This is an experimental Q&A-style sermon I preached at Grace Anglican Church on the second Sunday of Lent, 2013, beginning our Lenten series on spiritual warfare.
#1 – What is a blessing?
A “blessing” is a benediction, eulogy, good word. “To bless” means to speak well of, to praise, to provide with benefits, to bestow special favor (esp. God’s gracious power), to fill with power (esp. fertility, prosperity).
#1A – God blesses us.
This is probably what we must usually think of about blessings. Examples: Genesis 12:2, Exodus 20:24, 1 Chronicles 4:10, Psalm 115:12-13.
#1B – We bless God.
Examples: Deuteronomy 8:10, Psalm 103:1-2,20-22.
#1C – We bless other people.
It’s related both to our authority within Christ and our authority within the world; hence the tradition of Priestly blessings being distinct from a layperson’s blessing. Examples: Genesis 28:3, Numbers 6:23-26, Ruth 2:4, 1 Samuel 2:20, Isaiah 65:16, Jeremiah 4:2, Luke 1:42, Hebrews 7:7.
#1D – A blessing is different from prayer.
“Now blessing differs from prayer, in assurance, because it is not performed by way of request, but of confidence, and power, effectually applying Gods favour to the blessed, by the interesting of that dignity wherewith God hath invested the Priest, and engaging of Gods own power and institution for a blessing.” – George Herbert, A Priest to the Temple or the Countrey Parson
#1E – Blessing people is not unique to Christ and the Apostles
“But this was not proper to Christ, or the Apostles only, no more then to be a spiritual Father was appropriated to them. And if temporal Fathers bless their children, how much more may, and ought Spiritual Fathers? Besides, the Priests of the Old Testament were commanded to Bless the people, and the form thereof is prescribed, (Num. 6:22-27). Now as the Apostle argues in another case; if the Ministration of condemnation did bless, how shall not the ministration of the spirit exceed in blessing? The fruit of this blessing good Hannah found, and received with great joy, (I Sam. 1:18) though it came from a man disallowed by God: for it was not the person, but Priesthood, that blessed; so that even ill Priests may bless.” – Herbert
#2 – How do we bless other people?
#2A – General and specific blessings
“A blessing may be either general or specific. “I bless you in Jesus’ name” is general. When we bless one another with peace, mercy, grace, patience, or joy, we are being more specific. It may be that in the Beatitudes, Jesus intended His statements to confer specific blessings, not simply to describe the blessings available to those with the qualities he mentioned.” – Charles Kraft, I Give You Authority, 241
#2B – Examples of Christian blessings in Scripture
Romans 15:13, II Corinthians 13:14, Ephesians 6:23-24, Philippians 1:2; 4:7, II Timothy 1:2, Hebrews 13:20-21
#2C – Bless liberally
“From Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10 we learn that we are to bless freely, before we even know how our recipients will react. Not everyone will accept us (vv6, 10-11); when this happens, we are justified in taking back our blessing (v6), since the person who declares a blessing “owns” that blessing.” – Kraft, 64
#2D – What about “saying grace?”
We should take seriously the blessing of our food before we eat. Those of us who regularly say “grace” before meals should not simply do so as a matter of routine. We have the authority to empower food and drink to bring blessing on those who eat and drink it. A scriptural example of these things is the use of Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons to bring healing and deliverance (Acts 19:12). There was no magic in these items; the power of God through the blessing of being close to the man of God brought about miraculous things. – Kraft, 65-66
#2E – Objects can convey blessings.
Consider sprinkling with Holy Water. Also consider: 1 Samuel 9:13, Matthew 9:20, 14:36, Acts 5:15, 19:12, 1 Corinthians 10:16.
#3 – What about cursing?
“Neither have the Ministers power of Blessing only, but also of cursing. So in the Old Testament Elisha cursed the children, (2 Kin. 2:24) which though our Saviour reproved as unfitting for his particular, who was to show all humility before his Passion, yet he allows in his Apostles. And therefore St. Peter used that fearfull imprecation to Simon Magus (Act. 8:18-25). Thy money perish with thee: and the event confirmed it. So did St. Paul when speaking of Alexander the Coppersmith who had withstood his preaching, The Lord (saith he) reward him according to his works. And again, of Hymeneus and Alexander, he saith, he had delivered them to Satan, that they might learn not to Blaspheme (2 Tim. 4:14. & I Tim. 1:20).” – Herbert
#3A – Bless, and do not curse
Under normal circumstances, we are called to bless people even when they mistreat us. Examples: Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14, 1 Corinthians 4:12, James 3:9, 1 Peter 3:9.
#4 – What’s the importance & validity of blessings?
“The Country Parson wonders, that Blessing the people is in so little use with his brethren: whereas he thinks it not only a grave, and reverend thing, but a beneficial also. Those who use it not, do so either out of niceness, because they like the salutations, and complements, and forms of worldly language better… Or else, because they think it empty and superfluous. But … which our Saviour himself used, (Mark 10:16), cannot be vain and superfluous.” – Herbert
#4a – Why this practice has been neglected
“The neglect of this duty in Ministers themselves hath made the people also neglect it; so that they are so far from craving this benefit from their ghostly Father, that they oftentimes go out of church, before he hath blessed them. In the time of Popery, the Priest’s Benedicite, and his holy water were over-highly valued; and now we are fallen to the clean contrary, even from superstition to coldness, and Atheism.” – Herbert
#4b – Bringing back the blessings
“But the Parson first values the gift in himself, and then teacheth his parish to value it. And it is observable, that if a Minister talk with a great man in the ordinary course of complementing language, he shall be esteemed as ordinary complementers; but if he often interpose a Blessing, when the other gives him just opportunity, by speaking any good, this unusual form begets a reverence, and makes him esteemed according to his Profession. The same is to be observed in writing Letters also. To conclude, if all men are to bless upon occasion, as appears in Romans 12:14, how much more those who are spiritual Fathers?” – Herbert