The Glory of the Benediction
It is a reminder to God’s people at the very start of the week – before they have accomplished a single thing that week – that in Christ, God’s disposition toward them is one of blessing, grace, peace, and love. God’s benediction (blessing) is not something we earn by performing satisfactorily or being good enough over the past week. God’s blessing is – like everything else in the gospel – a gift of His free grace to fill His empty people.
When I was younger and growing up in a Lutheran congregation, I knew the worship service was almost over when the congregation sang a scripture song (canticle) that began: “Thank the Lord and sing His praise…” following the communion.
On one occasion of singing this song, I remember leaning over to my dad and saying, “Yep, thank the Lord this is almost over!” He was less than pleased by my comment.
As a young child, I was excited about the end of the worship service because it meant an end to sitting still and the beginning of running around, being silly, and — of course — lunch!
But now as an adult and a minister in a Reformed Church, I still look forward to the end of the worship service and particularly the final element: the Benediction.
The Structure of Reformed Worship
There is a logic to a Reformed worship service. It begins with God calling the people to worship Him. We don’t come into God’s presence except by His command and invitation.
Following the “Call to Worship” are various elements that exalt God before us as we renew our covenant with Him and praise Him for who He is and what He has done for us.
The worship service ends with the “Benediction.”
The Blessing of God
The word benediction simply means good word; it is a blessing. Benedictions appear in most of the letters of the New Testament (the Epistle of James, notably, concludes without one).
Typically the benediction in a worship service is taken directly from a passage of Scripture.
Sometimes the object of blessing is God:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24–25)
But more often the object of blessing is the people of God:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)
Sometimes a benediction is a compilation of Biblical texts as in the case of this onecommonly used by Ligon Duncan:
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ until the day breathes and the shadows flee away. Amen. (cf. Eph 6:23, Cant. 2:17)