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‘Be thankful,’ German theologian tells Midwestern convocation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“Be thankful.”

With these words, Helge Stadelmann set a challenge before students, faculty and staff of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during its academic convocation.

Stadelmann traveled to Midwestern from Giessen, Germany, where he serves as rector of the Freie Evangelische Theologische Akadamie (Free Evangelical Theological Academy). He also is vice chairman of the Association of German Evangelical Theologians.

“We are to be thankful for the ministry that has been given us,” Stadelmann said Jan. 27. “Work is a blessing. There should be an attitude of gratitude, an outburst of thankfulness” for the tasks at hand.

To Midwestern students, he voiced a challenge to get to work and study hard. To the faculty, he underscored their responsibility to prepare the students for ministry. And to the staff, he reminded them they are to serve one another in love.

“Our calling is not an easy one,” Stadelmann said, and neither is it based on feelings, situations or people. He noted that the first words of 2 Corinthians 2:14 are “But thanks to God,” with “but” referring to difficulties recorded in the preceding verses pertaining to tensions between brothers.

“Not only should we be thankful for the ministry we have been given,” Stadelmann said, “we are to be thankful for the opportunity to be [a] witness of God’s grace. We are a people called to be living examples of God’s grace and glorious redemption, proclaiming Christ’s victory through us.”

One way in which Christians are to show thankfulness, Stadelmann said, is to advance the knowledge of God. “The central aim of God’s servants is to know God,” he said. The motivation of all we do is to penetrate deep into God’s knowledge.”

Addressing the students, Stadelmann said their task, beyond their seminary studies, is to manifest the knowledge of God wherever they go. “Knowledge starts with God and ends with God,” he said.

From 2 Corinthians 2:14, Stadelmann also noted Christ’s followers are captives in God’s procession, charged with distributing the sweet fragrance of Christ to a dying world.

In biblical days, when processions would go through the towns, bystanders would get caught up in the crowd’s momentum, Stadelmann said. Not having modern sewer systems, ditches alongside the road containing the city’s refuse would emit a nauseous stench. To counter the odor, incense was spread before the procession. This heavenly breeze would go before the procession.

“We are to be a heavenly breeze,” Stadelmann said. “No one else is bringing this fragrance to the world.

“What prevents us from smelling earthly?” Stadelmann asked. “Only God’s Word makes us sufficient to be God’s channel.”

The last part of 2 Corinthians 2:17 warns believers not to peddle the Word of God, the German scholar said.

“Many churches are using applied psychology and relying on marketing concepts,” he said, “watering down the Gospel for profit.

“Our ministries should be characterized by sincerity,” he said. “Our motives should be to convey nothing but the knowledge of God. We are to speak as out of God, not forcing our own opinions.”

Underscoring Christians’ accountability to God, Stadelmann said, “We are to be no different in private as we present ourselves in public.

“We are enabled by Christ to do His work,” he said. “For this we are to be exceedingly grateful.”

Stadelmann is a well-respected scholar and theologian, having served as academic dean, professor, lecturer and pastor throughout Belgium and Germany. He holds a doctorate in theology from Basel University in Basel, Switzerland, and an M.Div. from Academia Libera Theologica Basiliensis in Basel. He also completed post-graduate studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (S.T.M.) and is a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge University in England.

He is the author and editor of some 140 scholarly publications, including eight books.

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  • Susan Reed