Who wrote how deep the Fathers love for us lyrics?

One of the songs we have been singing during February is “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”, written by Stuart Townend in 1995. Here is a brief video interview with Mr. Townend describing the creation of the song.



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Tags: 2019, Brad Pearson, EPHSS, February, Love, spiritual songs

Writing this song was an unusual experience for me. I’d already written quite a few songs for worship, but all in a more contemporary worship style, drawing from my own musical background. But I distinctly remember getting this feeling one day that I was going to write a hymn! Now, like most people, I am familiar with hymns – they form part of my church background, and I love the truth contained in many of them. But I don’t go home at the end of a busy day and put on a hymns album! So I don’t think of hymns as where I’m at musically at all!

Nevertheless, I’d been meditating on the cross, and in particular what it cost the Father to give up his beloved Son to a torturous death on a cross. And what was my part in it? Not only was it my sin that put him there, but if I’d lived at that time, it would probably have been me in that crowd, shouting with everyone else ‘crucify him’. It just makes his sacrifice all the more personal, all the more amazing, and all the more humbling.

As I was thinking through this, I just began to sing the melody, and it flowed in the sort of way that makes you think you’ve pinched it from somewhere! So the melody was pretty instant, but the words took quite a bit of time, reworking things, trying to make every line as strong as I could.

Now I’m finding it gets used all over the world, by all sorts of churches; it seems to be as accessible to a traditional church as it is to a house church, and I’m excited by that. But it has perhaps branded me as an old man before my time. It was fed back to me that at a conference a couple who loved the song were surprised to hear I was still alive…

English songwriter, musician, and worship leader Stuart Townend started his career in 1995, with the release of his first album Classical Praise Piano: Come Holy Spirit. Since then, he released thirteen other albums, including:

  • Say the Word (1997)
  • Personal Worship (2001)
  • Lord of Every Heart (2002)
  • Monument to Mercy (2006)
  • The Best of Stuart Townend Live (2007)
  • There is a Hope (live) (2008)
  • Creation Sings (2009)
  • The Journey (2011)
  • Ultimate Collection (2012)
  • The Paths of Grace (2014)
  • The Best of Stuart Townend Live, Volume 2 (2015)
  • In Christ Alone: Songs of Stuart Townend & Keith Getty (2016)
  • Courage (2018)

Townend is most famous for his hit songs In Christ Alone (co-written with Keith And Kristyn Getty), Beautiful Saviour, and How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (sometimes shortened as How Deep the Father’s Love).

In June 2017, Townend received the Cranmer Award for Worship by the Archbishop of Canterbury “for his outstanding contribution to contemporary worship music”.  I know of no other awards for his work.

Note to new users: This is a different kind of review site!  Read About the Berean Test and Evaluation Criteria prior to reading this review.

1. What message does the song communicate?

The Father loves us so much that He sent the Son to pay the penalty for our lawbreaking. The depth, height, and width of it are immeasurable. This selfless act of Jesus brings about the forgiveness of sins; favor with God that is undeserved. We are unworthy, partially responsible for placing Jesus up there. In response, we do not boast in anything except Christ and His Gospel.

Townend states that the Father abandoned the Son on the cross.  I disagree with this statement and will talk more about why in section 2.  This has little impact on Townend’s overall message.

Side Note: There is very little repetition in verbatim, existing only within the last few lines of Verse 3.  Rather, Townend chose the route of the Apostle Paul and King Solomon: repackaging the same ideas in different words to drill home their points.  This is a more creative approach to repetition!

Score: 9/10

2. How much of the lyrics line up with Scripture?

Most of it agrees with Scripture; However, I take exception with Townend’s statement that the Father abandoned Jesus in Verse 1, lines 5 and 6.

Lyrics posted with permission.*

[Verse 1]

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

Both the Father and the Son show how much they love the world, by the Father’s sacrifice, by offering His only, begotten Son, and the Son, for offering Himself up for us in payment for our sins (John 3:16 and Romans 5:6-8).

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away

This is a popular statement that is at odds with Psalm 22:1-31. Some believe that Jesus was abandoned by the Father due to the first statement within this Psalm that Jesus quoted in Matthew 27:46. However, when I examine Psalm 22 in context, this is what I see.

The Psalm starts with the quote Jesus gave, as previously mentioned.  The Psalmist, King David, prays to the Father without a response.  David feels abandoned by the Father.  As does Jesus, when He quotes from it.  Verse 3 acknowledges the holiness and majesty of the Father.  Verse 4 and 5 describe past acts of the Father, where David’s ancestors trusted Him and were delivered.

David contrasts this with his scenario in Verses 6-8, calling himself a “worm” and a “reproach” due to the taunts of others.  The Father rescued these people, why not David?  This too is prophetic as Jesus was also insulted, asked “if you are God, save yourself” (Matthew 27:40 and Luke 23:3).  Thus far, the parallels between the feelings and thoughts of Jesus hold true.

In Verses 9 and 10, David acknowledges that he trusts the Father since birth.  As does Jesus, when we examine his life throughout all four Gospels.

In Verse 11, David asks the Father to “be not far from me” because he has nobody else.  Verses 12-18 are yet more parallels  between David and Jesus.  The difference is that David is describing how he feels, but for Jesus, much of it is quite literal.  Nouns such as “dogs” and “bulls” are figurative in both cases.  While David feels poured out, Jesus’ blood was literally drained (Matthew 26:26 and Luke 22:20).  Both are literally zapped of strength.  While David feels pierced, Jesus experienced the anguish of crucifixion, pierced literally within his hands and feet (John 20:25).  Though David feels that his enemies divided his clothes, the Roman soldiers literally gambled for His (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, and Luke 23:34).

Verses 19-21 has the same prayer offered to the Father as Verse 11. Verses 22 and 23 is David’s resolve, that He will proclaim the Father to his brethren. As does Jesus throughout His entire ministry. Once again, we see multiple parallels within David’s anguish and Jesus’ crucifixion.

When we finally get to Verse 24, it says “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.”

The context of “He” is the Father based on previous verses.  If this is talking about Jesus (and there is little disagreement on that point), then the Father has not despised the affliction of Jesus.  He has also not hidden his face from Jesus!  The rest of the Psalm is about how David will praise and serve the Father, him and his brethren.

Why, then, do some people believe the Father abandoned the Son?  It is because of Habakkuk 1:13.  The text says:

“Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?”

The problem with this is that Habakkuk asks a question immediately after the bolded text.  Let’s take a look at it again:

“Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?”

The prophet Habakkuk asks these questions in a response to the words of God in Habakkuk 1:5-6:

“Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days—
You would not believe if you were told.

For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
That fierce and impetuous people
Who march throughout the earth
To seize dwelling places which are not theirs.”

Habakkuk is asking God why He is “raising up the Chaldeans”.  They are “those who deal treacherously”.  Habakkuk is not making a statement that God cannot look upon sin.  Rather, it says the opposite.  God sees the sin that is going on and allowing them to continue in it!  What is the reason?  God answers this in Habakkuk 2:1-20.  The Chaldeans are raised up to punish Israel for their sin.

It is for these reasons that I conclude that this line is contrary to Scripture.  The Father did not turn His face away from Jesus.

As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

It is the shed blood of Jesus that washes us clean and brings about the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 9:22, 1 Peter 1:2, and 1 Peter 1:18-19). As adopted sons and daughters of God, we will inherit His Kingdom in glory (Matthew 25:34, Acts 20:32, Romans 8:17, Galatians 3:29, Titus 3:7, James 2:5, and 1 Peter 1:4).

[Verse 2]

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders

Jesus paid for our lawbreaking (Isaiah 53:1-12, Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, John 1:29, John 3:16, John 19:30, Acts 4:12, Acts 20:28, Romans 5:6-10, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 1:3-4, Galatians 3:13, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 2:14, 1 Timothy 2:6, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 9:22, Hebrews 9:26, 1 Peter 1:17-21, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 John 1:7, 1 John 2:1-2, and Revelation 5:9).

Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

Townend acknowledges that he is partially responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion.  Not historically, but he figuratively joins those who mocked Jesus when he breaks God’s laws.  This is poetic license that is not contrary to Scripture.

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

Combines verses in lines 1 and 2, the possibility of the forgiveness of sins in Verse 1, lines 7 and 8, and the statement Jesus made in John 19:30, which literally means “paid in full”.  We were once dead in sin, but now Christ’s sacrifice has made it possible to become alive in Him (Romans 6:1-11, Romans 7:4-6, Galatians 2:19-20, 2 Timothy 2:11, and 1 Peter 2:24).

[Verse 3]

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

A great rewording of Galatians 6:14.

Why should I gain from His reward?

Townend acknowledges that God’s favor is unearned, known as “grace” (Genesis 15:6, Exodus 33:19, Psalm 32:1-2, Romans 3:21-24, Romans 4:3-8, Romans 5:1-2, Romans 5:6-8, Romans 5:15-21, Romans 6:14, Romans 8:1-4, Romans 9:14-16, Romans 11:5-6, Galatians 2:21, Galatians 3:6, Galatians 5:4, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:4-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:16, Titus 2:11, 1 Timothy 1:15-16, and James 2:23).

I cannot give an answer

I agree that there is no answer.  At least, not the complete picture.  King David asks a similar question in Psalm 8:4.  Why does God, who is the ruler of the entire universe, care about small specks of dust like us?  In part, it is because God loves us (John 3:16 and Romans 5:6-8).  That is the heart of who God is (1 John 4:8).  Yet, this does not fully answer the question Townend asks.

Side Note: Rather than contemplate this unanswerable question, we should be grateful for what God has done for us and behave accordingly.

But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

See Verse 2, lines 1 and 2.

Score: 9/10

3. How would an outsider interpret the song?

Townend communicates his basic Gospel message using a healthy mix of everyday language and Christianese. If unbelievers do not comprehend the uniquely Christians terms such as “sin”, “glory”, and “boast”, simpler terms like “cross”, “Jesus Christ”, and “resurrection” will make it easy for them to interpret this as uniquely Christian.

Though I took exception with the Father turning His face away, I don’t suspect that many outside the camp of Christ will contemplate on it.  Still, there is always that possibility.

Score: 9/10

4. What does this song glorify?

Aside from the abandonment statement mentioned in previous sections, it glorifies God through its accurate description of the Gospel.

Score: 9/10

Closing Comments

Stuart Townend’s How Deep the Father’s Love for Us is an excellent song. It drills home points about God’s love for us, Christ crucified, our unworthiness of it, and our inheritance in His glory. These glorify God. Unbelievers will have a much easier time interpreting this song as uniquely Christian, given the redundancy of simple and complex wording that makes the same points.

I think that the Father’s abandonment of the Son is not Scriptural.  To those who disagree or think it’s not that big of a deal, consider adding this classic to your worship roster.  To those who agree with me, if you still want to use this song, consider a slight rewording.  Perhaps “The Father did not look away“.

Final Score: 9/10

Artist Info

Track: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (listen to the song)

Artist: Stuart Townend

Album: Say the Word

Genre: Hymn

Release Year: 1997

Duration: 3:34

Agree?  Disagree?  Don’t be shy or have a cow!  Calmly and politely state your case in a comment, below.

*Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music (PRS) (adm. worldwide at CapitolCMGPublishing.com excluding Europe which is adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family. [email protected]) All rights reserved. Used by permission.


05/06/2021 – Corrected an error in section 1, where my original article stated Jesus’ love is selfish.  Thanks to Robin Newton for catching it!

03/25/2021 – Updated per repetition announcement.  I moved my commentary to a side note.

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Hi there! Appreciate the time and research you put into this. Thought I’d help and point out that Verse 3 is also a rewording of Jeremiah 9:23-24. This is our Family Mission Verse and I keep a list of songs that reference it.

Sep 18.2020 | 09:47 pm


    Vince Wright


    Thank you for your comment! I can see how Jeremiah 9:23-24 fits with Verse 3.

    -Vince Wright

    Sep 21.2020 | 09:02 pm



My mom loves this song.

Feb 12.2021 | 10:27 pm


Alex Baird

Christ’s outpouring on the Cross, ‘ My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me’ would seem to fit with the Father turning his face away. I am not a researcher. Just a Christian.

Sep 15.2021 | 04:07 am


    Vince Wright


    Thank you for your response!

    If you read Psalm 22 that Jesus quoted from in context, you might walk away with a different conclusion. For example, consider Verses 3-5:

    3Yet You are holy,
    You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
    4 In You our fathers trusted;
    They trusted and You rescued them.
    5 To You they cried out and they fled to safety;
    In You they trusted and were not disappointed.

    David recalls times that others cried out to God and felt abandoned. Yet, they trusted in Him anyways and were not disappointed. He came through for them. He had not abandoned them!

    Verse 24 makes a stronger case:

    24 For He has not despised nor scorned the suffering of the afflicted;
    Nor has He hidden His face from him;
    But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

    Did you catch that? “Nor has He hidden His face from him”. It seems obvious that He did not turn away from David.

    Finally, there are other parts of Psalm 22 that we usually apply to Jesus as prophetic. Consider Verses 6-8:

    6 But I am a worm and not a person,
    A disgrace of mankind and despised by the people.
    7 All who see me deride me;
    They sneer, they shake their heads, saying,
    8 “Turn him over to the Lord; let Him save him;
    Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”

    There’s also Verses 14-18:

    14 I am poured out like water,
    And all my bones are out of joint;
    My heart is like wax;
    It is melted within me.
    15 My strength is dried up like a piece of pottery,
    16 For dogs have surrounded me;
    A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
    They pierced my hands and my feet.
    17 I can count all my bones.
    They look, they stare at me;
    18 They divide my garments among them,
    And they cast lots for my clothing.

    It’s hard to disagree that Christ was seen as a “disgrace” given his execution as a “criminal”. The Pharisees and other onlookers sneered and despised Him. They dislocated His shoulder to stretch Him on the cross, but did not break any of them. His strength sapped. His hands pierced (back then, the wrist was part of the hand). His clothes were divided up. If we can attribute the suffering of Psalm 22 to Jesus, it seems reasonable to do the same when the Psalmist says “Nor has He hidden His face from him” to conclude Jesus was not abandoned.

    -Vince Wright

    Sep 15.2021 | 07:12 am


John Prim

Vince Wright, thank you for dealing with the one thing in this song that flies in the face of scripture and the grace of God in Christ. I too have seen how Ps 22 answers the question about the Father turning His face away. But I think the original lyric is more difficult because it denegrates the trinity, since many who hold that position state that the Son was separated from the Father at that point. If we hold that the Father turned His back and was separated from Jesus on the cross, forsaking Him, why would He not also do that to us? This is a big question to me since it calls into question the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and our own potentially precarious position before God.

I have changed that line in the song to say “the Father wills to happen” to include the truth that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

Again, thank you for a wonderful article.

Apr 20.2022 | 08:45 am


    Vince Wright


    Thank you for your comments and compliment!

    -Vince Wright

    Apr 20.2022 | 08:59 am


    Stone Davidson

    I think a more robust understanding of the hypostatic union would help with what you believe is a denigration of the Trinity. Jesus was punished by God and endured his wrath in his humanity for humanity. Concurrently, Jesus enjoyed communion with God and his favor in his divinity. Given the dual nature of Jesus, it was possible for him to experience God’s wrath and favor at the same time. Perhaps these lyrics are meant to convey the penal substitutionary nature Jesus’s atonement on the cross. I always understood “turns his face away” to refer to the removal of favor as Jesus suffered the wrath of God in his humanity.

    Aug 31.2022 | 12:30 pm


      Scott Smith

      Great comment. It seems odd to me to read someone claim the line in question “flies in the face of Scripture, when in fact it points to the dual nature of Christ. This by the way does no harm to understanding Christ’s cry on the cross as an application of and appeal to Psalm 22.

      Oct 28.2022 | 02:28 pm



We dealt with the “turning the eyes away” by changing the lyrics to “the veil between is torn away”. Scriptural and it rhymes.

Jun 19.2022 | 10:44 pm


Brixie Mandal

I think the part of “The Father turns His face away” is a picture of how painful it must be to see His Son suffer and die on the Cross. When God poured out His wrath on Jesus instead of us, He was flogging him to satisfy His wrath. It doesn’t mean that God abandoned Jesus, it simply means that the Father looked away at the sight of His Son’s suffering. It’s a picture painted in the Bible that God the Father cried on Jesus’ death. I think this what Townend meant. Although, I’m just not sure 100%. I’d like to hear what you think of my discernment of this song.

Who originally wrote How deep the father's love for us?

“How Deep The Father's Love For Us” is a timeless hymn from British songwriter and Christian worship leader Stuart Townend, written just before the end of the 20th century.

When was how deep the Fathers love for us written?

The stated copyright date for the song is 1995, and it was probably premiered at Church of Christ the King (now called Emmanuel), in Brighton, England, where Townend was worship leader, but its published and recorded debuts happened in 1996.

How deep is the Father's love for us Scripture?

1. John 3:16 – His Love Is Sacrificial. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave His only begotten son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this to give us new life and so that we could spend eternity with Him.

How deep is the Father's love for us song history?

How Deep the Father's Love for Us is a composition by an English Christian worship leader, Stuart Townend (born 1963). Stuart says he decided to write these hymns to try to shift the attention that modern worship style that focuses more on our emotions rather than on God.