December 9

The Story Behind The Heart-tugging Song, “Jesus Paid It All”

Classic hymns speak theological truths in a memorable and unique way, and “Jesus Paid it All” is one of such beloved hymns.

Written by Elvina M. Hall in 1865, “Jesus Paid it All” has been sung by Christians for 150 years. The way the song celebrates the total sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to save us from sin has touched so many hearts. There’s an outpouring of praise to the One who has paid our debt and raised us from our spiritual deadness in this song, and we can’t help but tear a little whenever we listen to it.

Here’s How The Classic Hymn Came To Life

“Jesus Paid it All” came into fruition one hot summer Sunday morning. While Hall was sitting in her usual place in the choir loft at the Monument Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, her mind started to wander. With the virtuous words of the Rev. George W. Schreck’s prayer droning on and on, her thoughts drifted to other things. She then started pondering the meaning of the cross, turned to our need for salvation, and the storied scene flashed before her mind’s eye.

Words were starting to form themselves, so she had to get them down. However, she had no paper that she scribbled on the flyleaf of her hymnbook. 

“Jesus paid it all. All to Him, I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow. He washed away, and when before the throne I stand in him complete. Jesus died my soul to save. My lips shall still repeat,” Hall wrote.

After the service, she handed the words to Pastor Schreck.

Coincidentally, that same week the church organist – a successful coal merchant – John Grape, shared some new music, entitled “All To Christ I Owe,” with Pastor Schreck. The pastor thought the lyrics and song fit well together.

Hall and Grape worked on finishing the hymn together. And then – with Schreck’s urging – the duo sent the hymn to Professor Theodore Perkins, a publisher of the Sabbath Carols periodical, where the song received its first publication. Since then, it has been a favorite of many American Christians and has been covered by many notable musicians, including Lory Bianco and Colton Dixon.

You can listen to one of our favorite versions of “Jesus Paid it All” by Kirk Franklin in the video below.


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