Do benedictions matter? In many churches today, there are usually 3 songs, 3 announcements, a 3-point sermon, and 3 ways to give. But there’s no benediction. Why? After all, there are many benedictions throughout the Bible. Poor little benediction. Why has it been tossed?
Constance Cherry suggests that “this is often the case in services that use the twofold format of extended time of singing followed by a lengthy sermon. If the sermon is viewed as the most important part of the service and the response to the Word has not been included, the dismissal tends to be more of a functional matter of business. This is an unfortunate development … It is not a matter of ‘ending’ but of ‘sending’” (The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services).
So, yes, singing, preaching, giving, and benedictions matter (announcements are, well, more like a toleration ;).
Since digging into this subject, I’ve learned that there’s a difference between doxologies and benedictions. Doxologies give glory to God within the flow of worship—often after confession of sin and the assurance of pardon. Benedictions are blessing pronouncements from God that send us into the world at the conclusion of worship. Simply put, doxologies are offered to God while benedictions come from God.
Let’s take a pop quiz. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Is Romans 11:36 a doxology or a benediction? If you said, “doxology,” you’re correct!
How about 2 Corinthians 13:14? “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Benediction, right? So, what is the meaning of this blessing pronouncement at the end of our worship services? Notice the specific reference to all three Persons of the Trinity. Each member—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are the source of one aspect of blessing.
1. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (be with you all).” The Lord is declaring: “You are covered in grace. Bathe in it, walk in it, and dish it out. For it’s from my fullness you have all received, grace upon grace.” So, get ready for a FULL week. “When grace happens, truth happens” (NT Wright).
2. “And the love of God (be with you all).” Although it may be popular to say, “love is love,” it’s not true. “God is love”—which makes love sacred. In this benediction, God wants us to experience his Father-heart throughout the week ahead. But be prepared for change. When love happens, sanctification happens.
3. “And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” What a lovely way to say, “Dance with me.” The triune God who dwells eternally as a fellowship of loving exchange invites us into his relational life! So, buckle up all week. When fellowship with the Spirit happens, people dance!
Benedictions like 2 Corinthians 13:14 send us off to dance with the Father who—without stopping—will twirl us into the gentle arms of the Son who—in keeping with a rhythm—will backspin us into a cha-cha with the Spirit!
And all God’s people said, “Amen. Alleluia.”