Reverend, Dr. Philip Lee's sermon from Lord’s Day Service on August 4, 2019
The final order, the benediction
When we worship, there are many orders in the worship service and the final order is the benediction, which is the most important. However, many people think lightly of the benediction and leave before the benediction is given. Certainly, there are situations in which worshipers have to leave early before the benediction. However, we are all encouraged to remain and not miss out on the benediction but surely receive it. 1517 is the year of the religious reform by Martin Luther when millions separated from the Catholic Church, forming a religion called the Protestants. Thus, Christians today are called the “Protestants,” a new religion. After the religious reforms, Luther emphasized the importance of the benediction and worship order. In the Lutheran Church, when the services ended, the benediction was given according to Numbers 6:24-26. Likewise, in England, the Anglican Church ended services with the benediction according to Philippians 4:7 and added the expression, “And the Blessings of the Almighty God.” Most of the Protestant churches today use today’s main text (2 Corinthians 13:13-14) as the benediction. Thus, today we need to examine the importance of the benediction and the essential meaning of what the benediction is.
The Proclamation of God’s Blessing
The benediction began in the Old Testament where God commanded the priests to bless the Israelites (Num 6:24-26). Hence, the priest will bless the Israelites based on this command from God, which is the benediction on the Old Testament time. We can gain several lessons from this benediction. First, when the priests blessed the people, that blessing will come upon the people accordingly (Num 6:27). For this reason, the Israelites never looked down on the priests or treated them lightly because they understood that whatever blessing that priest gave upon the family, that blessing will come upon them according to the Word of God. This shows and teaches us that the priests are the channels of blessings (Gen 12:23). God said to Abraham, “You will become a blessing” (Gen 12:3). Therefore, when people are good to Abraham, blessings would come to them. But if they cursed Abraham, then those curses will fall upon them. When a pastor gives a final benediction they must proclaim; “Let there be” for they are not asking, but they are proclaiming on behalf of God. Therefore, when we receive the benediction, we must receive it believing that God Himself is blessing us. And when we receive it in faith, those blessings will come upon us just as we believed. Secondly, God’s proclamation will be fulfilled just as spoken and bear much fruit (Isa 55:10-11; Josh 23:14; Matt 5:18). Thus, the benediction is not a prayer from a pastor given on behalf of the people, but a proclamation from God’s side with power and authority. So from this day onward, no matter what happens, let us not miss out on the benediction but receive the benediction.
The benediction is a channel to receive the blessings of the triune God
The triune God is the most difficult mystery in Christianity. God, in essence, is one and His true entity is one God. This one God has three positions as Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three positions are not referring to three different Gods but one God. Thus, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit co-exist from eternity to eternity. Secondly, the benediction has the triune God’s presence and most of the Bible witnesses each position of the triune God. Therefore, it is very difficult to find the workings of the all triune God at the same time. But there are places where the triune God is present all at once. When Jesus went to the River Jordan to receive baptism, the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus like a dove and a voice from heaven proclaimed; “This is My beloved son” (Matt 3:16-17). In this scene, we see Jesus, the son God, the Holy Spirit that came down like a dove, and the voice from heaven saying; “This is My beloved son” is the voice of the Father God. Thus, when Jesus was baptized the triune God was present all at once. So, in the baptism, the triune God is present and the benediction is the grace of the triune God and the scene at which the triune God is manifested all at once where all the blessings are poured upon us at once. Truly, the benediction is the greatest blessing that mankind can receive.
Benediction is a time when God swears the blessings by an oath
In a protestant service, the pastor will lift up both hands to give the benediction to symbolize that blessings come down from heaven to the earth (James 1:17). The blessings are not given by man; God gives the blessings and we are the ones who receive the blessings (Prov 10:22). Aaron lifted up both of his hands to bless the Israelites (Lev 9:22). Jesus, before He ascended lifted up both of His hands and blessed His disciples (Luke 24:50). Therefore, when we receive the benediction today, please believe that the blessings are poured down upon us from above. Secondly, the lifting up of both hands is an expression of an oath that the blessings will surely come. Here, God is swearing that the blessings will surely come by His oath. When God makes an oath, He will surely make it come true. When Abraham made an oath to God, he swore by lifting up his hands (Gen 14:22). Secondly, when God promised to give Canaan to the Israelites, Abraham also lifted up his hands (Neh 9:15). Thirdly, in Daniel’s vision, the one at the river lifted up his hands and referred to God as one who lives forever (Dan 12:7). Therefore, when two hands are lifted up to bless, God is swearing that those blessings will surely come true. Thus, we must receive the benediction with all of our hearts by faith (1 John 5:4-5). And when we trust in God, we are blessed (Psa 84:12).
Conclusion: Benediction is receiving blessings continually. Therefore, the more benedictions we receive, the better it will be. The expression “be with you all” in our main scripture text (2 Cor 13:14) does not mean that the benediction or blessings are with the people just for that time. The benediction proclaims those blessings will be with the people continually. This expression “be with you all” occurs often throughout the Bible (1 Cor 16:24; 2 Thes 3:18; Eph 6:24; Titus 3:15; Heb 13:25; Rev 22:21). Thus, when we accept the benediction by faith, that blessing will continue to flow upon us. Therefore, let us stay for the benediction. The Apostle Paul ended his epistle to the church of Corinthians that had the most problems with the benediction. Likewise, let us receive the benediction by faith so that all of our problems will be solved.