Evangelical leader encourages believers to experience God’s love during SBTS chapel
Christians should seek to experience the love from God that is beyond understanding, said evangelical leader Ligon Duncan in chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Sept. 1.
“I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt a love that is beyond your capacity to even comprehend,” said Duncan, who is the chancellor at Reformed Theological Seminary. “I want you to know it down to your bones.”
Preaching on Ephesians 3:14-19, Duncan pointed out that while Paul elsewhere speaks about a peace that passes understanding, in this passage he prays for Christians to know a love that surpasses knowledge. This language clearly refers to the Christian’s personal experience of God’s love, which should be a deep, resonant awareness in the heart of every Christian, Duncan said.
After noting how prayer is shaped by the things a believer cares about, Duncan urged that Christians not forget that principle when reading the Bible’s prayers. Paul’s prayers demonstrate what he cared about, Duncan said.
The prayer of Ephesians 3 reveals not only Paul’s heart for the Ephesian Christians but also the heart of the God who inspired Paul’s writing.
“This prayer is prayed by the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,” Duncan said. “This is the Word of God. You’re not just seeing what Paul wants for you in this prayer; you’re seeing what God wants for you.”
Duncan said the Christian’s prayer is shaped by the indwelling presence of the Triune God. Although believers are already indwelt by the Holy Spirit when they believe, Paul prays Christians would be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph 3:16) and that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17) so they might be fully changed into the fullness of God’s image. This transformation only happens at the level of affections and desires, Duncan said.
“Paul wants our hearts — meaning especially our desires — to be completely transformed by the indwelling presence of Christ,” he said. “Paul understands that the Christian life is fought at the level of the desires. And your heart has to be shaped by the occupancy of Christ in order for those desires to be reordered.”
After alluding to a Puritan prayer that Christ would make their hearts a “suitable habitation for him,” Duncan said that the heart’s desires should make the indwelling presence of Christ obvious.
“Paul wants your heart to become a home for the savior, a place that he recognizes, a place where the desires are ordered by him and for him,” he said. “That takes power; power you don’t have. And that’s why you need the Spirit.”
Duncan also brought the executive staff of Reformed Theological Seminary to meet with the Southern Seminary Executive Cabinet. Duncan is the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and formerly senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. He has a long history with Southern Seminary from both his friendship with President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and because his mother was an alumna and employee at the school.
Audio and video of the chapel message is available at sbts.edu/resources.