BCM/D Exec Kevin Smith among speakers
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Heroes of the pulpit like Charles Spurgeon and George Whitefield provide models of bold preaching for today’s ministers, Steven Lawson said in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Mullins Lectures on Preaching, the nation’s second-oldest lectureship on preaching.
“One of the greatest steps of faith that you and I will ever take is the mere act of preaching,” said Lawson, founder and president of OnePassion Ministries.
Lawson said he regularly draws inspiration from the greatest preachers in the history of the church and has portraits of Jonathan Edwards, William Tyndale, John Knox, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther and George Whitefield hanging above his desk.
Preaching from Hebrews 12, Lawson challenged students to see their preaching ministry arrayed beneath a “great cloud of witnesses,” a metaphor that pictures a stadium full of spectators. Modern preachers must learn from the example of these men, said Lawson, who focused on Spurgeon, Whitefield and 20th-century Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his three lectures, which were part of the seminary’s fifth Expositors Summit.
“They are a cloud of witnesses who have already run their race and have assumed their place now in the grandstands,” Lawson said. “They are cheering us on by the example of their lives. They do not witness us; they bear witness to us.”
During the three-day summit, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Jesus’ parables not only contain judgment but “point to the grace of God in Christ for our salvation.”
“We haven’t possibly preached until we have preached the Gospel,” Mohler said. “We can’t possibly believe that we have finished preaching until we declare that Jesus saves sinners and tell sinners how they can find salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Using the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 and the parable of the 10 minas in Luke 19, Mohler highlighted the judgment and grace held within each parable, urging preachers to keep those themes in their sermons.
In the parable of the tax collector, the reader should be shocked that grace is extended to the worst of sinners. It is in the tax collector’s cry for mercy that he recognizes his sinfulness, believes in faith and is justified. Christians, likewise, can have confidence of being saved because of the grace given to the tax collector, Mohler said.
Money is not the primary teaching in the parable of the 10 minas, Mohler noted. It is about believers sharing in the Son’s reign of the Kingdom. Judgment is coming first for believers and then for all the rest, he said. Therefore, Christians should be occupied with Kingdom work until Christ returns, including the call to preach the Gospel.
“By the time we finish preaching, the saved ought to know that they are saved and the lost need to know they’re lost,” Mohler said.
Also during the late-October summit, Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, said Christians need to grasp the essential nature of the Gospel in order to be faithful preachers. Drawing from Ephesians 1, Begg said pastors must not settle for a simplistic understanding of the Gospel but instead embrace the rich complexity of its message and the countercultural nature of its effect.
“Some of us have become very good at telling people how important it is to believe the Gospel and warning them about what will happen to them if they don’t believe the Gospel, and many of them are still sitting in their pews going, ‘Yes, but what exactly is the Gospel?’” Begg said. “Ephesians tells us. [The Gospel is] what God has done for us in Christ to save us from sin and from the devil and from death.”
The effectiveness of preaching and evangelism largely depends on how the preacher perceives the wholly undeserved nature of God’s grace, Begg said. When Christians recognize the “divine diagnosis” of abject depravity that covers all humanity, they are better equipped to proclaim divine forgiveness, Begg said.
“The difficulty for some of us is that we really have not faced up to the gravity of our condition, and therefore, we’re a little bit tongue-tied when it comes to declaring these things. And when we do declare them, if we’re not careful, it comes off as unbelievably self-righteous,” Begg said. “Our businessmen are going, ‘Wow, it must be terrific to be perfect.’ What we need to say to them is, ‘Our Christian lives are, with Luther, lives of daily repentance.’”
Also during the fall semester — On Election Day, Nov. 8 — Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said American politics cannot destroy the Kingdom of God and should not leave Christians living in fear.
“Whatever’s going on in the American culture around us, the Bible-believing Christian never runs around like Chicken Little,” Smith said.
In a message titled “Politics and the Passion of Christ,” Smith reminded Christians to take a clear stand to show their main identity and commitment is to Jesus Christ as Lord and King. Smith said his main text, John 19:1-16, shows how religious leaders in the midst of political uprising verbally claimed that Caesar is their only king rather than declare allegiance to Jesus as Lord.
“Post-Pentecost, we should never fail to identify with or prioritize Christ the King,” Smith said. “I cannot express any loyalty to a lesser king that would cause me to compromise my loyalty to Christ the King. I can render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and I must render unto God that which belongs to God. And I can render unto Caesar a variety of things as long as those things don’t cause me to disobey or blaspheme God. …
“[T]here’s no way … I’m gonna advocate for a lesser king that is offensive to the majesty of my King.”
Many people claim America will suffer this election, Smith said. But, if they are honest, they would admit they are mostly scared that they will suffer and life will change, he said.
John 19 shows how there are three choices Christians face with the election, Smith said. A proper perspective recognizes authority as coming from above, reflected in Christ’s response. In a warped perspective, the fear of man rules over fear of God, which is Caesar’s response. And in the worst reaction, seen by those in verse 15, the chief priests and religious leaders claim no king but Caesar.
No matter the results of this election or future elections to come, Smith said that the saints continually proclaim “that all of creation right now is sustained by the power of his Word.”
“On the worst day, we have a King who reigns supreme.”
Prior to his call as the BCMD executive director in June, Smith served as assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. In November 2015, Smith was the first African American elected as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Audio and video of the messages from the Mullins Lectures, Expositors Summit and Smith’s chapel messages are available at sbts.edu/resources.