THE DYNAMICS OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER AND ENCOURAGING FELLOWSHIP SUPPORT OUR GOAL OF TRUSTING OUR GREAT SHEPHERD TO EQUIP US TO DO THE WILL OF GOD
Finally we come to the miscellaneous closing sections of the book. Some of the great themes of the epistle are mentioned again (covenant, blood sacrifice of Christ, etc.) and new themes such as the resurrection are introduced for the first time. We see many of the elements that you would expect in a New Testament epistle – appeal for personal prayer, benediction, final personal greetings, etc. The writer maintains his testimony of ministry integrity and appeals to the blood of the eternal covenant and the grace of God to sustain believers on their pilgrimage of perseverance in the faith. But his central focus remains on the magnificent person of the Lord Jesus – that great Shepherd of the Sheep.
I. (:18-19) CLOSING REQUEST FOR INTERCESSORY PRAYER
A. (:18) Grounds for the Prayer Request
1. Beneficiaries of the Prayer Request
“Pray for us,”
Pray for the author of the epistle and his associates; if these accomplished Christian ministers needed prayer, how much more do we?
Wuest: the prefixed preposition pros gives (proseuchomai) the idea of definiteness and directness in prayer, with the consciousness on the part of the one praying that he is talking face to face with God…(thus proseuchomai) speaks also of the consciousness on the part of the one who prays, of the fact of God’s presence and His listening ear.
2. Basis of the Prayer Request = Integrity
“for we are sure that we have a good conscience,
desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.”
Bruce Hurt: “conscience” — The Greek noun suneidesis is the exact counterpart of the Latin con-science, “a knowing with,” a shared or joint knowledge. It is our awareness of ourselves in all the relationships of life, especially ethical relationships. We have ideas of right and wrong; and when we perceive their truth and claims on us, and will not obey, our souls are at war with themselves and with the law of God. . .
To have a “clear conscience” does not mean that we have never sinned or do not commit acts of sin. Rather, it means that the underlying direction and motive of life is to obey and please God, so that acts of sin are habitually recognized as such and faced before God (1Jn 1:9).
A “clear conscience” consists in being able to say that there is no one (God or man) whom I have knowingly offended and not tried to make it right (either by asking forgiveness or restoration or both).
Think of the train wrecks we have witnessed when Christian ministers have disgraced the name of Christ through immoral or unethical behavior and so cast off the precious testimony of a good conscience.
Kenneth Osbeck: The conscience has been described as the “rudder of the soul” or the believer’s “principle within.” One of the prime responsibilities of Christian living is to keep the conscience clear as to the things of God so that we might live worthy lives before our fellowmen. But the conscience must be continually enlightened and developed by an exposure to God’s Word if it is to serve as a reliable guide for our lives. A conscience that is allowed to become hardened and insensitive to sin will ultimately lead to spiritual and moral disaster. We must allow God to develop our consciences and then our consciences are able to develop us.
B. (:19) Goal of the Prayer Request
1. Reinforcement of Request for Prayer
“And I urge you all the more to do this,”
Leon Morris: A short appeal for prayer reveals both the writer’s conviction that prayer is a powerful force and his hope that he will soon see his correspondents again. Following immediately on the reference to the leaders, this leads a number of commentators to see the writer as one who had once been a leader in the group. His desire to “be restored to you” (v. 19) shows clearly that he had once worked among them in some capacity. . . it seems that the readers have been accusing the writer of some fault. . . The writer protests that he has a clear conscience and that this is a reason for asking for their fellowship in prayer.
“that I may be restored to you the sooner.”
Hewitt: No reason is given why he was detained, but there appears to have been some obstacle in the way; he believed that through their prayers this could be removed.
Steven Cole: The author asks them to pray all the more, so that he may be restored to them the sooner (He 13:19). We don’t know what the situation was that kept him from visiting them, but it was beyond his control. It could have been a health problem, or something else. Perhaps his critics in the Hebrew church were saying, “If he really cared about you, he would have visited here personally by now!” But the author’s heart was to visit them, and so he asks them to pray. His request shows that God is bigger than any circumstance we face, and that prayer is our means of laying hold of God’s power. Prayer is not just a polite gesture that shows brotherly concern. God has ordained prayer as one of the ways that He pours out His power and blessing on His people. Prayer shows us that we are not competent people who just need a little boost from God now and then. We are totally inadequate, unless He works, and He has chosen to work through our prayers. If more people prayed more regularly for their pastors, maybe there would be fewer church splits and fewer people leaving churches over petty matters.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship our spirit finds
Is like to that above.
II. (:20-21) CLOSING BENEDICTION FOCUSED ON THE EQUIPPING TO DO THE WILL OF GOD
A. (:20) All Sufficient God
1. Producer of Peace
“Now the God of peace,”
The God who gives or produces peace as well as the God who Himself is our peace
Andrew Murray: The God of peace. This is the name by which we are invited to call upon and trust our God. Peace is the opposite of enmity, of war, of care, of unrest. Where everything is finished and perfect, there is peace and rest. God hath set the Holiest open for us, in token that we may enter into His rest, and trust Him to perfect His work in us. The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, can now keep our hearts and minds by Christ Jesus. Peace, an end of all care and fear and separation, has been proclaimed; the God of peace is now waiting to do His work in us.
Leon Morris: This doxology gathers up a number of the themes that have meant so much as the argument of the epistle has unfolded: the blood, the eternal covenant, the lordship of Jesus, the importance of doing his will. It also introduces some things not yet dealt with. This is the only place in the epistle, for example, where Jesus is seen as our Shepherd or where the Resurrection is specifically referred to. The whole forms a superb doxology that has meant much to Christians throughout the centuries.
2. Pastor of the Flock
a. Resurrected Through a Better Sacrifice
“who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant,”
Kent: It was the efficacy f Christ’s blood sacrificed for sin at the cross that made possible the resurrection. God’s justice was fully satisfied because the penalty (death) was paid in full. The resurrection clearly demonstrated this blessed fact. This covenant is, of course, the new covenant discussed in 8:6-13 and 9:15 – 10:18. It is eternal in the sense that it secures eternal life for its beneficiaries and will never be invalidated nor superseded.
F. F. Bruce: His resurrection is the demonstration that His sacrifice of Himself has been accepted by God and the new covenant established on the basis of that sacrifice.
Leon Morris: The Resurrection is linked with “the blood of the eternal covenant” (cf. Isa 55:3; Zech 9:11). It is interesting to see how the thought of covenant persists to the end. It has been one of the major themes of this epistle. The adjective again brings out the point that this covenant will never be replaced by another as it replaced the old covenant. It is perpetual in its validity. And it was established by blood. The author never forgets that. For him the death of Jesus is central. At the same time, his linking it with the Resurrection shows that he did not have in mind a dead Christ but one who, though he shed his blood to establish the covenant, lives for ever.
b. Reigns as Lord of All
“even Jesus our Lord,”
Leon Morris: Last in this verse in the Greek (and with some emphasis) comes the words “our Lord Jesus.” The expression is unusual outside of Acts, where it occurs a number of times. It combines the lordship of Christ and his real humanity, two themes of continuing importance.
Phil Newton: Two clear truths must stand out in our minds as we consider the power of God to raise the dead. First, the fact of the resurrection declares that God has accepted the death of Christ as sufficient for our eternal salvation. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin. But how do we know that God accepted the blood of Christ as atonement for our sins? It is by the fact that He “brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep”! No other sacrificial victim was raised from the dead! All of the bulls and goats were temporary, but what Christ has done is final, complete, and eternal (He 10:10, 11, 12, 13, 14). Second, because the “great Shepherd of the sheep” has been brought up from the dead, the sheep will follow! That is why we can wait for “a kingdom which cannot be shaken” (He 12:28), and can seek “the city which is to come” (He 13:14). Christ’s resurrection gives us hope, vision, and assurance of God’s power to save us eternally, and to bring us finally into His presence forever.
B. (:21) All Sufficient Equipper of the Saints
1. Immediate Goal = Doing God’s Will
“equip you in every good thing to do His will,”
Constable: “Equip” means to prepare for use (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The same Greek word, katartidzo, describes elsewhere a doctor setting a broken bone, a general preparing his army for battle, and a fisherman mending his net (cf. Matthew 4:21). It was the writer’s concern that his readers be ready to reign with Jesus Christ. This is the purpose for remaining faithful to God throughout the epistle. Part of our full inheritance (full rest, full salvation) is the privilege of reigning with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). To attain this privilege we must continue to press on toward maturity by following Jesus Christ faithfully rather than turning from Him.
2. Motivation = Pleasing God
“working in us that which is pleasing in His sight,”
3. Mediator = Jesus Christ
“through Jesus Christ,”
4. Ultimate Goal = Glorifying God
“to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Richard Phillips: “Benediction” means “good word,” and all the New Testament letters include a benediction at the end, some more elaborate than others. A benediction is a pray to God on behalf of the readers, and that is especially appropriate here since in the preceding verses the writer has asked for their prayers for himself.
III. (:22-25) CLOSING POSTSCRIPT OF ENCOURAGING FELLOWSHIP
A. (:22) Final Exhortation to Heed this Epistle
“But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation,
for I have written to you briefly.”
Lenski: The writer confesses that he has been urging in his entire letter. He asks that the readers bear with him for doing so.
Leon Morris: The letter has had its share of rebukes and stern warnings, and the writer now softens the impact a little with this appeal and with the affectionate address “Brothers.”
Kent: includes the entire epistle which has taken the form of an appeal or exhortation to stand firm in their commitment to Christ, and to sever their ties with Jewish ceremonialism. . . Even though an unconvinced reader might think the treatise was long, the author had really written briefly in view of the momentous issues under discussion.
B. (:23) Final Encouragement Regarding Upcoming Visit with Timothy
“Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released,
with whom, if he comes soon, I shall see you.”
C. (:24) Final Greetings
1. Greetings from the Author
“Greet all of your leaders and all the saints.”
Plurality of elder form of church government; interesting that this letter was not written to the leaders but to those within the church who would bring greetings to the leaders
2. Greetings from the Believers in Italy
“Those from Italy greet you.”
Could either be Italians living within Italy or living abroad
D. (:25) Final Benediction
“Grace be with you all.”
Richard Phillips: they were going to need God’s favor and help in every way. This is the one great and stable power to which the Christian can hold, firm and secure, an anchor within the veil – the grace of almighty God. And it is from Christ’s blood that grace is made available to us. It is through his present ministry that we find grace for the trials of the day. It is to him who is enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high that we offer all the fruits of this grace.
Matthew Henry: Let the favour of God be towards you, and his grace continually working in you, and with you, bringing forth the fruits of holiness, as the first-fruits of glory. When the people of God have been conversing together by word or writing, it is good to part with prayer, desiring for each other the continuance of the gracious presence of God, that they may meet together again in the world of praise.