Hymn Story

Grace Greater than Our Sin

(Also known as Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord)

Hymn Lists

by book of Bible

Julia Harriet Johnston (1849-1919), who wrote the words to this song, wrote nearly five hundred hymns or Gospel songs during her lifetime—but “Grace Greater than Our Sin” is the one that made its way into numerous hymnals during the 20th century.  Daniel Brink Towner wrote the music for this song.

Johnston didn’t just write songs.  She also wrote Sunday school materials for primary age children.  David C. Cook Publishing Company published a number of her works.

Grace is a key concept in the Christian faith.  If it weren’t for grace, none of us could qualify for heaven.  While most books of the Bible speak of God’s grace, the Apostle Paul is especially known for emphasizing grace.  He said:

“Where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly;

that as sin reigned in death,

even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life

through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21).

The problem is that, while we might believe in the theory of grace, most of us have difficulty believing that God will forgive us.  We cling to our guilt as a drowning man might cling to a splinter of wood.  The difference, of course, is that Christ allowed himself to be nailed to a piece of wood to save us—to make us whole—to take our guilt upon himself and to bring salvation to all who believe in him.

Johnston captured this tension in her song.  She spoke of sin and despair that threatens the soul.  She spoke of a dark stain that we cannot hide.  But she also lifted up the cross of Christ as the remedy for our sin—as the prescription to relieve us of our guilt.

The chorus speaks of grace over and over again, so that the person who sings this song cannot miss its import.  The chorus says:

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within,

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan