LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Behind the call to ministry is the salvation of a sinner, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told 196 students who received diplomas, master’s and doctoral degrees as Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s 208th the graduating class Dec. 9.
Comparing the graduates’ conversions and calling to ministry to the Apostle Paul’s, the seminary president stated that these graduates, like Paul, once were enemies of Christ. Now, as recipients of God’s mercy transformed by His grace, these graduates will scatter across the nation and globe, Mohler said, in order to serve in Gospel ministry of various forms.
“These graduates know themselves as Paul knew himself,” Mohler said. “They know themselves to be sinners who desperately needed the salvation that is found in Christ and in Christ alone. They knew of their need for the forgiveness of their sins, and they found that forgiveness in the cross and resurrection of Christ. They know that they did not and do not deserve this gift of salvation, but they declare that this free gift comes to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and look to Him for salvation, rescue, redemption and peace.
Basing his message on 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Mohler explained that as Paul considered himself unworthy for his calling so should graduates of Southern Seminary. Sinners do not deserve salvation, he said, and neither do they deserve God’s calling on their lives.
“Even though this is the testimony of the Apostle Paul, it is also the testimony of every one of these graduates. They, too, were once the enemies of Christ. They, too, once hated the very things they now love. Like Paul, they have received their call to the ministry by the sheer grace of God, His unmerited and extravagant favor. Their rebellion may have been less conspicuous but it was no less real. Their transformation may have been less famous, but it was no less spectacular,” Mohler said.
“These graduates are not now to be set loose because we recognize today their worthiness. No, we openly declare their unworthiness in and of themselves — even armed with their newly minted degrees. They have been called to this service by God and it is He who has made them worthy by the gift of His grace.”
The Gospel serves as a reminder of this reality, Mohler noted, pointing to Paul’s well-known statement in verse 15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of all acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
“Christ came into the world to save sinners. The confluence of this commencement with the majesty and glory of Christmas only serves to remind us of the centrality of the incarnation of Christ to the Gospel and of the purpose of His coming to save.
“Who is worthy even to witness such a thing?” Mohler asked the audience. “Not one of us. And yet, Christ has mercifully allowed us to be witnesses of these things.”
The seminary also honored Tamvan Thi Nguyen by granting her the master of arts in biblical counseling posthumously. Nguyen’s widower was present to receive the degree.
Reported by the communications staff of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A transcript of Mohler’s commencement address, “That Our Joy May Be Complete: The Essence of Christian Ministry,” is available at www.albertmohler.com. The address also is available in audio and video at the SBTS Resources page, www.sbts.edu/resources.