The Purpose of the Benediction
By: Andy Ew
At the conclusion of our Sunday services at Trinity Park, as well as countless churches across the world, a pastor stands before the congregation and gives a benediction. While this practice can sometimes appear to be a meaningless church tradition, the benediction actually holds great importance and purpose. The word ‘benediction’ is originally derived from the Latin words bene, which means ‘good,’ and dicere, which means ‘to speak’. A benediction, then, is the pronouncement of good words to us. It is the declaration of God’s blessing upon his people.
The practice of benediction originated in the Old Testament when the Lord commanded Aaron, the first high priest, to bless the people of Israel with these words: “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). The high priest would lift his bare hands to the sky as a sign of peace to show that God holds no weapon against his people as he pronounces his blessing of peace upon them.
In the New Testament, we observe Christ himself blessing his disciples before his ascension into heaven (Luke 24:50). Because of Christ’s gift of redemption on the Cross for his people, those who believe in him are the recipients of grace. Therefore, the authors of the letters of the New Testament pronounce benedictions to the respective audiences in the name of Jesus (see the end of each letters from Romans through Revelation).
God continually commands his people to enter into a place of returning and rest. The Sabbath rest encourages us to remember God’s goodness and trust Him with the processes of our lives. Isaiah 30:15 records, “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’” Jesus, who invites weary and heavy-laden people to come to him and receive rest (Matthew 11:28), made a way for us to receive and rest in the goodness of blessing. Through benedictions, we receive a reminder to rest in the blessings of Jesus.
Ministers today have been given this privilege to pronounce blessings over the church. Lifting their hands over the congregation, the pastor will quote God’s word of benediction to both remind us of God’s faithfulness and point us to our hope and blessing in Jesus. We must remember that the one giving the benediction is not the source of blessing; Christ is.
As the church, then, we receive this pronouncement of blessing by faith. We trust and hope in the assurance that we no longer live in fear, guilt, or shame. Rather, because of Jesus, the source of true blessing, we are free to live and walk our daily lives in love.