LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Ministers of the Gospel must proclaim the Word of God and also live without compromise by its mandates, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during the school’s spring graduation ceremony.
Preaching from James 1 at the seminary’s 193rd commencement May 14, Mohler told the graduating class of 174 students that it will not be enough for them to study God’s Word or even to preach it unless they are clearly living out its demands.
“The Gospel is not submitted for our mere consideration but for our demonstration,” Mohler said. “We forget that at our peril and we also rob God of His glory.
“We live in an emotive age when many people judge the authenticity of their faith by how they feel. But if we give our primary consideration to feeling, eventually we will no longer even be able to feel.” Underscoring the importance of action, Mohler said, “The moment thought, instruction and knowledge is translated into action, there is not only a public demonstration of this truth, there is also the transformation of the human heart by the Holy Spirit as that truth is lived out and a declaration is made in flesh and in Spirit as well as in word.”
Mohler challenged the graduates to serve as examples to other Christians by being faithful doers of the Word. Ministers must center their ministries upon the proclamation of God’s Word with the aim of motivating others to live in a way consistent with the Gospel, Mohler said. To do this, the minister must himself live in accord with Scripture, he said.
The minister will know that the Word has been rightly received when his teaching and preaching results in transformed lives in his congregation.
“Our preaching is not a performance,” Mohler said. “Our acts of ministry are not submitted for public consideration as something that just might have a Gospel point.
“We are to center our ministries, ourselves, and all that we do in the teaching and the preaching of God’s Word, and in the demonstration [of it], motivating others likewise to be doers of the Word. We will know that our ministry is effective — if we dare use that word — if our congregations show what God’s Word is in their lives.”
Mohler said there are two types of people who hear the Word of God: those who believe it and seek to conform their lives to it and those who — like the man of James 1:23-24 who stares at his reflection in the mirror — listen to it but remain unchanged.
The minister who would be faithful to his calling must take care not to be self-deluded and he must not produce a congregation of people who falsely believe themselves to be Christians, Mohler said.
“It is an awful thing to contemplate a congregation of people who think they are Christians who are deluding themselves,” he said. “This contrast between mere hearing of the Word and doing of the Word is something we need to confront and by which we need to be confronted again and again.”
With ministers facing so many temptations to compromise biblical truth to the whims of contemporary culture, Mohler said it will not take long to for faithful preachers to become distinguished from unfaithful ones.
“I think I can say on the basis of an observation of the times that we will soon find out who are the doers of the Word,” Mohler said. “In this day there will be no more cultural Christianity. In the white-hot heat of our current confrontation, there will be no casual Christianity.
“We are going to find out who are the false hearers and who are the effectual doers. We must confront the church of God with this truth. We must arm Christians with this realization. We must challenge ourselves and others with the task and the litmus test of true faith, which is its demonstration. Your ministry will demonstrate Christ, Christianity and Christian truth or it will quickly fall and falter.”
Among the graduates was T.J. McGlothlin Jr., senior vice president of institutional administration at Southern Seminary. McGlothlin began as a student at Southern in 1963 before taking a job as a financial clerk and later as assistant treasurer. McGlothlin began in his current position in the early 1990s and has been a seminary staff member for 40 years.
More than four decades after enrolling as a student, McGlothlin earned a master of arts in theology from Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. McGlothlin will retire on June 31 from his fulltime duties, but will remain with the seminary as a part-time consultant.
“This is without question the highlight of my years at Southern Seminary,” McGlothlin said. “I consider it a great privilege to get to walk across the stage and become a graduate of this great institution. There is no better way to cap my career.”
In a separate ceremony, a record 95 students were recognized during Boyce College’s graduation service. Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered the commencement address. Boyce College is Southern Seminary’s undergraduate school.