The Story Behind The Hymn – “HE LIVES”
A composer's legendary response to the question "Why worship a dead Jew?"
"I serve a risen Saviour; He's in the world today.”
Matthew 28:5-7 (KJV), “And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”
“Why should I worship a dead Jew?" came the challenge from a sincere young Jewish student who had been attending evangelistic meetings conducted by Alfred H. Ackley, author and composer of this favorite gospel hymn.
Ackley's emphatic answer came quickly: "He lives, I tell you. He is not dead, but lives here and now. Jesus Christ is more alive today than ever before. I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands."
The young Jewish student eventually accepted the living Christ as his own personal Saviour. Because of the events surrounding this experience, Mr. Ackley read the gospel accounts of the Resurrection with fresh insight. The words "He is risen" suddenly took on new meaning. Soon he expressed in song the thrill within his own soul—the indwelling presence of the living Christ. And since its first publication in 1933, "He Lives" continues to inspire Christian congregations with the truth that one of the most compelling proofs of the Resurrection is the daily demonstration by believers that Christ's divine life is now being evidenced in our very bodies.
Alfred Henry Ackley received a thorough education in music, including study in composition, at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England. As a performer, he was recognized as an accomplished cellist. Following graduation from the Westminster Theological Seminary, Ackley was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry.
Even while pastoring churches in Pennsylvania and California, Ackley maintained a keen interest in the writing of gospel music. He died on July 3, 1960, but during his lifetime, Ackley wrote more than one thousand gospel songs in addition to aiding in the compilation of various hymnals and songbooks.
But the song for which the Christian church will ever be grateful is this one. It thrills our hearts with its triumphant message and silences the skeptic and the scoffer with these words of personal experience:
"You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!"
I serve a risen Saviour,
He's in the world today;
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy,
I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him
He's always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives
He walks with me and He talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He live, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.
#2 In all the world around me
I see His loving care,
And tho my heart grows weary
I never will despair;
I know that He is leading
Thro' all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing
Will come at last.
#3 Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian,
Lift up your voice and sing
To Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him,
The help of all who find,
None other is so loving,
So good and kind.