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Love akin to 1 Corinthians 13 underscored to SEBTS students

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The church’s witness in the modern world needs believers who are doctrinally sound and passionately rooted in the Christ-like love of 1 Corinthians 13, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin said in the seminary’s Aug. 23 convocation.

Referencing some of the theologians in the “emerging church” movement, Akin noted that they are asking some good questions, but he countered those who say the church needs to “loosen up” theologically in order to reach a postmodern culture.

Churches do not need what emerging church leader Brian McLaren calls a “new kind of Christian,” Akin said; rather, churches need an “old kind of Christian,” a “Jesus kind of Christian,” people characterized as much by love and compassion as they are by doctrinal fidelity.

That portrait is painted, Akin said, in 1 Corinthians 13.

“God has not left it to our imagination to come up with what love really is,” Akin said. “Instead, He has revealed it clearly in His Word and modeled it perfectly in His Son. Given this, evangelicals must be the first to strive to exemplify this Christ-like love in their character and their conduct.”

First, Akin noted, love must accompany the words of a Christian. Otherwise, he said, “you are just making a lot of noise.”

“This is where the person with a sharp wit and quick mind must be careful,” Akin said. “Even if you are very eloquent, gifted and loquacious, if love doesn’t accompany what you say, it does not matter.”

In addition, Akin cautioned students not to let the knowledge gained in seminary cause them to become puffed up, but rather to add to that knowledge a love that edifies others.

“You may be the most brilliant person in this room,” Akin said. “God wants you to love Him with your mind, tempered by loving Him with your heart. If you’re not careful, that knowledge can go to your head. Instead of using knowledge to build up His Kingdom, tragically, you may find that you use it to tear it down.”

Love, Akin said, “is not possessed with a ‘peacock syndrome,’ strutting about and letting people know how lucky God is to have you on His side.” Instead, believers’ attitudes should be humility at the mercy and grace of God to redeem them and allow them to be used in His service.

And the way a Christian lives must be marked by love, Akin said. God will inevitably bring difficult people into the life of a Christian to teach patience, and relationships with these individuals should be seen as God-given opportunities for sanctification.

Another group of people that a pastor will encounter in ministry is those that the world might consider undesirable. A trustworthy test of whether a pastor is modeling a Christ-like love is the way that he responds to these people in his congregation.

“How do you treat people who can do absolutely nothing to further your agenda?” Akin asked. “Do you welcome them as you do the banker, the doctor, the lawyer?”

Akin concluded by pointing students to the perfect model of a selfless and holy love — Jesus Christ Himself. He exhorted students to see the character of Christ in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and to follow His example in the upcoming school year, ensuring that love is not absent among the virtues they seek to cultivate during their time at Southeastern.

The convocation ceremony also featured Anthony Greenham, the newest elected member of the Southeastern faculty, signing the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Southeastern requires all of its professors to sign these documents, formalizing a covenant between themselves and the seminary that they will teach according to the core doctrines of the Christian faith and traditional Baptist principles.

In addition, David Alan Black, professor of New Testament and Greek, received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, given annually to an outstanding member of the Southeastern faculty. Black is a prolific writer and respected scholar whom students yearly rate as one of their favorite teachers.

“Few men combine wisdom and grace in teaching the New Testament more effectively than David,” Akin said. “He is a wonderful blessing to the Southeastern family.”

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  • Kyle Smith