An Easter Benediction

Friday: Pleasing God: Hebrews 13:20-21

Hebrews 13:20-21 In this week’s lessons, we look at the great benediction toward the end of Hebrews, as we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pleasing God

When it talks about God working in us to do what is pleasing to Him, it seems to me it goes a step beyond that, if that’s possible. Obeying God’s commandments is certainly pleasing to God. But isn’t it possible to go beyond the keeping of God’s law, not in the sense that we can transcend it in any way, but in the sense that we not only do what God requires of us, but ask if there is anything that I can do above and beyond this obedience that might please Him?

For example, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that I have to give more than ten percent of my money. But if you learn of a need, wouldn’t it please God if I were to give above ten percent? Scripture tells me that I’m to be a witness, but it doesn’t tell me where or in what circumstances. Wouldn’t it please God for me, not only to be a witness in a general sense by how I live, but to make a special effort in order to bring the gospel to some particular person? You see, that’s what it’s talking about. It’s talking about a whole attitude of mind. And what it’s saying is that God alone is able to enable us to do that.

The petition asks that God will “work” in us to do what is pleasing to Him. It also asks that God will “equip” us with what we need to do God’s will. That’s the same word that’s used in the fourth chapter of Ephesians as the work of the pastors and teachers in the church. Their task is to equip the people of God for works of service—that is, to do the work of the ministry. Pastors aren’t to do it all. Their task is to equip the people of God to do it. Here in this benediction the request is made of God that He equip us in order to obey Him.

How does God equip us to do His work in the world? It’s through the teaching of the Word of God. Where do you get the power to live as a Christian in such a way that you will actually please Almighty God? It’s from the Bible. That’s where the Holy Spirit works. And furthermore, it’s the Holy Spirit who works through the Bible because the phrase makes it clear that it is God who does the work. It’s exactly the same thing you have in Ephesians: “May God work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure.” From beginning to end, it is all of God.

That brings us to the doxology at the end: “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” How can it be otherwise if it’s all of God? If the plan of salvation is God’s plan, not our plan, if it was devised in the mind of God before the very foundation of the world, the glory has to go to God. If the means of salvation were the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—all of which is utterly beyond any human capacity or even desire—how could it be otherwise than that all praise has to go to God? If our actual partaking of all this is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the understanding to know what it all means and then changes our will so we actually embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior (where, before, we were holding Him at arm’s length), if that’s of God, how could the glory not go to God? And if in the end we get to heaven, not because we’re strong and able to persevere, but because it is God who works in us, equipping us to do His will and His good pleasure, how could glory go to anyone else but God?

Because of this great plan of redemption God has devised in eternity past through the sacrifice of His Son, the Lamb of God, all glory and praise belong to God in the past and now by us in the future. And when you go to the end of the Bible, to the Book of Revelation, you find the people of God praising God in heaven. In chapter 4 we read, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (v. 11).

And then we move to chapter 5, and here the praise is being given to Jesus Christ, the Lamb: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (vv. 9-10). And then it all comes together: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever” (v. 13b). And then what we read in Revelation 5 is that when that great hymn of praise has been uttered, the four living creatures said “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. This is the way the benediction also ends.

The word, “amen,” means, “let it be so,” or “so be it.” It’s used by Jesus Christ at the beginning of statements He wants to emphasize. It’s a way of saying that these truths are very important. Listen to it. In our Bibles today, it’s often translated “truły, truly” or “I tell you the truth.” The King James Version renders it, “verily, verily,” which means, “truly, truly.” It’s actually, “amen, amen.” Jesus would say: “Amen, amen. Listen to this.” And then He’d tell us something that we’d better listen to because it is something very important.

How do we use the word? We don’t put “amen” before what we say because our words aren’t trustworthy. We can’t be sure of what we affirm. Even in our most solemn promises, we don’t say: “Amen, amen. And this is what I’m going to do.” But we listen to God, who can be trusted. And after we hear what He has to say, then we say, “Amen.” Do you think you could do that with this benediction? “May the God of peace who, through the blood of the eternal covenant, brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will. And may He work in us what is pleasing to Him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.”

And all the people of God said: “Amen. Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Amen and amen.”

Study Questions
  1. From today’s lesson, what distinction is made between obeying God’s commandments and doing what is pleasing to Him?
  2. How does God equip us for the work He has for us to do?
  3. What does “amen” mean? Why does Jesus say it at the beginning of one of His statements, while we express it at the end of something we hear?

Application: In what areas do you need to strive to please God better? As you continue to read and study His Word, ask Him to help you grow in grace as you seek to live for Christ.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “The Easter Sermon of Jesus Christ.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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