Benedictions are greeted in America with great delight, for it means that the service will soon end and the people will be free to go! But benedictions are also meant to impart a gift from God of unusual grace and mercy on all our lives. Benedictions must never be taken for granted or treated in a casual way; they are enormously important. Perhaps we should hold our hands out as if we were already receiving the benefits that God has been pleased to bestow on us as the prayer is offered up on our behalf as a congregation.
The text I have chosen is from Hebrews Hebrews 13:20-21. It reads: “Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect, in every good work, to do His will, by working in you, that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory, forever and ever, Amen.”
This prayer is a veritable summary of the whole book of Hebrews. In four great summaries it outlines all that a believer needs for competing, succeeding and completing any walk, talk or ministry to the glory of God in this twenty-first century. Let us look at each of these four summaries in the order given here in this magnificent summary of the whole argument of the book of Hebrews with its case for the “Finality of Jesus Christ.”
I. The Source of Our Peace
Our first summary is to be found in the expression, “God of Peace,” which is located only here and in the prayers of the apostle Paul. It is found, for example, in Romans 15:33, “Now the God of peace be with you all, Amen.” Again, it appears in Romans 16:20, “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” And in Philippians 4:9, “Those things, which you all have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you.” Finally, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 it affirms, “And the very God of peace sanctify you totally; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The writer of Hebrews, whoever he was, used this Greek word for “peace,” with its Hebrew roots of shalom to refer to every benefit that our Lord can give: physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally — everything! The title is properly assigned to God the Father alone.
Humanity has not been capable of effecting much peace. Thus, there is little or no peace left except what is to be found in the nature and will of God. He alone is the author of peace because He designed it from eternity, and because He carried it out in Jesus Christ.
Now if all evil that befalls us mortals is the result of our original loss of peace with God, think what sorts of compensation can be ours when the God of peace takes over our lives! Therefore, let us fix our eyes on the God of peace, for only He is able to meet us at the level of our deepest needs. No wonder the Psalmists exclaims, “Great peace have they that love [Him].”
II. The Preparation of Our Peace
The second summary is tucked away in three clauses that describe the Father’s work of preparing our peace.
1) Its Power. The first one is this: “Who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ.” While we are amazed at the residual power of a nuclear device or of the thrust of a jet engine, here is enough power to yank our Lord Jesus right up out of the grave! It is that same power that is now being made available to us, His believing body, the Church.
Notice that it is “our” Lord Jesus who was raised from the grave. Therefore, all the work that God did towards Jesus was directed towards us as He is head of us, the Church. But there is no greater act in all of creation than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here is the capstone of the Christian faith, even as Paul argued in 1 Corinthians 15. No one, reside our Lord, has ever come back from the dead to tell us whether there was life after death. No other magician, no other religion, no other philosopher, no other leader of state! This is God’s proof to all who wonder if Christianity is the only true way to God and heaven. It has never been matched anywhere else in the universe at any other time.
2) Its person. The second clause is this: “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” All of us like to be associated with great persons. We casually drop the names of some of the greats that we recently had contact with in order to impress those with whom we are speaking. For example, not long ago I was in Washington D.C. at the prayer breakfast with former President Bill Clinton. I must also tell you that it was not a private breakfast, for there were 4,000 other guests there for the same event. Nevertheless, names and persons are very important to us. But what about this One who is the greatest name of all names, our great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ?
Notice again that Jesus is “that” One promised in the Old Testament. He is the One who feeds His flock like a shepherd and gathers up lambs in His arms to carry them” (Isaiah 40:10-11). He is “that” shepherd promised in Ezekiel 34:23 who would return one day, the Servant of David. “That” Shepherd will one day be king over all believers, and we shall all have just “one shepherd” in that day according to Ezekiel 37:24.
As Shepherd, He feeds His sheep, ruling over them and instructing them. But this Shepherd also lays down His life for His sheep, thus He is a priest who offers Himself as a sacrifice. What a Shepherd we have. Look how gentle and affirming He is for every one who goes astray!
But He is a “great” Shepherd. He is, as the whole book of Hebrews affirms, great in His person. Therefore, He is greater than even the angels or any mortals. He is also “great” in office. No one can compare to Him: not the High Priest Aaron, the Priest-King Melchisedek, the leader Joshua or even Moses. He is also “great” in His power, for He came to do the will of His Father. And He is even “great” in His grace. Look how He treats His own flock.
3) Its plan. The third clause says that all of this was made possible “through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” God’s original plan from eternity past has never been upset or overthrown despite all the machinations of mortals throughout the ages. It is an “everlasting” and “eternal” covenant. It is the very covenant God made with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15. It is the one He made with Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3; indeed, it is the same one He made with David in 2 Samuel 7 and the one He renewed in the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Why was it sealed in blood you ask? The blood referred to the substitutionary sacrificial death of Christ, which satisfied the divine justice of God when we were too poor and unable to make any payments for ourselves. This blood is the great pledge and assurance of our peace with God.
Moreover, since the covenant is eternal, we must not fret or worry; the means and the plan are sure. Our Lord is not about to revise or reconstruct His plan due to what some think are the unexpected movements of men and nations. No, our Lord has remained on course on the same plan since He devised it before the creation of the world in eternity past.
III. The Purpose of Our Peace
This prayer is beginning to sound like a German sentence: when will we get to the main verb? I once saw a cartoon of a German Church with two men standing in the back of the Church. One said to the other, “Shall we wait for the verb, or shall we leave?” That is because the German verb comes so late in the sentence and the sentences are so long. But our wait has been worth it. It is this: May the God of Peace, who has such great power, is such a great person, and who operates according to such a great plan — may He make you able to do what we think we cannot do.”
Here is God’s answer for all who think that they can not do what is needed to minister in the Church today. He makes us fit, capable and adequate by bringing our faculties into accord with His plan so we can do what we thought we were unable to do. Thus, the third great summary of this book and of the purpose of the writer to the Hebrews is this Purpose of God in providing for our peace.
Ministers in and of themselves do not have what is needed to meet all the needs of a congregation and community of our day. But our Lord promises to put us into the proper condition so we can do great exploits for Him.
But how is God going to do this? He will “work in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight” so that we accomplish every good work. The word for “working in” is the word to “energize.” Therefore, the performance of every good work is simultaneously the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. No wonder Ephesians 2:10 claimed that “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Philippians 2:13 adds to that by noting that Christ works in us “both to will and to do” His good pleasure.
Our Lord prays that God would do this working in us, not just by moral persuasion, or instruction only, but by the effectual energizing and in-working of the grace of God that results in working-out the will of God.
But some will complain, “I have never been able to perform in a way that I could call it all “well-pleasing” to my God. But notice that this happens “through our Lord Jesus.” And our Lord does not do merely mediocre work, but He will do what is top-level work, what is “well-pleasing” in the eyes of God! There are no academic or practical standards that can match that high level of achievement. This is one of the most encouraging texts I know to help believers and ministers who need great encouragement as they face a waiting, but hostile, world.
IV. The Result of Our Peace
Our prayer concludes with an ascription of praise and glory to the only One who is worthy of such high acclaim — our great God!
So what is the chief goal or purpose of a human being? It is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. He indeed is worthy to receive all blessing, honor, glory, dominion, and praise. Therefore, nothing we accomplish is the result of our strength, but the honor and praise of all Christian work must be laid at the feet of our Lord.
That is my prayer for each of you. This could be the finest hour for the Church if we but followed the pattern our Lord laid down for us in the grace He outlined here in this benediction.
Will you this day fix your eyes on the One who alone is the source of your peace, who long ago prepared for this peace in His great power, person and plan? May we together realize the purpose of His peace by receiving that great grace by the work of God’s Holy Spirit so that great honor, glory and blessing may come to the whole Church worldwide. Amen!

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