Record 467 Degrees Awarded at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s 2017 Commencement

Raymond Johnson, lead pastor at The Journey Church in West Chester, Pa., received his Ph.D. in New Testament at Southern Seminary’s May 19 commencement. The seminary’s doctoral graduates have reached the 2,000 mark in the 125-year history of the program. Photo by Emil Handke/SBTS

Ministers of the Gospel are not partakers in a career, but recipients of a divine calling, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in his commencement address May 19 to the 2017 graduates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

During 219th commencement exercises on the seminary lawn, 318 master’s and doctoral students received degrees. A week earlier, 149 Boyce College students graduated, with the combined 467 degrees representing the largest commencement in Southern Seminary’s history.

“At every Southern Seminary graduation we remind one another of the great and essential fact that the Christian ministry is not a mere profession — it is a divine calling,” Mohler, SBTS president, said. “The ministry is one of Christ’s gifts to His church. It is among the most serious — and indeed the most serious — and joyous of all callings.”

In an address titled “As It Had Been the Face of an Angel,” from Acts 6:8-15, Mohler encouraged the graduates to be encouraged by Stephen’s example, who remained steadfast in the face of false accusations, his face shining like an angel’s.

The contemporary depiction of angels in popular culture often misses the point, Mohler said, as angles in the Bible are messengers of God who inspire awe and fear.

“That is the ministry of the Word of God — the ministry we celebrate in these graduates today,” Mohler said. “We dare to pray that when they preach, when they bring the message from God’s Word, in this sense their faces look like the faces of angels — not cute, never harmless, not ready to jump off of a greeting card, but fearless, faithful, forceful to the end.”

The work facing Southern Seminary graduates is inherited from a previous generation, Mohler noted, and commencement provides an opportunity to reflect on the faithfulness of spiritual forebears and to anticipate new ministries for newly trained Gospel workers in the years ahead.

Just as the prophet Joel foretold that old men would dream and young men would see visions, so too seminary graduates are driven into the world with powerful dreams and visions for how they can be used for the Kingdom.

“These graduates go out now to build upon what others have already built. We will all build on the foundation someone else has laid,” Mohler said. “Even as the Lord grants opportunity to sow seed, we will spend much of our lives and ministries watering what others have planted, even as we plant what others will water…. In the church age, ministry is handed from generation to generation. Our humble determination and our heart’s desire must be to receive this charge and to serve faithfully — planting and watering in the fields of ministry and taking care how we build upon the foundation laid before us.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Andrew J.W. Smith