The Benediction

“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you…  and He lifted up his hands, and blessed them.”

Lk. 24:49-51

“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.'”

Gen. 14:18-20

“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.'”

Num. 6:23-26

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Order of Contents

Start Here  2
Westminster
Quotes  3
Articles  3
Dictionaries & Encyclopedias  8
Book  1
Historical Commentaries  3
The Rite
    Why is the Benediction Done with Lifted Hands?
.      Why is the Benediction Done with the Minister’s Hands Facing the People?
    Should We Say ‘Amen’ After the Benediction?
Doctrinal
.      The Benediction & the Trinity
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   The Benediction Proves Infant Baptism

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Start Here

Audio Sermon

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 not a prayer, but an effective, discriminatory pronouncement.

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Article

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.  Fentiman replies to Rev. Silversides’ arguments demonstrating that the Benediction is clearly a special prayer in Scripture and in the Westminster Standards.

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Westminster  The Warrant for the Benediction in the Standards

For more in Westminster, see ‘Westminster on the Benediction as Prayer’ in Fentiman’s article.

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Westminster Form of Presbyterial Church Government  1645

“Pastors

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]

[q] Num. 6:23-26 compared with Rev. 1:4,5Isa. 66:21
[r] Deut. 10:82 Cor. 13:14Eph. 1:2

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.

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Westminster Directory of Public Worship

“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.

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Westminster Directory of Church Government  1647

Of Ordinances in a Particular Congregation

“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.”

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Quotes

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].”

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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.”

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Alexander Henderson

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.”

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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 of the Word and Sacraments, that of Church Discipline, especially in the Acts of solemn Admonition, Suspension, Excommunication, Absolution, Penance, and the Execution of bot•.”

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Articles

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

Binnie, William – The Benediction  1882  p. 91, 3 pp. from his The Church 

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Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

1800’s

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

McClintock & Strong – ‘Benediction’ & ‘Benedictions’  in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature  1867-1887  Conservative 

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

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1900’s

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

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Book

Dolbeer, William H. – The Benediction  1907  160 pp.  Lutheran

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Historical Commentaries

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.

Leishman, Thomas

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

Ne 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.

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The Rite

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Why does the Minister Lift his Hands during the Benediction?

Because it is a calling upon God in the Highest Heavens, and is a prayer, which, hence, is often done with uplifted hands.  The Aaronic Benediction in Lev. 9:22 was done with only one hand lifted, this signifying that the Benediction has the solemn aspect of a vow or oath to it (Gen. 14:22; Dt. 32:40; Rev. 10:5-6).

Benedictions

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.”

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.”

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Prayer

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.”

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. 63:4  “Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.”

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.”

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.”

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Why Does the Minister Face his Hands Towards the People?

As it is a sign of conferring the blessing:

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.”

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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 is used 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.), then, as this benediction was given by the authority of Christ through the apostles, so the ‘Amen’ in it is Christ’s own ‘Amen’ (“For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him, Amen,” 2 Cor. 1:20), not our own.

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Doctrinal

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The Benediction & the Trinity

Hodge, A.A. – Sections 39 & 56  in Outlines of Theology, pp. 141 & 148  On the divinity of the Holy Spirit and the Son from 2 Cor. 13:14

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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 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)

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“And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them…”

Lev. 9:22

“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.”

Deut. 10:8

“But he [Melchizedek] whose descent is not counted from them [the Levites], received tithes of Abraham and blessed him that had the promises.”

Heb. 7:6

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