In My Place Condemned He Stood

good-friday

“Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

I was singing these words this morning from the hymn “Man of Sorrows-What A Name” (you may also know it as “Hallelujah, what a Savior”). No doubt these words, and this hymn will be sung in churches throughout the world over the next few days as we remember the death of Christ on the cross and his triumphant resurrection three days later.

The man who wrote this hymn, Philip Bliss, who penned it in 1875 would never know its popularity and wide acceptance. The words that he used in composing this hymn do reveal a man who understood the gospel and the center of the gospel in particular.

In My Place Condemned He Stood

Those words, “In my place condemned he stood” penned by Bliss in verse 2 of his hymn, capture the essence of the gospel. The self-substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, in my place, for my sins, where Jesus received the punishment I deserve, is the heart of the gospel. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21, ESV). Because of the self-substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, He has “sealed my pardon with his blood,” a pardon where we are declared righteous before a holy God. However, if you remove the self-substitutionary death of Christ on the cross from the gospel, God’s justice hasn’t been satisfied, wrath remains, and we have no Savior to sing “Hallelujah” to. You see, the reason Good Friday is so important is because we remember what Jesus has done for us in his self-substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. And the truth we celebrate is that Jesus’ death did satisfy God’s justice, wrath is removed, His righteousness is imputed, and, therefore, we do have a Savior to whom we can sing “Hallelujah!”

A Gospel Life

Philip Bliss seems to be a man who understood the gospel. We see that not only in the words he used to compose this hymn but in the way he chose to live his life.

Philip Bliss was born in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania on July 9, 1838. He was raised in a Christian home that also had a love for music. At age 20 he became a music teacher and found time to compose his music. In 1858, he met Lucy Young, who he would marry on June 1, 1859. In 1874, he joined D. W. Whittle in full-time ministry as an evangelist because he wanted to give his life to reach the lost with the gospel. At that time, Bliss decided to give all of his royalties, some $30,000, from his “Gospel Songs” to charity for the cause of winning souls. That kind of sacrificial generosity seems to reveal a man who understood the gospel.

But Philip Bliss would make an even greater sacrifice. In December 1876, about a year after he wrote “Man of Sorrows-What A Name,” Philip and his wife Lucy were involved in a railway disaster in Ashtabula, OH. The train they were riding crossed a bridge that collapsed. Philip escaped, but when he realized that Lucy was still in one of the burning carriages, he went back to save her. He never returned.

In the way he chose to live sacrificially, and to die, Philip Bliss seemed to reveal a man who understood the gospel. And not just the gospel, but the essence of the gospel; the self-substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. And because of His death, we can sing with confidence and joy this Good Friday:

"In my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!”


Mark Prater is the Executive Director for Sovereign Grace and serves as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. He and his wife, Jill, have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren.