In Matthew 10.32–33, Jesus said, “Everyone therefore who confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Isaac Watts’ hymn, “I’m Not Ashamed to Own My Lord” (PHASS #530), is a declaration that we are not ashamed to make such a confession before men. It is commonly paired with the tune AZMON, which we also pair with “O for Ten Thousand Tongues to Sing.” The hymnals with which I am acquainted generally include three of the four verses (1, 3, 4) discussed below.
I’m not ashamed to own my Lord,
Nor to defend His cause,
Maintain the honors of His word,
The glories of His cross.
While we generally use “own” in the sense of possession, it also has to do with acknowledgement or recognition. In this verse, I declare that I’m not ashamed to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord.
I’m also not ashamed to “defend His cause.” In 1 Peter 3.15, the apostle wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear.” To “give an answer” is to give a defense. When we have set the Lord apart in our hearts (sanctified Him), our natural response is to defend the cause in which we have placed our hope. Since our hope is in His word, we will maintain it and its integrity. If we are unashamed of the Lord, the message of the cross will not be foolishness, but salvation (1 Cor 1.18).
Jesus, my God! I know His name,
His name is all my trust;
Nor will He put my soul to shame,
Nor let my hope be lost.
In Acts 4.12, Peter said regarding Jesus, “There is salvation in none other, for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, by which we must be saved!” Knowing Jesus’ name is not simply a matter of recognition. If that were the case, most of the world could sing that line. Rather, knowing Jesus name has to do with the salvation that comes through Him; indeed, that is the point made in the second phrase. Paul said in 1 Timothy 4.10, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” In numerous places, we have the assurance that if we trust in Jesus, He will not allow us to be taken away from Him (cf. John 10.25–30; Rom 8.31–39).
Firm as His throne His promise stands,
And He can well secure
What I’ve committed to His hands,
Till the decisive hour.
We are told about the nature of Jesus’ kingdom and rule: that it will stand forever and not fall into the hands of any other (Dan 2.44–45). His promises are just as certain. Peter mentioned in 2 Peter 3.8–9 that the surety of the Lord’s promise is independent of the time it takes in coming to fruition. In 2 Timothy 1.12, Paul wrote, “Yet I am not ashamed, for I know him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed to him against that day.” We place our trust in Him, and He will keep it until the end.
Then will He own my worthless name
Before His Father’s face,
And in the New Jerusalem
Appoint for me a place.
The “then” of this verse can go in a couple of different directions. It can be a result of the initial thesis: if I will own His name, then He will own my name. It can also be a temporal transition. He will secure what I have committed to Him until the decisive hour, then (at the decisive hour, i.e., the judgment) He will own my name. While I’ve long thought it to be the latter to fit with the flow of the song, I now lean toward the former.
Regardless, there is a contrast between the worthiness of Jesus’ name in verse 1 and the worthlessness of our own name in this verse. We are brought back to Matthew 10.32–33 and Jesus confessing (owning) us before the Father. The “New Jerusalem” is, of course, a reference to the dwelling place of God with men in Revelation 21–22. In John 14, Jesus said that He would be leaving here to prepare a place in His Father’s house. It is when He owns our worthless names that we receive those dwelling places.
As it is normally printed (with verses 1, 3, and 4) we have a progression of thought as follows:
- My resolve to confess Jesus as Lord and all that goes with such confession.
- Why devoting ourselves to Jesus is a worthy endeavor.
- Jesus’ response to our commitment to Him.
One of the important points of this text is the use of the singular pronoun. While it fits with the texts that have been alluded to, it reinforces the fact that this is a commitment each individual has to make. While we could sing collectively, “We’re not ashamed to own our Lord,” it does not carry the same impact, and ultimately, any collective resolve is going to depend upon the individual resolve of those who make up the collective.
Let each of us consider carefully: Am I not ashamed to own my Lord?