“Open Your Mouth and Let the Fire of God’s Word Come Out,” Mohler Exhorts Graduates

Communications Staff — May 16, 2022

Seminary graduates must give themselves unreservedly to preaching God’s Word because Scripture is the chosen hammer God puts in the hands of called ministers, one he uses to shatter savingly the hard hearts of sinners, Southern Seminary Albert Mohler told graduates Friday at the school’s spring commencement.

Preaching on the call of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah from Jeremiah 23:23-29, Mohler said faithful proclamation of God’s Word is both a hammer and a fire that breaks and burns and transforms the hearts of sinners.

“Just imagine the heat of a million million suns put in your mouth,” Mohler said. “For what is the infinite power of the Word of God? The exhortation of this faculty and my exhortation to you today is give yourselves unreservedly to the ministry of the Word in such a way that the fire the Lord puts in your mouth will come out as fire.

“God’s Word will come forth from your mouths and through your ministries like a hammer that shatters a rock. . . . God puts words in our mouth and those words are like fire that burn in us. Here is the mandate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: Go set fires. Open your mouth and let fire come out.”

In the seminary’s 229th commencement, 347 students received degrees for the spring semester with 262 walking across the stage on a warm, picture-perfect spring day. Boyce College held its graduation Friday morning (see below), Southern’s commencement was held in the afternoon, one Mohler called the warmest ceremony during his presidential tenure. In total, Southern Seminary and Boyce College—the seminary’s undergraduate school—cumulatively conferred 526 degrees.

Southern’s faculty has faithfully poured the Word into the graduates so they must now go and pour out the Word for years to come in local churches, Mohler said. Because Christ is faithful to his people, the Lord will enable graduates to be faithful to the ministries God gives them. God empowers fragile, fallible humans to proclaim his gospel and works through them to build his church.

“Graduates, we’re about to find out what you’re made of,” he said. “We’re about to find out about your calling. I don’t say that as rebuke, I say that as exhortation in the purest meaning of the word. I know how this story is going to end. By the faithfulness of Christ, he makes his people faithful. And those who will be his faithful servants are led into faithfulness.

“I believe the Lord led you faithfully here as you faithfully answered the call and I believe what you have received from this faculty is faithfulness channeled into yourselves and your lives and your hearts. And I believe he is going to use you as he is already using you to channel faithfulness into the lives of believers, faithfulness into the church, faithfulness onto the mission field, faithfulness into everything you do.”

Ministers who would be true to their calling must preach the Word because only a sovereign work of grace through that Word can do helpless sinners good.

“Our task is to overcome the hardness of the sinful human heart,” he said. “Here’s the bad news: None of us is up to that nor are all of us together up to that. There is nothing we can do to break or to shatter the hardness of an unbelieving heart.

“That which we can’t do, God does. He does it by his Word and that’s our testimony: the hardness of our own hearts had to be shattered by the Word in order that we’d be called to Christ and to salvation, much less have the opportunity to call others as well.”

Mohler pointed out that graduates will never be together again in the same way as they were on Friday afternoon. He exhorted them one final time to go and set loose the fire of God’s Word.

“Sitting here on this warm day on this lawn, you’re never going to sit together like this again,” he said. “Servants of Christ, graduates of Southern Seminary, open your mouth and let the fire come out until you have no breath to breathe. With everything you have, set loose the Word of God to shatter rocks until Jesus comes.”

Boyce College Awards 179 Degrees

In the 24th commencement of Boyce College, 179 graduated with 148 walking and 31 receiving their degrees in absentia.

Drawing on the concluding verses of the Old Testament wisdom book of Ecclesiastes, Mohler charged students to remember the ultimate end of both life and ministry: to glorify God, just as the writer of Ecclesiastes says at the end of the book: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

“You say, ‘What is the end of the matter? Is this it? Is this what we’re here for? You get a piece of paper in a beautiful folder and you get to go home and put it on your dresser?’” he said. “The end of the matter is a life lived to the glory of God. The end of the matter is fear God and keep his commandments. The end of the matter is to know that this is the whole duty of humanity.”

Mohler encouraged graduates to view ministry as a delightful calling and not merely as a duty to be kept.

“We’re not here because we want you to graduate knowing ‘truthiness,’ but cherishing truth, finding delight in the things of God,” Mohler said. “We hope you are finding delight in this day, in what you have received, in the academic preparation you’ve experienced, but we want to point you to an even greater delight this day: in spending the rest of your days delighting in the truth of the one, true living God.”

Boyce Dean Dustin Bruce charged graduates from Joshua 1 on four points: the presence of God is enough when the road of ministry grows hard, commitment to Scripture will make all the difference, success is ultimately tied to obedience, and God has called ministers to be strong and courageous for his mission.

There are times in ministry when adversity will come, he said, when being faithful to the call of God will require remembering the omnipresence and faithfulness of almighty God.

“We have tried the very best we can to prepare you for everything that life will throw at you,” Bruce said.

“But you will face many difficulties and many opportunities that you can never be prepared for through us, they will never fit on a syllabus. In any of those moments you can certainly rely on the fact that the presence of God in your life is enough. We know that God is with us just as he was with Moses and Joshua. He will be with us and if God is for us, who can be against us?”

Honoring Excellent Pedagogy

Rob Plummer, the Collin and Evelyn Aikman Professor of Biblical Studies, received the Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award, given annually to an outstanding professor on the seminary faculty. Findley B. Edge taught at Southern Seminary for more than three decades and died in 2002. Plummer has served on Southern Seminary’s faculty for the past 20 years.

Adam Howell, assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation since 2017, received the Charles W. Draper Faculty Award. The annual award is named in honor of longtime Boyce professor Charles W. Draper, who died in 2017 after many years of faithful service on the Boyce faculty.

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