(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)


     It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God. The title for the message is: “That Great Shepherd.”   And our key text is in the New Testament book of Hebrews chapter 13 verses 20 through 21. Please listen to the Word of God.  “Now 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. Amen.”

     At the end of the Hebrews letter of the Bible, we can read one of the very finest benedictions in all the Bible. ‘Benediction’ means simply a blessing or the act of blessing.  An invocation of divine blessing is sometimes at the end of a religious service. Our text (Hebrews chapter 13 verses 20 through 21) was written as a blessing at the end toward the hearers and readers of this inspired letter, this epistle, which, of course, can include all of us today.

     This benediction includes both important doctrine and practical application for all Christians to know and practice. It is a prime example of how God’s grace can be invoked in mutual blessing and prayer.

     This benediction gathers together fittingly many of the major themes of the Hebrews letter namely: peace, through the blood, the eternal covenant, the resurrection of Jesus, the Great Shepherd, spiritual maturity and God’s work in the believer.  All of that is incorporated in this brief but beautiful benediction that we may read over too quickly and miss out on the richness of its truth.

     Let’s closely examine our text to learn and personally apply together the key words and phrases.  Hebrews chapter 13 verse 20 refers to the “peace of God.” Everybody desires, or almost everybody desires some form of peace, especially inner peace.  However, you should know dear listener, only the Living God is the source of lasting inner peace. The Peace of God for the believer.

     Ephesians chapter 2 verse 14 reveals “For he himself is our peace. “That is God in us by His Spirit. Yet His peace needs to be accepted by continually trusting Him no matter the outward circumstances. We have this reality promised in Philippians chapter 4 verse 7 “And the peace of God, which transcends (or goes beyond) all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

     Now you should also understand that before we can have the peace of God as a believer in our sanctification as we live our daily lives, we first must have peace with God at our conversion, at our salvation, as we become believers, as we become born-again baptized believers. We need peace with God because before we receive Christ, we are outside of Christ we are alien sinners. We need to be forgiven, we need to have faith, we need to be baptized into Christ Jesus so that we can become children, sons, and daughters of God, by the blood of Christ through saving faith. Then we have peace with God then as believers we need the peace of God. From salvation to the process of sanctification in our daily lives. And we should understand that God’s peace is radically different from the world’s peace. True peace is not just about positive thinking, nor avoiding conflict nor good feelings. The peace of God is faith in knowing that He is always in control. We need to yield ourselves to God’s peace that can guard us against anxiety in all that is against God.

     Next in Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 20 “Who through the blood;” when the Bible speaks of the blood of Jesus the Christ it refers to His death.  Comprehensibly we should know that our salvation could not be accomplished by the mere bleeding of Christ. It took His death to accomplish the Father’s will of His Son’s perfect atoning sacrifice.

     Also, it states it was “the blood of the eternal covenant.”  This must refer, in the overall context of the Hebrews letter, to the New Covenant, which is eternal, in a future sense as compared to the Mosaic Covenant that was temporary and has been made obsolete. The Hebrews writer wrote in Hebrews chapter 9 verse 15 “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

     Next let’s consider Hebrews chapter 13 verse 20 where it states, “Brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus.”  This of course refers to His resurrection out from amongst the dead. We should understand that the death of Christ did not merely precede His resurrection it was literally the price that was required by the Father to turn away the wrath of God towards sin.  Note the entire phrase: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus…”  Therefore, Jesus was resurrected not just after the blood-shedding, but by the blood-shedding. What the death of Christ accomplished was so full, so perfect, that the resurrection was the reward of the ransom paid in full, once and for all. And it was the vindication, the validation of Christ’s achievement in His atoning death.

     Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 20 ends with “that great Shepherd of the sheep.”  As the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ died for sheep, John chapter 10 and verse 11. As the Great Shepherd, He lives for the sheep in heaven now, interceding on behalf of His Church of His own.
Jesus Christ as the Chief Shepherd, will come again for his sheep (First Peter chapter 5 verse 4). Therefore, our superlative Shepherd cares for His own past, present, and future because He is the same yesterday, today and forever! (Hebrews chapter 13 verse 8).

     Now consider Hebrews chapter 13 verse 21 which also has practical instruction and application for all Christians today and forward.  It states: “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. Amen.”

     The Greek word as a verb means equipping by means of adjusting, shaping, mending, or restoring. That is by God’s initiative and power through Jesus Christ. Our Great Shepherd when He was on earth worked for us when He completed His great work of redemption on the cross.  Now that He is in heaven, He is working in us by His Spirit to mature us spiritually in His will.

     Here’s the problem.  God gives us His moral standards and He gives believers the power to follow them and to live them out. However, Christian maturity and obedience have nothing to do with our own power. Relying on our own moral strength alone will eventually will always fail. Victory only comes by God’s power working “in us as we submit as we surrender to the Holy Spirit, what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ.”

     It is only by God’s power as like the power that “brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus” that equips   us and enables Christians to do “what is pleasing to Him.”

The one thing that Christians must contribute for “everything good for doing his will” is our yieldedness, our surrender, our submission. What believers need to do is to open wide the channel of our wills and then let God’s power work through us. That is what builds spiritual maturity.

     Yes, scripture affirms that we are to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” but the very next verse states how that exactly works which says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians chapter 2 verses 12 through 13).

     The imperative to godly growing moral maturity is yieldedness to God’s power not our feeble efforts. Let us test this, try it and see how God’s power can through us work wonders!  Let us walk, live by the Spirit not by the flesh.

     The maturing Christian is one who knows God’s power working in himself, in herself, and finds it his or her true joy to have the very life of God flow into him, into her, and through him or her, and out of him or her to those around him.

     May we experience this joy! May we allow. May we yield to the power of the Spirit within us to the glory of God.


                   David Johnson is the minister of Sellersburg Church of Christ in Sellersburg, IN.