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May 2011

Rock of Ages: The Double Cure

Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee

Let the water and the blood

From Thy wounded side which flowed

Be of sin the double cure

Save from wrath and make me pure
– Verse One from Rock of Ages

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. – Mark 2:17

Christ being compared to a rock was not a new thing in Augustus Montague Toplady’s time. Its allusion goes all the way back to where Moses, at God’s command, struck the rock in Horeb, miraculously bringing forth a needed supply of water for God’s people (Exodus 17:6). The rock that Moses struck is a picture of Jesus being struck to provide the “water” needed to satisfy sinful man’s spiritual need. The Apostle Paul confirms this allusion:

    For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. – 1 Corinthians 10:4

The title of this hymn, and verse one specifically, paint the picture of Jesus as a rock split open (cleft) to provide a place of spiritual refuge for sinful people. The inference is drawn from Moses’ encounter with God in Exodus 33:20-23. Because Moses, a fallen man, could not see God’s face and still live, God protected Moses by placing him in the cleft of a rock as He passed by. In the same way, by being hidden in Christ, the Rock cleft on his behalf at the cross, the believer is sheltered from the eternal death he would face when he stands before a holy, righteous God.

In addition to the allusion of Christ as the Rock of Ages, verse one also presents us with a rich picture of God’s grace and goodness in the Gospel. The Bible says that we are a people who are sick unto death, and in desperate need of a cure. Our sin is like a cancer that has eaten away our soul from the inside out. Left to ourselves, the prognosis is simple: death.

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

But in Rock of Ages, we sing of a cure. A cure for the guilt of our sin that incurs the devastating and holy wrath of God on the one hand, and a cure from the power of sin over our hearts on the other. In the person of Jesus Christ, we have both forgiveness and purity. In his essay entitled On the Biblical Notion of Renewal, theologian B. B. Warfield goes on to state:

    It is uniformly taught in Scripture that by his sin man has not merely incurred the divine condemnation but also corrupted his own heart; that sin, in other words, is not merely guilt deserving wrath, but depravity: and that there is needed for man’s recovery from sin, therefore, not merely atonement but renewal; (a double cure) that salvation…consists not merely in pardon but in purification. Great as the stress laid in the Scriptures on the forgiveness of sins as the root of salvation, no less stress is laid throughout the Scriptures on the cleansing of the heart as the fruit of salvation. Nowhere is the sinner permitted to rest satisfied with the pardon as the end of salvation; everywhere he is made poignantly to feel that salvation is realized only in a clean heart and a right spirit.

We sing of the Gospel not only as a sanctuary where the guilty hell-deserving sinner may flee to escape the “wrath of a sin-hating God,” but a place of cleansing; so that we are not only saved from the penalty of sin, but are being cleansed from the power of sin. Not only justified, but also sanctified. Not only forgiven by the great Judge of all the earth, but attended to by the Great Physician of our souls. In the cleft of the Rock, which is Christ the Lord, there is, indeed, a “double cure” for all ills.


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