Benediction

Ephesians 6:23-24

First record of pronouncing a benediction – Day 5 of creation, God blessed the living creatures, then Day 6 he blessed man and woman.  Later on we read where God blessed Noah, Abraham, Isaac; we also read where Isaac blessed Jacob and then Jacob blessed his sons and grandsons.  After the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood and construction of the tabernacle, God appointed Aaron and his sons as the ones who would confer God’s blessing on the children of Israel using the formula found in Numbers 6:24-26:

Num_6:23-27  “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.

“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Certainly by this time, if not before, benedictions which had been pronounced often in the family and by God himself were given a regular place in public worship.  And in God’s declaration following the formula we see the true nature of the priestly blessing: the priest prays for God’s blessing on the people, God answers the prayer and grants the blessing.

The example of benediction is carried over into the New Testament period and appears regularly at the end of apostolic writings.

Rom_16:20  Rom_16:24  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

1Co_16:23  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Gal_6:18  the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Php_4:23  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

1Th_5:28  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

2Th_3:18  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

2Co_13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

A benediction should not be confused with a closing prayer; a prayer may include a benediction but not necessarily so.  A benediction is “the act of blessing” or “a solemn or affectionate invocation of happiness”.  Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Once again Paul closes his letter with an apostolic blessing invoked on his readers.  In it he uses four terms which have been liberally sprinkled throughout the remainder of the letter.  In fact, two of them (grace and peace) and a form of the third (faith/faithful) are found in Paul’s greeting in Eph_1:1-2.  For those interested in the numbers, Paul uses peace 6 times, love 12 times, faith or faithful 9 times, and grace 11 times; these four terms are used a total of 42 times in the epistle.

But it is more than simply words we should consider here; understanding the concepts Paul had in mind when he prayed this blessing over his readers is vital to our full appreciation of his closing words to the saints, “the faithful in Christ Jesus”.  It is equally imperative that we observe how intimately connected these concepts are to Christ Jesus himself, that it is through Christ that these blessings for which Paul prays come to the church.

peace

Eph_1:2  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph_2:14  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,

Eph_2:15  having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,

Eph_2:17  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

Eph_4:3  endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Eph_6:15  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Just a few verses earlier the topic is war in which the enemy will give no quarter.  Now Paul prays down a blessing of peace “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.  This is from the God who not only sends peace but is peace.  See Eph 2:14-15.  Paul is not praying that hostilities would cease, that they would see an end to the war against sin and Satan, or that they would be at peace with one another.  Rather he prays that they would know peace in the midst of conflict and turmoil, peace that is the opposite of and antidote to anxiety.

It is peace that comes only from and  through Christ and his Gospel – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Joh_14:27  It comes through Christ because he is the one who made us at peace with God by suffering our penalty and reconciling us to Him.  It is not only the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile that came down, it is also the veil between man and God that was torn in two.

The thing that “ties us all together”, the ligament that binds us together in unity is peace.  If we are in that “portable box” created by the shield of faith, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the church, we can experience peace regardless of what is going on around us.  We must remember the shield insulates us from Satan’s weapons; it doesn’t isolate us from the world in some sort of monastic environment.  The peace we experience is an inward state, not an outward condition and can only be supplied by God.

love

of God in Christ for believers

Eph_1:4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

Eph_2:4  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

Eph_3:19  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Eph_5:2  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet – smelling aroma.

among the brethren

Eph_1:15  Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

Eph_4:2  with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,

Eph_4:15-16  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Eph_5:25  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

Eph_5:28  So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.

Eph_5:33  Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

general

Eph_3:17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

Eph_5:2  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet – smelling aroma.

faith

Eph_1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

Eph_1:15  Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

Eph_1:19  and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power

Eph_2:8  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

Eph_3:12  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Eph_4:5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

Eph_4:13  till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Eph_6:16  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

Eph_6:21  But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you;

“Love combined with faith” or “love and trust at the same time” – graces that are not static reminders of what used to be, but living and growing graces; not pressed rose petals but living roses with their attendant fragrance.  Although Paul does deal with love in general and love for others in this epistle, it is primarily love for Christ that is in view here.

There is a distinct sense in which this love for God does not originate with us but rather with him – Paul places our salvation in the context of God’s rich mercy which flowed out of his great love for us Eph_2:4  John speaks of our loving God because he first loved us 1Jn_4:19  It is not God loving himself through us; the love he gives to us is our love just as the faith which is a gift of God becomes our faith.  But if God did not initiate the process we would never develop love for Christ and trust in him on our own.

As we grow in understanding of our sinfulness and experience of God’s forgiveness, our love for him grows.  Remember Jesus’ story to Simon the Pharisee of the two debtors whose debts of fifty and five hundred coins were cancelled – who would love him more?  Luk_7:42  As we experience God’s provision and faithfulness in times of testing, our trust in him grows.  Again, in the life of Jesus immediately following his transfiguration, the epileptic boy’s father desperate for his son’s healing told Jesus “I believe; help my unbelief!”  Mar_9:24  He had faith but desired greater faith.

Paul’s prayer is that as God worked out his plan of reconciliation in Christ through the church for his own glory that the church would experience a greater measure of love for God (accompanied by greater and more demonstrative love for the brethren).  Coupled with that he prays that their trust in Christ would increase, having been validated by God’s repeated provision for their needs – think “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus”.

grace

Eph_1:2  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph_1:6-7  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Eph_2:5  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved,

Eph_2:7-8  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

Eph_3:2  if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,

Eph_3:7-8  of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.  To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Eph_4:7  But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Eph_4:29  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

And love with faith. This in part explains what he means in the following verse by grace; not only grace in the fountain, or the love and favour of God, but grace in the streams, the grace of the Spirit flowing from that divine principle, faith and love including all the rest. It is the continuance and increase of these that he desires for them, in whom they were already begun.  Matthew Henry

In Eph_1:3-14 Paul stressed the boundless store of blessing treasured up in Christ that the Father has lavished on us, his prized possessions, according to the riches of his grace.  Here in his benediction, he prays that the saints will continue to experience and benefit from that superabundant outpouring of God’s provision.

We are not orphans of the same sort as Oliver Twist, expected to subsist at the workhouse on “three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll of Sundays”.  Nor are we merely advanced to a slightly better condition such as he experienced later of “a basin full of broth:  strong enough, Oliver thought, to furnish an ample dinner, when reduced to the regulation strength, for three hundred and fifty paupers, at the lowest computation.”

We are trophies of God’s grace he has purposed to put on display before “principalities and powers in the heavenly places” Eph_3:10 to demonstrate his manifold wisdom.  Workhouse inmates where “the system was in full operation.  It was rather expensive at first, in consequence of the increase in the undertaker’s bill, and the necessity of taking in the clothes of all the paupers, which fluttered loosely on their wasted, shrunken forms, after a week or two’s gruel.” do not make good candidates for trophies.

Instead we are reminded of God’s challenge issued in Mal_3:10 to test the measure of abundance which he is pleased to pour out on faithful children.

The windows of heaven are open

The blessings are falling tonight

There’s joy, joy, joy in my heart

For Jesus made everything right

I gave Him my old tattered garment

He gave me a robe of pure white

I’m feasting on manna from heaven

And that’s why I’m happy tonight.

We must, like Paul, pray for God’s blessing on Christ’s church – that God would grant us peace, increase our love and trust, and bestow great grace upon us.  How will God receive the most praise and glory?  By Christ being magnified in his church, millions more of souls being reconciled to God and added to his church, by him being praised and worshipped by “an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language”.  NET  Rev_7:9

Challenge to read Ephesians through beginning to end.

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