The Order of Worship: Benediction
We conclude our series on the Order of Worship by considering the Benediction. The Benediction is God’s blessing on his people as we go out. God opened the worship by calling us to worship, and he closes the worship by sending us out with his blessing.
We see this action commanded by God in Numbers 6:22–27. God says that by this action, Aaron and his sons put the name of God on his people, and God will bless his people.
There are several things that must be true in order for it to be a Benediction. First, it must be from Scripture. If God wishes to bless his people, it must be his Word that goes forth in blessing. Any words that I or Nathan might compose may be beautiful. There may even be truth in them. But if they are not Scriptural words, then they are not God’s Words.
Second, the words should express God’s blessing on his people. God says many things in Scripture. Not all of them are intended as a statement of blessing. There is another kind of formula that some churches use in worship called an Ascription. Here, a biblical passage is used to express the greatness of God. These Ascriptions are wonderful, but they are not Benedictions, though some churches confuse the two.
Finally, the Benediction must be offered by the minister of Word and Sacrament. It is the pastor who has been delegated by God to speak his Word in worship and therefore the pastor who speaks the words of God in this blessing.
When the Benediction is offered, you will notice that the minister lifts his hand, or hands, in a gesture of blessing. It is appropriate for the people to hold out their hands in a gesture as though to receive the blessing. These gestures do not have any power in themselves, but they match the posture of our body with that of our soul. We stand ready and desiring to receive God’s blessing. The congregation does not need to bow their heads as though in prayer. Rather, lift up your heads and your hearts to the Lord in eager readiness for his face to shine on you.
God pronounces this blessing on his people each week. What a joy and comfort. He loves us!
This brings our series on the Order of Worship to an end. There are other ways to order the elements of worship that God has commanded in his Word. This series was meant to give some insight into those elements as well as offer an explanation for why we have ordered them as we have. We hope it’s been a blessing to you and helped you worship with more understanding and therefore more joy on Sunday mornings.
Your fellow servant of Christ,