Attendees from as far as Maine and Colorado gathered at Southeastern Seminary to hear the proficient speakers discuss the biblical doctrine of authentic conversion. Men and women attending the fourth year of 9Marks heard from Daniel Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, Tony Merida, and David Platt.
Throughout the six sessions, the speakers unearthed Scripture’s rich and powerful teachings on true biblical conversion.
David Platt, pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, commenced the conference on the topic of the glory of God-centered conversion. He said, “The supreme motivation behind conversion is the global glory of God and the sole means of conversion is the sovereign grace of God. In the moment of conversion,” Platt said, “God forgives us of our sins and he fills us with his Spirit and as a result of conversion, we have radically new wants and entirely new wills.”
Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, taught from Ephesians 2:1-10 on Paul’s four spiritual laws of conversion. Akin iterated, “Apart from Christ we are spiritually dead and it is only through Christ Jesus that we are made spiritually alive.”
Akin echoed Paul’s most famous expression, “Through Christ, we are saved by grace through faith; this is the third spiritual law for Paul. Lastly, there is no antinomian impulse in the Bible – there are always gospel imperatives that flow from gospel indicatives. It is a part of God’s eternal plan that we should walk in good works.” Pastor of Imago Dei in Raleigh, NC, Tony Merida addressed conversion from the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Merida noted for the audience that in this parable there are two very different sons, yet each of them has one very great need: the Gospel.
“The parable picks up with Jesus eating with tax-collectors and sinners,” reminded Merida. “The younger brother essentially asks for his father to die by demanding to have his inheritance early, and in the parable, the elder brother stays close to home, waiting for his inheritance to be ‘owed’ to him.”
Merida asked the conference attendees, “What is the parable’s message? Well, first, Jesus is teaching them about the love of God. Jesus presents God as a loving Father, a teaching probably unique to tax collectors and sinners. He is also instructing them and us about the depth of sin. Lastly, he teaches them about salvation by grace alone, by faith alone and not by works.”
Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, Mark Dever challenged the audience to the see the universal scope of salvation. Drawing from the Book of Acts, Dever spoke on the universal stint of the Gospel. He said, “Salvation is only for sinners who will repent. In Acts, salvation is for all sinners who repent, Jews or Gentiles.”
Preaching primarily from Acts 10, Dever observed four truths about conversion: God prepares people for conversion, he prepares the means of conversion, salvation is by divine grace, and true conversion is a gift from God himself.
“God converts by a powerful message,” opened Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. “He sends this message by broken yet qualified messengers, and God, as seen in 1 Thessalonians 1, turns the recipients into models of himself and initiates them into gospel mission.”
Anyabwile continued, “The converts at Thessalonica became a missionary community. This whole community was shaped around this model of faith, hope and love, and it is Paul who calls upon the Thessalonian church to live as a testimony of their faith in Christ Jesus.”
Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, TX, brought the 2012 9Marks Conference to an end with a message from Romans 8:26-29. He said that in order to truly understand these verses in Romans 8, one has to read the entirety of it. Too many pastors and believers read only 8:28 and fail to see the larger context.
“In the moment of justification,” Chandler said, “you are getting the active righteousness of Christ and he is taking from you your unrighteousness – past, present and future. It is God, in his fore-pursuing, fore-loving, predetermining knowledge, who justifies, glorifies and loves his Church. If you do not have new desires, new emotions and a new life because of Christ, then I’m not sure you are converted. Our faith is more than mental assent. Jesus is after the whole transformation of the heart, and not just the outside.”
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.