“Good News for All the Nations”: Southeastern Commissions Spring 2023 Graduating Class
Chad Burchett | May 12, 2023
Southeastern Seminary and The College at Southeastern celebrated 309 Great Commission graduates during today’s spring commencement ceremonies. Representing 30 states and 18 countries, these graduates have been trained to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission and are now commissioned to lead local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
During the ceremony, Southeastern recognized Benjamin Merkle, M. O. Owens Jr. Chair of New Testament studies, professor of New Testament and Greek, and editor of the “Southeastern Theological Review,” as this year’s recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award. The award is annually given to a faculty member in honor of the professor’s outstanding teaching, commitment to scholarship, and investment in the lives of students. Distinguished for his faithful teaching ministry, Merkle has been teaching at Southeastern since 2008.
Standing to applaud retiring faculty members, students, faculty, and attendees also recognized the exemplary service of four longtime Southeastern professors: David Beck, John Hammett, Al James, and Sam Williams. With 99 years of combined teaching experience at Southeastern, these faculty members will be retiring this summer, having left a lasting Great Commission impact on generations of missionaries and church leaders.
“Our faculty constantly bless me and encourage me, and I marvel at the giftedness God has given them,” commented Akin. “In the midst of all that joy, there is sadness when it comes time in some of their lives for them to retire — not from serving the Lord but from full-time teaching here at Southeastern. … They have served not only with distinction but also with a love and a passion for the gospel, the word of God, and these students.”
Preaching his commencement address from Luke 22:43, Akin reminded attendees of Jesus’s interaction with the thieves on the cross, charging graduates to remember Christ’s call to salvation and his command to share the glorious message of the gospel.
“Your assignment as you leave this place is to be sure that the gospel gets to the nations in time,” Akin charged the graduates. “The good news for the thief on the cross is good news for all the nations as well.”
Your assignment as you leave this place is to be sure that the gospel gets to the nations in time.
“Graduates, never forget that wherever you go, he’s already there,” noted Akin. “And when you arrive, he’s waiting on you. And wherever he leads you — even if it’s in the valley of the shadow of death — he will be with you every step of the way.”
Connecting Luke 22:43 to Matthew 28:19 and Jesus’s other teachings in the Gospels, Akin focused on the hope of eternal life in Christ and how that message of abundant life is too glorious and transformative for the Church to keep to itself. During the sermon, Akin offered attendees five reminders about the nature of eternal life:
- Eternal life is something for you.
- Eternal life is something anyone can have today.
- Eternal life is getting Jesus.
- Eternal life is paradise forever.
- Eternal life is a gift we must share with everyone.
Akin concluded his commencement address with a gospel invitation, offering attendees the opportunity to respond to Jesus’s teachings and experience for themselves the hope of eternal life in Christ.
“The good news of the gospel is that the man on the middle cross says that you can come and that you can come today. All you have to do is ask him,” commented Akin as he invited attendees to look to Christ for eternal life.
The Southeastern family honors the spring 2023 graduating class, celebrating their academic achievement and God’s abiding presence and faithfulness in their lives. As they are commissioned today, these graduates join thousands of other Southeastern alumni who have obeyed God’s command to go and are being sent out to make disciples among their neighbors and the nations.