“His blood atoned…”

Charles Wesley’s marvelous hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise” has been sung enthusiastically by believers for at least a couple of centuries now. It provides the believer with a firm biblical ground of confidence in the salvation found in Christ.

Until tonight, though, I wasn’t aware of the alternate text some hymnals use in the second verse. Every hymnal from which I’ve sung the hymn has reflected Wesley’s original text:

He ever lives above, for me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead;
His blood atoned for all our race, and sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Apparently, a number of hymnals that are more Reformed in persuasion have taken exception to the notion of unlimited atonement which Wesley probably meant to communicate with the words “His blood atoned for all our race.” In such hymnals, we find:

He ever lives above, for me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead;
His blood atoned for ev’ry race, and sprinkles now the throne of grace.

This change actually reflects varying readings of significant salvation-oriented NT texts which use the word “all,” such as 1 Tim 2:4, 6, where “all” (πᾶς) is understood variously as “all without exception” (“…atoned for all our race”) or “all without distinction” (“atoned for ev’ry race”). An interesting change in one word that reflects larger, underlying theological debates!

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