May the God of Peace

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb. 13:20).

- Hebrews 13:20

Many of the New Testament writings are letters addressed to specific audiences and for specific purposes. Though the contents of these letters are inspired by God, the authors often borrowed the structural layout of their writings from the styles current at the time. As such, we often find many similarities in format among New Testament letters and their secular Greek counterparts.

As we come to the end of the book of Hebrews, we can see how this is the case. Verses 20–25 of chapter 13 include closing remarks and greetings offered to the original audience from the author; it was customary for letters written during that time period to conclude in this manner. However, though we can discern similarities between inspired letters and their secular counterparts, today’s passage begins a section commonly included only in Christian letters: a benediction.

Having instructed, chastised, and exhorted his readers, the author of Hebrews now declares a blessing upon them. This written blessing helps to illumine the background of the writer. Benedictions were common in Judaism, and the fact that the author includes one here adds evidence to the notion that he was of Jewish heritage and was well-versed in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Moreover, this benediction accomplishes more than just pronouncing a blessing. In emphasizing Christ as Shepherd, the author suggests that his warnings were not meant to imply that salvation can be lost. Rather, he is convinced, just like the other biblical writers, that God’s people will persevere to the end. On this point, John Owen writes, this benediction “includes the whole office of Christ as king, priest, and prophet of the church. For as shepherd he feeds, that is rules and instructs us. As the shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11), this refers to his priestly office and the atonement he made for his church by his blood. All the elect are committed to him by God, like a sheep to a shepherd to be redeemed, preserved, saved, through virtue of his office. This relationship between Christ and the church is often mentioned in the Scripture with the security and consolation that depend on it. We are taught here that he died as part of his work, as the great Shepherd of the sheep, which shows the excellency of his love and the certainty of salvation of the elect.”

Coram Deo

God has chosen for Himself one flock and has appointed the Shepherd to guard over it. The power and worthiness of Jesus guarantees that not one of His sheep shall ever be snatched from His hand. Spend some time in prayer today meditating on the grace and power of your Shepherd, thanking Him for protecting you from evil.

Passages for Further Study

Ps. 23
Isa. 40:9–11
Ezek. 34:11–16
John 10:11–15

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