LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The modern-day Christian church may be troubled by theological and moral confusion, but it will prevail, Daniel L. Akin said in a chapel sermon at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Aug. 28.
The church appears to have been thrown into disarray with such developments as the recent appointment of an openly gay bishop by the Episcopal church and the rise of aberrant doctrines such as open theism, said Akin, preaching from Matthew 16:13-20.
The church must continue to confess Christ as the Son of the living God and to answer the call of the Great Commission, he said, because the church will continue to spread even in the face of adversity. Akin is dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary and professor of Christian preaching.
“I am incredibly optimistic,” Akin said. “Why? I have read the words of Jesus. And in Jesus’ words here [in Matthew 16], He will build His church and the gates of hell will not stand against it. This text is as essential for the church today as it has ever been. It provides for us a much-needed bedrock.”
For the church to remain healthy, it must first correctly answer the question of the identity of Christ, Akin said. The most fundamental question facing all people is the one Christ posed to Peter in the first century: “Who do men say I am?”
Many people — including some inside the church — are still grappling with the question of the identity of Christ, just as Peter and the disciples did in the first century, Akin said. Some, he pointed out, get the answer eternally wrong.
“There are many people today who hold Jesus in high esteem,” Akin said. “They think well of Him and they still get it wrong. For example, you can think of the father of modern liberal theology, Friedrich Schleiermacher, who said [Christ] was ‘a God-intoxicated man.’
“Or you can look at the varieties of liberation theologies that all see Him as a great liberator of the oppressed. Or you can even examine the writings of someone like John Hick, one of the foremost pluralists, who says, ‘[Jesus] was a Buddah.’ All of those, if you have a wide imagination, can at least be categorized as honoring, as a compliment. And yet, they all get it wrong.”
Believers must press the issue of Christ with non-believers, Akin said. When people stand before God at the final judgment, he said, they will need the same answer as Peter, that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” to enter the Kingdom.
The biblical truth of salvation through Christ alone never fades in importance, Akin said.
“Jesus put this question to His disciples and He also puts it to you and I today,” Akin said. “Who do you say Jesus is? When you are out there in the real world, talking to real people, do you press the issue? All of us must personally answer the question of Jesus.”
Akin reminded the chapel audience that the ability to confess Jesus Christ as Lord is given by the Holy Spirit. And even though salvation is completely a gift of God, people are responsible to trust wholly in Christ, Akin said.
“No mere mortal being could arrive at this on their own,” he said. “The effects of the fall [of man and] the effects of sin have so blinded human beings that we could never see this. We could never arrive at this truth without divine enablement.”
The church also must answer the question of Christ by carrying out the Great Commission because God builds His church through human instrumentality, Akin said. Christians may engage in evangelism with confidence because God has promised that His church will prevail no matter how things may seem, he said.
This biblical truth should provide Christians with the courage needed to evangelize in a world that rejects the very notion of truth, Akin said. The battle is spiritual, but at Calvary, Christ won the victory on behalf of His church, Akin said.
“As we engage in this battle, we fear neither death nor dying,” he said. “Why? Because Hebrews 2:10 reminds us that the captain of our salvation has already won the battle. We do not fight for victory, we fight from victory.”