“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. “
That the words of this text constitute a prayer, there can be no doubt. It is not merely a wish which the writer expresses, being deeply concerned about the spiritual well-being of his readers. Rather, all the ingredients of a legitimate prayer are clearly indicated in this text. It speaks of the One to Whom the prayer is addressed. It contains the petition which forms the body of the prayer. And it contains the doxology with which the prayer is concluded.
That this is an Easter Prayer, we gather from the fact that in the address of the prayer the writer of this epistle speaks to God as the God of the resurrection, the God Who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead. Because Christ Jesus our Lord was raised from the dead as proof of our justification before God, and because on this basis a peace relation has been established between God and us, the writer makes his petition, that we may be made perfect in every good work, that is, that the work of sanctification may follow, whereby we may be made well-pleasing in God’s sight, unto Whom all the glory and praise is due for ever.
Having just celebrated the glorious fact of Christ’s resurrection, it is well that we also pay attention to this prayer in all its beauteous expression and in all its parts.
The God of peace!
That God is the God of peace, describes Him as living His own divine life in tranquility. It means, negatively, that there is never any conflict, any disturbance within the life of the divine family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, positively, it means that God lives within His perfect being the most harmonious covenant fellowship.
More particularly, however, this address signifies that God is the source of peace. And this means that He not only makes peace but gives it. Peace is that state or condition in which war and enmity and all forms of opposition have been abolished. Positively, it describes that state in which we stand in perfect reconciliation with God. And this means that if there is to be any amendment of our natural state in which we stand in enmity against God, if we are to be reconciled unto God, this reconciliation can never proceed from us, but from God alone, Who, in Christ, was reconciling us unto Himself, and so making peace. Not only does He realize this peace through the blood of Christ’s cross, but He gives this peace to us in such a way that in our hearts all enmity is removed, and the peace which surpasseth all understanding comes over our hearts and into them in such a way that we know we stand in perfect harmony with Him and He with us. And to this address the writer adds:
Who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus . . .
Literally the text says, “Who led out of the dead again our Lord Jesus.” This implies, so it would seem, that He first led Him into death.
The death of the cross!
As we have so many times written unto you, the death of Christ on the cross was no accident—though the enemies of Christ on many occasions and in several different ways sought to kill Him. And though at last they brought Him to Pilate in order that he might pronounce upon Him the sentence of death by crucifixion. It must never be our conception that as a last resort the death of the cross was conceived of to dispose of Him. For, while He was crucified by wicked hands, it was God by His determinate counsel and foreknowledge Who had delivered Christ over into these wicked hands in order that they might do to Him whatsoever it pleased God should be done unto Him. (Acts 2:23)
All the way from the bosom of the Father into the abyss of hell it was God leading His Son in the flesh into the accursed death, where He. suffered the pains of hell as the forsaken and accursed of God. He had made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, in order that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
While the death of the cross was the accursed death, it was at the same time the justifying death. And only after God had led Him into this justifying, atoning death, would He lead Him out again in His glorious resurrection.
Jesus, our Lord!
Jesus, Who saves His people from their sins, Who being raised from the dead is crowned with power, glory, and dominion—Lord is He over all things in heaven and earth; but especially is He Lord over His people who stand in relation to Him as servants who will serve Him in gratitude for the great redemption He has wrought.
That great Shepherd of the sheep!
Many were the shepherds whom God raised up to lead and to feed His people Israel. All were only shadows, pointing to the Shepherd to come. And the writer of this epistle, repeatedly having drawn by comparison the portrait of the Christ over against those who cast His shadow, again designates Him the great Shepherd of His people. No doubt mindful is he of Jesus’ own designation of Himself: “I am the good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for my sheep.”
In (not through) the blood of the everlasting covenant!
In the blood which the Shepherd laid down for His sheep, God sealed and ratified His everlasting covenant. Not only was God in Christ reconciling His people unto Himself, so making peace; but He certifies forever the covenant of friendship and perfects it. Now His people may dwell with Him in an unbreakable bond of friendship, and serve Him in that relationship as His covenant friends.
No wonder that the prayer of our text is directed to Him!
He is the God of our salvation in Christ Jesus!
He is the God Who through Christ has laid the very foundation of our eternal salvation!
He is the God Who through Christ must yet perfect that salvation in us!
Based upon the atoning, justifying, peace-making sacrifice of the great Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, the perfection of which is attested to in His glorious resurrection, the prayer now makes its plea.
A prayer for the Shepherd’s sheep!
Sheep they were which had been given to Him of the Father in sovereign and eternal election, sheep for whom He laid down His life and took it up again in His resurrection when the God of peace led Him out of death. His sheep, who died with Him and rose again in newness of life, and therefore are enabled to hear His voice and follow Him whithersoever He leads them. For them is the prayer made, and not for the world.
A prayer for God’s covenant people!
Incorporated they were in an insoluble bond of friendship with the living God from all eternity. Cleansed they were by the blood of the covenant, and made fit in principle to dwell with God in the house of His covenant.
Concerning that people the writer presents in this Easter prayer his petition.
That He make you perfect in every good work to the end that you may do His will!
Not so is it that God in Christ merely makes salvation possible for us, and then leaves it up to us to be saved. If this were so, the sheep would again go astray, and be lost. No! He saves them unto the uttermost! The expression in the translation, “make you perfect . . .” means literally, “qualifying you fully.” That means that He must give us all the spiritual gifts whereby we are enabled to respond to His will, and to walk in all good works which the apostle Paul tells us were from everlasting prepared by God and given to us to perform. (Eph. 2:10). The situation is not so, that like good Boy Scouts we sit down and figure out what good deeds we may perform each day. The truth is, that even our good works are prepared and given to us. The prayer is that these works may constantly come to us, and that we be given the qualifying grace to perform them, to the end that in our lives God’s will may be done.
This is borne out in the rest of the petition: “working in you what is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ.”
God is the subject of this work of grace, and Christ Jesus is the Mediator! So, and so only, is all of our salvation unto its final perfection of the Lord. It is in no sense of us.
Small wonder then that the petitioner concludes his prayer with a doxology.
To Whom be glory unto the ages of the ages!
Quite naturally the question arises: To Whom do the words “To Whom” refer? Is it to the God of peace Who brought again our Lord Jesus from the dead? Or, is it Jesus Christ Whom the writer mentions last as the Mediator through Whom the prayer will be realized?
This is an exegetical question. When we consider that the prayer is directed to the God of peace, it would seem most fitting that the doxology should also be raised to Him. On the other hand, from an exegetical point of view, since the doxology is most closely affixed to Jesus Christ, it can also be ascribed to Him.
The question is solved when we consider that Jesus Christ, Who is the Mediator of our salvation, is at the same time the God of our salvation, Who in His human nature is exalted with glory and honor, Whose is the glory unto endless ages; then our difficulty ceases. The glorious God, Who has all glory, to Whom no glory can be given that He does not already possess, is pleased to receive glory and have all glory ascribed to Him as He pleases to reveal Himself in Christ Jesus our Lord. O, indeed, God-will be glorified, world without end! For unto this end has He created all things, and unto this end has He performed the work of recreation. Fact of the matter is, that He so works out the realization of His counsel that not the creature, but God Himself receives all the glory and praise. No creature shall be able to glory in himself; but all creation, redeemed through the way of sin and grace, shall ascribe all glory to God for ever. And all this glory shall come to Him through the Mediator Christ Jesus, Who is the God of our salvation.
And you know that this little word which concludes the prayer is not intended merely to place a dot at the end of the sentence. As always in Scripture, so also here, it attests to the truth expressed in the prayer, that it shall surely be fulfilled. The good work which God in Christ has begun, will be finished in: everlasting glory. The people whom He in Christ has justified in the cross and resurrection, shall be led through the way of sanctification into heavenly perfection and glory. The prayer which is uttered in faith, shall surely be heard and answered.
Amen, and Amen!