BENEDICTION AND FINAL GREETINGS Hebrews 13:20-25

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1 1 BENEDICTION AND FINAL GREETINGS Hebrews 13:20-25 As the writer comes to the end of the letter, he prays for his readers. He prays to the God who knows everything and who knows our hearts. Although we are surrounded by problems and may be personally struggling with troubles in our lives, yet in all our difficulties, God can give us a quiet, peaceful heart. He has made that possible for us in Jesus who died for us and rose from the dead. BENEDICTION (13:20-21) Two of the last verses in our text for today are ordinarily understood to be a Benediction. The word benediction comes from the Latin words bene meaning well and dicere meaning to speak. It is a short expression pronouncing divine blessing for our wellbeing usually at the end of a worship service.however, given our textual theme of living in the presence of God, I think that the petitions here should very well be taken in that context: May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (13:20-21). This benediction is pregnant with meaning as the writer s passionate concern for his readers' spiritual growth is balanced by what makes such growth possible: the God of peace the blood of the eternal covenant the resurrection of Jesus His Shepherd care for His sheep the indwelling life of God Himself the equipping ministry of the Spirit the aim to please God the eternal glory of Jesus. The writer captures all these elements in his outpouring of good wishes. This benediction is similar to the typical priestly benedictions such as the Aaronic benediction: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace (Nu 6:24-26).

2 2 Peace among the Hebrews signifies prosperity of every kind. The Hebrew word is shalom, not merely the absence of tension, fighting or war, but a positive state of rightness and wellbeing. The God of peace (Heb 13:20) is the same as the God of all blessings, who provides temporal and eternal blessings. He is the God who loves mankind and has provided for them salvation. The phrase brought back from the dead (v. 20) points to our Lord's sacrificial death as atonement offered to satisfy divine justice. God's acceptance of Jesus sacrificial offering is God the Father raising Christ from the dead. That great Shepherd of the sheep is a title of our Lord, given to Him by the prophets: He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young. (Isa 40:11; see also Eze 34:23; Zec 13:7) Jesus identified Himself as that Shepherd: I am the good Shepherd (Jn 10:11). Not only is He the good Shepherd, but as He continues, The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (Jn 10:11). Through the blood of the eternal covenant means that our Lord became the great Shepherd and Savior by shedding His blood to procure and ratify His everlasting covenant (see also Jer 32:40; Isa 40:11; Eze 34:11-16,23; 37:24; Rev 13:8, Eph 1:4, 2 Ti 1:9). The statement equip you with everything good for doing His will (Heb 13:21) means that God will put us completely in joint. The word equip (katartisis) means to prepare, adjust, fit, adapt or join and signifies reducing of a dislocated limb to its proper place. The idea is that whereas the members of the body of Christ are dislocated and out of joint, they should be joined together in love and endeavor to make complete or perfect what was missing among them, whether morally and/or spiritually. It is an architectural metaphor where several stones and boards or planks are put in their proper places so that the whole building might be complete. Paul also uses this type of metaphor in Ephesians 2: They were to do the will of God in every area of their lives.

3 3 The writer continues to point out that God may... work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Heb 13:20-21). God is pleased when He is working in and through us by the grace of our Lord Jesus. Paul put it, Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose (Php 2:12-13). In fear and trembling does not mean because of doubt or anxiety; rather, it means a seriousness that expresses itself in reverence and a singleness of purpose in response to God s grace. Paul is clear that it is God who works in you. What pleases our Lord is not so much what we do for God, but what we allow Him to do in us and through us. The phrase to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Heb 13:21) emphasizes the fact that God does all in, by and through Jesus Christ. It is therefore, appropriate to give Him the honor for His own work. FINAL GREETINGS (13:22-25) The writer s final greetings is a blessing on the recipients of the letter who were familiar with the Old Covenant but now in the New Covenant: Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter. I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. Greet all your leaders and all God's people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. Grace be with you all (13:22-25). The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us of his purpose: to write a word of exhortation that would warn, encourage, support and strengthen fellow believers to go on in Christian maturity and not fall away from Christ. In Acts 13:15, the phrase word of exhortation seems to be used in reference to a message or sermon. It may be that this writer considers his letter as a written sermon.

4 4 The writer claims that he has written a short letter (Heb 13:22). If we compare this letter with most others, it is quite long, yet it can easily be read in its entirety in about an hour. The scope of its contents covers more of the Hebrew Scriptures than any other New Testament book. Its theme of the absolute preeminence and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as revealer and as mediator of God s grace spans the entire biblical history. It is not a stretch to apply the conversation between Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to this book. At that incident Jesus explained to them all that had happened, And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself (Lk 24:27). It is not surprising that at one point the writer said we have much to say about this (Heb 5:11) and at another point he said that we cannot discuss these things in detail now (9:5) thus indicating that he could have said much more. The point then is that the letter is short compared to the lengthy treatise that would be necessary to explain adequately the superiority of Christ. Such a subject requires addressing such themes as the superiority of God s new revelation the mystery of the priesthood (especially Melchizedek) the mystery of the covenant and institutions of the Law, the necessity of growing toward maturity faith God s discipline the office of Christ the danger of their eternal ruin practical rules for Christian living In light of such themes what the writer covered might be thought of as a brief letter. Here at the end we find that the writer knew Timothy and that he planned to visit his readers soon. Some scholars believe that the writer probably refers here to Timothy being sent to Macedonia (Php 2:19-24) so that he might bring him (the writer) an account of the affairs of the church in that country. Whether Timothy release was soon enough for him to accompany the writer of the epistle we simply do not know. The writer also tells us that his readers were based in Italy ( Those from Italy send you their greetings Heb 13:24), probably in the city of Rome. However, the original language (Greek) is ambiguous so that these words can mean that where the writer is former residents of Rome are sending greetings back to the Roman churches or, that the residents of Italy send their greetings along with those of the writer to wherever he is writing. Whatever situation is the true one, we can be assured that the whole church may be encouraged to know that other Christians in other cities and countries are praying for them. It is always heartwarming to find when we travel to far away places believers who embrace us and who may have prayed for us as Christians living in another part of the city, state or country. The bond we have in Christ trumps geographical boundaries and other incidental differences.

5 5 The exhortation to Greet all your leaders and all God's people (v. 24) is inclusive.. These salutations show the brotherly affection which existed in every part of the Christian church; even among those who had not seen each other. Yet they loved one another and were genuinely interested in each other's wellbeing. Grace be with you all (v. 25) means a wish that divine favor will rest upon his fellow Hebrew believers. The writer closes with a blessing on the recipients of the letter, typical of a first century Christian letter. Paul often closed his letters with a benediction (1 Co 16:33; 2 Co 13:11,14; Gal 6:18; Eph 6:23-24; Php 4:9,23; Col 4:18; 1 Th 5:28; 2 Th 3:16; 1 Ti 6:21; 2 Ti 4:22; Titus 3:15; Phm 25). APPLICATION God wants to equip us with everything good for doing His will and work in us what is pleasing to Him. Bless fellow believers and when they bless you receive it as a divine favor.

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