LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Seminary graduates bear witness to the glory of God’s reign promised by the birth of the Messiah, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at the school’s 222nd commencement exercises.
During the Dec. 6 ceremony in Louisville, Ky., 156 master’s and doctoral students were present to receive their degrees on Friday as members of an overall 208-person graduating class.
In his address, titled “For the Earth Shall Be Full of the Knowledge of the Lord as the Waters Cover the Sea,” Mohler said the graduates of Southern Seminary are part of a global movement that began in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. And that movement will not stop until God’s glory spreads to the entire world, he said.
“We are witnesses to something glorious. We are witnesses to God sending forth preachers, giving pastors to Christ’s church, scattering missionaries to the ends of the earth,” Mohler said.
“Let me tell you something that will warm your hearts,” he continued. “Here among us are friends who have come from Croatia, from China, from Korea, from Africa, from Columbia, from Canada, from Germany, and from parts unknown — all here to witness something this glorious. We are even today seeing the promise of what we know will come, when the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
Preaching from Isaiah 11, Mohler said graduates of Southern Seminary are the heralds of God’s coming reign through His messianic King, Jesus Christ. Christmas is the time to be reminded of the past — the birth of a child in Bethlehem’s manger. But its celebration looks forward to another Advent, Mohler said. One day, that Messiah will return to redeem His church. The intense labors of ministry in the present look forward to this second coming.
“Do not miss that we can already see the Kingdom coming,” Mohler said. “We see the Kingdom every time a sinner comes to saving knowledge of God, to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to know redemption and the assurance of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of life everlasting. We see the Kingdom coming. We see the knowledge of the Lord filling the earth.”
The promise of God’s reign is both the climax of Isaiah 11 and the climax of all human history, Mohler said. His glory will spread to the far reaches of the globe. This reality comprehensively reshapes the importance of something as common as a graduate school commencement.
While other institutions rush to hand out diplomas with as little ceremony as possible, Mohler said, the gathering at Southern Seminary signals something more than individual academic accomplishment. It is a celebration of the spreading glory of God — the foretaste of a celebration that will reach its crescendo when Jesus consummates the Kingdom.
“Go into the pulpit, go into the nations, go into the highways and byways of life, go into the hospital, go into the homes, go into the graveyards, and let the whole earth be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,” Mohler said.
“As you go, you leave this campus with the hopes, the prayers and the love of this faculty and this family. You are always at home here, but here we are never fully home. Run the race set before you, until that day when, by God’s grace, we are finally, fully, truly home.”
During the commencement, Mohler presented the Josephine S. and James L. Baggott Outstanding Graduate Award to Ryan E. Modisette, a master of divinity graduate from Henderson, Texas. The award is named after the Baggott family, who established a fund in 1980 to recognize the outstanding graduate of each graduating class. The recipient is voted on by the members of the graduating class based on outstanding leadership, exemplary character and sound scholarship.
Mohler’s entire address will be available in audio and video at Southern Equip. A complete manuscript of the address, “For the Earth Shall Be Full of the Knowledge of the Lord as the Waters Cover the Sea,” is available at Mohler’s website.