Nailed To His Cross

Recorded by The Garms Family on their 2015 CD Arise to the Call and by Daniel J. Mount on Somewhere East of Eden (2020).
If you would like to record this song or use it in a church service, contact [email protected].


When Abel’s offering cost his life
When Moses struck the stone
When David stole Uriah’s wife
A lamb could not atone
But if they could have looked ahead in time
They’d see a spotless Lamb who took their crime

When Jesus took the law’s decree
That said that I was lost
He carried it up Calvary
And nailed it to His cross

I stood before Mount Sinai
And heard God’s Holy Law
It showed me what I really was
I earned the wrath I saw
And when I saw the debt I could not pay
Grace took me forward to another day


And when my sins are read on judgment day
I will not plead a thing except to say


Authors & Composers

Words by Daniel J. Mount | Music by Taylor Garms

Publishing Information

© 2013 Tomorrow’s Hymns/BMI | The Song Spot/BMI

Featured Podcast

I shared the story behind this song on this podcast episode:

Song Story

This song comes from Col. 2:13-14: “13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

I tried to write a song from this passage in 2002. That song wasn’t particularly worth remembering. But from that point forward, I filed that passage away in my brain as a passage I wanted to revisit and write a song from someday.

Ten years later, I wrote this lyric. But I didn’t have a good idea for a melody, so I sent it over to one of my best friends, Ben Garms. Ben’s sister Taylor wrote the melody. We had a final melody and finalized the song on January 8, 2013.

I started with the chorus, with a general sense of where the first verse would go. I wanted to reference Col. 2:14 as much as I could in the chorus, and then write verses around that which made sense.

I had recently read books on prose writing around this time that talked about passive tense vs. active tense, and conveying action through power verbs/action verbs instead of adverbs. I decided to try to put these to practice in the chorus.

When Jesus took the law’s decree
That said that I was lost
He carried it up Calvary
And nailed it to His cross

Then I worked on verse 1. I believe I considered staying in Colossians, but ultimately decided I wanted to stay with the whole panorama of redemption.

The “lamb could not atone” line locked in the direction for the verse. There were a lot of sins committed in the Old Testament! But I narrowed the list down with two criteria: I started with sins that were so grave that an animal sacrifice wasn’t enough. God had to banish Cain from human society, prevent Moses from entering the Promised Land, and take David’s child’s life.

Then I got to the last two lines of the verse, a pre-chorus of sorts. That introduced a second criterion and a new problem: It’s not enough to mention sins that had a great punishment. It also had to be sins that were forgiven at the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is sufficient to pay for every sin ever committed, but it’s only efficacious for the redeemed. Only Christians enter Heaven with their sins forgiven.

So I realized: This song is only on solid ground theologically if I limit it to people for whom I have New Testament grounds for saying are in Heaven. Hebrews 11 mentions Abel, Moses, and David. Hebrews 12:1 implies that the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 are part of our great cloud of witnesses. So I could say that their sins were forgiven at the cross in a way that’s not as certain for some of the other great sinners of the Old Testament.

This presented a problem for the Cain line. The draft at that point was in active tense—something along the lines of “When Cain took brother Abel’s life.” Active tense, vigorous, good. Except that it’s now a problem, because I don’t have any particular theological ground to stand on to say that Cain’s sins were nailed to Jesus’ cross. So I sacrificed some poetic vigor for theological precision and took that line passive: “When Abel’s offering cost his life.” Not as vigorous but on a more defensible theological footing.

The other line that gave me pause in this first verse was “When David stole Uriah’s wife.” I wondered if that was too bold, too direct, too active-tense. But there’s this tension that Christian songwriters feel. On the one hand, we want to write something accurate that works in our contexts. On the other hand, there’s a bit of an artistic desire to say something fresh, say something in a way it hasn’t been said before. Because if everything in a song is not only a topic you’ve heard about before but also sung in a way you’ve sung about it before, why does this song even need to exist? So I erred on the side of saying something in a fresh way instead of something a bit more subtle and safer.

In verse 2, this grand tour of redemption took its next stop at Mount Sinai. I had the chance to teach through Hebrews in my late teens. Hebrews 12 might seem on the surface like a collection of random sayings. But there’s an underlying order. It’s which mountain are you running to? Zion or Sinai? And will you run to Zion effectively?

Another inspiration from this I’m pulling a fair amount from the sentiment of Galatians 3:21-25: “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ. Ultimately, Sinai points us to Jesus. It shows us why we deserve God’s wrath so that we properly appreciate that Jesus took it in our place.

As I was writing this song, I talked about it a fair amount with Ben Garms. Now Ben and his family are Lutherans. I can’t recall the exact wording, but something in my early draft was aligned with Reformed theology but not with Lutheran theology. I don’t recall the exact wording, but generally, it had to do with Mount Sinai (with a bit of anthropomorphization) pointing or taking us to Calvary.

Lutherans have a law-grace hermeneutic. They believe that the law helps us understand sins and the Gospel helps us understand grace, and that we shouldn’t speak of the law as pointing or taking us to grace.

In the formula of Concord, Martin Luther said: “Everything that proclaims something about our sin and God’s wrath is the proclamation of the law, however and whenever it may take place. On the other hand, the gospel is the kind of proclamation that points to and bestows nothing else than grace and forgiveness in Christ” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article V:12).

C.F.W. Walther’s “God’s No and God’s Yes: The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel” unfolded this further. He said: “The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other, viz., the Law and the Gospel.” In Waltherian thought, we understand all Bible passages as either a law passage or a Gospel passage. Each passage is one or the other, not both; a Gospel passage will not be revealing our sin and a law passage will not be revealing grace.

Now a Reformed Baptist like me would understand this as a valid generalization but not a universal truth. I wouldn’t see it as a universal yes/no binary that is always the case. I believe that there are law passages that clearly point us to grace, like the Day of Atonement and the Jubilee passages, Leviticus 16 and 25. The law is our schoolmaster. Its job is indeed to teach us of our sin and need for a Savior. But along the way, it starts to point us to the Savior, starts to point us to grace. And the Gospel ends in grace and forgiveness but properly starts in our sinfulness.

Now I had many hours of cordial, respectful, and thoughtful conversation about this issue with Ben and his father David. I even read the Book of Concord and C.F.W. Walther’s book. It wasn’t all specifically part of this songwriting process, but it was around this time.

In the end, I decided that, while I do personally believe it would be fair to say that Mount Sinai pointed us forward to the day when Jesus carried our sins up Calvary and nailed them to His cross, I didn’t have to say that. I realized I could show respect to their theological tradition and still say something that was true and beautiful by changing the reference from Mount Sinai pointing us to the cross (the law) to saying “Grace took me forward to another day.” This is still true and didn’t change the heart of the song.

When Taylor wrote the melody, the first draft of the bridge had a pretty similar feel to the sound and feel of the rest of the song. At one point I asked her if she’d be open to experiment with a direction that “might be a little more dramatic musically.” She came up with a new bridge idea that definitely was, and after a few more little tweaks, the song was done.

The Garms Family recorded the original version of this song on their CD Arise to the Call (2015). About two years later, I started work on the project that became Somewhere East of Eden. Midway through recording vocals, I got really sick and had immune-induced challenges taking deep breaths. I’d already recorded chorus vocals before I got sick. But once I got sick, I couldn’t sing the verses in the original key. So I sang them an octave lower!

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