Paul's Impact on Music: Michael Card

by Jeff Whisenant

  • Paul's Impact on Michael Card
  • Michael Card Discography
  • Bibliography

  • Paul's Impact on Michael Card back to top

    Keep an eye out for Michael Card -- a servant of God in contemporary Christian music who has penned some incredible lyrics and insights about the Bible and its main message: Jesus. A perpetual source of inspiration for Michael Card is Paul. As a sample of the scope of Paul's influence on contemporary Christian music, you can follow Paul's life passion in some of what Card has penned. This is not a review of any Michael Card "record" but an overview of Paul's impact on him; an impact that points the hearer to Jesus Christ, the amazing portrait painted by both Paul and Michael Card.

    You will find a repeated reference to Paul's words in the earlier writings and compositions of Michael Card. This Must Be the Lamb rejoices that Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us (I Corinthians 5:7). Card points out that "in the New Testament Jesus is our Passover Lamb" (Immanuel, 184). Knowing Colossians 1:18, Card sings of the importance of Christ's resurrection in Love Crucified Arose because this "is the reason for our hope that we will rise again as well" (Immanuel, 190).

    Although based on the gospels, Card's first trilogy (about the life of Christ) has some of its roots in what Paul said about Jesus. The Final Word contains the message of the incarnation. "We speak of the Incarnation literally as the "en-fleshment" of God, or God taking on human flesh in order to be able to share fully in all the dimensions of human experience. Paul writes, "Beyond all, question the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body" (1 Tim. 3:16).

    With that abbreviated statement Paul declares that Jesus sat where we sit, he walked where we walk, he worked where we work, he lived and died where we live and die. God regards us that seriously! (Card, The Life, 4). Card continues in The Final Word:

    He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son. His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one. Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine. And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

    Philippians 2:6-11 plays a major role in the lyrics of Carmen Christi or "hymn to Christ." The musical score of Carmen Christi breathes an interesting mixture of hymnody and Michael's own style. The content pays close attention to the English translation of the hymn:

    At Jesus' name every knee shall bow in heaven and in all the earth. To the Father's glory each tongue cry, "Jesus is Lord!"

    The second part of the trilogy speaks of Jesus Christ, the Scandalon. Paul makes it clear that Christ is good news/bad news (Romans 9:32-33; 10:11). "A frank recognition of the scandalon, who is Christ, is needed corrective to our distorted understanding of the gospel he proclaimed and established by his death and through his resurrection" (Card, The Life, 41). In Pauline fashion, Card communicates the confrontive nature of Christ's earthly ministry.

    In the last of the three, Known By the Scars, Card concludes with the passion of Christ. Speaking to today's hearers he says, "As Jesus' resurrected body was recognizable by its scars, so His body, the church, should be known by its scars and tears and the unspeakable joy it knows in spite of, and indeed because of, it all" (Immanuel, 175). Paul himself stated: For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17)

    Michael Card's next recording provides the best sample of the impact Paul has made on contemporary music. Present Reality finds its entire basis on the letters of Paul. The depth to which Michael explores the tensions of the present comes close to the deep paradox of the present life that Paul knew well. Paul summarizes the "goal" of his own present life to be:

    That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Phil. 3:10)

    With this Scripture in mind, Card prays in the first song Know You in the Now:

    Lord, I long to see Your presence in reality but I don't know how. Let me know You in the now

    As Paul cries, "O Lord, come!" in 1 Corinthians 16:22, Maranatha expands the cry by saying:

    Maranatha is a cry of the heart that's hopeful yet weary of waiting. While it may be joyful with the burdens it bears, it's sick with anticipating.

    Paul understands the role of faith in our present reality and, gleaned from Galatians 3 and Romans 3, Card seeks to discover the nature of this faith in That's What Faith Must Be:

    To hear with my heart, to see with my soul, to be guided by a hand I cannot hold, To trust in a way that I cannot see, that's what faith must be

    The climax of faith in the "now" is the reality Jesus Christ lives inside of the believer. Colossians 1:24ff. expresses the mystery of Christ's real presence being rich and glorious. The pastoral goal to which Paul strives is unmistakably clear in verse 28:

    Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

    So Michael Card concludes his song, Live This Mystery, by singing,

    In the language of the soul it's burning like a coal. There's a voice that's saying, "You can be whole." A life where all is new of timeless moments waits for you. With the heart alone you see, you must live this mystery.

    At the core of all of the songs in Present Reality is the heart of Paul. This, of course, is best expressed by the writer of the songs Michael Card himself:

    The previous trilogy of recordings ... were taken from the Gospels and spoke of the historical Jesus. This recording is based on the writings of Paul and focuses on the present reality of Jesus. Faith begins with the historical Jesus, and it lives and grows with Christ, the Risen Lord.

    "For me to live is Christ," Paul says (Philippians 1:21). "The life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). He was caught up in the transforming power of the realization that Christ is both living and present. The mystery of Christ, he called it, the hope of glory. For it was as the Risen Lord that Paul first met Jesus. And so it must be with us.

    For too many in the church today, Jesus is merely an historical echo, a voice that speaks only for the pages of the past. We must come to see the present reality of Jesus all around and within us. Inward to that infinite microcosm of the Kingdom of God within us; outward to the macrocosm of the world and even the universe. For He fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:23). Life in Christ, this inner silent mystery, this outer clamoring reality; life in Christ is life itself, for He is our life (Colossians 3:4) present and real. With Paul as our source, this album seeks to explore these two worlds he knew so well."

    Michael Card has something to say about the influence of the Apostle Paul even in his most recent recording poie'ma. Bearers of the Light encourages the practice of discipleship found in the New Testament. The song of the lives of Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas, "lived in community, teaches us that the light of the gospel is best borne together, by men and women who walk together and pour themselves into each other's lives." Card sees this in Paul, particularly when he sings:

    The great need of us all
    A true mentor, a Paul
    Who has traveled the road that's before us
    He has made good the pledge to take the light on ahead
    We can follow his footsteps before us

    The light we must bear
    Is the light we must share
    Is the light that illumines the darkness
    The promises kept give us strength to accept
    This burden of bearing the light

    All of this proves the heart of Paul is focused on Christ, and this focus extends beyond the first century into ours. Michael's portrait of Paul's heart points to today; this mentor wants Christ to shine energetically on others so that, they too can "bear the light" of Jesus to others.

    Michael Card Discography back to top

      Recordings referenced above are marked with an asterisk (*).
    • 1994 *poie'ma SP1421 Sparrow Records
    • 1994 Joy in the Journey SP1435 Sparrow Records
    • 1993 Come to the Cradle SP1373 Sparrow Records
    • 1992 The Word (The Ancient Faith, Vol. III) SP1321 Sparrow Records
    • 1991 The Promise SP1296 Sparrow Records
    • 1990 The Way of Wisdom (The Ancient Faith, Vol. II) SP1223 Sparrow Records
    • 1989 The Beginning (The Ancient Faith, Vol. I) SP1219 Sparrow Records
    • 1989 Sleep Sound in Jesus SP1179 Sparrow Records
    • 1988 The Life Anthology SP1171 Sparrow Records
    • 1988 *Present Reality SP1155 Sparrow Records
    • 1987 *The Final Word (The Life, Vol. III) SP1126 Sparrow Records
    • 1985 *Scandalon (The Life, Vol. II) SP1117 Sparrow Records
    • 1983 *Known By the Scars (The Life, Vol. I) SP1097 Sparrow Records
    • 1983 *Legacy CD02457 Benson
    • 1981 *First Light CD02457 Benson

    Bibliography back to top

    • Card, Michael. Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990.
    • ______ and William L. Lane. The Life. Mole End Publishing Company, 1988.