“In these graduates, we are seeing the word of the Lord speeding ahead,” says Mohler at Southern Seminary’s 225th commencement
Graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary “see the word of the Lord speed ahead of them,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, at the school’s 225th commencement exercise, May 15, 2020.
Due to restrictions on large gatherings, the commencement was live-streamed, with no graduates physically in attendance. The service has been live-streamed in the past, but the 225th commencement marks the first commencement at Southern Seminary where students watched exclusively online, rather than attending the ceremony in Alumni Chapel.
These circumstances were far from what the seminary community had hoped for. Commencement typically consists of a full week of celebration, including graduates being invited to a reception at the President’s home. But not this year. Nevertheless, said Mohler, the circumstances are governed by God.
“It isn’t the graduation day we expected, but it is the graduation day that is right, given the plan and purposes of our sovereign God,” said Mohler.
Traditionally, Mohler would offer each attending graduate a personal congratulation, as the graduate walks across stage and receives their diploma, a moment that is deeply meaningful to Mohler. The 225th commencement marks the first time Mohler has not done that in his tenure. God willing, Mohler said, the opportunity will come again when he will be able to do so.
“I want you to know how much I miss putting the diploma in your hand. But [my confidence is] that God right now is doing something unspeakably great in and through you. I make you a personal pledge: I can’t wait until that day when I can shake your hand and put your diploma in your hand. But know this: it is earned already, and it is about to be conferred in a matter of moments.”
Mohler took 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5 as his biblical text. The Apostle Paul exhorted the church at Thessalonica to “pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored” (2 Thess. 3:1). That same prayer is what the seminary community, faculty, and staff pray for graduates.
“That for you and through you, the word of the Lord may speed ahead,” Mohler said. “We are praying that the ministries of these students will be honored, as the word of the Lord speeds ahead,” Mohler said.
“Honored doesn’t mean personal honor coming to the preacher. It means that honor comes to Christ and, yes, honor comes to the preaching, honor comes to the teaching, honor comes to the church reflecting the honor of Christ. And yes, honor will come to the preacher in a derivative sense. We are praying that God will be honored, that God will be glorified, in the preaching and the ministries, in everything these graduates do in faithfulness to their calling in every dimension of life and every nation in the world.”
Graduates of the 225th commencement at Southern Seminary take the very same word ahead as those who have gone before them. They are charged with delivering “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Throughout its 150 year history, the animating conviction of Southern Seminary has been to see students who take the word of the Lord with them, and that conviction remains steady, said Mohler.
“In these graduates we are seeing the word of the Lord speeding ahead,” Mohler said. “That’s why this seminary was established. That’s why those four faculty came together in 1859. That’s why this seminary has maintained its mission through more than a century and a half, through a civil war, through a pandemic in 1918–1919, through a Great Depression, through two World Wars, through this and that. This institution has continued because the mission has continued.”
“Churches, here and there, large and small, new and old and yet to be planted – may the word of the Lord speed ahead and be honored.”
You can watch Southern Seminary’s 225th commencement ceremony online.