TEXT (by Chris Anderson)
Relentless love embraced my soul in ages past—
Love undeserved, unknown, yet deep and vast.
God set His love on me—on me, in spite of me!
Salvation’s work is His from first to last.
Unbounded love, unfailing love,
Love raised upon a tree;
Unending love, prevailing love—
My Savior’s sovereign love for me.
Relentless love pursued my heart, though I would hide—
Was unreturned, yet undeterred by pride.
Till by a grace unsought, my rebel soul was caught—
Redeemed by love that would not be denied.
Relentless love preserves my life from unbelief—
Sustains me through my sin, my doubt, my grief.
Since Christ has done it all, though feeble, I’ll not fall,
His wounded hands hold me, the sinners’ chief.
Relentless love transforms my soul and its delights—
Exceeds the fleeting joys which once sufficed.
Held by His love for me—a hold which sets me free!—
I have my heart’s desire, and that is Christ.
Because God delights in worship that is biblical, thoughtful and fervent—what we often call intentional—please consider the following overview of the biblical texts and theological themes behind this hymn.
Verse 1 focuses on the eternal nature of God’s love for the elect. Ephesians 1:4-6describes His love for us as reaching back before the foundation of the world. He loves us because He chose to do so, not because of any merit on our part. His love is an uncaused and infinite love (Ephesians 3:16-21; Jeremiah 31:3). Thus, salvation—from its initiative to its completion—is entirely “of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9;John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:4-5; Titus 3:4-5).
The refrain rejoices in the infinite love of God which was revealed most perfectly in Christ (Love incarnate) and His death on the cross (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10). God’s love is sovereign in the sense that it is free to do as it wishes—unconstrained by our goodness and undiminished by our sin.
Verse 2 pursues the theme of God’s pursuing sinners that fills the Scriptures. Beginning in Genesis 3, sinners have only run from God, yet God has graciously and unrelentingly pursued us. That determined, not-to-be denied love is seen in God’s relationship to rebels like the Samaritan woman (John 4), Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9), and even you (Ephesians 2). Our role in salvation is rebellion (Isaiah 53:6a). Christ’s is rescue (Isaiah 53:11b). Even our ability to respond with faith and repentance is given by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:25; Matthew 16:17). The fact that we are saved rests in God’s being more determined to save us than we are to remain lost, which is great grace.
Verse 3 considers the fact that the same love that initiated our salvation guarantees its completion. Though we will battle doubt and struggle through hardship, we are preserved from ultimate falling away by the unchanging love of God (Romans 8:35-39; Psalm 36:5-7; 136:26). We persevere in our faith (John 10:27) because we are preserved in our faith (John 10:28-29).
Verse 4 concludes the hymn by noting that the love which saves and keeps us alsochanges us. The love which God has freely bestowed on us inspires and produces our love in return (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). We are new people (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 3:9), and we live like it. Even our desires are transformed and fulfilled by Christ’s love (Psalm 16:11; 23:1; 73:25).
(The notes for Relentless Love were written by Chris Anderson.)
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