"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21) Some translations add the word "may" i.e., may the God of peace, but the original Greek does not as seen here in the KJV as well as the NASB. So the idea is that the God of peace is working in us to sanctify us and equip us to do his will, to be pleasing to Him and ultimately to bring glory to Jesus Christ through Whom God saves, sanctifies and ultimately glorifies us.
We all struggle with seeking man's approval more than God's approval. We let the words of people define us and direct us. So, we all need a voice outside ourselves from Someone Who knows us perfectly, loves us perfectly, and speaks the perfect word – words of love and truth. God and His Word do this. We should let His Word define us, direct us and delight us and not the words of people.
These words here are not merely a way the author is closing his letter (like, sincerely yours, etc.) but are words of truth and love spoken to us as God's children. God knows us perfectly, unlike a doting mother or hyper-critical father. He speaks of the blood of His Son caused by our rebellion and sin. And yet He assures us that we are eternally forgiven because Jesus' resurrection proved His sacrifice was sufficient to satisfy God's perfect justice. So He speaks truthfully about our sin but He also speaks in love and assures us He is at work for our highest spiritual and eternal good and that we will be with Him forever because of "the everlasting covenant."
W. H. Griffith Thomas sums up this prayer so well: 1) Life's Greatest Purpose: "To do His will." 2) Life's Greatest Need: "Make you perfect (sanctification) in every good work." (Gr. katartizÃ…Â – to render, i.e., to fit, sound, complete; a) to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair; 1) to complete; b) to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust; 1) to fit or frame for one's self, prepare; c) ethically: to strengthen, perfect, complete, make one what he ought to be). 3) Life's Greatest Profession: "Working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight." We may be sure that the work God does in this way will be pleasing to Him. (There is a mysterious but clear Divine/human collaboration in sanctification (see Phil. 2:12-13). 4) Life's Glorious Assurance: "The God of peace." Ã¯Â»Â¿["OTÃ¯Â»Â¿ saints never had perfect peace of conscience. But under the New Covenant, we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and the peace of God (Phil. 4:7). The verse goes on to explain that this peace is the fruit of Christ's work. God raised our Lord Jesus as a sign that His work on the cross settled the sin question once for all." MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995] 5) Life's Ample Guarantee: "Who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant." God, Who brought Jesus from the dead, is able to bring us from the dead. Here Jesus is called the great shepherd (that rose from the dead); other places He is called the good shepherd (Who died for our sins – John 10:14) and the chief shepherd (Who is coming to reward His servants – 1 Peter 5:4. (Also see Psalm 22, 23, & 24 showing the Lord as our shepherd.) 6) Life's Simple Secret: "Through Jesus Christ." "Through Him (Jesus) we have access to God" (Eph. 2:18) and thus have "everything we need for life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). 7) Life's Complete Realization: "To Whom be glory forever and ever." Our salvation, sanctification and glorification all redound to His glory and will for all eternity.
"Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God." (2 Cor. 3:4-5) "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." (2 Cor. 9:8) Like the author's benediction these verses build our confidence in God's love for us and His power within us for the good work He calls us to do for Him. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matt. 16:24) "Your cross is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to "make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever." (Charles Spurgeon on Hebrews 13:20-21) This does not mean we choose suffering for the sake of suffering (asceticism) but we choose to obey the Lord's callings even if it means suffering.
"But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. Grace be with you all." (Hebrews 13:22-25)
These closing words also have significant meaning and application for the believers of that time and us today. Some were drifting, dulling and hardening and the author of Hebrews urges them to do three things to bring stability to their walk with the Lord. 1) Engage with the truth; 2) Be relationally connected to the body of Christ; and 3) Spread the Word of the gospel.
1) Engage with the truth – The word "bear with this word of exhortation" has the idea of laying down our preconceived beliefs (forbear) and listen to what God is saying through His Word with an intent to learn and obey. Sometimes Jesus would say, "Think not" (lay down your preconceived ideas) and then say what He wanted people to hear. So the author is saying engage with the truth; taste the truth (Heb 6:5) don't just lick it. He is probably referring in particular to his exhortation to leave ritualistic Judaism once and for all and press on with Jesus which is the key message in this epistle.
2) Be relationally connected to the body of Christ – Listen to the words that speak of these close relationships in just 4 verses: "brethren (all believers); brother Timothy; with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you"; this speaks of his affection for Timothy and his desire for both of them to be with them. "Greet all your leaders and all the saints"; this would be a good thing for us to do when we gather here or at our churches. "Those from Italy greet you." Even the Gentile believers in Rome are sending greetings to these Jewish believers in Israel. "Grace (of God) be with you all." This too shows affection and a desire to bless them. And this is a personal letter not an impersonal document. Their example as believers should inspire us to be relationally connected to our communities of faith and now we have even more ways to do that with those separated from us by distance – airplanes, cars, phones, e-mails, and much more.
3) Spread the Word of the gospel – "Those from Italy greet you." Again this shows cross-cultural connections between Jewish and Roman believers just thirty years after Jesus died. So we are to be sharing the gospel at home and abroad relationally and naturally because we want others to know Jesus.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. What is your main take away from the message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life?
2. We should let God's Word define us, direct us and delight us and not the words of people. How can we make sure we are doing this?
3. What do you want God to "work" in you in particular so that you may be well pleasing to Him? Do you ask Him for this regularly and with great desire? Why or why not?
4. "Your cross is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to "make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever." (Charles Spurgeon on Hebrews 13:20-21) This does not mean we choose suffering for the sake of suffering (asceticism) but we choose to obey the Lord's callings even if it means suffering. Where has God called you to "cross bearing" in the past and where may He be calling you now?
5. Engage with the truth – The word "bear with this word of exhortation" has the idea of laying down our preconceived beliefs (forbear) and listen to what God is saying through His Word with an intent to learn and obey. Do you feel this is the way you listen to God's Word when you read the Bible, listen to a sermon, or when you're exposed to God's Word in other ways? Discuss your answer.
6. Be relationally connected to the body of Christ – Do you feel you are close to the people in your community of faith? What are some possible reasons that the believers at that time may have felt closer to their brothers and sisters in Christ than we might feel about our brothers and sisters in Christ today?
7. Spread the Word of the gospel – Do you find yourself naturally engaging people with the gospel (or easily speaking about Jesus)? Discuss your answer.