There are some stunning doxologies in the epistles. They are a potential treasure for preachers:
1. Doxologies tend to offer a succinct overview of the content of a letter. What the writer was pondering as he wrote or dictated tends to come out in this late point of praise. As preachers we can tap into that to review or overview the epistle as a whole.
2. Doxologies offer the preacher an opportunity to preach a different genre within the epistle. Just as introductory and closing materials can offer a more narrative type of content (i.e. accessing the narrative behind the letter), so the doxology allows the preacher to preach something akin to poetry. Preaching poetry offers something different to the discourse that predominates in the epistles.
Here are some doxologies to ponder:
* Hebrews 13:20-21 . . . The preacher (remember that Hebrews is not an epistle, but rather a sermon with an epistolary postscript) points to God’s raising Jesus from the dead, and to the blood of the eternal covenant, as the one who will equip the hearers to live lives pleasing to Him. The Jesus-focused encouragement throughout the “letter” is seen even here.
* Jude 24-25 . . . One of the more famous doxologies pointing to God’s ability to guard and protect believers in an antagonistic world.
* 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 . . . An easy one to miss, this is effectively a doxology within the body of the letter (similar to Paul’s explosions of delight at the end of Romans 8 and Romans 11:33-36).
* 2 Corinthians 13:14 . . . Is Paul offering three elements of God’s goodness within a trinitarian framework, or is he actually referring to the One who is the grace and love of the Son and Father, that is, the Holy Spirit? Jonathan Edwards understood this doxology as being entirely about the Spirit, which would fit a letter gripped by the New Covenant ministry theme.
* 1 Corinthians 16:22-24 . . . A striking and often ignored conclusion to a letter. Perhaps verse 22 is key to the complexities of church life in Corinth? I have never heard anybody preach from this section, have you?
* Revelation 2-3 . . . Don’t miss the treasure in Jesus’ seven epistles to the churches of Asia Minor. Recognizing the consistent themes within and throughout each individual letter is key to making sense of the details. The promise to the overcomer always makes sense in light of the description of Christ and the commendation/complaint within the letter.
Seems like there is plenty of scope for a series of messages based purely on the doxologies. After all, pondering the truth and life-changing relevance of the gospel should lead us to praise God!
5 thoughts on “Letter Frame – Preacher’s Treasure 6”
Thank you, Peter, for a look at rarely discussed parts of epistles. I’m enjoying your posts. Do you have some thoughts on the force of these benedictions? Hebrews 13:20-21 reads, “Now may the God of peace…equip you…” Did this benediction automatically come true for the first readers? Keep up the good work.
Thanks Randal. I would view that benediction as a prayerful blessing. Do prayers “automatically come true”? That wouldn’t be the language I would use for God’s wonderful way of answering prayer. If we could find a way to twist God’s arm then I am sure we would, but thankfully God knows better than we do how to be God and how to use His power according to His values and purpose. I suppose the challenge we face is continually learning to trust, sometimes in the face of no apparent answer. Sometimes I encourage myself that God will not have to apologise to me for how my prayers have been answered 🙂 There is much to gain from time in the lesser pondered parts of the epistles, thanks again for your comment.
Thanks for answering, Peter. As I looked at the Hebrews benediction, it appears to have the same dual emphasis of most NT letters: God’s part (“equip you”) and our part (“that you may do his will”). The readers would experience the benediction/blessing only as they respond in faith and obedience. Appreciated your thought about prayer in general.
I’m also enjoying your posts. As I am reading 1Co these days, I remembered this post about 1Co 16.22, and no, I never heard anyone preach on that verse. I was reading in a commentary that there might be a direct link with 12.3 where the discussion is probably about someone having heard a cursing on Jesus in an idol temple; so 16.22 might be the reaction to that. As you implied about the complexities of life church in Corinth, this cursing is not “out of the blue” but an answer to a precise situation. Thank you for continuing to make us think; for the glory of our wonderful God,
Thanks Benoit, I appreciate your encouragement very much! Hope you have a great New Year . . .