“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
The benediction in the Triune name is not a prayer but what Pastor Jeffery Meyers calls “a performative utterance.”
The Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6 is just such a performative utterance. The priest raised his hands and said, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). And then it was added in v. 27, “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Moving all the way forward in time to the last days of our Lord on earth in Luke 24:50 we read, “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” The Lord Jesus performed this ancient priestly action, this performative utterance, for His disciples as His last act before His ascension.
The benediction which you hear each Lord’s Day contains no magical power, but it is the proclamation, by God’s minister, of God’s grace for you, His people. Let’s remember that during the service of worship that we call covenant renewal, the primary movement is not our coming and serving God but God coming and serving us. God is serving us by ministering His grace to us. He is feeding us with the Bread of life. He is meeting with us to bless us. The benediction is the closing pronouncement of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s blessing on His people, preparing them to go out into the world and mediate His grace and His Word and His gospel to the world, to go back to our homes and our communities with His blessing to live as His special people.
“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them” (Num 6:27). This is something that happened, objectively. It took place each time the priests spoke God’s blessing over the people of God. God’s name was placed on the people; they took His name, something they were not to do in vain, and when they took that name in faith, then they were blessed.
And so it is today. This doesn’t mean that the pastor is a priest. There is nothing special about the man. But there is something special about God blessing His people. When you, God’s people who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who are looking to Christ by faith, gather, and when God’s servant stands before you as God’s representative, then something happens. God places His name on His people and blesses them. The name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is indelibly placed on the people of God. With that name on them, they are not the same. They are a peculiar people in the earth.
They have the grace of Jesus Christ resting on them. They have the love of God filling them. They have the communion of the Holy Spirit uniting them. Those are great gifts. Those are realities that shape us into a particular kind of people – a people with a Trinitarian identity, a people with the true God’s blessing for ministry, for the proclamation of the gospel, for lives that adorn the doctrine of God, for lives of truth, beauty and goodness.
Ultimately, we are prepared for the true end of our Christian lives – for being welcomed into the fellowship and love of the Trinity itself.