Romans 15:13: The First Benediction
We come to the end of the teaching part of the book of Romans as Paul pronounces the first of three benedictions, Romans 15:13, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’ These words may be familiar to you because you often hear a benediction at the end of a service. Why do we do that? If you go to older denominations that have liturgy you would also find benedictions, is this simply a return to ‘dead religion’? Absolutely not! Our whole worship service is put together in such a way that God the Spirit serves us by the word. The word calls and commands us to worship in the call to worship. We then sing the truth of the word to one another. We give to support the ministry of the Word. We pray in accordance with what the word reveals pleading the promises of the word. We observe the visible word of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We sit under the word in the preaching. And when it comes to the end of our time together the benediction plays a very important role. It is a prayer, a pronouncement and a promise. The word of God sending us out with the blessings of the gospel. As Paul prays that these blessings would belong to those in Rome so we pray it ourselves. But more than pray it we are also pronouncing for this not something is in fact our because of what God has done for us in His Son. We are announcing what is ours in Christ. And for this reason it is a promise to every person who is in Christ. The benediction does not create realities that were not true of every Christian when they walked in they announce what is ours in Christ. Every time you hear a benediction if you are a believer you must realise that these are things that are yours in Christ. In certain Reformed traditions only ordained ministers can pronounce them and others have to pray them. We do not make this distinction, for they are true in Christ. And we pray the promises not because prayer creates the blessing, but because this is God’s appointed way for what is ours to be mediated to us.
Paul has come to the end of a long letter of teaching, and he chooses to end his long sermon with this blessing. It teaches us what to want from God as well as what to expect from God. This is a very dense verse. It has five of the key themes of the gospel that Paul has been developing throughout the letter to the Romans, hope, joy, peace, believing, and power. It is a suitable ending not only to the discussion that Paul has been having about God being the God of all nations, but for the letter as a whole. As we look at this benediction we will look at it under three headings, hope, joy and peace