LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Ministers of the gospel should strive to become known by the demons of hell, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told graduates at a Dec. 10 commencement ceremony at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Our greatest hope and desire is that you, the graduates of Southern Seminary, would go out and minister in Christ’s name and become famous among the demons,” said Mohler, Southern Seminary’s president. “Our prayer is that the demons would know you by name and that they would fear you by reputation.”
Mohler presented diplomas to 87 graduates from 16 different degree programs at Southern Seminary’s 184th commencement. The 87 graduates represented 20 states and seven countries.
Three students from the James P. Boyce College of the Bible, Southern Seminary’s undergraduate school, became the first to earn bachelor’s degrees from the seminary — Gennady Podgaisky, Travis Atwell and Jason Vanderbur.
Isaac Ayanrinola, of Nigeria, became the first student to complete a doctor of missiology degree from the seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.
The Billy Graham School also had the first graduates from its weekend master of divinity program.
In his commencement address, Mohler preached from Acts 19:11-20 about the seven sons of Sceva, who attempted to cast out a demon from a man in Ephesus during the apostle Paul’s ministry there.
The evil spirit responded to them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” The man then jumped on Sceva’s seven sons “overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded,” according to Acts 19:16.
Mohler joked that his message was about “naked exorcists bleeding and wounded,” but pointed to three lessons for ministry from the text.
First, Mohler said, “a true minister is an agent through whom God works and will work mightily.”
“The temptation is to say that the minister is performing extraordinary miracles, when as Luke reminds us it is God who is performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,” Mohler said. “The hope of the minister of the gospel should not be that we might be powerful but that God would powerfully work through us.”
Ministers must remember they are simply God’s agents, vessels and instruments, Mohler said, and hold no power themselves, even though “it is natural for us to seek to be powerful in our own right.”
But, Mohler noted, “God is often seen to be most powerful when we are demonstrated to be most powerless.”
Christians should exercise their gifts for God’s glory and not for their own glory, Mohler told graduates.
“The power we are given is the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “We are stewards of the power of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are stewards of the power of truth.”
Secondly, Mohler said true ministers are “recognized by all the right authorities, in heaven and in hell.”
The Christian church has been plagued with false teachers and preachers from the beginning who claimed to perform all kinds of miracles, Mohler said.
Ministers, however, should instead concentrate on preaching the gospel.
“The greatest miracle we can ever observe is the miracle of the salvation of a sinner by the grace of God,” Mohler said.
The response of the demon-possessed man in Acts 19 — “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” — should be the response of Christians to false teachers such as Mormons and Christian Scientists, Mohler said, who pervert the gospel.
Finally, Mohler told graduates that “the true ministry produces spiritual growth and magnifies the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Mohler challenged graduates to be faithful in preaching the authentic gospel, even in places where it might be rejected, because God’s Word is a prevailing word.
“Our prayer for this class is that through you the name of the Lord Jesus Christ would be magnified all over the earth,” Mohler said. “Our prayer is that the Lord Jesus Christ would be glorified in his church even as his name is magnified because of the preaching and the teaching and the witness and the ministry that will take place as God works through the members of this graduating class.”