the pastor stands in the pulpit, extends both arms toward the congregation and proclaims, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:13). With this benediction, the meeting ends and congregants head for the doors, friends, or children.
A benediction, according to one Internet dictionary, is “the utterance or bestowing of a blessing, especially at the end of a religious service.” It’s not a prayer which, according to the Westminster Catechism, is : “an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” (A profound, delightful prayer-definition!)
Two significant differences emerge between benediction and prayer. A prayer is spoken to God; a benediction is spoken to people. A prayer asks God to bless (or thanks him for blessing); a benedictor imparts a blessing to others.
The question is, “Do benedictions work?” For instance, using the above benediction from 2 Corinthians, does Jesus somehow mediate grace, God mediate love, and the Holy Spirit mediate his presence to people as they leave the meeting? If benedictions don’t work, they’re just spiritual-sounding words that put a neat “The End” on a worship service.
Here’s a list of some benedictions found in the Bible . . .
Rom. 15:5-6 – May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom. 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
2 Cor. 13:11 – Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Cor. 13:13 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Gal. 6:18 – The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Eph. 3:17-19 – (May) Christ dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Eph. 3:20-21 – 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.
Eph. 6:23-24 – Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
Col. 3:16-17 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
15. 1 Thess. 3:12,13–May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Th. 5:23-24 – 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.
2 Th. 2:16-17 – Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Philem. 25 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Jude 24-25 – 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 Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Rev. 1:5b-6 – To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Rev. 5:12, 13 – Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
Rev. 7:12 – Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
Rev. 22:20-21 – He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Thankfully we’re not saved by knowing the differences between benedictions and prayers! In reality, they both in some way appeal to God. But for the remainder of this blog, let’s focus on benedictions.
Do they work? In my view, yes. Though I confess, I’ve never seen any visible consequences. Still, they convey the blessings spoken, because they are God’s words. “[The] word that goes out from my mouth . . . will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Though contextually this refers to prophetic words, most assuredly it applies to all the words God has “spoken.” So, yes, grace, love and the Spirit’s presence are mediated through the 2 Corinthians 13:13 benediction.
But how? How can a human’s word actually convey blessings from God to others? (The question has a practical application we’ll reach momentarily.) By the pastor speaking them in faith, believing they are God’s words. And by the hearers receiving them by faith as God’s words. In other words, the benediction, which we sometimes “hear” with as much interest as reading a movie’s scroll of contributors can be a holy moment for us.
As I see it, the same would be true for a benediction created by the pastor to fit the theme of his sermon or the service, as long as his creation coincides with Scripture.
A pastor giving a benediction in faith and congregants receiving it in faith is a practical application. Here’s one more. How about making a practice of blessing our children with benedictions? We could do it over them as they sleep, or, better, creating a holy moment while they’re awake. I regret I never did that with our children. But what good might be accomplished in them if they heard us again and again speaking the very blessings over them we long for them to enjoy?
In conclusion (as pastors are wont to say), here’s a benediction I pray God will bless us all with . . .
“Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need for doing his will.
May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen”
(Hebrews 13:20,21, NLT).