Charles Wesley, who along with his brother John started the Methodist movement, wanted to encourage his followers in the face of early persecution and hardship. He wanted them to be a singing, joyful people and not get discouraged and lose hope. Paul’s letter to the Philippians gave Wesley the text for “Rejoice, the Lord Is King.” Although Paul was imprisoned when he wrote this letter, he wrote a message of joy and encouragement, stating “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
This hymn was first published (1744) in John Wesley’s Moral and Sacred Poems. Two years later Charles Wesley included it in Hymns for Our Lord’s Resurrection. Most hymnals include four stanzas, omitting the fourth and fifth stanzas of the original hymn.