At annual summit, Southern Seminary emphasizes expository preaching
The second annual Expositors Summit, hosted by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Oct. 29-31, featured pastors H.B. Charles Jr., Alistair Begg and seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. The event, which opened and concluded with seminary chapel services, brought together more than 420 attendees from around the country.
Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., preached three sermons, the first from Philippians 2:5-11 about the humiliation and exaltation of Christ.
Charles emphasized Jesus’ suffering, noting his selfless sacrifice for sinners.
“Christ made himself nothing in the role he adopted in the incarnation: a servant,” he said. “We have never sacrificed anything in comparison to what Christ did for us.”
Christ not only humbled himself, but God exalted him to a place of high honor. The proper response to Jesus, then, is worship, Charles said.
“The bowing of the knee is the proper response to Jesus’ exaltation,” Charles said. “The lordship of Christ is the ultimate confession of every Christian and all creation.”
In his second sermon, Charles preached from Psalm 119 about the necessity of personal devotion for ministers.
He said, “We must have confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture that begins in our personal devotion before it will take real effect in our public ministries.”
To know God’s Word is to love God’s Word, he said, giving three reasons loving the Bible is important.
The first reason is because the Word of God makes Christians wise. He said that Scripture is so sufficient that it will overcome whatever may stand against it, if ministers commit to preach it faithfully.
Age and wisdom don’t always go together, and experience is not always the best teacher. Instead, Christians should intentionally fall in love with God’s Word and submit themselves to it because it leads to wisdom, Charles said.
Charles’ second reason was that Scripture aids in keeping Christians from sin.
And in his final point, Charles pointed out that Christians need to know and love Scripture because it brings joy.
Charles closed the summit, preaching from Psalm 46 about “a safe place in God.”
The passage, Charles said, “seems to speak to any and every situation the people of God may face. The personal trials, the moral decline, the social upheaval, the economic reversals, the political shenanigans, the international conflict, the the terrorist threats — not to mention the spiritual challenges we face — cause our hearts to ask, ‘Is any place safe?’ Unfortunately, there is no safe place in this world.
“But I stand to say: there is a safe place in God. In fact, this is the message of Psalm 46: the only safe place in the world is in God alone.”
Charles pointed to three aspects of God in which the psalmist finds safety: in the power, presence and purpose of God.
Mohler preached for the first general session of the Expositors Summit. He spoke from Matthew 7:24-29 — the parable about the man who built his house on the rock and the one who built his house on the sand — about the lack of authority in contemporary preaching and the problem this presents.
When Jesus concludes the parable, the scribes listening to him stood astonished, Mohler said, because he spoke with authority.
“What’s missing today in pastors is authority,” he said. “The one thing missing is the one thing necessary.”
Mohler said preachers can recover this authority by preaching God’s Word. Pastors and teachers, he said, do not teach on their own authority, but on God’s.
He closed out the second day of the conference preaching from 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul says that he has became “all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” Mohler exposed common misinterpretations of this passage that creep into cultural Christianity.
With the growing moral revolution and churches that listen to the culture’s ideologies, Christians must look out for the “wolves” who want theological reformulation in place of orthodox theology, Mohler said.
Mohler said the way to contextualize ministry is to live as resident aliens and understand the temptations that face the church. He argued that Paul does not intend to become “all to save all,” giving up sound doctrine. Rather, he lets go of preferences and holds on to Scripture in order to save some.
“The first temptation is to hold on to what we’re supposed to let go of, and the second is to let go of what we’re supposed to hold on to,” he said.
Begg, pastor of Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio, preached three times for the summit.
In an Oct. 29 chapel service, after he recounted advice he received early in his career that he should find his “thing,” a brand that would define his ministry, Begg argued that, rather than a brand, the emphases of the Bible should define Christians. He discussed three statements — three “one things” — from three different passages of Scripture that should characterize believers.
Begg summarized the three: “One thing I know, says the Christian, I used to be blind but now I can see,” he said. “One thing I do, I forget what lies behind; I press on toward that goal. And one thing I ask, that I might enjoy in all of its fullness to live in the house of God forever.”
For the first “one thing,” Begg pointed to John 9:25, where a blind beggar, after Jesus restores his sight, tells the Pharisees that the “one thing” he knows is, “I was blind but now I see!”
“Those words on the lips of this man born blind identify, in a radical way, the intervention of Jesus Christ in his life,” Begg said.” This ‘one thing that I know,’ says the man, is a reminder to us of something, of course, we must never forget: namely, the nature, the wonder, the absolute necessity of being converted. ”
Begg drew his second “one thing” from Philippians 3:13-14, where Paul writes that the “one thing” he does is, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” press “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
For his final statement, Begg looked at Psalm 27:4, where the psalmist asks “one thing” of the Lord, that he “may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of [his] life.”
Begg concluded the first day preaching from the Book of Jude. Jude calls his readers to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, Begg said. In his first general session, Begg contended that the church today, as in Jude’s, faces a threat from the inside when Christians doubt the sufficiency of Scripture.
“Jude is saying to his hearers that in the climate they are living, it is imperative that they take a stand for their faith,” Begg said. “This faith is not to be diluted; it is not to be distorted; it is not to be contaminated. The sum and substance of the gospel lies, in Luther’s words, in the word substitution.”
Begg expounded on Jude’s message to Christians who are called, loved and kept by God. He noted that God alone accomplishes all of these aspects in the passage. Christians are saved as a result from something done for them, Begg said.
“This message is to be proclaimed clearly, wisely, sensitively and authoritatively,” Begg said. “It is the conviction that what God has said is to be said with nothing else to be added, and what God has done he has done with nothing else needed.”
In a second sermon from Jude, Begg noted that the apostle calls Christians to learn from the past and persevere in the present until Christ returns. Jude wants his readers to remember that building themselves up in the love of God is a “constant, lifelong activity,” Begg said.
At the end of his sermon, Begg encouraged preachers to remember God’s love toward them in order to build up believers in their congregations.
“The care of God for the pastors and shepherds of the flock is a care that is to extend to those who are our sheep and our lambs so that we may convey to them the mercy and love and the goodness and the intervention of God and together we might follow hard after him,” he said.
In addition to the main sessions, the Expositors Summit offered breakout sessions about expository preaching led by Southern Seminary faculty members Kevin L. Smith, Hershael W. York, Daniel S. Dumas, Robert L. Plummer and James M. Hamilton. The event also included a panel discussion in which Begg, Charles, Mohler and Dumas discussed a range of topics related to expository preaching, from preparation time to application.
Audio and video from the Expositors Summit are available at sbts.edu/resources. Next year’s Expositors Summit will be Oct. 28-30, 2014. More information about the Expositors Summit and other events at Southern Seminary are available at sbts.edu/events.