Though Christ a thousand times

1
Though Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born,
If He’s not born in thee
Thy soul is still forlorn.
The Cross on Golgotha,
Will never save thy soul;
The Cross in thine own heart,
Alone can make thee whole.
  O, Cross of Christ, I take thee
  Into this heart of mine,
That I to my own self may die
    And rise to thy life Divine.
2
What e’er thou lovest, man,
That too become thou must;
God, if thou lovest God,
Dust, if thou lovest dust.
Go out, God will come in;
Die thou and let Him live;
Be not and He will be;
Wait and He’ll all things give.
3
To bring thee to thy God,
Love takes the shortest route;
The way which knowledge leads,
Is but a roundabout.
Drive out from thee the world,
And then thy heart shall be
Filled with the love of God,
And holy like as He.
6
Juan Viana

Anaheim, California, United States

Just learned in the current semiannual training the this hymn was written in the third century AD. Probably the oldest hymn in our hymnal. The second stanza reveals the crucial fact that if we want to become God we need to be those who continually tell Him, "Lord Jesus, I love You". Love is the shortest way to God!


Efren M.

Sydney

I just keep learning this hymn today, thru the guitar chords and MIDI tunes in this hymnal portal...as I learned the tune, then I was carried on to my spirit thru its rich wordings...Oh my Lord Jesus Christ...we wounded Him, yet we as the sand particles was kept in His wound (in His death), then, He begins to secrete his life-juices, and made us pearls, as very precious materials to His building works, and we further enter the New Jerusalem! Hallelujah, we must remain in His death, so the resurrection life-juice, can engulf us to become pearls as the gates to the entrance of many peoples for His kingdom!


Victor Enujiugha

Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria

It is time to drive away self and the world from our hearts that the Lord may take His place. I die that He might live in me.


Helen Breen

Nottingham, United Kingdom

Amen, be not and He will be.


Will Miller

Portland, OR, USA

"In our hymnal several hymns are concerned...with the aspect of the co-death of the cross. ...The hymn (without the chorus) was written in the third century.... It is a hymn of the inner life and was translated into Chinese by Brother Nee." page 60, The Governing and Controlling Vision of the Bible.

Thank You, Lord, for the recovery of this truth that we are crucified with Christ.


Primo V. Jarmin II

Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines

Amen. Praise the Lord! I like this hymn because the lyrics is very rich and it exposes me. The lines "You become God if you love God. Dust if you love dust". This hymn reminds me of what I love.

Concerning Thou Become Me, and I Become Thee in Stanza 4 of Hymn #130 in Chinese

In His way of redemption God's desire is that His Son would become us and that we would become His sons in Him. The Bible clearly says that the Lord became flesh (John 1:14). We are flesh. The apostle Paul says, "To me, to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21). When Paul first met the Lord, the Lord asked him, "Why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4). At that time Saul was persecuting the Lord's disciples (v. 1), but the Lord said that Saul was persecuting Him. This is because the disciples and the Lord were one. In the Lord's eyes they were the same as the Lord Himself. The criticizing ones say that it is correct to speak of God becoming a man but that it is wrong to say that "God becomes me." They further assert, "Although Paul said, 'To me, to live is Christ, ' he would not dare say, 'I am Christ. '" I wish to ask: Is not God becoming a man the same as God becoming me or us? Am I not a man? Are we not men? Does "To me, to live is Christ" not mean that I become Christ? If the disciples whom Saul persecuted had not become the Lord, how could the Lord say to him, "Why are you persecuting Me?"

The criticizers say that a dangerous deduction can be made from the phrase "Thou become me, and I become Thee" in hymn #130 in Chinese. Certainly it is always dangerous to make unreasonable deductions from words taken out of context. When we say, "I become Thee," we are not saying that we are Christ in the sense of His Godhead and sovereign Lordship. The criticizers are interpreting these words without regard to context. If we interpret in this way, then the first stanza of hymn #366 in Chinese (Hymns, #477 in English), which says, "The Cross on Golgotha, / Will never save thy soul," could also be considered as "dangerous." According to their plain meaning, the Cross on Golgotha is the cross of the Lord, and it is wrong to say that the cross cannot save us. However, according to the context, the writer is saying that the Lord's cross must become our subjective experience; otherwise, we will not know the subjective experience of salvation. Furthermore, the first stanza of hymn #26 in Chinese (Hymns, #38 in English) says, "E'en heav'n itself no richer knows / Than Jesus and His blood." If one interprets this line without any regard to its context, this line is also wrong, because God is greater than the blood in heaven. However, we know that the writer's intention was to describe the importance of the Lord's blood. If we interpret words without regard to context simply in order to find fault, we will lose the blessing. We should use our best efforts to understand the poetic meaning of the words in order to gain benefit from them.

After the overcomer conference in Hangchow in the autumn of 1934, the attendants of the conference went to Shanghai for a short stay. One day everyone went to Chao Feng Garden in Shanghai to pray. After praying, a few of us sat down with Brother Nee for fellowship. Someone suddenly asked Brother Nee, "The chorus in hymn #362 in Chinese says, 'Always walk on the narrow way of the cross, / Where my Savior died for me. ' This is not quite correct, because the Lord died on Mount Calvary, not on the narrow way of the cross." Brother Nee looked at him but did not say anything. When I heard the way he asked the question, I thought, "This person is interpreting the words according to their literal meaning but without any regard to context. Dying on Mount Calvary is the same as dying on the narrow way of the cross. Mount Calvary is included in the narrow way of the cross. The way that he strictly interprets the meaning of the words could become a problem in the future." Little did I know that what I felt that day would become a reality!

A few lines in stanza 1 of Hymns, #477 say, "The Cross on Golgotha, / Will never save thy soul; / The Cross in thine own heart, / Alone can make thee whole." This hymn was translated by Brother Nee. If we read only these lines without understanding the context, we will think that there is a problem. This hymn is unacceptable to people who stress doctrine, because they would ask, First, why is it that the cross of the Lord Jesus on Golgotha is not able to save man? Second, how can there be a "cross in thine own heart"? How did this cross enter into man? Third, if the cross is for redeeming man, how can it make man whole? This is a very deep hymn. If we understand the context, we will understand that the objective cross on Golgotha will not save us from naturalness, the self, or the old creation, for only the cross within us is able to heal us. This hymn stresses deep experience, not doctrine.

Previously, we have seen that we need to perfect others with gold, silver, and precious stones. The lover needs gold added to her plaits of hair, silver studs to hold the plaits, and strings of jewels, precious stones. We need to experience the Triune God as gold, silver, and precious stones, and then we can perfect others with the Triune God by helping them to deny themselves so that they can be with the Lord in a new way to be renewed and transformed to become absolutely a new man in God's new creation. It is only by being conformed to the death of Christ by the power of His resurrection that we can be delivered from our self to be transformed. Through the crossing-out way, we become completely a new man in God's new creation for God to fulfill His economy so that we can be the organic Body of Christ. The organic Body of Christ comes out of this kind of crossing out.

Stanzas 1 and 2 with the chorus of Hymns, #477 speak of the experience of being delivered from the self by the cross of Christ...

May God be merciful to us that we learn to love Him from our hearts as soon as we become Christians. Being short in knowledge does not mean much, because the way to know God lies in love, not in knowledge. If a man loves God, he will know God even though he may lack knowledge. However, if he knows much but does not love God in his heart, all of his knowledge will not help him to know God. There is a good line in one hymn: "To bring thee to thy God,/Love takes the shortest route" (Hymns, #477). If a man loves God, whatever he encounters will turn out to his good.

In our hymnal several hymns are concerned in particular with the aspect of the co-death of the cross. One of these hymns is #477. The hymn (without the chorus) was written in the third century; later, A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, added the chorus. This hymn is simple yet mysterious. It is a hymn of the inner life and was translated into Chinese by Brother Nee. The first stanza says,

Though Christ a thousand times

In Bethlehem be born,

If He's not born in thee

Thy soul is still forlorn.

The Cross on Golgotha,

Will never save thy soul;

The Cross in thine own heart,

Alone can make thee whole.

This is a word of experience. If the cross remains only on Golgotha, without entering into you, it can only redeem you but it cannot save you. To be redeemed is one thing; to be saved is another thing. To "make thee whole" here refers to salvation, not redemption. The cross at Golgotha with the shedding of blood is more than able to redeem you; but this cross must enter into you as a tool of the Spirit before it can make you whole and save you.

The chorus appended by A. B. Simpson was fittingly and aptly done. It says,

O, Cross of Christ, I take thee

Into this heart of mine,

That I to my own self may die

And rise to Thy life Divine.

This was written altogether from the subjective side, not from the objective side. The objective cross on Golgotha cannot enter into us. The cross that enters into our heart is the cross that has become our subjective experience for us to live by the Lord practically. We need to sing such a hymn again and again in our daily life.

Stanza 2 is the climax of this hymn, but regretfully most people who sing it do not pay attention to its deep meaning. This stanza says,

What e'er thou lovest, man,

That too become thou must;

God, if thou lovest God,

Dust, if thou lovest dust.

Go out, God will come in;

Die thou and let Him live;

Be not and He will be;

Wait and He'll all things give.

"Dust" refers not only to the physical dust but also to the world. "Be not and He will be" means that if we do not exist, God exists. In other words, we should not think about becoming somebody; actually, we are nobody. Do not consider that you are something; only God is. Hebrews 11:6 says that faith is to believe that God is and we are not. When we come forward to God, we must believe that God is and we are not. This equals to Paul's statement: "No longer I...but it is Christ" (Gal. 2:20). "No longer I" means I am not; "it is Christ" means only Christ is.