Jesus Paid It All is one of those hymns that has endured for the ages. Although written over a century ago, it remains fresh and relevant. Most recently, The Newsboys and Kristian Stanfill have given their modern renditions of this timeless hymn. Jesus Paid It All remains a favorite of conservative and contemporary churches alike, because the all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ is something all believers can rejoice over. The words of Elvina Hall’s poem-turned-hymn give us each a voice to declare our joy over the perfect sacrifice of our Lord.
Not a Coincidence, Providence!
Some have said that the way Elvina Hall’s most famous hymn came together is a happy coincidence. In fact, it is the work of divine Providence! The same God who gave a new song to the psalmist in Psalm 40:3, continues to give His children songs to praise Him. In the case of Jesus Paid It All, the Lord worked through three of His children to craft the song that we have today.
One Sunday, while listening to her pastor pray, Mrs. Hall’s mind turned to reflect on the all-sufficient sacrifice of the Lord. Overcome by the completeness of Christ’s work on the cross, Elvina quickly grabbed her hymnbook, found a spare page and jotted down line after line. After church, she gave her poem to her pastor, Reverend George Schrick.
Reverend Schrick loved the poem immediately and hurriedly went to get another submission that he had received some time earlier. The church organist, John Thomas Grape, had composed a tune, he called All To Christ I Owe, and had given it to the pastor. However, Thomas Grape did not have any words for the melody. When Reverned Shrick saw Hall’s poem, he knew that it was meant for Grape’s melody.
A Perfect Fit!
Though both Elvina Hall and John Grape attended Monument Street Methodist Church, they two had not collaborated directly on the hymn. Grape composed the melody unbeknowst to Hall. Mrs. Hall wrote her poem entirely apart from Grape. Pastor Schrick did not know that either would give him those pieces of a puzzle. Yet, lo and behold, when Reverend Schrick put the words and the tune together, they fit perfectly! Truly, it was a work of divine Providence that their separate works came together in one harmonious hymn. The backstory of this hymn is a testament that the Lord baptizes us into one body, and that each member is vital. We have these three faithful servants– the poet, the pastor, and the pianist— to thank for the completion of this hymn that we have today.
Jesus Paid It All!
On the cross, the last word the Lord proclaimed was “Tetelestai!”, meaning “It is finished!” The word “tetelestai” also means “paid in full/completely paid”. It was an accounting term that a tax collector or another official would write across a bill once a debt was completely paid. Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ has written “tetelestai” on the debt of our sin! When we fall into the temptation to strive, to work our way into Heaven by our own merit, we have words like Elvina Hall’s to remind us: Jesus paid it all!