“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Verses 20-21).
These verses are an excellent summary of the teaching of the book of Hebrews and are one of the most complete expressions of the gospel in all of Scripture. In this one sentence, the writer of Hebrews brings together the following themes that he has taught: the peace of God, the perfect sacrifice and blood of Jesus Christ, the New Covenant and its superiority to the Old, obedience to God (which is faith), pleasing God, the mediation of Jesus Christ, and others.
This is such an exquisite and holy sentence, that I want to take time to meditate on each part of it, sampling the flavor of each part and being nourished by the complete spiritual nutrition it has to offer.
“Now may the God of peace . . .” God is a God of peace, and His plan of salvation is to restore us to peace with Him, and therefore to peace with each other and the world. The Hebrews who were the recipients of this letter were experiencing tribulation, and the letter was written to encourage them to faithfulness in the middle of these difficulties. But I, too, am in turmoil, and my life has its own allotted tribulations. Though I know God to be a holy, consuming Fire, He is, for me, also a God of peace.
“who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead . . .” The God of peace has made peace by the death of Jesus Christ for me. His death has paid for my sins, and the result is that I am restored to peace with God and can live in His holy presence, if I come with faith. The God who has offered His Son to bring me peace is a God of love, a love that He has personally shown to me, even though I have sinned against Him.
“that great Shepherd of the sheep . . .” What a superlative mystery – that the One who is the spotless Lamb of God not only died for me but is also My Shepherd. The One Who Is God Himself became a man for me, a sheep like me, except that He is the only sheep who never strayed from His Father’s will. This One Who Is God not only became a sheep but also, as the only spotless and perfect sheep, offered Himself up to be killed as the sacrifice for my sins.
“Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
“through the blood of the everlasting covenant . . .” The Blood of Jesus Christ dripped
and oozed and gushed out of His Body – for me. This Blood from this Lamb in this Sacrifice has taken away my sins and made peace with God. This Blood has initiated a New Covenant between God and man, and it is as superior to the old covenant as a man is to an amoeba. It has created a new heavens and a new earth and has opened Paradise so that man may now truly dwell with God. This New Covenant, which has Jesus Christ as its Sacrifice, Priest, and Temple, is a perfect and everlasting covenant of peace!
“make you complete in every good work to do His will . . .” Through the obedience of the one spotless Lamb of God, and His righteousness, and through His sacrifice, I have been given the grace to also obey. The New Covenant that the Father has made with man is through Jesus Christ, the Righteous, and His obedience is my obedience. But His obedience must become truly mine. I must ask Him for His grace to help me obey, and then I must truly obey. This is the essence of my faith: loving obedience and faithfulness to Him. Let me delight to be about my Father’s business, which is to please Him by obeying Him in all things, which is not only the Greatest Commandment but also the Great Commission.
“working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight . . .” “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” How can I hear these most blessed of words? By seeking that which pleases God. And what pleases God? If I ask Him, He will tell me that what pleases Him is my obedience to Him, which is also my love for Him and faith in Him. How blessed to know that if I am truly united with Jesus Christ and eagerly seek His grace, that He will work in me the very things that will please Him. Being transformed by Him, these are also the very things that please me!
“through Jesus Christ . . .” Jesus Christ is the Mediator of this New Covenant. He is the one through whom I can obey and please God and find peace forevermore in the presence of God. Everything that I do, therefore, must be done for Him and by asking Him to be with me, enabling me to please Him. He is not only my all-sufficient Sacrifice but also my High Priest, who intercedes for me.
“. . . to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Because Jesus Christ has done all of the above (not only verses 20 and 21 but the whole book of Hebrews), because He has made peace with God for me and given me eternal life, my response will be to give Him glory forever and ever, starting right now. But how can I give glory to one who is already all-glorious (as if I didn’t already know, having just read Hebrews 11-13)? By faithfully seeking Him every day and every moment and by faithfully obeying all that He has asked me to do, just as the Son glorified the Father by His perfect obedience. By offering up my sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for what He has done.
Prayer: “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Point for Meditation: Memorize Hebrews 13:20-21 as a way of keeping before you all that God has been telling and commanding you as you’ve heard Him speak through the book of Hebrews.
Resolution: I resolve to meditate more deeply on one part of Hebrews 13:20-21 and respond appropriately with confession of sin and repentance, more perfect obedience, praise, thanksgiving, or petition.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson