SEBTS President Daniel Akin addressed family members and friends of the graduates and gave the charge to the grads, preaching on what he called the "greatest verse in the Bible," John 3:16. The verse is one of the most well-known of all Scripture passages, and Akin said it is because it entails a love story -- a divine love story.
Akin broke the verse down phrase-by-phrase, exegeting the text so the magnitude of the love story can be understood.
"This verse teaches us that there was a point in time when God wrote in red blood, 'I love you,'" Akin said. "This verse will inspire these graduates to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth."
"For God so loved" teaches that the Creator of the universe loved with such passion as to act on the world's behalf, Akin said, noting that love is not an abstract idea or an emotion; rather, it is an action in which someone seeks the good of others.
"It's not about what you can get but about what you can give," he said. "We give and we love because He gave and He loves. These men and women will go because they have been captivated by this love."
The recipients of this passionate love, Akin said, are every tribe, every tongue and every nation, as seen in the words "the world."
Akin -- citing resources from the International Mission Board and the Joshua Project -- said 1.6 billion people of the world's 6.8 billion inhabitants still have never heard about Christ.
The proof of God's love, Akin said, is that He gave His only Son -- the greatest gift.
"When God gave His Son, He gave His best," Akin said. "And God is the only good Father who brought His Son into the world with the express purpose that He would die for sinners like you and like me."
This free gift of salvation is offered through Christ's work on the cross for all who believe -- what Akin called the greatest invitation.
"He says, 'Come to me and I will receive you.' That's why we go and put our lives on the line, because He says He welcomes all sinners. ...
"God's love is sufficient to save the world but efficient to save those who believe," Akin said. "Believe. It's such a simple path."
Akin invited the family members and friends of the graduates to think about the realities of heaven and hell and the choice between the two. It was the desire to tell people about how to rightly choose between the two that motivated the students to train at Southeastern, Akin said, and it is these same realities that motivate them to pour their lives out in places across the globe now.
In speaking to the graduating students, Akin reminded them to always be ready to tell people about a Savior who loves them and died for them.
"Please never lose the simplicity of the Gospel. It's not complicated. It's very clear. Make sure you keep it that simple and clear."
Twenty-two students graduated with associate or bachelor's degrees, while 130 students graduated with master's or doctoral degrees. The graduates came from 18 states and five foreign countries.
Lauren Crane is a writer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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