LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–God-honoring preachers must proclaim the Bible with confidence rather than qualifying and relativizing God’s Word, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Dec. 12 during commencement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The seminary awarded 209 master’s and doctoral degrees, a record for December graduation.
“Congregations are starving for the astonishment of hearing the preacher teach and preach on the authority of the Word of God,” Mohler, Southern’s president, said. “If there is a crisis in preaching, it is a crisis in confidence in the Word. If there is a road to recovery, it will be mapped by a return to biblical preaching.”
With Matthew 7:28-29 as his text, Mohler noted that Jesus refused to speculate or vacillate when He addressed the crowds. Instead He presented absolute commandments and expounded God’s righteous demands, Mohler said.
In response, the crowds were amazed because they were starved for authoritative preaching, he said.
“The radical nature of Jesus’ ministry and teaching is on full display here, and it is all established upon His own authority,” Mohler said. “When Jesus teaches, He does not cite human authorities, enter into irrelevant debates or cushion His words. He speaks on His own authority.”
The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day taught differently than Jesus, Mohler said. They spoke only approximately and hedged their moral pronouncements, he said.
The teaching of the scribes and Pharisees was similar to the trend in contemporary preaching which raises questions and shies away from absolute answers, he said. Such preaching, known as inductive preaching, “leaves the big questions unanswered” and “lets the congregation come to its own conclusion,” he said.
“This is not the method of Jesus,” Mohler said of inductive preaching. “Jesus uses induction in His teaching, but He never leaves the big questions unanswered, nor can we. Jesus speaks as God. We speak as His preachers.”
The preacher’s authority is a delegated authority, but it is still a real authority, he said.
“We are assigned the task of feeding the flock of God, of teaching the church, of preaching the Word,” he said. “We do not speak as one who possesses authority, but as one who is called to serve the church by proclaiming, expounding, applying and declaring the Word of God. We are those who have been called to a task and set apart for mission, as vessels who hold a saving message even as earthen vessels hold water.”
Preaching with authority requires trusting the truthfulness of the Bible, Mohler said.
“There are no certainties without the authority of Scripture,” he said. “We have nothing but commas and question marks to offer if we lose confidence in the inerrant and infallible Word of God.”
Churches desperately want authoritative preaching that will astonish them, he said, and Southern Seminary graduates are the perfect men to deliver such preaching.
“Our hope and prayer is that you will go forth from here to fulfill a ministry of astonishment,” Mohler said, “to preach and teach and minister so that commas are turned back into periods and question marks are turned back into exclamation marks. Congregations long to have the thunderbolts brought down from the attic and loosed in their midst. They are starving for a Word from God.
“Go and astonish a church. Go and astonish the nations. Go and astonish saints and sinners alike. Go and astonish your generation. Go and astonish those who no longer even believe that they can be astonished.”
David Roach writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.