Akin paints picture of healthy church during Convocation
January 19, 2017
by Lauren Crane
During the opening chapel service of the spring semester, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Daniel Akin addressed the gathered student body about the marks of a healthy community of faith.
Akin, president since 2005, spoke during the Convocation service on February 2 about the signs of faithfulness, laid out in Hebrews 13, that should characterize the body of Christ. “What will it look like to run the race well? How will it flesh out in the local community of faith?” Akin said. The Convocation message can be found here in video format.
He said that beginning with the command to love one another, there are a number of other imperatives in Hebrews 13:1-25. These directives are instructions that will become distinctive of a healthy community of faith. Unlike many sections of the New Testament, Akin said this chapter of Hebrews teaches not how to get saved, but how the saved live in response to Christ Jesus. First and foremost, Akin said, the body of believers should be characterized by a consistent love for one another.
Verse one of the chapter lays this out as the foundation for the body of Christ. “This love is volitional, active and personal and it is something God commands us to do,” Akin said. “There is nothing shallow or sentimental about this love. Without love, we are a sham and send a dishonest, vague message to the world watching us.”
This love should have feet, seen not only in the love for other believers, but also seen in how the body of Christ cares for those in need. In verses two and three of the passage, Akin points out that believers are commanded to not forget and to remember those who are in need, showing them love and seeking out those who are hurting.
“Unfortunately, many today find welcoming homes of hospitality in bars, health clubs, Barnes & Noble and Starbucks. Too many churches function like exclusive social clubs that only want members who look and act like them,” Akin said. “Biblical hospitality will know nothing of racial, social, economic or cultural barriers that eclipse the offense of the gospel.”
Akin addressed issues that have plagued the church, including slavery and divorce, that damage the health of the church body, as well as its witness to a non-believing world. These issues, he said, “are where the counterculture of the gospel should shine brightly. Unfortunately our light has been quite dim and for some time.”
Challenging believers to hold marriage in high regard, Akin echoed the words of the author of Hebrews in verse four, reiterating the importance of marriage and sex within the context of marriage. Speaking to parents, Akin said this task begins in the home – raising masculine sons and feminine daughters.
Looking at verses five and six, Akin said the body of believers must have an unshakeable faith in God’s providence, trusting in his care and provision. Because of this faith in God’s word, Akin said believers should also respect those who teach the word of God, as is commanded in verses 7, 17 and 24. Because men of God speak the word, they are providing an example and watching out for the spiritual well-being of their flocks.
“As a leader and watcher of souls, preach the Word – all of it,” Akin said. “Be an example worthy of emulation, nothing unbiblical, unethical, immoral, illegal. Be someone men and boys look up to and women and girls admire because you evidence a genuine walk with God.
“Shepherd the flock of God under your care. Lead them to respect you and to trust you.”
Other marks of a healthy community of faith include a commitment to Christ-centered doctrine and the spiritual sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving and service.
“His cross is our altar. It provides the food for grace, forgiveness and thanksgiving,” Akin said. “It sanctifies us by his blood. Versus 13-16 address our appropriate response to the great sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.”
As believers meditate on the cross, they ought to look to Jesus as the great shepherd to perfect them in good works, he said. For us to live under the Lordship of Christ as the community of believers means we have to believe the way Jesus did and let those truths transform our lives.
“We are who we are because Jesus is who he is. We do what we do because Jesus has done what he has done,” he said. “If Christ is superior in us, Hebrews 13 will be lived out through us.”