Epistles: Closing Benediction (Hebrews 13:17-25)
The author closes this paragraph with another reference to leaders: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Authority can be misused, and this verse does not mean that people should submit to unbiblical or selfish commands. However, church leaders do have the responsibility to “keep watch over” people, to be concerned about their spiritual health. If they lead the people well, it will be of great benefit, but if members continually resist authority, they will miss out.
Personal requests (verses 18-25)
The letter ends, as many Greek letters did, with personal comments from the author: “Pray for us,” he asks. “I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.” The word restored indicates that the author was once part of the congregation. He wants to return, but is detained in some way.
He adds his own prayer for the readers: “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.”
He adds another request: “I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.” The sermon could have been much longer, but the author has been as brief as possible. He closes in verses 24-25: “Greet all your leaders and all God’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. Grace be with you all.” We do not know whether he was writing from Italy, or to Italy.
When the author says “all” your leaders, and “all” the people, this suggests that the readers were in a city that had several congregations. Yet the letter was written only to this one, probably because it had the people with the pressures and doctrinal questions implied in the letter. It may have been a Jewish congregation surrounded by Gentile congregations.
No matter who and where the original readers were, the message of this epistle is clear: Jesus is our High Priest, who gave himself so that our sins might be forgiven, and he brought the only effective way for us to worship God. Instead of looking to the old covenant, we should look to Jesus, be faithful to Jesus, and trust in him to bring us to eternal joy with the people of God.
Something to think about
- Do I respond to leaders with respect, or skepticism? (verse 17)
Author: Michael Morrison