At Harbins Community Baptist Church, we’ve closed our corporate worship service in varying ways. Sometimes we’ve asked a member of the congregation to close us in prayer. Sometimes a pastor closes in prayer. Other times an elder has shared a brief encouraging verse from Scripture, very often related to the sermon that was just preached. Still other times we’ve closed in prayer and said grace in preparation for a potluck!
There’s nothing wrong with any of these ways of closing a service, but in 2016, Pastor Steve and I have settled on one particular way we’d like to end our services that we hope will be an encouragement to you as you depart from public worship and go back out into the world as Christ’s representative. We’d like to close our corporate worship with a Benediction from one of the elders.
The word “Benediction” comes from a Latin word that simply means “blessing” or “good word.” Bryan Chapell, in his book, “Christ-Centered Worship”, gives a helpful explanation of what a Benediction is.
A Benediction (or Blessing) is the common close of a worship service. With these words the covenant people are reminded of the promise they have heard in worship so that they go into the world to do God’s will with confidence in his promised care and enabling. As the final aspect of gospel-oriented worship, the Benediction is not merely a “closing” but rather is integral to the “sending” now appropriate for a forgiven, instructed, and blessed people… The Benediction is not simply a conclusion but is also a reminder to God’s people that they start this new week with assurance of his Blessing. God will provide for them to accomplish all that he calls them to do.
Giving a Benediction is one of the oldest practices in biblical worship. Indeed, the Benediction was considered a high point in Jewish worship. After the sacrifice was made the high priest would raise his hands in blessing and pronounce the Aaronic blessing from Numbers chapter 6,
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you his peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
Benedictions continue into the New Testament and are found throughout the epistles. Here is a wonderful one from the apostle Paul to the churches of Thessalonica.
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. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
In the worship of the ancient church there appears to have been some sort of Benediction given at the end of the service. It seems, however, that this practice gradually became lost but was recovered by the Reformers. One of the earliest evidences of the use of the Aaronic Benediction in Reformed Worship can be traced back to the John Calvin’s Genevan Psalter of 1542. Martin Luther is also seen as heavily influencing churches to include this Benediction into worship services. Gradually, over time, other scriptural Benedictions were introduced into the liturgy of Reformed churches, including what has become known as the Apostolic Benediction.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
The Puritan John Owen, describing Benedictions, said, “As to the nature of it, blessings in general are the means of communicating good things…”
At Harbins Church, Pastor Steve and I will be closing our services this year by communicating “good things”, by communicating the glorious promises and assurances of God’s love, kindness, and empowerment of His people. The church, on Sunday, gathers to worship, and then we scatter to do God’s work in the world. But as we scatter, let us have confidence that God’s blessing goes with us, that His grace and peace will be with us wherever we go Monday-Saturday, until we come together on Sunday to corporately worship once again.
Most of the Benedictions will be quotes from a single passage of Scripture, some will combine several different scriptures, a few may combine scriptural promises with words from solid, Bible based hymns, a couple may, while not being direct Bible quotes, be biblically informed words of blessing and encouragement, such as the wonderful “Breastplate” prayer of St. Patrick. All of the Benedictions will be rooted in the rock solid promises of God and everything that is available through the gospel and through our union with Jesus Christ.
I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday. Until then,
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Grace and Peace,