Mohler focuses on the necessity of conversion at SBC Pastors’ Conference

Communications Staff — June 14, 2010

No matter how orthodox one’s theology or how favorable his opinion of Jesus, unless one is converted from a self-centered life of sin to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ he will not receive salvation, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said June 14 at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference.

Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, worked through the story of Nicodemus in John 3 to demonstrate the centrality of conversion in Scripture.

“We come to understand that conversion is so central to our theology that it must be in every sermon,” Mohler said. “It must be in every church. It must be always the confession of the church, that we are not the ones born merely, but twice born by the promise and power of God and by the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Mohler noted that while Jesus had many conversations with theological liberals, Nicodemus was not one of those. Instead, as a Pharisee, Nicodemus was a world-class conservative.

“The Pharisees were the theological conservatives: they were the inerrantists of the day,” Mohler said. “They believed in the absolute inspiration of Torah: the law of God. They were those who held to an understanding of the reality of the Holy Spirit. They affirmed belief in life after death. They sought to maximize and cherish every doctrine.”

Though Nicodemus was positively disposed to Jesus, he quickly learned that this was not sufficient to be saved, Mohler said.

“I want you to notice something about the New Testament: Jesus turns out not to be favorably disposed toward those who are favorably disposed to Him,” he said. “Being favorably disposed to Jesus is simply not enough.”

While Nicodemus came to Jesus for conversation, Jesus quickly turned the discussion to conversion for Nicodemus was not a believer.

First, Mohler noted the imperative of conversion.

“Jesus makes very clear that conversion is not an option,” he said. “It is not a way one becomes a believer. It is not one understanding among other possible understandings; it is not one experience alongside other experiences. Jesus says the definitive, essential experience is that one must be born again. Jesus here underlines the imperative of conversion.”

Second, Mohler highlighted the mystery of conversion. He said such mystery highlights both the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit to awaken the dead and the means God uses in conversion: the proclamation of the Gospel.

“Here we have a testimony to the fact that the wind blows and we cannot orchestrate it or manipulate it: we can’t even predict it and that is how it is with salvation,” Mohler said. “We preach the Gospel, we bear witness to the Gospel and we see the affect of the Spirit as there is a response to the Gospel by faith.”

Third, Mohler fleshed out the theology of conversion, focusing on the necessity of a substitutionary sacrifice.

“In the Old Testament, Moses was instructed to craft a bronze serpent so that everyone who was bitten by a venomous snake might look to the snake and live,” he said. “It is a pointer to a substitutionary atonement. There was nothing that the Israelite could do to save himself. His salvation had to come from completely outside of himself: his salvation had to come from God.

“Here in this gospel, John three times makes the statement of Jesus being lifted up and all three times it refers to Jesus being lifted up on a cross: the sinless Son of God paying the full penalty for our sin. But it all three times in the gospel of John also points to His exaltation, to His ascension, where He is lifted up now as Savior and as Lord.”

Mohler said there must be some essential data communicated for someone to be converted.

“There has to be the declaration of the saving death of God in Christ,” he said. “There has to be a declaration of our problem of human sinfulness, a problem that we cannot solve. There has to be a declaration of God’s provision in Christ. There has to be a declaration of the cost of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His resurrection. There has to be a declaration of what it means to respond to that act of God in faith: to believe.”

Finally, Mohler highlighted the Gospel in conversion. Scripture teaches about the purpose and plan of God in salvation, man’s necessary response and the imperative to proclaim the Gospel to all men.

“God’s love underlines the divine initiative in the Gospel,” Mohler said. “God’s purpose before the cosmos was created was to redeem a people through the blood of His own Son. To clothe His people in the righteousness of His Son. To declare His people as sinners who are drawn to faith in Christ as the Gospel is proclaimed. Sinners from every tongue, every tongue and every nation because God loves the whole world.

“And there is a whoever here: that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. And thus we find our confidence to declare the Gospel: that if any sinner believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she will be saved. There are no conditions here and that is why we come to understand that it is our responsibility to share the Gospel with all people at all times in order to see the glory of God in the calling out of the redeemed.”

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