KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — With the spirit of the Christmas season as a backdrop, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated the culmination of 135 students’ hard work and dedication in its 62nd commencement exercises Dec. 9.
President Jason Allen delivered the keynote address as the graduates joined a new generation of pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders in Kingdom service.
Allen challenged the graduates from Romans 1:16-17 to never take the Gospel for granted. After all, he said, the Gospel had been the focus of their studies for an extended period of time, and they would now employ it in their various ministry contexts.
From the passage, Allen set forth three exhortations: to speak the Gospel boldly; to expect the Gospel to work powerfully; and to embrace the Gospel personally.
In verse 16 when the apostle Paul stated he is “not ashamed” of the Gospel, Allen noted that Paul ultimately is saying, “I feel no shame through my public affiliation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
For all of the faithfulness Paul put into proclaiming the Gospel, Allen said it netted him beatings, imprisonment, being mocked and laughed at and eventual execution. Yet through it all, Paul remained faithful and ambitious — desiring to give both Greeks and barbarians what he had gained from his trust in the Gospel.
“He is the recipient of the abundant grace of God, the abundant mercies of Christ,” Allen said. “It has changed his life. He has experienced forgiveness, liberation from the bondage of sin. Thus, he is eager to go about preaching and speaking the Gospel. Nay, more than eager, he is indebted to his lost neighbors to do just that.”
Allen urged the graduates never to forget the grace God has imparted to His people for proclaiming the Gospel to others.
“To the extent that we fail to remember all that we have gained through Christ, our own ministerial passion and our own Gospel passion will soon wither,” he said. “To the extent that we never get over what we have gained in Christ — the forgiveness He has given us, the change of life we have experienced — the more impassioned our ministry for the Gospel will be….
“Priority number one, as you walk across the stage today, is to remember your call to a bold embrace, a bold preaching, of the Gospel of Christ.”
The Gospel’s power
Ministers must expect the Gospel to work powerfully, Allen said, citing the verse 16’s affirmation that, “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
Today’s culture desperately needs to hear the message of the Gospel, Allen said. “Whether you grew up in the buckle of the ‘Bible Belt’ or whether you are speaking of places on the globe that have no access to the Gospel, these peoples need the message of Christ for salvation…. There is salvation for everyone, for everyone who believes.”
Allen said the Gospel changes people in three essential ways — they are saved from the penalty of their sin; they are saved from the power of sin; and they are saved from the pain and guilt of sin.
“I say to you, if you are in Christ you have been made free and you are free indeed. I say to you that if you are not in Christ, so good is our Savior that He comes to you and frees you — not only from the penalty of such sins, but as you believe in Him, from the pain of that sin as well.”
Embracing the Gospel
Encouraging the audience to embrace the Gospel personally — for in it the righteousness of God is revealed — Allen explained that a person must have a completely righteous life to gain heaven, which people cannot obtain on their own.
However, the best news about faith in Christ is that, in accepting the gift of salvation that God freely gives, it imputes to a person the righteousness of Christ, Allen said.
Each person must accept the Gospel personally, Allen said. No one else can do this for them. “We preach that message and, as we do, brothers and sisters, we preach good news!” he said.
Calling on the audience to accept this message personally, Allen said, “Maybe today is the day that God has found you. Maybe He has you here not to celebrate someone walking across the stage, but to celebrate something much greater — you giving your life to Jesus Christ.”
To view Allen’s commencement address, click here.