LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–O.S. Hawkins and James T. Draper Jr. encouraged students to reflect on faithful Christians of the past during the 5th annual Heritage Week at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 13-17.
Hawkins, president of the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, told seminarians that every generation of believers faces a key question it must answer. By learning how past generations answered their most pivotal question, the church can find help in being equipped to confront today’s issues properly, he said. Hawkins and Draper addressed students during Heritage Week chapel services.
First- and second-century Christians had to answer the question Christ posed in John 13:38, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” Hawkins said.
“From Stephen outside the Sheep’s Gate in Jerusalem to James at the sword of Herod to Peter to Paul to most all those apostles and into those next generations…. Ignatius that great pastor of the great missionary church at Antioch who was devoured by those wild lions, Polycarp of Smyrna who was burned at the sake…. They all went to their martyr’s death with that question of their time burning in their hearts: ‘Will you lay down your life for Me?'” he said.
Subsequent generations of Christians faced other questions, Hawkins said. For example, Christians during the Protestant Reformation were confronted with the question of John 11:40, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
“Armed with the question of their time, and armed with the truth of the Book of Romans, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg and the glory of God began to fill Europe through the likes of Calvin and Zwingli and Knox … and our Baptist forefathers … and so many others,” Hawkins said.
More recent generations have dealt with the question of liberalism, Hawkins said.
“In these past generations, we watched as one major mainline denomination after another after another after another went away from the faith of their founders, their forefathers and the truth of the Gospel,” he said. “The question of their time [was], ‘Will you also go away?’ I thank God that over 20 years ago, Southern Baptists answered that question in a very positive way.”
Today, Hawkins said, the most important question for Christians is the exclusivity of the Gospel.
“It is the question of Matthew 16:15, ‘Who do you say that I am?'” Hawkins said. “For as these generations unfold before us now, and particularly into this next decade, the single most important issue that you will face as you go out into ministry and seek to engage and impact the culture and convert a culture around you is this issue of the exclusivity of Christ, whether He is the one and only way to eternal life.”
Christians must be particularly careful to avoid two incorrect views of salvation: pluralism and inclusivism, Hawkins said.
Pluralism is the belief that “there are a plurality of ways to get to heaven,” he said. “It permeates our culture and the mindset of people all around us who believe that there are many roads that lead to heaven and a plurality of ways to get there.”
Inclusivism is the belief that Christ’s death on the cross may bring salvation to some who have not explicitly trusted Jesus as their Savior, Hawkins said.
“Why should we be concerned about these two issues?” he asked. “Because they dramatically affect the nature of our faith…. For if you believe there are a plurality of ways to get to heaven, what need is there to believe in the incarnation or the virgin birth or the sinless deity or the vicarious death or the bodily resurrection or any of the great doctrines of our faith?”
Inclusivism, Hawkins continued, “affects … how be behave, our mission. And so, is it any coincidence that churches … in mainline denominations that have gone this way no longer talk about evangelism? [They] no longer talk about world missions?”
Faithful Christians must embrace explicit faith in Christ as the exclusive way of salvation because the exclusive Gospel has power to transform lives, he said.
“What motivated Simon Peter to meet a martyr’s death…? Was it a belief in pluralism? Was it a … belief in inclusivism?” Hawkins asked.
“No, he gave his life for the message of the exclusivity of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. … What motivated Paul, who gave us most of our New Testament, to meet his martyr’s death? This belief in an inclusive gospel, a pluralistic gospel? No, it was this insistence on the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of a pagan culture.”
He concluded, “You have a heritage here at Southern, and this heritage is about the future. Go out and raise high a standard and let the world know, as Simon Peter did, that neither is there salvation in [any other name].”
Draper, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, exhorted students to preach the Gospel faithfully amid cultural chaos.
“We have one message, one person: Jesus Christ,” Draper said. “The world doesn’t need some clever new theological philosophy. The world does not need some clever new psychology. The world needs to experience the living presence of Jesus Christ who Himself is God in the very essence of God.”
Preaching from John 1:1-5, Draper emphasized several essentials that ministers must teach about Jesus Christ.
First, ministers must teach the preexistence of Jesus.
“Jesus has always existed as God,” he said. “He is not just a late bloomer on the theological scene. He is not just some historical character that you can give deference to or you can ignore. He is in the beginning with God. He preexisted. He didn’t come into being. He always has been.”
Ministers also must emphasize the preeminence of Christ, Draper said.
Because many religions teach that Jesus was merely a prophet or teacher, it is vital that Christians declare Him to be fully God, Draper said. When humans understand the deity of Christ, His power will be released in their lives, he said.
“[Jesus] has the power over the conflict between light and darkness, between truth and error. There’s a battle taking place today, and I have good news for you. We don’t have to win the battle. The battle has already been won. The light lasts. The darkness cannot extinguish the light. It cannot overcome the light.
“We go out to announce a victory, not to win a victory. Ours is to go out and proclaim that the light has come, the Word of God has come, and He has power over life and power over light [and] over the darkness of this world.”
Jesus Christ “is the message we proclaim today,” Draper said.