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TLH 245, LSB 571 “God Loved the World So That He Gave”


Jesus ended His Sermon on the Mount with an illustration involving two men who built houses; one built on rock, the other on sand. The house built on rock withstood the onslaught of rain, flood, and winds and remained standing, while the one built on sand was destroyed. Whoever hears His Word and takes it to heart, Jesus says, is like the wise man who built on rock (Matthew 7:24-27).
The unknown author of our hymn used the same picture of faith and trust in Jesus Christ, describing Him as the “Ground of faith,” (stanza 2) and again, “the firmest ground of faith” (stanza 5). When our trust for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life is in Jesus, it is founded on ground that is rock solid, that will never give way. He is such firm ground for our trust because He is the only Son of God, sent by the Father to save the lost.
Christ Jesus is the Ground of faith,
Who was made flesh and suffered death;
All that confide in Him alone
Are built on this chief Cornerstone.
This hymn is based on John 3:16; the opening stanza is a paraphrase of that precious summary of the Gospel:
God loved the world so that He gave
His only Son the lost to save
That all who would in Him believe
Should everlasting life receive.
The Lutheran Hymnal includes this hymn in the Trinity section. This placement is appropriate because in John 3:16 Jesus teaches that it is God the Holy Trinity that is the sole source of our salvation. God the Father out of love for the lost and condemned world of sinners sent His only Son to redeem them. And He ordained that it should be by believing in His Son that sinners should be justified. That believing is the work of the Holy Spirit.
God would not have the sinner die,
His Son with saving grace is nigh,
His Spirit in the Word doth teach
How man the blessed goal may reach.
This Trinitarian expression of the Gospel shows the importance of the teaching of the Trinity in Christian theology. In the Bible God reveals His nature as three Persons in one Godhead. The doctrine of the Trinity cannot be set aside or reduced to fit within the limitations of human reason without corrupting the teaching of who God is. It is in the teaching of the three Persons that God reveals His love for mankind. Therefore, to deny the doctrine of the Trinity is to deny the Gospel.
The connection between the doctrine of the Trinity and the Gospel is shown also in the Lutheran Service Book which places this hymn under the heading of Justification.
The importance of the doctrine of the Trinity to our faith and salvation is shown in stanza 5:
If thou be sick, if death draw near,
This truth thy troubled heart can cheer:
Christ Jesus saves my soul from death;
That is the firmest ground of faith.
As we write, our world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus is bringing people—young and old, rich and poor—face to face with their mortality. For believers this need not be terrifying, for we know God the Father Who loved us and sent His Son to die for us. We know God the Holy Spirit Who was poured out on us in our Baptism, Who has opened our hearts to believe in Jesus Christ and be saved.
With this saving faith in the one true and living God, we can at all times and in all situations of life sing,
Glory to God the Father, Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One!
To Thee, O blessed Trinity,
Be praise now and eternally!
John Klatt is a retired pastor. He lives in Watertown, South Dakota.