O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be!
These are the words of Robert Robinson in 1758 as he penned the third verse of the well-known song, “O Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.I can remember singing this song in church as a child and I have a vivid memory of these words in the third verse of the song. I can remember wondering what these words meant. My only concept of “grace” was my great aunt whose name was Grace. It wasn’t until many years later that I came to understand the significance of these words.
It seems the more I learn about God’s Word and the more I try to be what God wants me to be, the more I realize my shortcomings. I can relate to the words of Paul in Romans 7:18, For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
Paul explains his constant struggle in the warfare between flesh and spirit as he continues in verses 21-23, So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
Paul then draws a conclusion in verse 24 concerning his own struggle with sin, What a wretched man I am! This is a sobering statement coming from such a spiritual giant as the apostle Paul, yet, it is the conclusion to which every honest penitent sinner will arrive.
As we grow in the knowledge of God’s will for us, we will also grow in the knowledge of our own shortcomings and weaknesses of the flesh. We may have a genuine desire to do good, but we will find that evil is always right there with us.
This war between the “inner man” and the flesh is a struggle that every believer must engage and if we are honest we will admit that we do not win every battle against the flesh (I John 1:8). If we make an honest evaluation, we will conclude, as did Paul, What a wretched man I am!
Paul continues in verse 24 with a question, Who will rescue me from this body of death?
This question by Paul expresses the understanding that we cannot save ourselves. No matter how strong our desire to do God’s will, we fall short of his glory and are in need of a Savior. Paul answers this question in verse 25, Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Truly, we are all debtors to the grace of God and it is only by His grace which came through Jesus Christ that we have hope of salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
The words of Paul in Romans 7:14-25 and the words of the song written by Robert Robinson are humble expressions that every believer should acknowledge, O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be. -Wendell Ingram