness, grace, strength. He is victorious, the Almighty, the great high priest.

  64. Nick S says:

    Man- I attempt to please God by my works. But mine works will never be enough. I have no righteousness of my own and I am actually in bondage to sin. I am needy of God. I need to be set free.

  65. Nick S says:

    The Gospel teaches that I am a sinner and have no righteousness of my own and stand condemned before God. But Christ and his great love for me, humbled himself to become a man and serve man and die for man, because of his great love and for his glory. It is not my works that make me right with God but it is the finished work of Christ on the cross, nothing more nothing less, that justifies a man before God. God not only wants to count be righteous but he wants to break me free from the bondage of sin.

  66. Nick S says:

    I will respond by praising God for the salvation that he has won for me. I will keep my eyes fixed on him and not on my works and fall in love with Christ so that my works reflect his works. I will trust in the finished work of Christ

  67. Nick S says:

    I pray that God would reveal himself as most glorious and wonderful. I pray that I would never lose sight of the cross and the Great sacrifice Christ made for me. I pray that God would break the chains that are around my wrist at this very moment. He has set me free but I keep going back to them. God I pray that you would fill me with your grace

  68. Erik says:

    Spend more time with Jesus. Talk with him about my daily thoughts and worries. Live a thankful life. Let him transform my life.

  69. Erik says:

    We tend to believe that salvation is to be bought by doing a lot, while our acts should be the fruit of our faith in the desth and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  70. Erik says:

    It is about God loving us first and breaking down walls to be with us. He is looking for our heart and in his Word the whole plan to save us is visible.

  71. Erik says:

    God is not keeping a list of the things I do, He wants my heart. He wants to break down the walls and set me free of the focus on earthly things.

  72. Erik says:

    God, help me to focus on being your child, unconditionally loved. Help me to do everything out of love for you. Let your love shine through me in everything I say or do.

  73. Dalton Beaty says:

    God is for ME. God sent his son for ME. It is because of his sacrificial love that I can claim what it is that he did for all of humanity. God’s love is the same for all, and all have the ability to claim it if they so choose. It overwhelms me that one gift can be accepted and claimed personally by all of humanity.

  74. Dalton Beaty says:

    We will never fully comprehend that vastness of God’s love, God’s grace, or God’s mercy. We don’t have to, but we must embrace it as best we can. Cling to it, for it is all that we have. The Bible says that our works are like filthy rags to God. We can do nothing to earn what he has already been given.

  75. Dalton Beaty says:

    The Gospel is mine to claim. It is ours to claim. It is everyone’s to claim. The Gospel is beautiful, glorious, righteous, and salvific, but most of all it is personal.

  76. Dalton Beaty says:

    I will respond by pressing more into Proverbs 3:5-8 and “lean not on my own understanding but in God alone and allow Him to make straight my paths.”

  77. Lukas Fortunato says:

    We do like Wesley, want to trust in our endeavors and our “best”. I want to know that I gave it my all. I want to know that I left it on the field. It can feel like a hard reality that my best will never come anywhere close to enough. Yet in Gods mercy he does for me what I could not do for myself. There is great freedom in that reality.

  78. Lukas Fortunato says:

    I love the imagery of rescue from prison. The same jailbreak that Paul experienced is what we experience as well. We have a God who breaks us out of prison. As the hymn says: I woke, the dungeon flames with light, my chains fell off my heart was free.

  79. Lukas Fortunato says:

    I love the imagery of prison break and rescue. That we are all in death row and God comes in to bust us out.

  80. Lukas Fortunato says:

    I will reflect on my freedom from prison. The chains that bound me. The sentence I would have served. But God has rescued me.

  81. Lukas Fortunato says:

    Father, thank you for freedom. Thank you for rescue. Thank you for breaking these chains.

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