Ten Atonement Songs You Should Consider Singing
Over the years, I’ve realized that not all songs about the cross are created equal. Some use the word “cross” without explaining what it means. Others see the cross merely as a selfless act of love for our encouragement. Others give voice to an appropriate response of devotion (e.g., Isaac Watts’ “When I Survey”). Some come close to articulating what Jesus accomplished at the cross while leaving out some of the details.
But the power of the cross is in the details.
That’s why I’m constantly on the lookout for songs that clearly, beautifully, faithfully, and compellingly point us to what actually took place on a hill called Calvary. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, bore our sins in his body on the tree to endure the wrath of God for us. Why? So that we might be forgiven, reconciled to God, live joyfully for God’s glory, and spend eternity with him (Col. 1:13–14; 1 Pet. 2:24; Col. 3:17; Rev. 5:9–10). That reality is a source of endless beauty, wonder, worship, and joy.
You probably already sing songs that do just what I’ve been describing. Songs like “Before the Throne of God Above,” “And Can It Be,” “In Christ Alone,” “Man of Sorrows,” “It Is Well,” “The Power of the Cross,” and many more.
Here are ten more for you to consider that you might not know about or haven’t sung yet. I’ve included some lines from each song and intentionally drawn from a variety of eras and styles.
1. At the Cross of Jesus (John Eddison/Richard Simpkin)
A modern, five-verse UK hymn with a simple melody. “Even though I be chief of all the sinners, there is hope for me.” “Though my sins condemn me, Jesus died instead.” “Let your love possess me, so that all may see what your death accomplished on the cross for me.”
2. His Robes for Mine (Chris Anderson/Greg Habegger)
Another recent, four-verse hymn with a chorus. This is well known in some circles, but I led it for the first time last year. “I cling to Christ, and marvel at the cost, Jesus forsaken, God estranged from God.” “What cause have I to dread? God’s daunting law Christ mastered in my stead.” One of the few hymns that manages to get both “vicarious” and “propitiation” in one song.
3. Jerusalem (Jonny Robinson, Rich Thompson, Tiarne Kleyn)
A beautiful hymn from the Australian based group CityAlight, that takes us to the day Jesus died. “Dust that formed the watching crowds, takes the blood of Jesus.” “And he stood before the wrath of God, shielding sinners with his blood.”
4. O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer (Nate Stiff)
A modern hymn that expresses the satisfaction and security that come from knowing our sins have been paid for. “My guilt and cross laid on your shoulders, in my place, You suffered bled and died.” “You rose, the grave and death are conquered, You broke my bonds of sin and shame.”
5. Mediator (Cam Huxford)
An upbeat indie rock song that expounds on 1 Timothy 2:5. “He takes our place and stands in front of God on high, he speaks on our behalf since we don’t have the right.” “There is only one God, there is only one mediator, standing between God and man, he’s the only way to salvation.”
6. My Saviour Left His Throne Above (Zac Hicks/Julie Anne Vargas)
A modern hymn in 3/4 that reminds us of what Jesus did, felt, and earned for us through his life, death, and resurrection. “He felt the storms of human pain.” “He kept his Father’s every word; the Law he followed perfectly; So all God’s pleasure he secured, all this and more he earned for me.” “Because he died once for all time, and bore the curse of death and hell, final forgiveness here is mine, so it is finished, all is well.”
7. Now Why This Fear (Doug Plank/Augustus Toplady)
A modern adaptation of Augustus Toplady’s hymn, “From Whence This Fear and Unbelief.” “Will the righteous Judge of men condemn me for that debt of sin now canceled at the cross?” “Complete atonement You have made, and by Your death have fully paid the debt Your people owed.” “The merits of your great high priest have bought your liberty.”
8. The Passion (Brooke Ligertwood/Scott Ligertwood/Chris Davenport)
Like “Man of Sorrows,” this is another Hillsong offering that articulates penal substitution clearly and faithfully. “For Jesus’ blood that sets us free means death to death and life for me.” “The Innocent judged guilty, while the guilty one walks free, death would be His portion, and our portion liberty.”
9. Upon A Life I Have Not Lived (Horatius Bonar/Kevin Twit)
An indie song from Indelible Grace that emphasizes how the cross eliminates any boasting in ourselves. “Upon a life I have not lived, upon a death I did not die, another’s life, another’s death I stake my whole eternity.” “O Jesus, Son of God, I build on what Thy cross has done for me, There both my life and death I read, my guilt, my pardon there I see.”
10. Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me (Jonny Robinson, Rich Thompson, Michael Farren)
Another CityAlight addition to modern hymnody that I hope is being sung for a long time. “No fate I dread, I know I am forgiven, the future sure, the price it has been paid, for Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon and He was raised to overthrow the grave.”
While substitutionary atonement isn’t the only thing God wants us to sing about, it’s why we can sing to God at all, and the greatest reason we have to sing. And for those reasons, we will never have enough songs to extol the glory of the Lamb who was slain to purchase our salvation.