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Hebrews 13:20-21: The Benediction

Let's read Hebrews 13:20-25, "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you."

At the end of Charles Spurgeon’s ministry he faced one of his most difficult battles and it came to be known as the Down-Grade Controversy. The Down-Grade Controversy occurred when the denomination of which he was a member began to accept false teachings in several areas. For example,

  • They began to deny the infallibility of the Scriptures.

  • They began to deny the necessity and substitutionary nature of Christ’s atonement.

  • They began to deny the existence and the eternal nature of hell.

  • They began to affirm universalism.

This controversy resulted in Spurgeon withdrawing from the Baptist Union in October of 1887. Ten years before this happened in 1877 Spurgeon wrote a letter to his friend and he expressed his concern about this situation. A decade before Spurgeon disaffiliated from the Baptist Union he wrote, “I fear that no parchments (letters), no synods, no oaths even will keep men right: we must trust to the Spirit of God and betake ourselves to all prayer

We are coming to the end of our study of the Book of Hebrews and the author of Hebrews is entrusting this congregation to the Spirit and prayer. When this letter arrived and was read to this congregation these believers were weak in their faith. They were struggling in the race that had been set before them and reaching the desired finish line was in doubt. Their grip on the Gospel was slipping and their devotion to Christ was faltering. The author of Hebrews feared for the salvation of many within this congregation because they were shrinking back from Christ and beginning to apostatize.

If the author of Hebrews did not believe that the LORD had inspired this letter and that it would be used mightily by the Holy Spirit then there would have been reason for him to say as Spurgeon did, “I fear that no parchments or letters will keep men right.” Yet, we have seen that the author of Hebrews did believe in the infallibility, the authority and the inspiration of the Scriptures. Therefore, the author of Hebrews knows that this letter can bring about a great miracle in the hearts of men as they respond to its message with faith. (Hebrews 4:11-13)

As we come to our text this morning we see that the author of Hebrews is ready to conclude this letter. Do you think this would be an easy thing for the author of Hebrews to do? Do you think it would be easy for him to put down his pen, fold the paper and send it out?

I must admit that if I were the author of this letter I would struggle to put my pen down for fear that there were still something more that I might need to say. I would be asking myself, “Is this really a good time to lay down my pen while saying, ‘It is finished.’” I think I would be like Peter of whom the scriptures testify, “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them…”. (Acts 2:40)

The author of Hebrews, however, has fulfilled His responsibility to this congregation and now it is they who will have to bear with this word of exhortation. The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 13:22, “...bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.”

This congregation now has to bear the responsibility to listen and receive the exhortation that has come in this letter. They have the responsibility to read this letter, respond to it, remember it, defend it, and trust it in all circumstances. Jesus spoke of this responsibility when He spoke about the seed that fell on the good soil, “They are those who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)

H.B. Charles speaks of this benediction in Hebrews 13:20-21, “This benediction may not be as well known as the others in the scriptures but it is just as precious...This deep, rich, full benediction declares that there is power available in Christ to be all that God has called you to be and to do all that Christ called you to do.

Our text this morning is Hebrews 13: 20-21, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The truth that is expressed in this benediction is one of the reasons why the author of Hebrews will soon write his closing words, “Grace be with all of you” and then put down his pen knowing that these believers are under the care of God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and the promised Holy Spirit. Even when we are faithless He will be faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).

Perhaps it would be beneficial for you and I to consider what is happening at the end of this letter because it is applicable to our lives too. Every minister needs to be able to trust the LORD and know that He will equip and empower those whom he ministers to so that they can live a life fully pleasing to the LORD. For example,

  • After a minster signs a marriage certificate and he puts down the pen the minister entrusts that couple to the LORD who has blessed that union with His Spirit.

  • After a minster signs a baby dedication certificate and he puts down the pen the minister has to entrusts that family to the LORD who promises to be with that family.

  • After a minster ordains someone into a ministry he has to entrusts that person to the LORD who will guard and guide them in all things.

  • After a minister baptizes a new believer he has to entrust them to the LORD who will finish in them the good work that He has begun.

  • At the end of every sermon a minister dismisses that congregation and entrusts each of them to the LORD, saying,

This does not just apply to a minister. No, it applies to all of us. Imagine how different our lives would be if we learned to be mindful and trusting of the truths that are contained in the benedictions throughout the scriptures. If we did this we might find find that our lives would be less anxious, our souls would be more at peace, and we would have ample reasons each day to offer doxologies of praise to the LORD despite our circumstances. Let me offer these examples specifically to Mother’s as a gift to you on Mother’s Day.

  • Mom, as you watch your child go off go off to school you are learning to entrust your child to the watchful eyes of the God of peace. When this happens you can quietly pray to yourself, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

  • Mom, heaven forbid that you ever learn that your child has received a bad diagnosis you will have to entrust your child to the loving care of the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1Peter 5:10-11)

  • After 9/11 there were many mother's who watched as their child enlisted in the military. In that moment she knew they would be going off to war so these mothers had to learn to entrust their child to the Great Shepherd, saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

  • When a mother learns that God has called her child to go into the mission field she must learn to release her child into the care of their heavenly Father who Himself sent His only Son into the world to die for sinners, saying, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?’ For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:34-36)

  • When a mother finds herself walking with her child who is struggling with an addiction or with severe depression that mother will have to learn to entrust them to the LORD, saying, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

  • When a mother is struggling financially and everything seems to be so out of control and overwhelming she will have to learn to entrust herself to the LORD, saying, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Learning to entrust ourselves, and our loved ones, to the LORD requires patience, endurance and faith. However it will bear the desired fruit in the end if we persevere. As I consider these things I found myself thinking about how the children at Viritas Christi Classical Academy begin each morning. They practice the truths that are contained in our text today so that the kids will be more likely to remember and apply these things to their own lives.

Let me explain. Every morning Rainy stands before the students and repeats the same thing. This is done so often that the kids now have it memorized. She says, “What is your Father’s greatest desire for you this day?

Isn’t this a good question to ask ourselves at the beginning of each day before this world begins to pull us in a million different directions? How would you answer this question? The students answer this question by saying, “That we should love our eternal King with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength.” (Mt. 22:37)

Then she asks the students another question, “Do you now possess the needed strength to perfectly accomplish such holy requirements?” Again, how would you answer this question? I can think of three ways we could answer this question.

  • We could say, ‘Yes, of course I do and today I will actually do it for the first time. I promise I will better today than I did yesterday.

  • Or we could say, ‘No, I obviously do not have what is required so why even try any more? I give up. I quit.’.

  • Or we could say, ‘No, I do not have the ability to do this but the life I now live I will live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.’, Then this person will make the attempt live each moment of their day looking to the LORD for His equipping and His enabling power? (2 Thess. 1:11, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 1:19-20, 3:20, Philippians 4:13)

So how do the children at VCCA answer the question, “Do you now possess the needed strength to perfectly accomplish such holy requirements?” They answer it by saying, “We do not. We are weak and inconsistent, and are often buffeted by fear and pride and selfishness. But being impoverished and ill-equipped as we are, we will look to the grace of God and to the sanctifying work of the Spirit to accomplish His purposes in and through this day, as we, in grateful response seek to choose that which pleases Him.

After this Rainy and the students look to the LORD by praying and considering the Scriptures.

  • They turn to God in prayer.  Rainy prays, “We open our hearts anew to you this morning, O LORD, that the love of the Father and the life of Christ and the breath of the Spirit would quicken within us a greater affection for you.” Then the children respond by praying, “Work your will in us, Lord Christ.”

  • They look to the Scriptures. Having acknowledged their inability to fulfill their duty the students begin to turn to the LORD for His equipping and empowerment to obey the LORD in all things. They turn their attention to the reading of the Scriptures which works in them mightily through faith (2 Timothy 3:16-17). By doing this they respond to the appeal of the Apostle Paul who says in Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

There are many parallels between what is said in the morning assembly and what the author of Hebrews speaks about in our text today. For example,

  • These believers want to honor the LORD in all things and to live a life that pleases the Father.

  • They know that they do not have the ability in themselves to do this.

  • They seek the LORD in prayer to equip and empower them with everything good that they can do God’s will and please Him.

  • Therefore, the LORD alone will get the glory for all these things because He works these things in the believer.

The author of Hebrews has already shared with us that he ‘desires to act honorably in all things’. (18) That is a noble endeavor and he desires is a good thing. However, desire alone does not please the Father and bring Him glory. In Romans 7 the apostle Paul desires to do good but he knows that his desire alone cannot carry out the good he desires to do. He must be empowered by God to do good this power comes from God therefore the LORD gets all the glory. (7:21-8:11) Therefore, both desire and the living of such a life pleases the LORD and both these things bring Him great glory! This is one of the reasons that the author of Hebrews asked this congregation for much needed prayer (18).

Now imagine that the author of Hebrews is present with this congregation. He has just confessed his desire, and the desire of his whole ministry team, to act honorably in all things. And after saying this he would look at this congregation and ask them, “What is your Father’s greatest desire for you this day?

Would their answer be any different than the author of Hebrews and his entire team? Would their answer be any different than any other Christian who has been indwelt with the Holy Spirit? No, they would confess that they also have the ‘desire to act honorably in all things so that they will please their heavenly Father.

After this, the author of Hebrews would ask them an important follow-up question, “Do you now possess the needed strength to perfectly accomplish such holy requirements?” Do we have to think all that long about how they would answer? No, considering the faithlessness and failures that have been addressed in this letter I am going to assume that they will answer rather quickly, “We do not. We are weak and inconsistent, and are often buffeted by fear and pride and selfishness. Truly we are impoverished and ill-equipped to fulfill perfectly such a requirement.” We have seen these things throughout this letter.

  • ‘We are weak’:

  • Hebrews 12:12- “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

  • Hebrews 5:1-2- “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.”

  • ‘We are inconsistent’:

  • Hebrews 12:1-3, 14- “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?...But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

  • ‘We are buffeted by fear’:

  • Hebrews 3:14-15- “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

  • Hebrews 10:38- “...but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrink back, my soul has no pleasure in him.

  • ‘We are buffeted by pride’:

  • Hebrews 3:12- “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

  • ‘We are buffeted by selfishness’:

  • Hebrews 8:8, 12, “For He finds fault with them when He says... ‘For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.’

  • Hebrews 12:16- “...that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

  • ‘We are impoverished’:

  • Hebrews 4:13- “And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” (Rev. 3:17)

  • ‘We are ill-equipped’:

  • Hebrews 4:16- “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

These believers have been humbled by trials, troubles, tribulations, and testings. They know now that they are weak, inconsistent, often buffeted by fear, buffeted by pride, and often buffeted by selfishness. They know that apart from faith in Christ they are impoverished and ill-equipped to fulfill perfectly such a requirement. Therefore, what blessed good news our benediction is for all of us, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ...”.

Let me ask you a question, “If the congregation received and believed these things how would we know it?

  • Wouldn’t they begin to in that moment, and continue going forward, to offer to the LORD worship by saying, “To God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son belong glory forever and ever. Amen.

  • Wouldn’t they be motivated to pray and go to the Scriptures often to receive the much needed grace that would equip and empower them to do the LORD’s will and please Him.

  • Wouldn’t they encourage each other daily through prayer and in the scriptures so that no one would be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

  • Wouldn’t the whole congregation begin to experience the peace of God because of these things. This peace would be experienced in two ways.

  • First, they would experience peace with God through Christ because Jesus is our Great High Priest who always intercedes before the Father on our behalf.

  • Secondly, they would experience peace inwardly because of a faith that looks to Him and trusts Him for His equipping and empowering grace.

  • Wouldn’t this congregation celebrate this New Covenant by either being baptized for the first time or remembering their baptism more often as a means of grace.

  • Wouldn’t they long to come together and celebrate communion together to celebrate the blessing of this New Covenant.

We began this sermon by considering Spurgeon when he lamented the state of so many churchmen and churches who did not believe any longer in the sufficiency and infallibility of the scriptures. He despairingly said, “I fear that no parchments (letters), no synods, no oaths even will keep men right: we must trust to the Spirit of God and betake ourselves to all prayer.

We are not like those who think so little of the Scriptures and the Book of Hebrews. No, the opposite is true. We have spent so many Sundays looking at this divinely inspired letter because we believe that the Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to provide us with grace and transform us into the image of Christ.

Like Spurgeon, we also live in an age when many people have denied the truth and gone after other things. Yet, we do not despair as men who have no hope. We remember that there have always been churches and church leaders who faithfully spoke the Word of the Lord God and we are determined to imitate their faith. (13:7) If the author of Hebrews, and men like Spurgeon, were alive today and saw the condition of the world around us they would not despair because we have the Scriptures which continues to shed fourth its light and influence people in this world They would look out and see God’s faithful church and they would not praise them as much as they would offer praise to God saying, “Praise be to God the Father, and praise be to Jesus Christ His Son, to whom belong glory forever and ever. For the LORD the LORD equips and empowers His people to honor God in all things. Amen.


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