Is the Song “What a Beautiful Name It Is” Heretical?April 20, 2017 10 Comments
At Bridgeway we love the song, “What a Beautiful Name It Is” (written by Ben Fielding and Brooke Ligertwood). But there is a line in it that has caused a few to wonder if perhaps we are singing heresy. Continue reading . . .
At Bridgeway we love the song, “What a Beautiful Name It Is” (written by Ben Fielding and Brooke Ligertwood). But there is a line in it that has caused a few to wonder if perhaps we are singing heresy. The relevant portion of the lyrics goes like this:
“You were the Word at the beginning,
One with God the Lord Most High.
Your hidden glory in creation,
Now revealed in you our Christ.
What a beautiful Name it is,
What a beautiful Name it is,
The Name of Jesus Christ my King.
You didn’t want heaven without us,
So Jesus, you brought heaven down.
My sin was great, your love was greater,
What could separate us now?”
Did you see it? It’s the statement: “You didn’t want heaven without us.” Some have argued that this line suggests that Jesus is needy, that he is, in himself, somehow deficient and less than complete and only we, his people can fill up what he lacks. That’s why he “didn’t want heaven without us.” But we know from numerous biblical texts that God needs nothing, that as Creator and Providential Lord over the entire universe, he is altogether self-sufficient and independent. For example, in his speech on Mars Hill, Paul said this:
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25).
Similarly, in his doxology at the close of Romans 11, the apostle declared:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).
It was Jesus himself who said,
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28).
There it is again: Jesus did not come looking for people to work for him. He came to work for us. He came to serve us. Jesus didn't come to recruit you to meet God's needs. God has no needs. Jesus came to bring you the resources of God to meet your needs. He died to meet your needs. He rose to meet your needs. He reigns to meet your needs, and make you happy in him forever.
What I’m going to say next may be a severe blow to your ego: God doesn’t need you and me. He lacks nothing. There isn’t anything we can give him or do for him that he doesn’t already have by virtue of the fact that he is God. We cannot serve him as if he were needy, give to him as if he were lacking, supply him as if he were depleted, support him as if he were dependent, empower him as if he were weak, inform him as if he were ignorant, or heal him as if he were wounded.
In a passage that virtually drips with divine sarcasm, God slaps our arrogance in the face when he says,
"If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and its fullness are mine. . . . And call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Ps. 50:12, 15).
When we come to God for rescue and deliverance and help in our time of need, everyone wins. We get rescued and God gets honored! We must remember that, as John Piper has said, “the gospel is not a Help Wanted ad. Neither is the call to Christian service. On the contrary, the gospel commands us to give up and hang out a Help Wanted sign” (Desiring God, 146).
Again, I know how odd this will sound. But listen anyway. God is our servant in the sense that he uses all his divine resources to help us and strengthen us and support us and provide our needs as we obey his command to serve others. In one of his parables, Jesus said,
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (Luke 12:35-37).
Here we see that the “Master” insists on serving even in the age to come when he will gloriously appear “with his mighty angels in flaming fire” (2 Thess. 1:7). Why? Because the very heart of his glory is the fullness of grace that overflows in kindness to needy people” (Piper, A Hunger for God, 91).
Consider this stunning declaration from the prophecy of Isaiah: "From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him” (Isa. 64:4). The good news is that this God who acts and works on our behalf never tires, becomes weary, or sleeps!
So, does that mean the song is heretical after all? Not necessarily. I don’t know what the thinking of its composers was when they wrote it. But we must ask the question: “Why did Jesus not want heaven without us?” If the answer is, because he was lonely or needed us or because he was in some way incomplete without our presence, then we have heresy. But that doesn’t necessarily follow from the statement that Jesus “didn’t want heaven without us.” Let me explain.
Consider what Jesus asked of his Father in his prayer of John 17. There we read:
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be where I am” (John 17:24a).
Clearly Jesus desires or “wants” his people to be with him, where he is, in heaven. But we can’t stop with the first half of the verse. We must read the rest. In other words, when we ask the question, “Why does Jesus desire that we be with him, where he is,” the answer is immediately forthcoming:
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24a).
When Jesus says I “desire that they also . . . may be with me,” it isn’t so that he can receive something we can give, but in order that he might give something that we desperately need. Jesus lacks nothing. His desire for us to be “with” him is so that he can show us his “glory” and in doing so fill up what is lacking in us, not something that is lacking in him. What you and I need most and what Jesus will supply us with forever is the sight and the savoring of his eternal glory.
So when I sing this glorious song and declare, “You didn’t want heaven without us,” I will sing it with the understanding that it is because Jesus desired to supply us with what will bring to our hearts the greatest imaginable joy: the sight and savoring of his own eternal and majestic glory!
So, whether or not this was in the composers’ thinking as they wrote the song, it is in my thinking as I sing it! And continue to sing it we will.