With poinsettias adorning the sanctuary of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Patterson exhorted graduates from the Christmas story found in the first chapter of Matthew.
Joseph's obeying God's command to take Mary as his wife -- in spite of those who thought he should reject her because of the pregnancy -- is the kind of faith ministers need when others oppose them, Patterson said.
"Whether you're in a church or in a mission field or wherever you may be, you will minister in the face of increasing hostility," he said. "If you minister successfully, you will have to minister as a man, as a woman, of faith, and it will have to be apparent that you are trusting God and God alone."
Patterson exhorted students about the necessity for a biblical basis to their faith and ministry, like Joseph demonstrated when he trusted the word of God in Isaiah that said a virgin would bear a son.
"As you go forth to counsel, as you go forth to direct the music in praise to the Lord, as you go forth to teach the word of God and preach the word of God -- whatever your ministry may be -- it must be based solidly upon the infallible and inerrant word of God," Patterson said. "To base it on anything else will be sure failure."
Patterson also called the class to base their identities as ministers upon the salvation offered in Jesus, whose name in Hebrew means, "Jehovah is salvation."
"You have an assignment from the Lord Jesus Christ to make a better world socially," Patterson said to the graduates. "But I want you never, ever to forget that though every part of that is what it means to be a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is all secondary to why Jesus came.
"In the end, when it is all said and done, the discovery of the success or failure of your ministry is the discovery of whether or not you have been faithful in sharing the witness of Jesus Christ who came to save His people from their sins," Patterson added.
The seminary conferred degrees on 245 students during the commencement, including 12 undergraduate, 220 master's and 13 doctoral degrees. Korea, Kenya and India were among 15 countries represented by the class.
Dave Wright, director of creative services in Southwestern's communications office, received a master of arts in Christian education with a concentration in communications. One of his work responsibilities was to design a new logo and seal for the institution, and his diploma, along with those of his graduating class, was one of the first to feature the new seal.
Wright chose Southwestern to pursue his calling to media and design in the context of ministry.
"Understanding that preaching and teaching of the Word of God each week is the most important part of a local church, and that God's Word can penetrate and transform the heart of a person without any help at all, this desire to help communicate those messages creatively and with biblical accuracy continued to grow in me," Wright said.
Jenny Williams, originally from Hawaii, found her love for Scripture deepened as she pursued a master of divinity degree. "My appreciation for the value of God's word has been transformed," she said. "Prior to seminary I knew the Bible as truth; however, I leave recognizing Scripture to be essential in all areas of the church."
Williams married in August of this year. Her husband, James, is currently pursuing a master of theology degree at Southwestern. Williams looks forward to ministering alongside her husband in their local Baptist church.
Rebecca Carter is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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