Mohler exhorts record number of graduates to be mighty in the Scriptures

Communications Staff — May 23, 2008

A record 272 students received degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during its spring commencement service May 16.

The seminary’s 201st commencement was held outdoors on the seminary lawn for the third straight year in order to accommodate the crowd.

Brian Vickers, assistant professor of New Testament Interpretation, received the Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.

During his commencement address, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. used the example of Apollos to remind the graduates that a central part of their calling is to be mighty in the Scriptures.

“We are told that Apollos was an eloquent or learned man, and we are told that he came to Ephesus and was mighty in the Scriptures,” he said. “Of all the things we might want said of us, of all the things we would want said of these graduates could we possibly imagine any words that could be a more significant ambition than these: to be known as mighty in the Scriptures.”

Being mighty in the Scriptures represents the ultimate goal of theological education, Mohler said.

“The motto of this institution is taken from Paul’s second letter to Timothy: that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished unto all good works and that the man of God might rightly divide the Word of truth,” he said.

“We know very little about Apollos, but what we know of him is most significant — that this man who spoke boldly and publicly did so because he was grounded in the Scriptures in which he found his power and authority.”

Apollos is an example of what the late Martin Lloyd Jones called “logic on fire,” Mohler pointed out, as his knowledge of Scripture poured forth in fervent proclamation.

“Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures because he had been instructed in the way of the Lord. We also understand that this produced a spirit and attitude, a commitment in him: he was being fervent in spirit,” Mohler said. “And it produced activity: he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus.

“The purpose of theological education comes down to this: that knowledge and learning would be invested in these graduates, not in order that it would simply reside in them, but that knowledge of the Scriptures would come out of them, [so] that being mighty in the Scriptures they would teach and preach the Word of God with a boldness, learning, and fervency of spirit equal to that of Apollos.”

The story of Apollos also underscores the reality that learning is a lifetime pursuit for the minister, Mohler said. In Acts 18, Apollos was preaching mightily, but the content of his teaching was not entirely accurate. Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos’ teaching and took him aside to explain privately how he could more accurately proclaim Scripture.

Mohler reminded graduates that they have much more to learn, and that such knowledge might well come from the people to whom they minister.

“We need to admit something: your theological education, graduates, is incomplete,” he said. “Apollos was a man who was mighty in the Scriptures. He was accurately teaching and speaking the things concerning Jesus, but there were gaps in his theological education.

“I can honestly say that I have learned far more since I graduated than I knew when I graduated. You will learn a great deal from the people to whom you minister. Be ready to learn far more than you know now in the actual crucible of ministry. Be prepared to learn, even as you teach and preach and minister.”

Finally, Mohler said Apollos’ ministry centered on the Gospel and on Christ, and he exhorted graduates to make both the core of their ministries.

“We are told that Apollos was powerfully demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. We pray that this would be true of your ministry as well,” he said. “The purpose of theological education is well summarized in this very text. That all that you have learned, all the learning that has been invested in you and comes to a culmination in this day with the awarding of degrees, will be in order that you would powerfully demonstrate by the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

“Your task in Christian ministry is to call people through the Gospel to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to assure those to whom you preach and teach and share the Gospel that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

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