a question regarding a hymn

I have been thinking a little lately about the popular hymn by Aaron Wolfe, Complete in Thee. The tune is lovely and the thoughts of the hymn are generally appreciated.

I am wondering, however, about the second verse:

Complete in Thee! No more shall sin,
Thy grace hath conquered, reign within;
Thy voice shall bid the tempter flee,
And I shall stand complete in Thee.

Is this verse teaching some kind of perfectionism? It seems odd that it should, the author being a Presbyterian and the year being 1858, but it is the "no more shall sin" line that makes me wonder.

I haven’t been able to find any comments on this elsewhere, so thought I would throw this out for discussion to see what others might think. It could be that the writer is thinking of the future, not the present, although all but the last verse of the song seems to refer to the present:

Complete in Thee! no work of mine
May take, dear Lord, the place of Thine;
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And I am now complete in Thee.

Refrain:
Yea, justified! O blessed thought!
And sanctified! Salvation wrought!
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And glorified, I too, shall be!

Complete in Thee! no more shall sin,
Thy grace hath conquered, reign within;
Thy voice shall bid the tempter flee,
And I shall stand complete in Thee.

Complete in Thee— each want supplied,
And no good thing to me denied;
Since Thou my portion, Lord, wilt be,
I ask no more, complete in Thee.

Dear Saviour! when before Thy bar
All tribes and tongues assembled are,
Among Thy chosen will I be,
At Thy right hand, complete in Thee.

An interesting paragraph on CyberHymnal gives a bit of a background to Aaron Wolfe and the quality of his spiritual life.

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Comments

  1. Dave says:

    I think it is just a poetic way of restating Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dave. I got a similar e-mail from an anonymous family member. (Not anonymous to me!)

    Perhaps you are right, but I have to say that my background growing up is the holiness movement. I became a Baptist at BJU. My holiness friends would really like that verse.

    It also seems to speak of sanctification as entirely passive, which seems problematic to me also. Maybe not to others.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. Here’s a little more about the song author: This book (both on the page linked and the next page (361) is a start. It doesn’t answer our question, but it helps to place the song in context.

    Here’s another that might give some more help. Be sure to look at p. 123 where it notes that the title, at least, comes from Col. 2:10.

  4. KittyF says:

    I’m no expert, but the Bible says that God views us as complete in Jesus, which means we have his Righteousness. couldn’t this have something to do with this verse?

    • Hello KittyF

      Thanks for the comment. I am sorry I was so slow approving it. I thought WordPress would e-mail it to me automatically, but I don’t recall seeing this one. So?? My apologies for the delay.

      I think you are correct on the “complete in thee” part. Certainly we are complete in Christ. There is nothing we can add to our salvation. However, at the time I wrote, I was wondering about the line “no more shall sin”. I have since studied sanctification at a much more intense level than before and I think the writer is expressing a Calvinistic view of sanctification in the line. He is essentially saying that if I will just rest in grace, I will not sin.

      In an earlier comment on this post, I mentioned that I thought the author of the poem was speaking about sanctification too passively. I think that is the result of the Calvinistic/Reformed view of sanctification. Today, you hear a lot of talk about “Gospel-centered” sanctification, which is another term for the same thing.

      While some of the things this view teaches are true, it is an over-emphasis that creates an error in the thinking of Christians. Sanctification does involve the fruit of the Gospel and my sanctification must start with the Gospel, but there are things I must do as well in order to be sanctified. Some of those things are external and some (the most important) are internal. I have written about this more in detail here. Perhaps you will find my article there helpful. (Don’t miss the articles preceding the one I link to, links are in the first paragraph.)

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3