Stuart Townend was the fourth child of Rev. John Townend and was born in West Yorkshire, England in 1963. Stuart began playing piano at seven-years-old and started writing music at twenty-two. His brother went on to be a musician as well. His father served as vicar in the Church of England until he passed away in 1985. Stuart met Caroline, his future wife, while studying literature at the University of Sussex. They were married in 1988, and they now have three children.
Three years after his marriage, Townend became the pianist at Stoneleigh church. Three years after that, he produced his first album. It was in 1995 that he wrote and composed the now famous hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” This hymn lyrically puts to words the amazing grace that the Lord has shed upon us. It attempts to convey how loving the Father was to send His Son to die for us rebellious children who led to the death of Christ. This leads the singer to recognize that it is not by our own strength that we are saved, or that we should glory in ourselves, but instead that we should thank the Lord for mercifully forgiving us such a great debt.
Townend first collaborated with a fellow hymn-writer when he wrote “In Christ Alone,” another well-loved hymn of today, with Keith Getty. Townend is still writing music and even performs sometimes with his own band. He also teaches new musicians to serve the church. Whether he is called a contemporary worship leader or a leader of modern hymn-writers, Townend has affected the hearts of many by his compositions and by his service in the church today.
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
This verse has some unique parallelism not seen in most modern lyrics. The beginning starts with Gospel and ends with law; the next sentence starts with law and ends in Gospel. This pattern also composes this hymn. We should recognize it and even use this pattern in how we share the Gospel. So often we focus on the Law. That is understandable. The Law is easy, it is understood. We are surrounded by Law all the time. Yet it is the Gospel we should begin with, and it is the Gospel we end with because we were not left to be mired in the weight of the Law. And why is this? Because of the Father’s great love for us.
Indeed, we call the Father’s love deep, great, vast, and measureless because it is all of those things (Eph. 3:16-21, Rom. 8:38-39). What is man that He is mindful of us (Psa. 8:3-5)? Why did He promise the death of His only begotten Son for the sins of all the world that we might be made children of Him (Jhn. 3:16, Gen. 3:15)? We certainly do not deserve it. But God sent His son in our place because He loved us (1 Jhn. 4:18-19, Jhn. 10:11, 15:13). This verse is a reminder of how merciful and gracious our God is. He loved us before we could love Him (Rom. 5:9-11). He made us – petulant, rebellious children – into holy children of God, heirs according to His promises. Christ took our infirmities upon Himself, endured His Father turning away from Him, so that we might be made holy in His sight (Matt. 27:46, Psa. 22, Isa. 53:3-12, Phil. 2:5-11).
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.
Obviously, this hymn speaks of the suffering of Christ. The first verse introduced the picture and idea of our Lord and Savior dying on the cross for our sake. This verse paints an actual image of the event with an added element. For the hymn guides the singer to remember that it was not the Jews alone who put Christ on the cross. No, it was for the sin of the whole world, both then and now, that Christ died. It was for our sin just as much as it was for theirs. Who else do we see mocking the Christ? Whose voice to we hear? We hear our own voice as we mock the Christ (Matt. 27:39-40, Mar. 15:29, Luk. 23:35).
Yet the verse does not end with such deserved condemnation. No, we are reminded that though it was our sin that “held Him there,” His death accomplished for us what we never could (Heb. 2:10, Rom. 4:25, 6:1-12). His death brought us life (Rom. 5:1-8, 2 Tim. 1:9-10, 1 Jhn. 2:12). Truly, we have been forgiven. Truly, our sin is finished.
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.
Thus, the hymn ends in Gospel and in our praising Christ. It in not on our own strength, promises, or abilities that we rely, rather, we know our only boasting is in the Lord (1 Jhn. 4:4, Gal. 6:14, 2 Cor. 10:17, 12:9). For His wisdom is clearly above our own, His strength greater than ours, and His promises more incredible than anything we can imagine (1 Cor. 1:18-31, Eph. 3:20-21, Jer. 9:23-24). Therefore, our only boasting is in who Christ is and what He has done for us. We are unable to say why we should partake in this gift, why we should be made heirs along with Christ, why we have been forgiven. But we know this: It is by the great loving-kindness of Christ that we have this grace (Gal. 4:1-7, Eph. 3:6, Rom. 5:1-2, 8:15, 1 Pet. 2:24-25). Our faith is in Christ and His great love for us.
Blessings to you and yours,