“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you… and He lifted up his hands, and blessed them.”
“Melchizedek, king of Salem, was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him [Abraham], and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.'”
“Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, ‘On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.'”
Order of Contents
Start Here 3
On Num. 6:22-27 & 2 Cor. 13:14 13
Dictionaries & Encyclopedias 8
Historical Commentaries 3
. Why is the Benediction Done Standing with Lifted Hands?
. Why is the Benediction Done with the Minister’s Hands Facing the People?
. Should We Say ‘Amen’ After the Benediction?
. The Benediction & the Trinity
. The Benediction Proves Infant Baptism
. That Pastoral Benedictions May Not be Limited to Public Worship Services
Silversides, David – Why do We have a Benediction? 2007 45 min.
This sermon by Rev. Silversides of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland is great on a number of levels. His main thesis, which he gives numerous arguments for, is that the benediction is an effective, discriminatory pronouncement.
McGraw, Ryan – ‘The Benediction in Corporate Worship: The benediction in worship—it is more than a prayer, it is a blessing on God’s people’ 2013 37 paragraphs This article was also published in The Confessional Presbyterian 2011
Dr. McGraw is the Professor of Systematic Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. This was a chapter in his ThM thesis.
Fentiman, Travis – ‘The Benediction is a Special Prayer, per Scripture and Westminster’ 2018
Rev. Silversides (above) downplays the significance of the Benediction as a prayer, if it is a prayer at all. Dr. McGraw in some places says that the Benediction is more than a prayer, but then in a few places says it is not a prayer. Fentiman affirms Rev. Silversides’ and Dr. McGraw’s main points about the nature of the Benediction, but demonstrates that the Benediction is clearly a special prayer in Scripture and in the Westminster Standards.
Westminster The Warrant for the Benediction in the Standards
For more in Westminster, see ‘Westminster on the Benediction as Prayer’ in Fentiman’s article.
…First, it belongs to his office:
To bless the people from God Num. 6:23-26 compared with Rev. 1:4-5 (where the same blessings, and persons from whom they come, are expressly mentioned [q]); Isa. 66:21, where, under the names of Priests and Levites to be continued under the gospel, are meant evangelical pastors, who therefore are by office to bless the people.[r]
Of the Ordinances in a particular Congregation
The ordinances in a single congregation are, prayer, thanksgiving, and singing of psalms, the word read, (although there follow no immediate explication of what is read), the word expounded and applied, catechising, the sacraments administered, collection made for the poor, dismissing the people with a blessing.“
The Rules for Examination [of candidates for the ministry] are These:
…And so by prayer commending both him and his flock to the grace of God, after singing of a psalm, let the assembly be dismissed with a blessing.
“Of Prayer After Sermon
The prayer ended, let a psalm be sung, if with conveniency it may be done. After which (unless some other ordinance of Christ, that concerneth the congregation at that time, be to follow) let the minister dismiss the congregation with a solemn blessing.
Concerning the Observation of Days of Public Thanksgiving
And so, having sung another psalm, suitable to the mercy, let him dismiss the congregation with a blessing, that they may have some convenient time for their repast and refreshing.”
Of the Sanctification of the Lord’s Day
That all the people meet so timely for public worship, that the whole congregation may be present at the beginning… and not depart till after the blessing.
Westminster Directory of Church Government 1647
“Ordinances in a particular congregation are Prayer, Thanksgiving, singing of Psalms, Reading of the Word, Preaching and Catechizing, Administering the Sacraments, Blessing the People in the Name of God, and a Collection for the Poor.”
“First, in that they [the Anglican ministers of Old England, arguing for set, stinted forms of prayer, as in the English Prayer Book] do confound, and make all one ordinance, Blessings, Psalms, and Prayers.
And first, it is evident, that, howsoever some kind of blessing, and prayer be all one, and so may be confounded, yet that solemn kind of blessing spoken of Num. 6, and which the patriarchs, and priests did use in their places, was clean of an other nature:
In prayer the minister stands in place of the people and in their name offers up petitions and thanksgiving to God: But in blessing, the minister stands in the place of God, and in his name pronounceth a blessing, or mercy, upon the people.
2. Whereas this duty of prayer may be performed by one equal to another, by an inferior to a superior, yea by a man to himself: that other of blessing is always from the greater to the lesser: and therefore the apostle to the Hebrews, to show that the Preisthood of Melchisedek was more excellent than that of Levi, proves it by this, that Melchisedec blessed Abraham; taking this for granted without all contradiction, that the less is blessed of the greater.
3. Mr. Bernard himself in this book makes prayer one thing, and the blessing pronounced upon the people when they departed another thing: as he also makes singing of psalms a third distinct thing from them both: as there is cause he should.”
William Ames d. 1633
An Analytical Exposition of Both the Epistles of the Apostle Peter (1641), p. 5
“Doctrine 5. In that chain of our salvation, the beginning is from God the Father, the dispensation of it is through his Son Jesus Christ, the application of it is through the Holy Ghost.
This is intimated in that solemn benediction which the Church received from the Apostle [in 1 Pet. 1:2].”
George Gillespie 1637
English-Popish Ceremonies (Naphtali Press, 1993), Part 3, Ch. 2, p. 166
“…for God has commanded his ministers to bless his people (Num. 6:22-27), which by just analogy belongs to the ministers of the gospel; neither is there any ground for making herein a difference between them and the minister of the Law, but we must conceive the commandment to tie both alike to the blessing of God’s people…
And if we farther consider, that the duty of blessing was performed by the minister of the Lord (Heb. 7:6), even before the Law of Moses, we are yet more confirmed to think, that the blessing of the people was not commanded in the Law as a thing peculiar and proper to the Levitical priesthood, but as a moral and perpetual duty belonging to the Lord’s ministers forever.”
The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland, First Part, ‘Of Their Calling’
“And last of all, the Minister goes to the Pulpit, and concludes the whole action with pertinent thanksgiving and prayers, a Psalm is sung, and the Assembly dissolved with the blessing.”
George Lawson 1659
Theo-Politica, or, A Body of Divinity Containing the Rules of the Special Government of God, p. 171 Lawson was reformed.
“§. XVI As to that institution of prayer may be referred doxologies and benedictions; so to that [institution] of the Word and sacraments, that [may be referred] of Church discipline, especially in the acts of solemn admonition, suspension, excommunication, absolution, penance and the execution of bot•.”
Calvin, John – 3rd Point on pp. 418-9 on Dt. 10:8 of ‘The 70th Sermon, which is the 2nd upon the 10th Chapter of Deuteronomy’ in The Sermons of Mr. John Calvin upon the Fifth Book of Moses Called Deuteronomy 1583
Marbeck, John – ‘Bless’ in A Book of Notes and Common Places, with their Expositions, Collected and Gathered out of the Works of Diverse Singular Writers 1581 Marbeck was reformed.
Gibson, Samuel – A Sermon of Ecclesiastical Benediction on 2 Chron. 30:27 1619 Gibson was an English minister and a Westminster divine.
Rutherford, Samuel – ‘On the Nature of the Blessing of Jesus Given to the Children’ being pp. 102-104 of Covenant of Life of Opened
Bridge, William – Sermon 4 on Heb. 2:17-18 in Works, vol. 1, p. 67 ff. d. 1670 On Christ blessing us as our High Priest.
Owen, John – Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 3 of 4 vols. (London, 1840)
Section VI & Observation XIX-XXII, pp. 423-427 on Heb. 7:1-3
pp. 469-473 on Heb. 7:7
Owen distinguishes four types of benedictions.
Jay, William – Blessings Unimproved, Resumed by their Owner on Hosea 2:8-9 in Standard Works of William Jay, vol. 2, p. 311 ff
This sermon is not directly about the Benediction, but is very applicable to it. Jay was an English congregationalist.
Plumer, William – V. ‘Benedictions’ under the 3rd Commandment in The Law of God as Contained in the Ten Commandments, Explained and Enforced, pp. 258-61 1864
Spurgeon, Charles – The Pastor’s Parting Blessing, a Sermon on Rom. 16:24
Binnie, William – The Benediction 1882 p. 91, 3 pp. from his The Church
On Num. 6:22-27
The English Annotations – On Num. 6 in Annotations upon all the Books of the Old and New Testament 1645
Henry, Matthew – Commentary on Num. 6 in Commentary on the Bible English, presbyterian puritan
Whitefield, George – Aaron’s Blessing the Children of Israel, a Farewell Sermon 1762 Evangelical Anglican
‘Israel Blest and Kept’ 1852 in Sermons by J.C. Philpot (1802-1869), vol. 5, p. 331 ff. English, Primitive Baptist. This sermon is fuller than the one below.
‘Israel Blest and Kept’ at BibleHub.com
Bush, George – Commentary on Num. 6:22-27 in Notes, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Numbers 1858
Bush (1796-1859) was an American, presbyterian, Biblical scholar.
Law, Henry – ‘The Threefold Blessing’ in “Christ is All.” The Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 22 ff. 1860 Evangelical Anglican
On 2 Cor. 13:14
Boys, John – 2 Cor. 13:13 1629 in Works, pp. 65-68 The work is actually on 2 Cor. 13:14 even though the title says v. 13 Reformed Anglican
Manton, Thomas – Sermon upon 2 Cor. 13:14 in Works, vol. 19 d. 1677 English puritan
Beveridge, William – Sermon 12: the Sacerdotal Benediction in the Name of the Trinity in The Theological Works of William Beveridge, vol. 1, p. 210 d. 1708 A reformed bishop in the Church of England
Lardner, Nathaniel – Sermon 10: the Apostolical Benediction in Works… Containing Credibility of the Gospel History..., vol. 10, p. 412 ff.
Lardner (1768) was an English presbyterian and theologian.
Emmons, Nathaniel – Sermon 8: a Personal Distinction in the Godhead in Works, vol. 4, p. 117 ff.
Emmons (1745–1840) was an American Congregational minister and influential theologian of the New Divinity school.
Pink, A.W. – ‘Prayer of Benediction’ being ch. 9 of Gleanings from Paul, p. 94 ff. Particular baptist
Dictionaries & Encyclopedias
Trollope, Thomas Anthony – ‘Benediction’ in An Encyclopaedia Ecclesiastica: or a Complete History of the Church, containing a Full and Compendious Explanation of All Ecclesiastical Rites and Ceremonies, vol. 1 1834
Edwards, B.B. – ‘Benediction’ in Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge , or Dictionary of the Bible, Theology, Religious Biography, All Religions, Ecclesiastical History and Missions… an Impartial Account of the Principal Christian Denominations… 1837
Farrar, John – ‘Bless, Blessing’ in A Biblical and Theological Dictionary: Illustrative of the Old and New Testaments 1857 Wesleyan
Benton, Angelo A. – ‘Benediction’ in The Church Cyclopedia, a Dictionary of Church Doctrine, History, Organization and Ritual 1886 760 pp. associated with the Protestant Episcopal Church
Benham, William – ‘Benediction’ in The Dictionary of Religion, an Encyclopaedia of Christian and other Religious Doctrines, Denominations, Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Terms, History, Biography, etc., etc. 1887
Smith, William & Cheetham, Samuel – ‘Benedictions’ in A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities… from the time of the Apostles to the age of Charlemagne, vol. 1 1908 Generally conservative
New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge – ‘Benediction’ 1908-1914 liberal
Kapp, Jacob – ‘Benediction’ in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr, etc. 1915/1939 Conservative/Evangelical
Cumming, John – Benedictions: or, the Blessed Life 1854 Minister of the Scottish National Church. This is a series of chapters on benedictions, or beatitudes, throughout Scripture.
Dolbeer, William H. – The Benediction 1907 160 pp. Lutheran
Steuart, Walter – Book 2, Title 1, Section 29 in Collections and Observations Concerning the Worship, Discipline, and Government of the Church of Scotland 1770
Steuart’s Collections is a main source for the history of how the details of presbyterian government and worship was done from the Scottish Reformation in 1560 up through the early-1700’s.
bottom of p. 336 to top of 337 in ‘The Ritual of the Church’ in ed. Story, Robert – The Church of Scotland, Past and Present, vol. 5 1890 ff. On the Scottish Reformation practice.
bottom of p. 340 in ‘A Directory for the Public Worship of God’ Buy 1868 in The Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland… and The Directory for the Public Worship of God with Historical Introductions and Illustrative Notes
Be aware that Leishman (1825-1904) was part of the Liturgical Renewal movement in late-1800’s Scotland, which philosophy of worship was directly contrary to the Biblical simplicity of worship contained in the Westminster Directory.
bottom of p. 102-4 in The Westminster Directory 1901
This section is similar to the one above, but adds more material, being the production of Leishman’s more mature years, 33 years later.
Junius, Francis – p. 484 ff. of Est ut Unguentum, Superfusum Capiti, Descendens Super Barbam, Barbam Aharonis; quod Descendit ad Oram usque Vestimentorum Eius in ‘A Meditation on Psalm 133’ in Part V, Things Pertaining to Peace, Part 1 in Select Smaller Theological Works ed. Abraham Kuyper (Amsterdam, 1882)
Voetius, Gisbert – pp. 515-518 of ch.2, ‘Of Benedictions, Salutations, Doxologies and Ecclesiastical Song’ in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1, Book 2, Tract 2, Section 1
Why does the Minister Stand with Lifted Hands during the Benediction?
The lifting up and stretching out of one’s hands to God in the Highest Heavens (Ex. 9:29; 9:33; 1 Kn. 8:22,54; 2 Chron. 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Job 11:13; Ps. 44:20; 88:9; 143:6; Lam. 2:19; 3:41) is a natural action befitting the Benediction, which is a calling upon God. The Benediction is a form of prayer, prayers often being done standing and with uplifted hands in Scripture (Ps. 28:2; 63:4; 134:1-2; 141:2; Lam. 2:19; 3:41; 1 Tim. 1:8; ).
‘To stand before the Lord to minister unto Him’ in Dt. 10:8 (which is specifically tied to the Benediction) is seen in this verse to have a spiritually significant meaning and purpose. Hence the posture is regulated, morally obliging, not indifferent and it ought not to be added to. The same moral significance of standing in worship is in Dt. 17:12; 18:7; 19:17; 29:10,15; 1 Kn. 8:22; 17:1; 18:15; 19:11; 2 Kn. 3:14; 5:16; 2 Chron. 29:11; Zech. 6:5; Rev. 11:4. While in the Old Testament ‘to stand before the Lord’ had special reference to standing before the Temple’s altar, where God had promised to specially reveal Himself by his Word and Sacraments, and though the Temple has been done away with today, yet now we stand before his spiritual presence in worship (Heb. 12:22-24) where He reveals Himself by his Word and Sacraments.
God received these natural, postural actions into his worship in the Old Testament as conducive to the nature of certain elements of his worship, approved it, regulated it and set it forth in the Canon as a standard of his Will for our due worship of Him (thereby excluding other man-devised symbolic actions that might be added thereto).
While the Ecclesiastical Benediction ought to be done by the minister standing with uplifted hands, as this is the normal pattern found in Scriptural worship, yet it is not of the essence of the Benediction such that the Benediction is not valid without it. Standing and the lifting up of hands does not confer the blessing itself (rather, God’s sovereign will answering the prayer, looking unto his own Word and Name, does) and many general benedictions and (effective) prayers in various contexts occur in Scripture without standing or having one’s hands raised.
The Aaronic Benediction in Lev. 9:22 was done with only one hand lifted, this natural (and civil) action signifying that the Benediction has the solemn aspect of a vow or oath to it (see Gen. 14:22; Dt. 32:40; Neh. 8:6; Eze. 36:7; Rev. 10:5-6). Lifting up of both hands (Dan. 12:7) may have been a form of greater intensity in swearing.
Lev. 9:22 “And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings.”
Deut. 10:8 “At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi… to stand before the Lord to minister unto Him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.”
Dt. 27:12 “These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin:”
Josh. 8:33 “And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.”
1 Kn. 8:14 “And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: (and all the congregation of Israel stood;)”
1 Kn. 8:54-57 “And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel… The Lord our God be with us…'”
Lk. 24:50-51 “And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”
1 Kn. 8:22 “And Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven, And he said, ‘Lord God of Israel, there is no God like Thee…'”
Neh. 9:5 “Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the Lord your God for ever and ever:”
Ps. 134:1 “Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord.”
Mt. 6:5 “…for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets…”
Mk. 11:25 “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any:”
Lk. 18:11 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee,”
Rev. 8:3 “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.”
Prayer: with Uplifted Hands
Ex. 9:29,33 “And Moses said unto him, ‘As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord…’… And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the Lord…“
1 Kn. 8:22 “And Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spreadforth his hands toward heaven:”
1 Kn. 8:38 “What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:”
(Persons sometimes spread their hands towards the Temple in the O.T. as it was the prescribed place where God revealed his glory and promised where He would answer prayer. Praying towards a locality has been done away with in the N.T., Jn. 4:21-23.)
1 Kn. 8:54 “And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.”
2 Chron. 6:12 “And he stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spreadforth his hands:”
2 Chron. 6:13 “…and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven.”
2 Chron. 6:29 “Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house:”
Ezra 9:5 “And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,”
Neh. 8:6 “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
Job 11:13 “If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward Him;”
Ps. 28:2 “Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto Thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.”
Ps. 44:20 “If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god;”
Ps. 63:4 “Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.”
Ps. 68:31 “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.”
Ps. 88:9 “Lord, I have called daily upon Thee, I have stretched out my hands unto Thee.“
Ps. 134:1-2 “Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.”
Ps. 141:2 “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
Ps. 143:6 “I stretch forth my hands unto Thee: my soul thirsteth after Thee, as a thirsty land.”
Isa. 1:15 “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:”
Lam. 1:17 “Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her:”
Lam. 2:19 “Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward Him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.”
Lam. 3:41 “Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”
1 Tim. 2:8 “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
Why Does the Minister Face his Hands Towards the People?
“And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering…”
Stretching out one’s hand or hands towards a person or thing is a natural action designating to whom one is supplicating or to whom one is directing their words, blessing or action:
To God: Ex. 9:29; 9:33; 1 Kn. 8:22,54; 2 Chron. 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Job 11:13; Ps. 44:20; 68:31; 88:9; 143:6; Lam. 2:19; 3:41;
To Persons: Prov. 31:20; Isa. 23:11; Eze. 14:9; 16:27; 25:13,16; Hos. 7:5; Mt. 12:49; 14:31; Acts 12:1; 26:1;
To the Temple: 1 Kn. 8:38.
To things: Ex. 7:19; 8:5-6; 9:22; 10:12,21-22; 14:16,26-27; 15:12; Josh. 8:18-19,26; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chron. 21:16; Eze. 14:13; 30:25;
God to us: Prov. 1:24; Isa. 65:2; Rom. 10:21;
This action derives from our nature, even as infants stretch out their arms in attempt to grasp the good which they desire or which may be offered them. Adults communicate and designate their choice by pointing to it.
In the Ecclesiastical Benediction, the minister stretches out his hands unto God in the Highest and directs his blessing to God’s people. As these natural gestures of the minister naturally befit the Benediction, as they are the only way we find it done in Scripture, and as they are warranted, approved and blessed in Scripture, being set forth as a rule for God’s Worship, so the minister ought to follow this Scriptural pattern.
However, as not every general benediction was done with these exact gestures in Scripture, as the authority of the action does not derive from physical gestures, as benedictions are not always effective in the recipient and as these gestures are natural and are not a unique, religious rite, so these gestures are not a sacramental sign of conferring the blessing pronounced, nor make the blessing effective, nor are they necessary to the conferral of the Benediction’s blessing. The efficacy of the Benediction lies not in a physical gesture, but in the sovereign will of God to answer the prayer He has ordained for ministers to make to Him for his people.
The principles delineated above follow George Gillespie’s discussion that the laying on of hands is not necessary or essential to the act of ordination (which Episcopalians often argued in his day). See English-Popish Ceremonies, Book 3, ch. 8, Digression 1, pp. 165-6 (Edinburgh, 1844).
The laying on of hands is also a natural action designating the person or thing selected (see especially Gen. 48:14,17; also: Lev. 16:21; 24:14; Num. 27:18,23; Dt. 34:9; Mt. 9:18; 19:14-15; Mk. 5:23; 6:5; 16:18; Lk. 1:66; 4:40; 13:13; Acts 6:6; 8:17-19; 13:3; 19:6; 28:8; 1 Tim. 4:14; Heb. 6:2; Rev. 1:17), though it does not confer ministerial authority; the consent and act of presbytery does.
The difference between stretching out and directing one’s hands to persons versus laying hands on them appears to be that the laying on of hands can be done with, and is appropriate to persons in one’s immediate, local presence, whereas signaling with one’s hands lifted up is fitting for multitudes.
Should We Say ‘Amen’ After the Benediction?
In Scripture, while the congregation would say ‘Amen’ after prayers (e.g. 1 Chron. 16:36; Neh 8:6; Ps 106:48; Mt. 6:9-13; 1 Cor. 14:16) and the giver of the Benediction would sometimes end it with ‘Amen’ (though not always), yet there is no example of ‘Amen’ being said by the recipients of a Benediction.
R. Dean Anderson, Jr., a Dutch Reformed minister in New Zealand, in his analysis of all the instances of ‘Amen’ being pronounced in Scripture, wrote:
“It is a remarkable fact that the word ‘amen’ is never used in the Bible to affirm a blessing directed at oneself.. The practice, which is becoming more and more popular, of allowing the whole congregation to say ‘amen’ after the blessing at the end of the worship service ought to be rejected.” (“Use of the Word ‘Amen'”, Ordained Servant, vol. 7, no. 4, Oct. 1998, pp. 81-84)
The reason for this is that saying ‘Amen’ expresses our consent to a prayer offered by us or in our behalf, and our desire that it be fulfilled. The Benediction, however, is not our own prayer. Rather, it is the minister, by the authority of Christ, praying that the Lord would, by his Word and Covenant-promise, confer a blessing upon us who are under Him. We are not the one’s praying, but receiving.
If an inspired benediction with an ‘Amen’ in it (e.g. Rom. 15:33; 16:20, 24; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 6:18; Eph. 6:24; Phil. 4:23; etc.) is used by the minister, then, as this benediction was given by the inspiration and authority of Christ through his apostles in their ministerial capacity, so the ‘Amen’ in the Benediction is Christ’s own (“For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him, Amen,” 2 Cor. 1:20), not our own.
The Benediction & the Trinity
The Benediction Proves Infant Baptism
Baptism is a one-time placing of the Name of God, with his blessings, on a person: “baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Mt. 28:19)
The Benediction is a recurrent placing of the Name of God, with its attendent blessings, on a person. So immediately after God gave the Aaronic Benediction (Num. 6:22-26), He says that through this Benediction, “they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” The Benediction recurrently seals to us the Covenant-blessings first given to us in Baptism.
Jesus says to bring the little children (‘infants’ in Greek, Lk. 16:15) to Him, ‘for of such is the kingdom of God’ (Lk. 18:16). He then puts his hands on them and blesses them. Such a blessing would be done in the name of God, as Jesus was a prophet which the people came to hoping for such a blessing from God.
If children are capable of a benediction, then they are capable of baptism. The reformed, Anglican theologian, John Edwards, wrote (Theologia Reformata (1713), vol. 1, p. 571):
“That passage in the Evangelical history, Mk. 10:13, etc. will put this matter beyond all doubt. When they ‘brought young children (or ‘infants’, as ’tis in Lk. 18:15) unto Christ, He took them up in his arms (for they were ‘brought’ or carried in arms) and laid his hands on them (which was a ceremony used in Benediction, and therefore ’tis next said) and blessed them,’ namely, by praying for a blessing, by pronouncing a blessing, and by actually conferring a blessing on them.
This remarkable narrative assures us that infants and young children, though insensible of what is done to them, yet can receive kindnesses and can have favors conveyed to them, and are capable of receiving spiritual advantage to their souls, for that is contained in Christ’s blessing of them. Now, if they be capable of benediction, they are as capable of baptism; for baptism is a solemn benediction.
In brief, there is a capacity in infants, as to the main ends of baptism, which are to represent and exhibit to us the nature of the grace of the Gospel, as it cleanses and purifies, and to confirm the truth of the Covenant on God’s part and to instate the partakers of it in the privileges of the Church of God.”
See also John Calvin who implicitly uses the same argument in Institutes, Book 4, ch. 16, p. 356 (Beveridge)
That Pastoral, Covenantal, Benedictions May Not be Limited to Public Worship Services
“And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the Lord; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:”
“Jesus… said unto them, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me… for of such is the kingdom of God… And He took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”
English-Popish Ceremonies (1637), pt. 3, ch. 2, pp. 24-5
“As touching matrimonial benediction… through divine institution, it has a necessary use, as we have said. And though the Dr. to make it appear that a pastor’s performing of the same is a thing indifferent, alleges that in Scripture there is nothing commanded thereanent.
Yet plain it is from Scripture itself that matrimonial benediction ought to be given by a pastor, for God has commanded his ministers to bless his people (Num. 6), which by just analogy belongs to the ministers of the Gospel; neither is there any ground for making herein a difference betwixt them and the ministers of the Law, but we must conceive the commandment to t•…e both alike to the blessing of God’s people. Unto which ministerial duty of blessing, because no such limits can be set as may exclude matrimonial blessing, therefore they are bound to the performance of it also. And if further we consider that the duty of blessing was performed by the minister of the Lord, even before the law of Moses (Heb. 6:7), we are yet more confirmed to think that the blessing of the people was not commanded in the Law as a thing peculiar and proper to the Levitical priesthood, but as a moral and perpetual duty, belonging to the Lord’s ministers forever.
Wherefore, notwithstanding of any abuse of matrimonial benediction among Papists, yet forasmuch as it has a necessary use in the Church and may not (as the controverted ceremonies may) be well spared…”
“And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them…”
“At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi… to stand before the Lord to minister unto Him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.”
“But he [Melchizedek] whose descent is not counted from them [the Levites], received tithes of Abraham and blessed him that had the promises.”
“In all places where I record my name I will come unto Thee, and I will bless thee.”