Christ, the Life of All the Living

Full Text

1 Christ, the life of all the living;
Christ, the death of death our foe;
Christ, for us yourself once giving
to the darkest depths of woe:
through your suffering, death, and merit,
life eternal we inherit;

thousand, thousand thanks are due,
dearest Jesus, unto you.

2 You have suffered great affliction
and have borne it patiently,
even death by crucifixion:
our atonement full and free.
Lord, you chose to be tormented,
that our doom should be prevented; [Refrain]

3 Lord, for all that bought our pardon,
for the sorrows deep and sore,
for the anguish in the garden,
we will thank you evermore.
For the victory of your dying—
sinful nature mortifying— [Refrain]

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text is a meditation on the suffering and death of Christ, which brought eternal life to believers (st. 1), provided full atonement for our sin (st. 2), and mortified our "old nature" (st. 3). The tone of unending gratitude to God reflected in the refrain line–"thousand, thousand thanks are due"–runs throughout the entire text.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song is saturated with an awareness of the vicarious suffering of Christ, for this we owe him a “…thousand, thousand thanks.” Belgic Confession, Article 21 captures the heart of our confidence and assurance with its profession: “And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.”


Christ, the Life of All the Living

Introductory/Framing Text

We begin our journey to Easter with the sign of ashes.
This ancient sign speaks of the frailty and uncertainty of human life,
calls us to heartfelt repentance,
and urges us to place our hope in God alone.
Almighty God,
you have created us out of the dust of the earth.
May these ashes remind us of our mortality and penitence
and teach us again that only by your gracious gift
are we given everlasting life
through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
[Worshipers are invited to come forward to receive the imposition of ashes. During the imposition,
suitable hymns or psalms may be sung, or worshipers may keep silence. A worship
leader marks the forehead of each person with the ashes, using the following words.]
Remember that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
—from Genesis 3:19, NRSV
Consider yourself dead to sin
and alive to God in Jesus Christ.
—from Romans 6:11, NRSV
After all who desire the imposition of ashes have received them, the following prayer may be said.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Call to Worship

A text especially mindful of children
Great is the Lord—
exalted among the nations.
Mighty is the Lord—
King of heaven and earth.
Holy is the Lord—
beyond our understanding.
Let us worship our God and King!
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Lord God,
in this season of Lent
we look forward to our remembrance of Jesus’ death
and our celebration of his resurrection.
We pray that your Spirit will renew in us today
our anticipation for these events
and our awareness that Jesus’ death and resurrection
are a sure source of hope and life.
In the power of Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Let us worship God, who has done great things.
We rejoice in our God, who made a way
through the desert of this world.
Let us worship God, who has caused streams of mercy
to flow in the wasteland.
We are the people God has formed through Christ;
we worship him, and we rejoice!
Let us worship God in spirit and in truth.
We praise God for the grace that has saved us.
Alleluia! We rejoice!
—based on Isaiah 43:19-21
[Reformed Worship 34:20]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


Our congregation invites you
to observe this season of Lent
through self-examination and penitence,
prayer and fasting,
reading and meditating on the Word of God,
and works of love and witness.
Let us bow before God, our Creator and Redeemer,
and confess our sin.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Genuine repentance involves two things:
the dying-away of the old self and the coming-to-life of the new.
The dying-away of the old self is to be genuinely sorry for sin,
to hate it more and more, and to run away from it.
The coming-to-life of the new self
is wholehearted joy in God through Christ
and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to.
Together, as Christ’s body, we now confess our sin
and express our longing to live in joyful obedience to God.
—based on Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A’s 88-90
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

During his whole life on earth,
but especially at the end,
Christ sustained
in body and soul
the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race.
In response to his sacrifice, let us confess our sins to God.
—based on Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 37
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


The Lord God said:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.
Brothers and sisters: In Christ, all God’s promises are “Yes.”
Hear the good news: Through Christ,
our minds and hearts are cleansed, healed, and renewed!
—based on Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance,
that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,
so that we, free from sins, might live for righteousness;
by his wounds we have been healed.
—from 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 2:24, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

During his whole life on earth,
but especially at the end,
Christ sustained
in body and soul
the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race.
This he did in order that,
by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice,
he might deliver us, body and soul,
from eternal condemnation,
and gain for us God’s grace,
righteousness, and eternal life.
—Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 37
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

The following is a guide for extemporaneous prayers for services that remember Jesus’ transfiguration.
The pattern provides a suggested text for the opening and closing of each part of
the prayer and calls for extemporaneous prayers of thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.
Jesus Christ,
glorified and risen Lord,
though you could have stayed on the mountain,
you chose to descend, knowing the agony that lay ahead to bring our salvation.
We thank you for your redemption, that can be seen even now in
creation . . .
the nations of the world . . .
world leaders . . .
our nation . . .
our community . . .
the church universal . . .
our church . . .
the life of . . .
our own lives . . .
Yet knowing that many in this world
are not willing to acknowledge you as God and Savior,
or are unable to pray,
we offer these prayers on their behalf:
for creation and its care . . .
for the nations of the world . . .
for our nation and its leaders . . .
for our community and those who govern . . .
for the church universal, its mission, and those who minister . . .
for this local congregation and its ministry . . .
for persons with particular needs . . .
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ,
our glorified and risen Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise. Amen.
—from Psalm 51:15-17, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Gracious God, out of your love and mercy
you breathed into dust the breath of life,
creating us to serve you and our neighbors.
In this season of repentance,
restore to us the joy of our salvation
and strengthen us to face our mortality,
that we may reach with confidence for your mercy,
in Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Through God’s Word, O Holy Spirit,
bring us closer to our Savior.
And in response, triune God, prompt our hearts
to offer you sincere thanks for our salvation.
In the strong name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Christ, the Life of All the Living

Tune Information

G Major
Meter refrain 7.7


Musical Suggestion

There are many options for learning and singing this Lenten hymn. A soloist or choir could introduce the hymn on the first Sunday, with the congregation joining on the refrain. Or the whole congregation could simply sing this hymn each Sunday during Lent.
Choirs may be also be interested in a short cantata by the Lutheran composer Dietrich Buxtehude, "Jesu meines Lebens Leben" which is available in a revised edition in Buxtehude's Collected Works (ix, 91, edited by Kerala J. Snyder et al.). The cantata can be sung by an above-average church choir and is scored for two violins, two violas, violone and basso continuo.
Organists may be interested in the following compositions, based on this tune:
  • Alle Menschen miissen sterben by Johann Sebastian Bach (from "Orgelbuchlein," Concordia edition). Beautiful and easy to learn.
  • Michael Burkhardt's setting in Easy Hymn Settings—Lent (Morning Star Music Publishers MSM-10-315). A very accessible hymn introduction in two parts without pedal.
  • “Jesu, meines Lebens Leben” by Johann Ludwig Krebs (in an edition by Breitkopf, 8415). Medium difficulty.
  • A lively setting, easy-medium, by Willem Van Twillert (in the collection Drie bewerkingen over Passiekoralen, published by M Musiscript MG 004, Universal Songs B.V Postbus 305,1200 AH Hilversum in the Netherlands.)
  • Jacobus Kloppers's marvelous piece (in 5 Chorale Preludes, Concordia 97-5733). Not difficult.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 30)
— Joan Ringerwole

Christ, the Life of All the Living

Hymn Story/Background

Ernst C. Homburg wrote this German chorale text (“Jesu, meines Lebens Leben”), which was published in Part One of his Geistliche Lieder (1658). The translation of selected stanzas is by Catherine Winkworth, who published them in her Chorale Book for England (1863).
The composer of the tune is unknown; it was first published in Das grosse Cantional: oder Kirchen-Gesangbuch (Darmstadt, 1687) to the text "Alle Menschen mussen sterben" by J. G. Albinus; some Baroque organ works are associated with that text. The tune became associated with Homburg's text since they were published together in Anhang, An das Gothaische Cantional (1776).
Set to a chorale melody with some rhythmic interest, this text is a Lenten meditation on the suffering and death of Christ in which each stanza leads to gratitude: “thousand, thousand thanks are due, dearest Jesus, unto you.” It is in bar form (AAB) with a dotted pattern in each of the four lines, which provides rhythmic interest. Sing either in parts or in unison. Use a larger organ registration for the refrain. The tune is easily adapted for organ trio-style accompaniment (played on two manuals and pedal).
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Ernst C. Homburg (b. Mihla, near Eisenach, Germany, 1605; d. Naumberg, Germany, 1681) wrote most of his hymns for his own devotions. He described this eight-stanza text as a "hymn of thanksgiving to his Redeemer and Savior for his bitter sufferings." In early life, Homburg was a writer of love and drinking songs. After a difficult time of family illness he experienced a religious conversion, and his poetry took a more serious turn. A lawyer by profession, he wrote hymns to express and strengthen his own faith rather than for public use. Some 150 of his hymn texts were published in his Geistliche Lieder.
— Bert Polman

Catherine Winkworth (b. Holborn, London, England, 1827; d. Monnetier, Savoy, France, 1878) is well known for her English translations of German hymns; her translations were polished and yet remained close to the original. Educated initially by her mother, she lived with relatives in Dresden, Germany, in 1845, where she acquired her knowledge of German and interest in German hymnody. After residing near Manchester until 1862, she moved to Clifton, near Bristol. A pioneer in promoting women's rights, Winkworth put much of her energy into the encouragement of higher education for women. She translated a large number of German hymn texts from hymnals owned by a friend, Baron Bunsen. Though often altered, these translations continue to be used in many modern hymnals. Her work was published in two series of Lyra Germanica (1855, 1858) and in The Chorale Book for England (1863), which included the appropriate German tune with each text as provided by Sterndale Bennett and Otto Goldschmidt. Winkworth also translated biographies of German Christians who promoted ministries to the poor and sick and compiled a handbook of biographies of German hymn authors, Christian Singers of Germany (1869).
— Bert Polman
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