SBTS holds 200th commencement, sets fall graduate record

Communications Staff — December 11, 2007

The Old Testament prophet Samuel provides ministers with an expert model for ministry because he was an instrument that God used to bring the light of truth to a dark period in Israel’s history, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a record number of fall graduates Friday during The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s 200th commencement service.

The class featured two graduating father and son pairs: Tom and Jonathan Elliff and Jeffrey and Timothy Girdler (see related story).

Mohler encouraged the class of 204 students to emulate the prophet Samuel, who remained faithful to God’s truth during a time when many of Israel’s leaders were unfaithful.

“Samuel is a wonderful paradigm for Christian ministry,” Mohler said. “Samuel is not merely the little boy who was left at the temple, but he became a man of crucial importance to the history of Israel and to the history of God working in His church.”

Preaching from 1 Samuel 3, Mohler pointed
graduates to God’s clear calling of Samuel as a prophet. God calls His ministers objectively by speaking to them through His Word, Mohler pointed out, but He also calls them subjectively by speaking to their hearts and through the church’s confirmation of their ministerial gifts.

“We need to be humbly reminded that we did not volunteer for this,” Mohler said. “No one should enter the Christian ministry because when some career inventory in high school was taken, some guidance counselor said, ‘you look like a minister to me.’

“This isn’t the process of some kind of analysis. Moses stuttered and could not even speak. Paul was the great enemy of the Gospel of Christ. None of us is here—neither on the faculty or in the graduating class—who is qualified for the Christian ministry; it is entirely a matter of
God’s grace.”

Central to the minister’s calling is the command to speak God’s truth, Mohler said. Samuel spoke God’s Word to Israel and his divinely-ordained role as a truth-teller was never easy, Mohler noted, because it often included communicating to the people of Israel God’s judgment of their disobedience.

In the same way, a minister who clearly articulates the Gospel will not put himself in a position of popularity with men, Mohler said, but he must never hesitate to speak the Word of God.

“Truth-telling is never easy. If it were an easy thing to speak what God has spoken, then God would not need ministers, supernaturally called, supernaturally equipped, Holy Spirit inspired, Holy Spirit protected in order to do this thing,” he said.

“Anyone who thinks the Christian ministry is easy, even in terms of the central function of teaching and preaching, really doesn’t understand it. This is explosive, this is dangerous and eternity hangs in the balance. Samuel gives us a model of speaking truth, adding nothing, subtracting nothing.”

The call of God is further demonstrated in the minister’s maturing, Mohler said, pointing out that Samuel goes from being a boy to a prophet within the space of one chapter in 1 Samuel.

The biblical account of Samuel also includes an implicit warning to false shepherds, Mohler said, because Samuel’s faithfulness is contrasted with the gross sinfulness of Eli’s sons and king Saul. God’s ministers must always carefully guard their lives and their teaching, Mohler said.

“It is good for us as ministers to be continually confronted by this reality of false ministers in order that in humility we would lean upon the Lord as our only sure protection,” Mohler said. “We must determine that we will bring no dishonor upon the church, upon the Gospel, nor upon this institution by how we serve.”

In the days of Samuel, God rarely spoke. Mohler reminded graduates that, like Samuel, they may serve in places where the Word of God is scarcely, if at all, heard. He admonished them to persevere in their calling as heralds of the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

“The great promise of what brings us here is that these graduates will go out to bring light to darkness,” Mohler said. “As you prepare to graduate and as you prepare to go into the fields of service in this country and around this world, I hope you are fired by a passion to bring light to darkness.

“We need to recognize that in far too many places, even in far too many churches, the Word of the Lord is rare…Our great hope is that the Word of the Lord will be less rare because of who you are and what you do, that the Word of the Lord will be heard rather than not heard, will be heeded rather than disobeyed, will be demonstrated in all of its transformative power, in all of its glorious power, through you.”

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