BenedIctIon of peace
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 . . . Hebrews 13:20
This benediction tells how God has become a God of peace to us rather than a God of wrath. It has three parts.
1. The blood of the eternal covenant. This refers to the death of Jesus by which our Lord by his death on the cross fulfilled the terms of a covenant made between God the Father and himself before the creation of the world, and then received the promise of the covenant, which was to have a great company of people for his own, that is, the church.
This covenant is eternal—established in eternity past, before you or I or the world or any other part of the created order came into being and will endure forever. It is also important because of the parties involved. In the case of this “eternal covenant,” the parties are the persons of the Godhead. God the Father covenants to give to his Son a people who will be the objects of the Father’s love and whom he will forgive of sin. The Holy Spirit covenants that he will regenerate all those whom the Father gives to the Son and will cleanse them of unrighteousness. The Son covenants that he will make atonement for the sins of his people, will intercede for them, and bring them safely to the Father.
2. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The second work of God that is mentioned is God’s raising Jesus Christ from the dead. It is part of the covenant, since the Father committed himself to do this even before the incarnation. But it is more. It is a demonstration and proof of the great power of God, which has worked not merely to bring Jesus back from the dead, but also to save us from the penalty of our sins, keep us from sin, and lead us into an abundant and fruitful Christian life. It is an encouragement to us as we try to serve God and do good works.
3. The Shepherd work of Christ. Jesus is referred to as a Shepherd in three separate passages. In John 10:11 Jesus is called “the good shepherd” because he “lays down his life for the sheep.” In 1 Peter 5:4 Jesus is called “the chief Shepherd” to whom the elders of the church must give account. Here Jesus is called “the great Shepherd” because he has triumphed over death and now lives to guide, nourish, and protect the flock that the Father has given him.
When we put these descriptive phrases together we are assured that God, who brought back Jesus Christ from the dead, is able and most certainly will save us from all our sin and take us to heaven to be with him forever.