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A FEW CLOSING WORDS – Hebrews 13:20-25

Posted By Pastor Greg Allen On July 26, 2017 @ 5:00 pm In PM Bible Study | No Comments

PM Home Bible Study Group; July 26, 2017

Hebrews 13:20-25

Theme: In his closing comments, the writer offers a final benediction to his suffering fellow believers.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

This wonderful letter is truly a wonder. How blessed we are that the Holy Spirit preserved it for our edification. It is, to be sure, a hard letter to study. But it has nevertheless been the enrichment of those who have done so throughout the centuries since our Lord walked this earth.

The Lord Jesus has been its great theme. It was written to Jewish believers; and it has sought to show them the superiority of Jesus—as Mediator of a New Covenant—over the Old Covenant rituals and sacrifices and ceremonies to which they had once been bound. All of these things find fulfillment in Christ alone; and these believers are encouraged to draw near to God in Him with full assurance. As we have seen, this was a much needed exhortation for them; because they were under persecution for having left their old Judaistic ways in pursuit of faithfulness to Jesus. Several times throughout this letter, then, the practical call has been to go forward in their faith in Jesus and not look back—to bear up faithfully in their sufferings and afflictions for Christ while looking ahead to the ‘heavenly country’ which is their eternal home.

There is an ongoing practical value in this letter to us as followers of Jesus—whether we be Jewish or Gentile. We today—as those readers of old—journey in a land that is not our final home. We too—just as they were—may be called upon to suffer for our faith in Jesus. We—as they—must make a commitment to go forward against the tide of human pressure; and to keep on trusting confidently in the fulfillment of all the promises of God in Christ. And we will one day soon—like those faithful saints who have gone before us—see the reward.

* * * * * * * * * *

There have been great theological truths that have been taught to us along the way in our study of this letter. And now, the writer brings his great theological and practical appeal to a close in these final words. As is so often true in the letters of the New Testament, the closing words often summarize and apply the great themes of the letter in one, final section.

Here, in the last six verses of the letter, we find …

I. A CLOSING BENEDICTION (vv. 20-21).

A. A ‘benediction’ (from the Latin benedictio; blessing) is a solemn prayer and wish for the blessing and happiness of the recipients. In this case, some scholars have referred to these particular words as a collecta oratio; a ‘gathering together’ prayer. The writer says;

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20-21).

B. In these words, we find seven parts to this great benediction that ‘gather-up’ many of the truths the writer has already taught us. We see this in …

1. The invocation. This speaks of the divine Person that he calls upon to answer this prayer: “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep …” Here, he refers to God as ‘the God of peace’; and he may be speaking of God in this way because of the suffering that had been involved in faithfulness to Jesus—both on the part of the writer (see vv. 18-19), and the suffering of the readers (see 12:3-4). And if this is the case, then what a great name to affirm of God in a time of suffering! But it may also be a reference to God’s work of bringing about full ‘relational’ peace with Himself through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Himself (see Romans 5:1; also Hebrews 9:15). The writer identifies ‘the God of peace’ as the one who raised Jesus from the dead; which may be intended to speak of how the Father is fully satisfied with the sacrifice of Jesus for the justification of those who believe on Him—proving it by raising Jesus from the dead (see Romans 4:25). In this respect—and in the light of this ‘peace’—Jesus is affirmed to us as the ‘great Shepherd of the sheep’. It was this same Shepherd who bore the sins of His own sheep—those sheep who had wandered away (see Isaiah 53:6), but who have now returned to the Shepherd (see 1 Peter 2:25). What peace, then, is ours from the God of peace through our Savior Jesus Christ!

2. The basis. The basis of this peace—and therefore the basis of this benediction—is found in these words: “through the blood of the everlasting covenant”. This points us to the New Covenant of which Jesus is the Mediator—as opposed to the Old Covenant under Moses to which they were sometimes tempted to return. As Hebrews 8:6 tells us; “He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” This was accomplished through Him, as we’re told in 9:15, “by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

3. The petition. The specific blessing that the writer is invoking the God of peace for is this: that He “make you complete in every good work to do His will …” The Old Covenant relied on a strict obedience to the letter of the Old Testament law—which always resulted in failure and the condemnation of death. But now that Jesus has satisfied all of the requirements of the letter of the law, the believer in Him is now set free to follow under the leading of the Holy Spirit as fully justified in God’s sight; and the Spirit now leads and empowers the believer in all good works. As Paul wrote in Titus 2:11-14;

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).

4. The product. As a gracious act of God’s own doing, we’re told that He is “working in you what is well pleasing in His sight”. As Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:10, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The New Covenant does not mean that the holiness sought through the law under the Old Covenant is now set aside. Rather, it is God Himself who now works in the believer in Jesus to produce the life that pleases Him. This product is not one in which we have no part in producing, though. But what we do is ultimately based on His working in us what He desires. As Paul puts it in his letter to the Philippians;

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

5. The means. The means by which God produces any good in us, or by which any good is produced by us through His gracious enabling, is “through Jesus Christ”. In no other way but though Him can what is well-pleasing to God be worked in us. But in Him, we are well-pleasing in His sight. We are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

6. The praise. This could also be called the doxology—the expression of glory to God. The writer says that all of this is accomplished through Christ, “to whom be glory forever and ever.” Never will we be able to say that any of this is our doing; but all of it is of Him and for Him and through Him and to Him.

7. The affirmation. The writer closes this benediction with “Amen!” It is true! Let it be accepted as so! We should say the same!

II. SOME LAST-MINUTE INSTRUCTIONS (vv. 22-23).

A. The writer closes with some final matters for his readers. First, he tells them—in the light of all the great things he has laid out to them; “And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words” (v. 22). This seems fascinating; because these do not seem like ‘a few words’ at all! And yet, it is a few—considering the great themes it lays out to us. It’s apparent that the writer could have said more. In 5:11, he was teaching about the relationship of Jesus to the Old Testament figure Melchizedek; and he added, “of whom we have much to say …”; but he felt he could say no more at that time. In 9:5, in speaking of the Old Testament tabernacle, he wrote, “Of these things we cannot now speak in detail”; although you can clearly see that he wanted to. Perhaps, because of the limitations of his readers, he felt that he didn’t say enough. Perhaps, because of where his readers were in their personal growth in Christ, they would have felt that he said too much. But by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he said all that God wanted us to know. We should bear with him, then, by continuing to study this great letter!

B. He also adds, “Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly” (v. 23). This is, without question, the Timothy that was the close associate of Paul. We know of no other indication that Timothy was ever in prison; but Paul did urge him to willingly join him in his sufferings for the gospel (see 2 Timothy 1:8); and so, perhaps Timothy was imprisoned for a time. The fact that the writer hoped to come with Timothy to these believers suggests that it may have been Paul who wrote this letter—but that’s not certain. In any case, he certainly was ‘Paul-like’ in his passion for these believers.

III. SOME FINAL GREETINGS (vv. 24-25).

A. Like Paul did in so many of his letters, this writer passes on greetings between his readers and his fellow workers. The writer here closes with the appeal, “Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.” (v. 24). Those who ‘rule’ over them were the spiritual leaders that he spoke of in verses 7 and 17. They were the pastoral leaders of these Jewish believers. The writer didn’t exclude them, but pointed his readers’ attention to their leadership; and called upon them to pass on the greeting. And not only to them, but the writer also wanted to include “all the saints”. Here, these suffering believers are included in that honorable title—not being saints by anything of their own doing, but strictly on the basis of God’s grace.

B. And that leads him to this final blessing: “Grace be with you all.” This may be another indication that this was Paul’s work; because that is exactly how so many of Paul’s letters end. It was his own official closing. In the closing of his second letter to the Thessalonians—a letter in which he had to warn the readers of false letters that had been circulated as if from him—he told them this:

The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen (2 Thessalonians 3:17-18).

* * * * * * * * * *

Whether this is a letter from Paul is something that we cannot know for certain. But we know that, ultimately, it is a letter given to us through the enabling and providential ministry of the Holy Spirit; and it is given to us to make us secure in the full sufficiency and supremacy of Jesus Christ for us.

Therefore, “having a High Priest over the house of God” a—such a great High Priest as Jesus—“let us draw near” (Hebrews 10:21-22).

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