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The Value of Every Human Being

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 09:30

For many of us, the value of human life is essential to a biblical understanding of God and creation. God does not make mistakes, and it is He who gives life, and so we champion the cause of the unborn. We rightly take up the cause of the unborn, but what about the already born? Does God equally value and love every life that is born? What if they are of another people or religion? What if that religion is hostile to Christianity? What if they will disrupt the way I live my life?

My family and I recently attended a fundraiser for the war-torn country of Yemen. The goal was to fund a certain number of food packages for individual families. There were both Christians and Muslims at the event, and for me, it was a great opportunity to engage with Muslims here in Fort Worth. My wife and I sat at a table with a family from Turkey, and we had some great discussion. They are fairly conservative, and the wife wears a head covering. I was glad to hear that they have not faced any hatred or discrimination in the three years they have been here.

With my focus completely on the Turkish friends, I became convicted to check my heart as to how I felt about the desperate people in Yemen. Thinking about it, I was really attending the event as an opportunity to share with Muslims here. Did I care about the men, women, boys and girls of Yemen? Many die each day without hearing about Jesus, and this repeats itself in a number of other countries. My life circumstances mean that I feel incredibly loved by God, even to the point that it seems He favors me. Does He? When John 3:16 says God loved the world, does it mean everyone everywhere equally?

One of the biggest challenges we face today is that we are bombarded with all kinds of information, causes and opinions. Outside of the Bible, many of these develop a worldview that causes us to look at those not like us with suspicion, caution, fear, concern, and even hatred. It is one thing to oppose ideologies and worldviews that set themselves up against God, but what about individual people? Is that individual still created by God? Do they bear His image even if it is so tainted by sin as to seem invisible? Does He love them, and did Jesus die for them?

The heart of the issue for me is whether I define how God sees and works with people and life, or God defines how I see and work with people and life. With the former, I am likely to go with the flow and accommodate the attitudes and opinions of others, whereas with the latter, I am likely to swim against the tide of popular opinion. The choice seems clear in theory, but the challenge is to live it out in practice. I experienced this personally with the evil of racism in South Africa, where I was raised. I still find myself broken by what happened and asking myself why I did not do better. I am confident that I stand firm on the exclusive belief and practice of biblical Christianity, but the question is whether or not I step outside of biblical Christianity when I choose to see another person as anything less than someone valued and loved by God.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Church as the People of God

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 12:47

From the early pages of the Old Testament, we find God in the process of creating a people for His divine purposes. It was Israel that was to be the people of God (Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2), and in the New Testament, the focus is on the Kingdom of God, especially expressed through the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 2:5, 9, 10; Titus 2:14). When God called Israel to be His people, He instructed them to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2), and it is interesting and significant that the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus 19 to 27, reflects the unique, or holy, rules for proper civic and social relationships, worship practices, proper boundaries, treatment of foreigners, and sound economic practices. All of these were expressions of how God directed His people to be distinct (holy) from their surrounding pagan neighbors and a model for them of holy character and conduct. Israel was to become a mutually supportive and cooperative community of godly character, a valid contrast to the surrounding nations and peoples, as well as a model for those other nations. As Isaiah said it much later in Israel’s history, God’s intention was for Israel to be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). It should be questioned how well that happened in that nation’s history.

In the New Testament, God’s development of a holy, Christ-like people is tied to the direct involvement of Christ in the formation of His followers, who in due time formed “colonies” of the Kingdom-called churches. Much of the New Testament was written to give instruction for building the spiritual and moral lives of those disciples who made up and directed those godly units that Peter says are part of a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), a special “people of God” (2:10). What a lofty set of titles!

The qualities of those leaders and followers are to be marked by their functions as priests and preachers, or proclaimers of “the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5, 9, 10). As interesting as it is to focus on those functions, the larger context of 1 Peter 1 and 2 helps us better understand how that kind of folk could be used of God because of being a “holy” people.

They were distinguished as having their faith tried by severe challenges, proving them genuine believers (1 Peter 1:7). They had put their mind to the task, seriously considering their responsibilities in the leadership roles they played (1:14). They had shown that they were not being conformed to the world with its lusts, but were conducting themselves in every way as a “holy” or distinct people (1:15). They were conscious of God’s supervision in their lives and work (His judgment—1:17). Christ is preeminent in their thinking, planning, and acting (1:18-21). They demonstrated a sincere love of fellow believers (1:22). They were morally sound and sane (2:1). And they were morally circumspect in civic and social life (2:11, 12). All of these very fine qualities describe these spiritual leaders and their influence in their churches and in their own communities. Then Peter adds that they are to be conscious of being “foreigners,” or sojourners, and “pilgrims,” or strangers, in this world (2:11, NKJV, NASV), meaning that their sphere of influence was limited in time and circumstances; thus they were to make every effort count for impacting favorably their Gentile, unbelieving context.

The churches that carry out the role of being the people of God well are those who recognize and live by their pilgrim, faith-led identity as those strange folk (somewhat foreigners on the earth) who are led by God, who is an even stranger “holy” God, who insists that His people serve all humankind, reaching them with His transforming love, even if they are mistreated, maligned, and misunderstood. The people of God are the faithful servants of God.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Prescription for your Path

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 09:30

“As there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places.”[1] I remember where I was the first time I heard this quote from Francis Schaeffer’s work No Little People. I was sitting in the congregation as a visitor at Hulen Street Church in Fort Worth (where I have now been a member for five years). As a first-semester seminary student, my mind and heart were full of expectation, especially concerning where the Lord may take me in the ministry. Having watched and seen so many “celebrity” pastors, I remember thinking and hoping that maybe God would direct my ministry to such a height someday. Yet as our pastor, Wes Hamilton, preached and referenced this quote, I remember my heart being shaken, and my direction in ministry changed.

My assumption up to that point—and if we are honest, the assumption of so many of us—was that God was always going to call me to bigger and better places. The small ministry that I had before seminary was in my past. Greatness, notoriety, and prosperity were surely on the horizon. Yet the truth is, this is the way of the flesh and not the way of Christ!

Jesus prescribes the position of the heart that must prevail in the life of His disciples in Luke 14:7-11:

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus’ prescription to those who heard this parable was simple: take the lowest position and trust the Host to put you in the right position. What Jesus teaches in this parable is echoed throughout the New Testament. In Matthew, Luke, and John, we have the example of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul reminds his readers to have the same mind in them as Christ Jesus, who took on flesh, took up the cross, and humbled Himself to the point of death. In 1 Peter 5, Peter encourages his readers, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (v. 6). Schaeffer explains the prescription of this passage: “This is the way of the Christian: he should choose the lesser place until God extrudes him into a position of more responsibility.”[2]

Living out the prescription of Jesus and the message of the New Testament requires us to always seek faithfulness over a following. When we embrace New Testament humility, we are not promised a massive following. When we embrace New Testament humility, there is no promise that money will flow in. When we embrace New Testament humility, there is no assurance that any man will ever see us as a success. BUT there is the promise that we will be exalted by the Lord. Choosing the lesser path may never lead to the praises of man, but it will lead to the approval of our Savior.

Additionally, living out the prescription of Jesus requires us to always seek out piety over a platform. As disciples of Jesus, our aim should be to grow in our devotion to Jesus and not to grow our ministry reach. For many of us (myself included), false humility pervades our social media channels. We use false gratitude and fancy phrases that are posted, pictured, and planted all over our social media feeds in hopes that our reach will grow farther and our notoriety will increase. These false actions often take our attention away from faithfully following Jesus. We are tempted to grow our own following instead of more faithfully following Him.

Since the way of Christ is so clear, we should do two things. First, we should follow Christ’s call, no matter the span of our influence. Second, we should work as servants and not seek celebrity status. Schaeffer says,

Jesus commands Christians to seek consciously the lowest room. All of us—pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included—are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.” Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is back-wards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one.[3]

For each of us, the command of Christ is to be humble and to trust Him alone for where we are headed. May we always seek the lower place so that we can give Christ the highest praise with our lives.

[1] Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People (Introduction by Udo Middelmann) (p. 25). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
[2] Ibid., 29.
[3] Ibid.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Love One Another

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 10:03

People frequently express their thoughts on the subject of love—whether in word, songs, or even in prayers. For example, last week, within which Valentine’s Day occurred, was filled with syrupy thoughts of love. Dionne Warwick sang about the need for love in a 1960s song written by Burt Bacharach entitled “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love.” The song’s lyrics went on to say, “It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” This semester, Interim President D. Jeffrey Bingham has, on more than one occasion, concluded his closing prayers in chapel with the petition: “Lord, let us love one another.” The church of Jesus Christ could indeed use some “love”—love for one another—which in turn is very attractive to the world. Indeed, Christians are commanded to love one another (1 John 4:7–12). However, before we can know what it means to “love one another” as the Bible tells us, we need first to talk about love.[1]

What is love? The word for “love” in 1 John 4:7–12 is agapē, one of several Greek words meaning “love.” Other words denoting “love” include philos, usually a loyal or fraternal love, love for family, friends, or those dear to us. Erōs (not in the New Testament) is an intimate, sensual type of love. Agapē is a godly type of love, referring to a volitional choice to meet the needs of others whether or not there is any reciprocation. Agapē love is distinguished by an unconditional attitude of love not necessarily related to feelings like pleasure or excitement, etc. That being the case, we can be commanded to love one another. Our feelings, however, cannot be commanded. No one can command you to be thrilled about something or someone—say, the New England Patriots—you either are or are not. However, our will or volition can be commanded because agapē love is an action, which explains how we can love the unlikeable and the unlovely in an agapē manner. We may not feel any emotional attraction toward others. Sometimes we may feel the opposite way. All of us can think of people with whom we perhaps cannot stand to be in the same room over the course of 30 seconds. But, we can “will” to meet their needs and “love” them by treating them as precious people for whom Christ died. Now, a feeling of fondness and attraction often develops when loving in this way, but this aspect is not particularly characteristic of agapē love. An illustration of this occurs in Ephesians 5:25, where Paul commanded husbands to “love” their wives (agapaō, the verb form of agapē). What did his command mean? In this case, the imperative “love” is further spelled out by the words “just as also Christ loved (agapaō) the church and gave Himself for her.”[2] The agapē love command here is to love like Christ did. Jesus committed to do the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). His love, despite our sin, took action: He went to the cross on our behalf to die for our sins.

Couples having marriage difficulties will often say, “I just don’t love him/her anymore.” That expression reflects a misunderstanding of what it means to “love” someone. When airing such sentiments, people usually mean that they no longer feel any attraction or thrill for their spouse. However, they have altogether missed the point. A Christian is to “love” whether or not there is any emotional or physical attraction or response. You can still love in this sense: to want the very best for others regardless of their attitude toward you. Christians need to obey the Word of God, and if you love in the agapē sense, maybe the feelings will also eventually follow.

To be sure, true Christians love God and one another (1 John 4:7-12). The Apostle John emphasized the criterion of loving fellow believers as a necessary mark for assurance of genuine Christian profession (cf. 5:13). He commanded his readers to “love one another” because “love is from God” (4:7). That is to say, agapē love comes from God; He is the source of all true love.

John maintained that believers must love one another because this is God’s nature (4:8). Anyone who does not display this nature of love does not know God. The Greek construction of “God is love” (4:8b) makes love a description of God—not a definition.[3] In other words, “love” is not all that God is. He is also holy, righteous, sovereign, etc.

Moreover, John urged his readers to love others because God demonstrated His love for them in the death of Christ (4:9–11). Believers can know that God loves them because He sent His Son to be the propitiatory sacrifice (hilasmos: “satisfaction”) for their sins (2:2). And because of that act of love, they ought also to love others.

Furthermore, John instructed his readers that if they loved each other, they would make the presence of God, whom no one can see, a visible reality to others (4:12). That is to say, when believers in Jesus love one another, it shows that God has indeed come to dwell in them, and that is how God’s love is being perfected, i.e., brought to its goal or proper end (4:12). When followers of Christ practice loving one another, it is evidence that God is at work in their lives because agapē love is God’s love fulfilling its ends and bearing fruit.[4]

People talk a lot today about love, but unfortunately, much of it is superficial. We need to guard against such superficiality. Even a person outside of Christ can recognize phony love. I have visited many churches over the years. Several folks in those churches would describe themselves as a loving church, or as a church whose members love one another. If that’s indeed true, then that is laudable, because you are practicing what Scripture teaches! For love involves action, not just talk. If you really love folks in an agapē manner, you will not quit loving and caring for people the first time they displease you, because whether they please you is not the reason for your love. Remember that agapē love seeks to meet the needs of others and loves them without reciprocation. We love because Christ first loved us (cf. 4:10) despite our sin, quirks, and faults, and despite our displeasing Him. Know this: people are profoundly impressed whenever they meet a group of believers in Jesus who truly love one another and genuinely love them. This should come as no surprise, because Jesus said, “All people will know by this that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Lord, may it be so in our lives. Amen.

[1] This essay greatly reflects the excellent teaching on 1 John of my friend and former professor, William E. Bell, Jr. He loved his students, and we loved him.
[2] All Bible translations in this article are mine.
[3] In Greek, the word agapē does not occur with the definite article.
[4] The last four paragraphs were borrowed from a section written by me on 1 John in my co-authored book, Faithful to the End: An Introduction to Hebrews through Revelation, with J. Daryl Charles and Kendell Easley (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 194–95.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A Society Preying on Children

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 10:14

I am the father of four children ages 6 to 12. Children are an immense blessing from God (Psalm 127:3-5) and a sincere privilege to disciple (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). However, parenting my children is also a weighty responsibility, especially in light of the milieu of today’s culture. The past two months of news have led me to anger, grief, fright, and intense prayer, all at once. Here’s just a snapshot of what has confronted all of us recently:

  • Abortion and Infanticide. In January, New York passed the Reproductive Health Act, allowing abortion up to birth, with standing ovation and thunderous applause and the One World Trade Center lit in pink. On the heel of this came Virginia’s House Bill 2491 that would have permitted third-trimester abortions. The abomination of abortion and infanticide continue to roll off the tongue easier and easier in society. We continue to sacrifice our children to our modern day Molech.
  • Child Sexual Abuse. This week, the Houston Chronicle released a three-part series highlighting sexual abuse within churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, where children were among those abused. This sin of sexual abuse has been demonstrated in other religious denominations and secular organizations over the past few years as well. Beyond our home, the church should be the safest environment for our children, surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ. However, this is not always so. The statistics of child sexual abuse are sobering—1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys will be sexually abused before they reach age 18.
  • Child Pornography. Every week throughout the U.S., the news reports of individuals—teachers, coaches, ministry leaders, church members—arrested for viewing and possessing child pornography. In one study, 78 percent of images and videos assessed depicted children under 12 years old, and 63 percent were children under 8 years old. Child pornography is a form of sex exploitation that naturally leads to pedophilia and sexual abuse.
  • Child Sex Trafficking. The border wall debate and Super Bowl LIII have reminded us of the ever-present specter of human sex trafficking, where up to 50 percent of the 40 million victims trafficked globally are children. Children are viewed as a commodity rather than as made in the image of the Creator. Roughly 50 children per day in the U.S. are reported to be taken. I imagine the unreported number is much higher. It’s real; it happens. My wife personally spoiled the attempted abduction of one of our children.
  • Domestic Violence. We are surrounded by broken families, and children are exposed to or are victims of domestic violence. At the end of last month, a report was released stating an estimated 4.5 million to 15 million children a year are exposed to varying forms of physical violence in the home. How can children learn who God the Father is when earthly fathers are involved in domestic violence? How can children learn about the relationship between Christ and the church when parents are involved in domestic violence?

Has your heart been troubled of late as well? To be sure, society is losing its value for life and for children. Parents, 1 Peter 5:8 warns us to “be of sober spirit, be on the alert. [Our] adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” He wants to devour our children. Satan wants to pervert the image of God and destroy the family, the first institution created by God. You must be ever diligent in your responsibilities to “be on the alert.” Here are some brief suggestions:

  • Pray. Pray for your children’s protection. This is a spiritual battle, and you need the Holy Spirit’s assistance. Pray for government leaders to make the correct laws and to uphold justice. Pray for our churches to make wise decisions. Pray for the countless victims.
  • Prevent. Teach your children in age-appropriate manners that evil exists, and teach them how to be safe in the world and online. Implement appropriate behavior boundaries (e.g., “always stay in my line of sight at the mall,” etc.). The internet opens your up home to all that is in the fallen world. So, protect your digital devices using best practices, filters, and accountability so that predators cannot reach your children.
  • Parent. Parent well and actively. Don’t assume anything—ask questions of the church, friends, neighbors, family, etc. so that you understand the environment your children are in. Ask your children questions and maintain lines of communication. You do not have to be a helicopter parent, but you do have to parent.
  • Prepare. Be informed of the world around you. Are you aware of how many registered sex offenders live around you? Are you aware how your church vets Sunday School teachers and volunteers? Do you know what internet sites your children visit or what apps they use? Do you know where they are during activities?
  • Proclaim. Proclaim the Gospel message. The Gospel alone can change the hearts of predators who would stalk our children. Be active in evangelism and discipleship to a dark and decaying world.

Heavenly Father, protect our children from the enemy and this fallen world. Help us as parents to “be of sober spirit, be on the alert” (1 Peter 5:8) and to raise our children so they increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Embolden us to proclaim the Gospel so that sexual abusers may repent and be transformed, and so that victims of sexual abuse may be renewed.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Preparing the Way: Engaging the imperfect world from the place of the Perfect in Christ

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 09:30

“If you were to die to today, where would you be?” No doubt those of us who have engaged in evangelism have asked this important question. Being saved from the punishment of hell and being reconciled to God are essential elements of the doctrine of salvation. There should be a desire in every believer to be reconciled with God. We can say with Paul that we “long to depart and be with Christ—which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). However, too often that is the only vision that we have; we do not hear Paul’s next thought, “but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” In our desire to be with God, have we forgotten the present context in which we live? Is our longing for heaven more of an escape from our present, sinful situations?

Too often our desire is for the hereafter (and sometimes not even on Jesus!), and it leaves us to have little concern for the present, temporal world around us. It is true that we should have a concern for the spiritual eternity of others in our world, but if there is to be an engagement with the present world, how do we do it? Many in church history and in our time have addressed this question; however, I would like to look briefly at an approach to this concern from the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Though many know Dietrich Bonhoeffer because of his involvement as a pastor in the resistance movement during World War II, he was a trained theologian and wrote on many topics, especially Christology, ecclesiology, and ethics. Toward the end of his life, he was working on a manuscript on the topic of ethics that has since been published in a variety of forms.[1] In these writings, he takes up the concept of the present society in a variety of places, most famously his Mandates. He also speaks of it in terms of that which is reconciled and that which is not. We can think of this in terms of that which is perfect and that which is imperfect, or we can use his language of distinguishing (and relating) that which is ultimate and that which is penultimate.

The ultimate is that which is found in justification. It is the reconciliation found in Jesus Christ. In Bonhoeffer’s theology, Christ is the center of reality and thus helps define what is the ultimate. Paul’s longing to be with Christ is an example of seeking and finding this ultimate. The penultimate is that which comes before the ultimate. It is imperfect and in need of reconciliation.

Bonhoeffer points out to us that, too often, we separate these two ideas. There is the perfect realm with God and the imperfect realm apart from God. In seeing these things as separate, one can run into danger and misapply God’s will. In the context of the church, this is especially the case. Too often Christians and churches mistake their understanding of the ultimate so that there is a disdain of the penultimate, meaning that there is a desire for being with God while having a dislike of the world around us. Bonhoeffer highlights this through what he calls radicalism:

When evil becomes powerful in the world, it simultaneously injects the Christian with the poison of radicalism. Reconciliation with the world as it is, which is given to the Christian by Christ, is then called betrayal and denial of Christ. In its place come bitterness, suspicion, and contempt for human beings and the world. Love that believes all things, bears all things, and hopes all things, love that loves the world in its very wickedness with the love of God (John 3:16), becomes—by limiting love to the closed circle of the pious—a pharisaical refusal of love for the wicked.[2]

In response to this, Bonhoeffer points to the centeredness of our reality in Jesus Christ, where the tension “between the ultimate and penultimate is resolved.”[3] This is seen through the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection wherein Christ comes as the ultimate to the penultimate to bring reconciliation of all. Bonhoeffer summarizes the type of Christianity that results from this understanding: “Christian life means being human in the power of Christ’s becoming human, being judged and pardoned in the power of the cross, living a new life in the power of the resurrection.”[4] This type of Christianity is such that it is not merely biding the time until Christ returns, nor does it practice a mere evangelism that sees little use for the fallen, yet created, world around them. It is a Christianity that engages not only others with the Gospel that leads to salvation, but it also engages the present, temporal reality of the penultimate in which we live.

Though there is much more to glean from Bonhoeffer’s work on the ultimate and penultimate (and his entire Ethics for that matter), allow me to offer four beginning thoughts about how to better engage the imperfect world around us.

First, find your centeredness in Christ. There is no way to live as Christians apart from the reconciling work of Jesus Christ. Individually, we are united to Him, and He has given us His Spirit. Corporately, we exist as the church, with Christ as our head and the Spirit in our midst. To understand our reality apart from Christ is not only wrongheaded, but a path to destruction.

Second, live in repentance. This repentance is not a mere apology, an “I’m sorry for _____.” Too often these are forced and hollow. Repentance is an act that leads to change. It is a direction from where we are in the penultimate to Christ in the ultimate. It is the persistent activity of the Christian, individually, and the church and churches, collectively, to orient themselves back to the centeredness in Christ. It can be humbling and even humiliating, but from here, healing occurs.

Third, preach the Gospel. The affirmation that we need to be concerned about the present, material world around us does not mean that we are moving toward a lessening of the Gospel and our evangelism. Too often we have an either/or mentality. Having a concern for the needs in the present is not mutually exclusive from having a concern for a person’s ultimate end. If we are living out from the center of Christ, we will be proclaiming His message, which is Himself and results in salvation.

Finally, take care of others. As the previous point makes, evangelism and concerns for the present, material world are not at odds with one another. We can do both. We should do both. As we received grace when we were low and destitute and in need, so we take care of others who are low and destitute and in need. This kindness bestowed upon us is not merely spiritual. We are not gnostic Christians. We should have a concern for all of creation. Bonhoeffer further states, “It would be blasphemy against God and our neighbor to leave the hungry unfed while saying that God is closest to those in deepest need. We break bread with the hungry and share our home with them for the sake of Christ’s love, which belongs to the hungry as much as it does to us.”

[1] The volume I will be engaging is from the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works in English, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005).
[2] Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 155-56.
[3] Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 157.
[4] Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 159.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Great Commission and Theological Education

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 09:30

After His resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ gave His last instructions for the expansion of the Gospel:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The task of evangelizing and discipling all of the ethnic groups (in Greek panta ta ethne) is very clear in the command of the resurrected Christ. We also see here the task of teaching the believers all the things that Jesus taught His disciples. In the book of Acts, we find that the disciples took very seriously what Jesus had commanded: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” (2:42).

As we study the ministry of the Apostle Paul, we find out that he also took very seriously the training of leaders for the work of the ministry. To Timothy, whom he personally trained, Paul gave instructions on how he, in turn, should train others:

You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:1-2).

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary takes the Great Commission very seriously. In all of its classes (especially the missions, evangelism and discipleship classes) and in chapel, the task of making disciples is continuously emphasized. Every week, under the direction of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, groups of students go out to evangelize in homes, shopping centers and universities that surround the seminary.

One of the ways in which Southwestern Seminary is addressing the “ta ethne” dimension of the Great Commission is by making extraordinary efforts to train leaders to reach the Hispanic population in this country. To accomplish this, Southwestern Seminary has designed a Master in Theological Studies degree that is totally in Spanish, totally online and astonishingly affordable. This degree plan, which consists of 12 courses of 3 credit hours each, provides biblical and theological instruction that sets a solid foundation for ministry. The response has been so enthusiastic that today there are more than 400 Spanish-speaking students enrolled.

The U.S. Hispanic population continues to grow rapidly every year. In 1970, there were 9.6 million Hispanics in this country. In 2017, the number of Hispanics surpassed 58 million. The projections are that by 2050 there will be 128 million Hispanics, which will be a third of the population of this country. A very encouraging fact is that the Hispanic population in the U.S. is responding more favorably to the Gospel message than at any other time in the history of this country. Today, close to 25 percent of Hispanic Americans identify themselves as Protestant/Evangelical. With regard to Hispanics, we can truly say that “the fields are ripe unto the harvest.”

In light of the explosive growth of the Hispanic population and their unprecedented response to the Gospel, it is truly encouraging that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is taking extraordinary measures to train the largest number of Spanish-speaking persons possible to provide the leadership that is so desperately needed in the Hispanic churches and ministries.

For information on Southwestern’s Spanish-language courses, visit swbts.edu/espanol or call 817-923-1921, ext. 2700.

Categories: Seminary Blog