Now may the God of peace, who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly.
Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.
Grace be with you all. Amen. (NKJV)
As the writer comes to the end of his thoughts, he returns to where he started – with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier, he had spent several chapters on the nature, character and preeminence of the Lord Jesus in connection with the place of God the Father in His life and ministry, 1:1, 2, 5, 8 13, etc. Now, as he closes, he commends his readers into the care of that same God the Father.
In describing the Father, the writer goes at once to the very heart of the Christian faith. He says that the Father brought up the Lord Jesus from the dead, v. 20. The idea of resurrection from the dead includes the thought of death. It isn’t separate from it. And “death” relates to the person who dies. If the Lord Jesus isn’t who He claimed to be, and who the Scripture says that He is, fully God and fully human, then His death has no meaning and the resurrection is nothing more than a fable. It’s a shame that many professing Christians seem to have this view. If there is no resurrection, there is no salvation, 1 Corinthians 15:12-17, and those who believe in the Lord Jesus are of all men the most pitiable, v. 19.
In contrast to this gloomy and hopeless idea, the writer describes the Lord Jesus in view of His mission: that great Shepherd of the sheep, Hebrews 13:20. Our Lord used that same figure to describe Himself in John 10. The angel Gabriel told Joseph that this child whom Mary would bear would save His people from their sins, Matthew 1:21. Though Joseph possibly only ever knew the OT promises of the salvation of Israel, the Lord Jesus came to redeem folks out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9 (emphasis added), not just the nation of Israel.
If you are a believer, then the Lord Jesus had you in mind when He walked the dusty roads of Israel.
In the NT, believers are described as “sheep.” Though this isn’t a particularly complimentary description, in Biblical times, sheep were a common sight and the Bible uses the relationship of shepherd and sheep more than once. Psalm 23 and John 10 are only two examples. The thing is, sheep are utterly dependent on the shepherd. Left to themselves, they will get into all kinds of trouble and are exposed to danger on every side, against which they are defenseless. It’s the shepherd who takes care of them and keeps them safe. Cf. John 10:11-13.
The Lord Jesus came with a specific goal in mind: the salvation of His sheep. He didn’t just come to this world hoping for the best. To hear some preachers and believers, apparently all that happened when the Lord left the glories of heaven was that the Father hugged Him and wished Him luck. That’s a completely inadequate and false idea. The writer alludes to this when he mentions the blood of the everlasting covenant, v. 20.
An old “gospel” song painted a scene in heaven of utter confusion when Adam and Eve fell into sin, with God searching everywhere to find someone who could step in and do something about it. Finally, according to this utterly unScriptural and God-dishonoring song, Jesus volunteered to come to this world as Savior.
Whatever difficulty we might have in understanding or accepting it, the Bible is clear that salvation is carefully thought out and planned. It speaks of believers being chosen by God for that blessing even before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4, and given to the Lord Jesus, John 10:29, in order that He might save them, John 17:2. It describes the Lord Jesus as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8. So certain is our salvation, in fact, that believers are already considered “glorified” in the mind and purpose of God, Romans 8:30.
Just to clarify something: this “choice” by God the Father means the salvation of some who would otherwise by lost, Romans 9:29, not the condemnation of some who would otherwise be saved, as some charge that we believe. Without election, there would be no salvation.
One more thing. God didn’t just “look down the corridors of time,” as some say, and choose those whom He saw would choose Him. That is not what the Scripture means when it refers to our salvation according to God’s foreknowledge, as in 1 Peter 1:2. God’s foreknowledge isn’t dependent on what He sees His creation is going to do, but on what He Himself has planned to do. This is taught in such verses as Acts 2:23, which says that Christ was delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, and Romans 8:28, which says that believers are the called according to His purpose, before it says, in the next verse, says that we are “foreknown.”
In v. 21, the writer continues the appeal he began in v. 20, asking God to do something in according with that everlasting covenant, namely, to make his readers complete in every good work to do His will.
This verse was the subject of the saddest example of misreading the Bible that I’ve ever heard. The college-age class I was in years ago had a leader who taught from this verse that we were to make ourselves complete, etc., etc. It was all about us. Apparently, he had never noticed that the subject of the verb “make” in v. 21 was “God” in v. 20. It’s not about what “we” do at all, but about what God will do. Now he was a good man, an earnest man, but he himself admitted that, though he had led the class for 17 years, he had never read the Bible through. It is so sad that there are so many like him, believers to whom the Bible is as foreign a book as if it had never been translated into a language they can read, because they never read it.
The objective of salvation isn’t just to take us to heaven, or to give us “a life without a care,” as another unfortunate “gospel” song put it, but to make us like the Lord Jesus Christ, holy and without blame before God, Ephesians 1:4. The work won’t be completed in this life to be sure, but it does begin here, and it’s a work which God must do because we don’t know how to do it – and can’t do it, for that matter.
In v. 22, the writer does turn his attention to his readers and appeals to them to bear with the exhortation, the few words he had written to them. He’s not the only one who ever had difficulty with this. John had the same problem. There’s just so much that could be said about the Lord that, as John put it, even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written, John 21:25. There’s just too much that could be said. Indeed, according to Ephesians 2;7, it will take God Himself the ages to come…to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. I don’t think we get much more than the first little bit of the introduction in this life.
And he’s not the only one who has been concerned that his readers pay attention to what he wrote, or, if he were a preacher, to what he said. I’ve often wondered, when a person leaving a service tells the preacher, “What a wonderful sermon that was,” what would happen if the preacher would ask him, “What was it about?” (What was your preacher’s sermon about last week?) This may seem harsh, and it may be, and I’m sorry, but as I look around and see the terrible condition this nation is in, and “Christians” right out there in the middle of it, I wonder if anybody is listening to the Word at all. Too many churches seem to be concerned more about personalities or programs or prosperity or politics than they are about the proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord and God Jesus Christ.
The writer closes his “few words” with grace be with you all. I hear a great deal today about “love” and very little about “grace.” Without the grace of God, though, we’ll never experience the love of God.
That’s why the writer closes his writing, and I close this series, with –
Grace be with you all. Amen.