And In Closing…(Hebrews 13:20-21)

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen…Hebrews 13:20-21 (NASB)

            Someone gave me a little book many years ago entitled “You Might Be A Preacher If…”  It’s a humorous comic strip like volume with phrases such as “you might be a preacher if…you’ve ever wanted to punch a time clock!”  Or “you might be a preacher if…you jiggle all of the commode handles at the church before you leave!”  How about this one, “you might be a preacher if…you’ve ever been asked “so what do you do the rest of the week?!”  Perhaps my favorite one is, “you might be a preacher if…the words “and in conclusion” mean absolutely nothing to you!”  Now, while preachers are often loathe to close, the words that we end our sermons with are very important.  For those who have listened to me preach over the course of the years, nearly every message is closed with the prayer of blessing, “May the Lord bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you.  May He lift His countenance upon you and give you peace.  May you know what is the hope of your calling of God in Christ Jesus and the surpassing greatness of His power extended to all who believe.”  The fancy name for closing words such as these is “benediction” which literally means “to speak well over.”  For this edition of the Gracelet, we are going to take an in-depth look at the closing benediction from Hebrews 13:20-21.

            COVENANT…The writer of Hebrews (whom I believe to be Paul) mentions the “eternal covenant” in this powerful benediction.  Many hearing this may think of the “Old Covenant” of Moses versus the “New Covenant” of grace in Christ (“versus” is probably not the best word as the Mosaic Covenant prefigured the New Covenant).  There certainly is some truth in this thought for the book of Hebrews clearly points out that the covenant of salvation that was purchased once and for all through the blood of Jesus Christ is greater than that which was pointed to by the repeated offering of the blood of bulls and goats.  The covenant mediated by Christ, the eternal and sinless High Priest, is greater than the covenant represented by Aaron and his descendants in the priesthood who were not sinless and who would pass away.  Now, people have always been saved on the basis of grace through faith in Christ (see Gen. 15:6 and Gal. 3:1-9 which speaks of Abraham being justified by faith centuries before the law came through Moses), never through the law.  However, the perfect law is used to bring sinners to acknowledge their sin so that they may receive and believe upon the Savior.  The priesthood and the sacrifices were pointers to Christ who would fulfill to the utmost degree that of which they prefigured.  That being said, when Hebrews 13:20-21 mentions the eternal covenant, I believe there is much more being spoken of than “just” a covenant between God and men, but indeed an eternal covenant between the persons of the Triune Godhead.  The Father, spoken of here as the God of peace, agrees to call a people and give them to His Son.  The Son, spoken of here as our Lord and the Great Shepherd, agrees to lay down His life to purchase a people by His Blood.  The Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, agrees to convict a people of sin and draw them unto salvation.  When a person repents of sin, puts trust in Christ, and is born again; they are entered into part of a covenant that is eternal in every sense of the word, from eternity past to eternity future and all points in between among the persons of the Triune Godhead.

            CONQUERING…  Hebrews 13:20 clearly tells us that the God of Peace, referencing the Father here, brought Jesus, the Great Shepherd, up from the dead!  However, as with any work of any Person of the Trinity, this work cannot be separated from all Persons of the Trinity, for indeed though the Godhead is Tri-Personal, there is One God.  In John 10:18 Jesus powerfully declared that, “no one takes it (His life) from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”  Romans 8:11 clearly states, “if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  So, wonderfully and powerfully, Scripture tells us that the Father raised Jesus from the dead, the Son raised Himself from the dead, and the Spirit raised Christ from the dead!  Good News!  Great News!  Conquering News!  You may say “conquering news”?  How?  Is there anything more defeating than death?!  Not for the human.  There may be a rich man who has conquered poverty, but no matter how rich he becomes, he cannot conquer death.  There may be a strong man who has overcome the weak, but no matter how strong he is, he cannot conquer death.  There may be a political leader or a person of fame who conquers the multitudes and the specter of obscurity, but no matter how well-known one becomes he cannot conquer death.  Truly, death is the common denominator to every member of Adam’s race.  But thanks be to God, those who have put genuine trust in the Second Adam (in Jesus Christ) have forged their faith to the One who did conquer death and through Whom we are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37)!  As Christians, we don’t fight for victory, Christ alone could win and has already won, but we fight from that victory through the One who gives us victory over the devil (1 Jn. 2:13-14), the world (1 Jn. 5:4-5), and false teachers (1 Jn. 4:1-4).

            CARING…Not everyone who conquers cares.  Search the annals of history and you will find that many famous figures with the suffix “THE GREAT” after their name could just as easily earned the description of “THE TERRIBLE.”  Not so with Jesus!  He conquered death, hell, and the grave.  He is not only a king; He is THE KING of kings.  He is not only a Lord; He is THE LORD of Lords!  And yet, Christ, with such GREATNESS as the world has never known, also has a GOODNESS beyond our ability to grasp!  Our passage, Hebrews 13:20-21 calls Jesus “the great Shepherd of the sheep.”  Unlike a hireling, He is the GOOD SHEPHERD who laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11).  He is the GOOD SHEPHERD who tenderly cares for His sheep, meeting their every need and leading them beside still waters (Psalm 23).  He is the GOOD SHEPHERD who took the iniquity of His people upon Himself (Isaiah 53:6).  He is the GOOD SHEPHERD who left the ninety and nine to find the one who was astray (Luke 15:3-7).  AND He is the CHIEF SHEPHERD who will one day return for His sheep (1 Pet. 5:1-4)!  We can cast all our cares upon Jesus, our Shepherd, for He indeed cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).

            CREATING…  Genesis 1:1 starts with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Continue reading the opening chapter of Scripture and you will see that God creates out of nothing the heavens and then later fills them with planets and stars.  He creates the skies above and the waters below and then later fills them with birds and fish.  He creates the land masses and then later fills them with animals and finally mankind.  What God forms, He fills.  What God creates, He equips.  Certainly this truth holds with those who are His children.  When we are brought to Christ by faith then we are born again, we are a new creation in which the old things pass away and all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17).  And then what God forms, He fills with His Spirit.  What He has created, He equips.  Hebrews 13:20-21 states that God equips us in every good thing to do His will.  That word “equip” carries the pictures of an army being supplied for battle, of a ship being rigged for its voyage, of a doctor setting a broken bone, and of a fisherman mending his nets.  God supplies all that we need, He directs us by His Word in the way that we should go, He repairs what is broken, and He makes His church fishers of men.  And all of this for His Glory forever and ever…AMEN!