Yesterday, I preached the Benediction in Hebrews 13:20-21. In my studies I spent a bit of time unpacking the distinctions between Benediction and Doxology. In the course, I came across a very succinct view from Ligon Duncan clarifying that Benediction goes from God to us (blessing and equipping) and Doxology goes from us to God (glory and praise). I like this. As it germinated a bit, I determined that Benediction should / must always produce Doxology. Every gift from God for us if ultimately for Himself.
I grew up in a church setting that seemed to value God and doctrine, but really only if there appeared to be error. Every other ounce of energy was spent in outreach. While we need to be pressed to live out our lives proclaiming the Good News to the lost, we should not divorce this from a right understanding of what we truly believe and why we believe. Ultimately, it is quite easy for us to drift into theological morass because we have ceased being distinct and generally assumed doctrines to be formed and secured in the heart and mind of the church.
This is why we firmly state in our Passion that “Glorifying God” is the beginning and end of all we do as believers. We “Treasure Christ” because it is what gives God most glory and moves us to glorify God in the must practical realms (work, relationships, finances, etc). “Reaching others” is then the natural outflow of this glorifying and treasuring because to be enraptured by the glory of God in the face of Christ means we will (and want) to spread that joy to others, ultimately producing God-glorifiers.
So, for the believer it is critical that we understand, first of all, the benediction and doxology of conversion. That is seen so beautifully in Ephesians 1:3-14. As you read it, you will see a beautiful cadence of triune God’s sovereign act of saving us and at each point it yielding “praise to the glory of His grace.”
From there, to understand resolutely that everything we are given as believers comes from the One who has given us eternal life. James 1:12-18 clarifies this point and pushes us to associate trials as blessings because of the faith in the Giver of gifts that is being developed in us. This gets gritty. The language isn’t near as glorious as Ephesians 1, but it is Ephesians 1 stuff with skin on, and skinned knees to boot.
2 Peter 1:3-4 also makes this point. We see Peter, at the end of his life, charge the reader to a pattern of living that will sustain them long after he is gone, and it will produce in them God-glorifying living (vv.10-15). However, before he charges them with a life filled with great effort, he reminds them of all that God has done to bless them in salvation, fraught with promises of deliverance and eternal life. In this, we see that God is faithful to give us Himself (benediction) so that we are equipped to give every effort to live lives of praise (doxology).
Now, we come back to Hebrews 13:20-21. Yesterday, I pointed out that there is an immediacy to what is available to us. Essentially, all that we need (as believers) to live lives that glorify our Great Shepherd, is available right here, right now because Christ is ever-present and we have already received the unshakable kingdom (Hebrews 12:28-29). We need to reckon that while we may hope for something else to occur to provoke our passion for Christ, all that we need is available, sufficiently revealed in His Word. Christ, the glorious One, the Great Shepherd, is fully revealed in the Great Text. We then reckon that Jesus, Himself, is quite enough…satisfying. See, He gives us Himself in this life so that in this life He becomes all that we desire for eternal life.
Doesn’t this change what we perceive as blessing and equipping from God? He will bless us and equip us with everything we need to hold more tightly to the unshakable Kingdom, and that is NOT this world. He rules the Kingdom. Our gracious God is WHO we want, and His Kingdom Come is WHAT we want to see.