Why a Trinitarian Benediction? — 2 Corinthians 13:14

Reverend Anthony R. Locke May 30th, 2010 (Trinity Sunday) at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker 2 Corinthians 13:14 English Standard Version

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit    be with you all.

The Trinity is one of those distinctively Christian doctrines that separate us from other faith groups in the world. The early church tried to give a synopsis of this teaching with short Triads of Trinitarian Truth.

I’ll share one of these very early Triads of Trinitarian Truth with you.

  1. The Father is God, but He is not the Son and is not the Holy Spirit
  2. The Son is God, but He is not the Father or the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Spirit is God, but He is not the Father or the Son.

The doctrine of Trinity is not explained in Romans or hidden in some secret chapter in Hezekiah, but it is the way the Bible reveals God. The whole Bible teaches Trinity.

The word TRINITY is a theological construct. We invent the word to explain a biblical phenomenon, to encapsulate in a word something unique that the Bible teaches.

There is no doubt that the Bible teaches Trinity.

  1. The Bible identifies the Father as God.
    • in such passages like Ephesians 6:23, Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • This is more than just saying that God is like a father or that He is fatherly. Rather, there is a person who chooses to reveal Himself as THE Father and this person is Deity in the ultimate sense.
    • There are many verses like this which identify the Father as God.
    • The Bible identifies the Son as God.
      1. John opened his gospel with a powerful affirmation of Christ’s deity.  John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
        • i.      The only religious group in the world that describes that verse as anything less than the fullness of deity in the ultimate sense is the Mormon Church.
        • ii.      Historically they have been labeled a cult for this reason alone.
      2. The former skeptic Thomas cried out in John 20 when he saw the resurrected Christ, “My Lord and my God! Jesus did not correct Thomas for Jesus Himself had said numerous times that He was equal with the Father.
      3. Romans 9:5 labels Jesus as God blessed forever.
      4. Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 refer to the one person Jesus as our God and Savior.
      5. The deity of Jesus is further proven by the words of God the Father Himself. God the Father refers to Jesus in Hebrews 1:8 in this way, Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.
    • The Bible identifies the Holy Spirit as God.
      1. In Acts 5:3 Peter asked Ananias, Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? In the next verse Peter says, You have not lied to men but to God.

The Trinity can be summarized in a simple syllogism: The Bible teaches there is only one God. Yet it calls three persons God. Therefore, the three persons are the one God.

As the Great Shema declares in Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And this one God has revealed Himself as three distinct persons.

That’s Trinity.

Fortunately for us, God doesn’t ask us to fully understand Him, rather we are called to faith in all that this inerrant Bible teaches about God.

2 Corinthians 13:14 teaches that this Triune God has agreed to bless us.

  • The love of the Father caused Him to plan redemption for His chosen people.
  • The grace of Jesus Christ purchases and opens the door for God’s love plan.
  • The fellowship of the Holy Spirit perfumes this journey of ours with joy and beauty.

Our passage is more than just a clever way to end the service. It is a Trinitarian Benediction upon the family of God.

The word benediction comes from two Latin words bene and dictus. Bene means good and dictus means to speak. Our word Dictate is the same root as dictus. So in a benediction God is speaking goodness to us.

Let’s not ride too quickly over that. The holy, holy, holy God with all wisdom and all power and all glory is speaking words of comfort, peace, compassion, hope and goodness to us. That’s why in most denominations only an ordained minister is given permission to utter a benediction within the worship service. Almost on the level of a sacrament, the ordained minister repeats the glorious good words of God’s favor upon His people.

This is nothing like speaking good words to your friend. Last week I was on the phone with a friend and communicated my appreciation. I shared how impressed I was with their growth in godliness and self-control when confronted with offensive remarks. I spoke good of them.

But God speaks more than just good about us, He speaks goodness to us. In the benediction God isn’t highlighting our noble qualities. God is declaring His good purposes toward us.

Like when God blessed Adam and Eve. God spoke words of goodness to them. God blessed them with food, companionship and innocence. God gave them more than they needed and then He gave the ultimate gift, a daily walk of fellowship with the God of the creation. God gave Himself.

According to John Calvin, the blessing which God gives in the benediction is Himself. Calvin says, that “In giving us his name, he brings us into his care and gives us a share in the household of faith. When we receive the benediction in faith, God brings us into his presence and there, in his presence, we know that we are at peace with him.”

When God speaks words of goodness He always includes Himself as the greatest gift. This is beautifully illustrated in the benediction God commanded the priests to speak to Israel in the Old Testament in Numbers 6:22-27. Turn to that passage if you have your Bibles.

Numbers 6:22-27 says, The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

God tells Moses to tell Aaron who was then to tell the rest of the priesthood to speak specific words to God’s chosen people. It is God’s opinion that in this sacred part of our worship that the HOLY NAME of Jehovah is inscribed upon the assembled people and the blessing of God only comes to people thus identified.

This is very strange to us, but it is God’s revealed will for our worship. The benediction is a divinely appointed mark that then invokes a divine blessing.

Baptism is a mark or seal that solicits the divine blessing for a person. When we receive the benediction in worship, God marks us congregationally for His blessing.

A benediction wasn’t only for the Old Testament saints.  Galatians 3:14, 29 that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

We receive the goodness of God when we place our faith in the promised Messiah. We become the children of Abraham. The benediction of Numbers 6 is for New Testament believers too. The ancient church after Christ’s ascension understood this and used the Aaronic blessing almost exclusively to end their worship services. The Reformers during the sixteenth century also used the Aaronic benediction with great frequency. These words of God’s goodness are even for us today.

The benediction isn’t a prayer by the minister for the congregation. A benediction is a public bestowing of the covenantal blessings that God gives to His people. This also explains why ministers lift their hands toward heaven. Aaron gave the blessing of God with his hands lifted in Lev 9 and Jesus gave the blessing of God with his hands lifted in Luke 24.

There are many benediction is the scriptures. Some are listed for us in our Hymnal on the inside of the back cover. (Read a few of those)

Our passage out of 2 Corinthians 13:14 is listed second. It is the only Trinitarian benediction in the scripture. This is especially meaningful to the New Testament church for Jesus commanded in the Great Commission to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Great Commission and the Benediction are Trinitarian.

In this Pauline Apostolic Trinitarian Benediction each member of the Trinity utters good words to us. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

If we had more time in our worship we could listen to mini-sermons on the grace of Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. But let’s leave those topics for a later time and look instead at the context of this benediction.

Look at the context of the chapter. 2 Corinthians 13. Paul writes,

1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. 7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Sometimes we come to church and the message isn’t sweet. Sometimes the minister thunders words of rebuke and chastisement upon God’s people. Paul did. And this message certainly shook the foundations of faith in the hearts of the listeners. Paul exhorted them to make sure they were really saved. In the previous thirteen chapters of 2 Corinthians Paul intentionally shook their assurance of salvation.

The context of this Trinitarian benediction is in the context of spiritual doubt. Paul forced the people to ask, “Am I apart of the family of God? Have we offended His love? Have we sinned greater than the grace that is available in Jesus? Have we broken beyond repair the sweet church fellowship that is available in the Spirit?

The answer comes back an absolute NO! These words of assurance come from the Triune God. His blessing comes with His name and the benediction provides a weekly renewal of that mark.

No one here can make God stop loving you. No one here can burn up the grace available in Jesus. No one can permanently remove peace and unity. These blessings are all safeguarded by the will and work of the three persons of the One living and true God.

The benediction is your reminder of this. In the worst times of our spiritual struggles the good words of the Triune God are victoriously declared to our hearts and souls. When we by faith receive this benediction we receive God Himself.

These three promises from God are the foundation of the whole scriptural message of salvation. His love, His grace, and His fellowship were promised to Israel in the beginning. Exodus 6:7 says, I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

God’s good words. God’s utterance of His favor. The Triune God speaks covenantal promises in the benediction as a reminder that God is for us. And if He is for us, who can be against us?

Thanks be to God.

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