LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The father-son relationship of the Apostle Paul and Timothy provides ministers with much wisdom in serving a local congregation, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told graduates during spring commencement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Preaching from 1 Timothy 4:6-16, Mohler urged the seminary’s 199th graduating class to build their ministries on the preaching and teaching of the Word of God and to exhibit lives of loving patience, purity and integrity. This was precisely how Paul instructed Timothy to perform his Gospel service, Mohler said.
The commencement was held outdoors May 18 on Southern’s campus for a second consecutive year with blue skies and mild temperatures, sending out a class numbering 188 graduates before a gathering of nearly 2,000.
Boyce College graduated 105 students in a separate service on May 11 at Alumni Memorial Chapel. Thomas J. Nettles, professor of historical theology, received the Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Award for teaching excellence.
Addressing the May 18 commencement, Mohler noted, “The substance of your ministry is to be the Word of God. Your ministry is to be a Scripture-saturated, Scripture-driven, scripturally-structured ministry. The substance of Timothy’s ministry was to be drawn from the Word, the same Word that his mother and grandmother had taught him since he was a child.”
Central to the task of proclaiming the Word is “prescribing,” Mohler said; that is, ministers are to teach God’s objective truth and then apply it to listeners so that the Spirit-applied Word will deeply affect their lives. If ministers fail to exhort their congregations, the lives of the people will be barren of spiritual fruit and none will be saved, Mohler said.
“‘Prescribe’ is such an important word because it means we tell people what to do, we tell people what to believe,” Mohler said. “We had better be doing this on the authority of God on the basis of His inspired and inerrant Word. The last thing this world needs is graduates going out with question marks on their diplomas. We must point out the obvious things and teach the deeper things.
“The lack of prescription we find in the church today, the lack of truth-telling, the lack of confrontation, the lack of confidence in objective truth and more than that, the lack of confidence in revealed truth, betrays a fatal infection that, if left uncorrected, will leave the church without Gospel, without witness, without Christ.”
Mohler further noted that ministers must validate their ministry and their message by living pure lives. Sound speech, godly conduct, love, faith and purity will give credibility both to a pastor’s message and ministry, he said, adding that corruption in a minister discolors the Gospel ministry with an “indelible stain.”
“You will gain your credibility in the ministry by showing yourself as an example of those who believe,” he said.
Mohler reminded the graduates that they, like Timothy, will serve troubled churches filled with sinful human beings. But the faithful minister must love the people in his congregation and patiently instruct them as a father would his child, he said.
“You will show that you love them because your courage is going to be mixed with passion and compassion, because your agenda — biblically-driven and doctrinally sound — is going to be displayed within the context of genuine love.
“You will show your love by your patience with them even as this model of Paul and Timothy between a father and a child reminds us that we have no right as ministers to be any less patient with our church members than we should have expected our parents to be patient with us.”
Mohler closed with an exhortation, citing the grave seriousness of Gospel ministry.
“Graduates, never forget what is at stake,” he said. “You are not going out to serve an institution, you are going out to serve the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are not going out to please customers and to sell a product, you are going out to proclaim the greatness and the glory of God. You are going out as ambassadors of Christ. You are going out in order to proclaim the only Gospel that saves.
“If you do this faithfully, persons will be led to Christ. If you do this faithfully, the church will be enlarged as believers join. If you do this faithfully, you will see evidence in baptisms and growing Christians, and you will see the evidence in transformed lives.
“If you do not do this, the Gospel is a sterile thing, the church is a lifeless thing. And as the Apostle Paul warns, there is no salvation. If you persevere in these things, then this will ensure salvation both to yourself and those who hear you. This is not a new formula for works righteousness; it is a reminder of what is at stake.”