Southwestern President Paige Patterson addressed the graduates, expounding on John 1:14 which says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (NKJV).
Noting that the verse is timely for both the Christmas season and the students' graduation, Patterson charged the graduates to go out as men and women of grace and truth, not abandoning one for the other but marrying grace and truth in all they do.
"I challenge you to be so much men and women of truth that there will be people of untruth who will find you objectionable," Patterson said. "But in the midst of that, would you also be men and women of such grace that even though they are your opponents, they cannot help but be drawn to the Master by the graciousness of your testimony."
As the students have heard in their classes, chapel services and evangelism work at Southwestern, Patterson once again laid out a call to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ and the good news of His salvation.
"My sweet students and children," Patterson said, "there are 7 billion people in this world who desperately need to be saved, who need to know about Christ, who can bring joy and meaning to life that they cannot have in any other way. I want to challenge you one last time today to be men and women of the Gospel, to make it crystal clear in whatever endeavor may be yours that the only way to have genuine joy in life, that the only way to find meaning in life, the only way to find eternity with Christ is to repent of one's sin and place one's faith solely in Jesus Christ."
While speakers at commencement ceremonies across the world charge graduates to go out, to be successful and to make names for themselves, Patterson told the students he would do the opposite.
"I'm going to ask you to do something totally different," Patterson said. "I'm going to ask you to go out into the world and give yourself away. I'm going to ask you to never worry about material things again. Put it behind you. It is not for you to be concerned about. You are to trust God who will take care of you. I'm going to ask you to go out there, in some cases even, and give your life away in an unbelievable life of martyrdom. Some of you probably will have to face death for Christ. I challenge you to do it trusting totally and completely in Him if that is the call."
Whatever the result and whatever the outcome, Patterson told the students they must obey God to reflect Christ's work on the cross and in their lives through grace and truth.
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That must be your message. That must be your activity through your flesh to allow the Word to continue becoming flesh in the lives of many others," Patterson said.
The recent completion of the MacGorman Chapel allowed Southwestern to hold the commencement exercises on its campus for the first time in 34 years. After graduation attendance outgrew Truett Auditorium, where the ceremony had been held since 1949 when it was moved from Cowden Hall, the seminary asked Travis Avenue Baptist Church if the school could hold its commencement exercises in its sanctuary. The church agreed and the exercises had been held there since 1977.
Patterson said it was a "very happy day" for the seminary to be able to hold its graduation on campus once again and he was glad to see about one-third of the attendees raise their hands to signify this was their first time to visit the campus.
In keeping with his charge to the graduates to evangelize the lost, Patterson shared the Gospel with those in the chapel and extended an invitation to receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Patterson acknowledged that a number of people prayed for salvation, praying that God would grant them 100 times the joy the Lord has given him.
Sharayah Colter is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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