by Lauren Crane
Before David Nelson trusted God for his salvation, he said persecuting Christian evangelicals was a sport for him.
Nelson, who is the dean of the faculty at Southeastern, said it wasn’t until he was confronted with the truth of Ephesians 2 that he understood what it means to be saved by God’s grace alone, so that in the coming ages, God may show more grace to humanity. During the final regular chapel service of the semester on December 2, Nelson preached the gospel message out of Ephesians 2:1-10.Telling his own story of what it meant for him to wrestle through the implications of being saved through grace, and not through works, Nelson taught the passage to the Southeastern family.
“I was raised in the tradition of going to church,” Nelson said. Despite his upbringing though, Nelson said he was known for “ridiculing evangelicals. It was a sport for me.” As a teenager though, he was confronted by a friend about his faith and the words of Ephesians 2.
“I could not get away from those verses. Ephesians 2 haunted me and hounded me,” he said. “I had a decision to make about who and what I would trust. I chose to believe that the Scriptures are true and I cannot save myself. The only way I could be saved is if Jesus saved me.”
Just as the Apostle Paul taught in Ephesians 2:1, Nelson said, “I was dead in my trespasses and sins, and I was a child of wrath and in need of a change of affairs.”
Contrary to what many pastors had told him in the search for the truth, Nelson found that faith through grace is the only way to God. “What I then found was immense love, lavish kindness and immeasurable grace.”
“Listen to who God is in this text: He is rich in love and mercy,” Nelson said. “He doesn’t give us what we deserve, but he stays his hand. We don’t deserve kindness, yet that is what God gives us.
“God doesn’t just withhold his wrath, but he pours out his wrath (which we deserve) onto his son.”
Nelson said Paul raises several questions in this passage.
“Why has God done what he has done? He does it because of the great love of God, but there is something else here. Now, get the logic here, the God logic: God saved us by grace, so in the coming ages he might show us more grace – forever and ever, and so we might go on and on and never exhaust the description of God’s mercy and grace on sinners.”
The purpose of God saving humanity by his grace is for the purpose of showing us the immeasurable riches of his grace for the rest of eternity, Nelson said. “We are limited. We are finite, so what is our capacity for knowing the grace and mercy of our God? I believe we will have the capacity to use the minds God gave us to learn forever and ever the rich mercy, unending love, endless grace and immeasurable kindness.”
Nelson challenged people to remember this Christmas how God has acted toward us, and extend the same grace, mercy, love and kindness to the unlovely. That would be consistent with the Gospel, he said.
“This is the gospel: That God has acted toward us with an eternal, divine affection,” Nelson said. “My prayer is that there would be an increase of affection for the God who has such affection for you.”
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.