The Active God of Peace: Hebrews 13:20-21
“20) Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21) equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews‬ ‭13:20-21‬
These are two rather complex verses. I confess, I have not wrestled with them previously. When you take the time to diagram them, some surprising insights emerge.
First, the subject and focus of these two verses is God the Father. He is referred to as “the God of peace.” He is the active member of the God head in these two verses.
Second, the basis of His peace relates to raising up Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep from the dead. Ephesians 1:20 ties the resurrection of Christ to the power of God. The death, burial and resurrection are the basis of the eternal covenant between God and Believers. Salvation is purchased and sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ.
Third, though not stated in theses verses, it can be implied that God the Father is not the God of peace to all people. You may need to wrestle with that thought a bit. It is contrary to popular theology. Let me explain.
In Romans 1:18-2:16, Paul argues that God the Father is a God of wrath, indignation and judgement to the ungodly. Your view of God and the gospel is not biblically correct without understanding both sides of this paradox. God is both a God of peace and a God of wrath. He is both Savior and Judge. Both mercy and justice abide in Him.
Popular theology paints Him only with the brush of love. It leaves out the brushes of justice, wrath, indignation and judgement. The end result is a distorted portrait of God.
It behooves every person to make sure they belong to the flock of Jesus Christ. He alone is the great Sheperd of the sheep. His sheep are the only ones covered by the covenant purchased and sealed with the blood of Christ.
Finally, this leads into verse 21 which can easily be misinterpreted. His sheep are the ones equipped or prepared for every good thing… in doing His will. The thought is actually a bit awkward in the Greek. It is not saying we are equipped to do His will; but rather that we are brought to completion in every good thing… and that enables us to do His will. The emphasis is on God the Father working in us and changing us and bringing us to maturity and completion… and that is what enables us to do His will.
This might best be understood as the role of the Father presented in John 15:1-2 as the vine dresser. He is pictured as actively pruning every branch on the vine to bring it to maximum fruitfulness and potential. John 15:8 says, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” Abundant fruit bearing is the end result of the work of the vine dresser.
God first works deeply in those He later works greatly through. He does whatever is necessary to bring us to completion so we can do His will. That is the best way to capture the emphasis of these two verses.
The end result is that we do those things that are pleasing in His sight and He gets the glory. God so works in us and through us that our branch on the vine becomes fruitful for His glory. The focus remains on the active work of God the Father throughout these two verses.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global