God’s Amazing Grace Could Only Have Been Revealed in a Fallen World

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 03/21/2023

This year marks the 250th anniversary of “Amazing Grace,” a hymn written by one of my favorite people, John Newton. He’s one of my favorite people precisely because he revealed God’s grace so powerfully to the world—not just through this hymn, but through his life.

I often reference Newton when responding to people’s questions about the problem of evil, as I think the reason why God created a world he knew would fall is that a fallen world more fully reveals the beauty of God’s character—in particular, his grace. That is, a world where God loves and saves sinners who don’t deserve it, where his Son dies on a cross to demonstrate both his justice and his grace (Rom. 3:21–26), will, in the end, lead to a greater fulfillment of his goal for the world, “that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,” “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 2:7, 1:6).

It would be one thing for God to speak propositionally about the fact that he is “gracious” to an unfallen world that had no experience of sin or redemption. It’s quite another thing for us to see the life of a man like Newton—who mocked God with his debauchery, who abused slaves as he trafficked them, and who eventually was made a slave to slaves on a plantation in West Africa—plucked out of his misery and turned into a pastor who, through his hymns and letters, enables us to see God more clearly and worship him more truly to this day.

It’s not uncommon for me to be brought to tears while reading Newton’s letters when I’m once again struck by the power and beauty of a God who could change this man from what he was into what he became. Newton’s life truly is “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace,” and we will be better off for eternity having seen this dramatic display of God’s grace in John Newton than we would have been in a world that had never fallen.

I hope you will think of this the next time you sing “Amazing Grace,” and if you’d like to deepen both your appreciation of this hymn and your love for God, I recommend learning more about John Newton. Here are some places to start:

And finally, below you’ll find a panel discussion on the 250th anniversary of “Amazing Grace,” held by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, reflecting on Newton’s life as well as the meaning and impact of this celebrated hymn.