May 11, 2021

Charge From the President | Boyce College Commencement 2021

Boyce College Commencement 2021

Ephesians 6:12-17

May 7, 2021

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Well, for Boyce College, today is like just about every holiday in the year, rolled up and wrapped up and put into one. We have been living and working and hoping and praying toward this day for well over a year. This entire academic year has been a year in which the Lord has allowed us to be in class in person. But over the course of the last several months, we've been aching to be together as we are here on this lawn, and this is a great statement of the fact that we are as a college able to celebrate what the Lord has done in our midst and is doing even now. We're able to be together as we have longed to be together, and we're able to celebrate with unbounded joy what this day represents, not only for these graduates, but for all who will come after them.

I want to turn our attention to the sixth chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. A brief charge to think about what this day means and what these graduates mean and what challenge I would offer to them. Beginning in verse 10 of Ephesians chapter six, we read Paul to write by the holy spirit. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. fair, therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that my words... That words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I might declare it boldly, as I ought to speak."

This passage about the armor of God seems, if we're honest, a bit strange to Christians in the 21st century. We do not wear armor. We do not commonly see people to wear armor, and armor does not have the direct function and absolute necessity even in warfare that we would have known from the first century. We can picture it with our eyes, we can see a Roman Centurion, we can understand what the armor meant and piece by piece we can either discern or identify its function. Obviously, Paul here is speaking in a powerful metaphor about the armor that God gives to all of His own who are united to Christ. It begins with that exhortation. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." And that too is language, that if we're honest, is a bit unusual.

We're told to be strong, and then we're told that there is no strength in us, and that's the point, isn't it? There is infinite strength in God. In Him we are strong, without Him we are nothing. The command is to be strong, not in ourselves, but strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. And then we are told consciously and deliberately to put on the whole armor of God. Then we are told that we will need to do so in order to stand against the schemes of the devil. Well, I want to be careful with what I say here. Graduates, we are not handing you over to the devil, but we are handing you over to a fight and the fight didn't begin with your graduation. This is not the beginning of the fight. The fight begins with your conversion. The fight begins the moment that you are claimed by Christ and snatched out of the clutches of the evil one.

The moment you are transferred from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of His eternal light—that's when the fight begins. But I can give you a testimony and a word of prophecy today. And that is that the fight will grow more intense as you grow older. And we can see the currents in the society around us. And we can see that the fight is likely to grow more challenging with every passing day. Paul identifies the basic warfare that we do face, and it is very important that we recognize that once again he's telling us it's not primarily against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. There is no physical armor adequate for the protection we need against the authorities, the cosmic powers, the powers of this present darkness. There's no physical armor that will come close to being adequate.

But all that we need is given to us by God. Described here by the Apostle Paul and the different pieces of armor that are described, we are to stand therefore, and that is the ultimate, ultimate command. We are to be strong in the Lord, and that will be demonstrated in the fact that we stand. The alternative here, standing or falling, and we understand that faithfulness is in standing and unfaithfulness is in falling. The armor is described in such a way that we can understand it. We are told that we are to put on the belt of truth and fasten it. At Boyce College, our first task has been to teach the truth. And not just any truth, the revealed truth of the Word of God. The great doctrines, the great theological principles, the great truths, the great moral teachings of Scripture and the skills of learning the Scripture. All of these have been invested in you because this is where Christian faithfulness starts.
And this is how Christian faithfulness will be channeled through you, to members of churches and to Christians, young and old, as you will become, wherever you will serve and however you will serve, conduits of truth unto others. Fasten that belt tightly. And it is not just the belt of truth, it is also the breastplate of righteousness. And when we look at that, the first thought is that it's our righteousness, it's some kind of demonstrated goodness in us and we are called to lives of holiness, but the breastplate of righteousness is first and foremost about the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is His righteousness alone that saves. And it's in His righteousness alone that we can stand. This is described as the breastplate right over our hearts.

And then we must have shoes. And as shoes, we are to put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. An eagerness to go and take the Gospel, an eagerness to run the race, and an eagerness to tell people about Jesus, an eagerness to serve Christ wherever He may call us.

And then of course we're to take up the shield of faith with which we are to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. Even in the college experience, we can see those fiery darts. Some of these darts come in the form of ideas and ideology. Some of these darts come in the form of false doctrines and heresy. Some of these darts come in the form of worldly temptation. Some of these darts come in the form of wrongful pride and ambition. We don't have any inward resources to deal with these much less to extinguish them. But the shield of faith is all that is necessary. When we say that we believe that salvation comes by faith alone through grace alone, grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, those alones are absolutely urgent.

It's not just the shield of faith, but the helmet of salvation. I'm not sure everything that Paul means by the helmet of salvation, but I do know this. He is a prisoner for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is, as he describes later in this passage, an ambassador in chains. He knows that he is likely to lose his life for the sake of his faithfulness to Christ. But he reminds us that those who are saved, those who've received God's gift of salvation are nonetheless safe. They can take our heads, but they can't take our helmet. The helmet of salvation, and then finally the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. The sword of the spirit. There's only one offensive piece of weaponry or of armor that is described here, and it's that two-edged sword that the Roman Centurion would carry, and it was sharp, and it was deadly.

The word of God is described in so many ways. In Hebrews chapter four, we're told that it is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. So, it is even more deadly, it is even more powerful than that sword. There's infinite power in the word of God, and there is such power in nothing but God's word. During the time you've been at Boyce College we hope you've received so much in the classroom, so much from professors, so much from one another. We hope that your experience at Boyce College has been such that you have been indeed prepared as you otherwise could never have been prepared for faithfulness in Christian service. We hope that during the time you've been at Boyce College you have developed friendships with one another that will endure far beyond your time as students on this campus. And we pray that you will draw strength from one another as you draw strength from the faculty and others who have sought to teach and to serve amongst you here.

We pray that the years that you have spent here will be remembered and cherished in such a way that you will know that by God's grace, you could never have been the faithful Christian that you will be, except for the experience of being here. There is an enormous sense of gratitude that is incumbent on a day like this, when you think about faculty who have forgone other opportunities to come and to teach here because they believe in you and they believe in service to Christ’s church, and they believe that the promise of you in the kingdom of Christ is worth the devotion of their lives in the classroom and in the excellence of their teaching. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are called to warfare. On a beautiful day like this so filled with joy, on a day of celebration that rightly commemorates the graduation of the Boyce College class of 2021, our message still must be however onward Christian soldiers marching as to war.

We're not to be belligerent, not in a cultural or attitudinal sense], but we are certainly not to run from the battle to which we have been called. And we will need the full armor of God. You will need everything that you have received here, and you'll need it for the rest of your lives. You'll need everything that was invested in you by faithful parents, by Christian churches before you got here and beyond because we need everything, we can get from all that God has given us in the means of grace and the preaching of the word in the fellowship of the saints. You have to know the joy of those who are gathered here, who are observing and celebrating with you, their hopes and dreams are realized in you. This day of joy is yours, but it is also theirs. And in this day of joy, you have to understand what the faculty and what the gathered crowd here is thinking when we see you graduates.

We see God saying yes to his own promise. We see God saying, "Go out into the hedges and the highways." We see God saying, "Serve in my name until my Son comes fully to inaugurate his kingdom." We see you going out different than you came in. We see you years ahead yet different than you are now, for what the Lord will do through you and teach you and what the Lord will do through you in the lives of others for years to come. Here we are in the year 2021. What an unusual time we have lived through in recent times, in recent months and more than a year. How small a time that is over against the span of expectation of how long you will serve to the glory of God after your time here. May you go out with joy. May you go out with full commitment. May you go out with excitement and unreserved courage. And may you go out wearing the full armor of God. Our five-year old grandson, Benjamin has a plastic set of the armor of God. Someone out in Christian “kitchdom”(?), thought that was a good idea.

It's not a bad idea. You see a little boy putting on the plastic helmet and the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, putting the shield on his forearm and carrying an absolutely deadly plastic, two-edged sword. He finds joy in it. Thankfully because he is well taught, he can tell you what each piece of the armor is. But still, he looks like a five-year old boy wearing and carrying plastic armor. He doesn't look like someone that you would send out into warfare yet. By God's grace we pray one day he will be. But I think this, I think that as we look at that little boy wearing his plastic armor, we think, "That's cute, that's sweet, that's a foretaste, but he doesn't look particularly deadly." Oddly enough, I think that that might be the way the world looks at us. That's all right, that's all right because we have all the armor that we need, and it never was about us. It's all about Christ.
But remember how this text begins by telling us that we must be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. What does the devil see when he sees a believer wearing the armor of God? He sees the warrior of Christ because he sees Christ. Never forget that. The armor of God may be all we have. The armor of God is all we need. May God received the glory.

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