LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Ministers of the gospel should have one goal — to glorify Christ.
In doing so, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told graduates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Dec. 13 that the Christian church will be served and the gospel will spread.
The Southern Seminary president made his comments during the 190th commencement of Southern Baptists’ oldest institution. More than 130 students representing 28 states and six foreign countries graduated with either master’s-level or doctorate degrees.
“The men and women who graduate here today represent the hope of the church for the watering of the world with the gospel [and] for the nourishing of the church with the Word,” Mohler said.
Preaching from John 1:1-34, Mohler pointed to John the Baptist as a model for Christian ministers. John the Baptist, he noted, made certain he was not the focus of his ministry.
Mohler quoted several verses in which John the Baptist underscores the purpose of his ministry: John 3:30 (“He must increase, but I must decrease”), John 1:27 (“It is he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie”), John 1:30 (“After me comes a man who has a higher rank than I, for he existed before me”) and John 1:29 (“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”).
“What a model for the Christian ministry, what a model for … bold witness….,” Mohler said.
John the Baptist, Mohler said, always kept his focus on Christ.
“That is our mission as well — not [as] a forerunner, but [as] a redeemed witness, a redeemed minister of the gospel to declare the glory of God and the incarnate Christ,” he said.
The gospel minister, Mohler said, should never be the center of his ministry.
“[T]his is not about us,” he said. “It is not about us individually. It is not even about us corporately. The main purpose of the minister of the gospel is not to serve the church, but to serve the glory of Christ, to point to Christ and say, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.’
“In so doing, the minister will serve the church. In so doing, the minister will be faithful to that calling. In so doing, the minister will feed the sheep and tend to the flock and bear witness to the gospel.”
Mohler said that John 1 is rich in Christian doctrine and includes a description of the relationship between Christ and God the Father in verse 1. There is a “distinction of personality,” Mohler said, but “there is no distinction of being or essence.” The chapter also testifies to Christ’s deity and humanity, he added.
“Christianity stands or falls on the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the confession of Christ as fully God and fully man — the historic reality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh,” he said.
The Father-Son relationship is critical when considering Christianity’s exclusive claims, Mohler said.
“This tells us something that these days is a scandal, and that is that only the Son can show us the Father,” he said. “There is no other way to know the Father but by the Son. What a glorious truth to know. What an incredible stewardship to bear.”
The chapter’s distinction between the Light [Christ] and darkness [sin] should not be overlooked, Mohler said.
“We understand that there is indeed, by the Lord’s own declaration, a distinction between the church and the world as the children of Light in the midst of the children of darkness,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the children of Light to speak of the Light, to give witness of the Light, to tell of the Light and to understand the eternal danger of the darkness.”
This distinction can easily be seen in the Christmas season, when people celebrate the holiday without celebrating Christ’s birth.
“All around us is a world that is speaking of Christmas while missing the point,” he said. “[The world is] speaking of Christmas, which we know celebrates the coming of Light into the world, and yet they speak of such a thing while dwelling in darkness.”
Part of the Christian minister’s responsibility, Mohler added, is to take the Light into the darkness.
“Our purpose is to make Christ known, to show his glory and thereby to glorify the Father,” he said. “Thereby we understand that the Christian ministry is not a profession, it is not an occupation; it is instead a holy passion, a calling, a consuming unquenchable determination to make Christ known, to make his glory visible through redeemed men and women from every tongue and every tribe.”
This commencement address can be heard online at: http://www.sbts.edu/resources/audio/Fall2002.php. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GRAD’S CELEBRATION and READY FOR MINISTRY.