President’s Charge to the 2022 Boyce College Graduates

I think we have all attended events that turned out to be a bit less than advertised. This is not one of those events here. There is not less, but more than meets the eye here. We understand that the gathering on this lawn on this spectacular day is not just about what someone might have imagined a graduation to be, something like the last stage, the end of the victory lap. The conferring of diplomas and the awarding of degrees is just a bunch of people who happen to be in some place are studying in some school at some time, who happen to have finished the course at the same time and are sitting dressed up in historic academic regalia in order to get a piece of paper and then get on with life. That is not what this is for.

One thing that is not consistent with Boyce College is not that it is just a what, it’s a who. It is made up of faculty, and students, and a community of learners together, of Christians committed to Christian learning and to learning all things according to the Word of God, judging all things according to the Word of God. The graduates arrayed before us are not just those who have successfully finished an academic course, though they have done that. Arrayed before us today are young people ready for deployment to the glory of God in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is far more here than meets the eye.

A secular academic institution has to look at a rather limited horizon. What will these young graduates represent for the good of the nation, for the health of our economy, for the prospering of our culture? We actually asked some of those same questions, but we’re not limited to an earthly frame. As a matter of fact, it would be unfaithful if we tried to limit our imagination to an earthly frame. Now we are looking to eternity and imagining the difference made by these graduates by the call of God and to God’s glory. People who have not heard the gospel, who will hear the gospel, people who are not well taught in the Christian faith, who will be well taught children raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ, professions filled out not only to professional excellence, but in Christian discipleship and service. That’s what makes us happy today.

But there’s another dimension of this, and that is that Boyce College is a who. A lot of who is represented here is a set of relationships coming to a certain point of culmination, but not an end, just a significant turning point. Christians understand, as the great theologian Augustine in the fourth century pointed out, that teaching is a matter of love. It actually, if rightly done, if learning takes place, it is an experience of love. It is a complex love. It is the love for the subject being learned. As you know, it’s very difficult to learn something you do not want to learn. So it’s love for that which is studied.

But then there are two other loves. It’s the love of the student for the teacher and the teacher for the students, and above all, common love of God. It’s a reciprocity of love. It’s a relationship. That’s why students remember their teachers, and that is why teachers remember their students. So this is one of those days in which we get to see what this institution stands for represented in students who are about to graduate and then move on to the next stage of life. The difficulty for the faculty and for the staff of this college is that we’ve grown to love the very young people who are now graduating and they have developed friendships that will last throughout life. Some of them have developed friendships that have ended up in marriage. That’s all good, but the point is that for the faculty there is a sense of utter satisfaction.

Then there is the sense of an immediate loss. Now, the loss is not numerical. When we come back into session in the Fall, Lord willing, we’re going to be looking at the same number of seats filled by the same number of people, but it won’t be the same people and it won’t be the same people in more ways than one. For one, it won’t be the same people in that 22-year-olds are different than 18 year-olds. Those who are graduating today, and I know the ages are just aggregate, but those who are graduating today, you are and are not who you were when you came, and that’s just the way it is. And by the way, it won’t be that way for the rest of your life. There may be experiences you will have in a four or five year period in which you say, all kinds of change came into my life. All kinds of things happened. I have to kind of reconnect with who I am at the end of that experience.

But absent war or national depression or some kind of unforeseen calamity, it’s just unlikely you’re going to experience anything of the concentrated change that has come into your life in the period of the last four years. We pray it’s been godly, we pray it’s been fun, so satisfying. We pray that when you are graduating from Boyce College, you understand that you receive more than you came for,not less.

I want to offer you a charge from the Word of God, and it is a strange passage. I warn you in advance. I dare this morning to bring you a charge from the book of Ecclesiastes, the closing verses of Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes 12 beginning in verse nine:

Besides being wise, the preacher also taught the people knowledge weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The preacher sought to find words of delight and uprightly. He wrote words of truth. The words of the whys are like gods and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings they are given by one shepherd. My son. Beware of anything beyond these of making many books. There is no end and much study is weariness of the flesh, the end of the matter all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

I’ve never preached this passage or delivered a charge from this passage to graduates, but you understand why I would save it for graduates and not for incoming students. If I’m going to read the Word of God say of making many books, there is no wind in much study as a weariness of the flesh. Some of you’re looking at me and saying, you tell me that now. Where was that four years ago when you were ordering with this faculty the reading of books and much study to the weariness of flesh? I think we know what’s going on here. First of all, we have the literary power and function of the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a book in the Bible in which we have the wisdom of the world held up in order to be knocked down.

If you end in the middle of the book of Ecclesiastes, you’re in a dangerous place. But of course you’re not meant to end in the middle of the book of Ecclesiastes. You end in the middle of the book of Ecclesiastes, and everything appears to be vanity, meaninglessness. And if you just look at a worldly perspective, I don’t know how you would end up with any other conclusion, but the Holy Spirit inspired writer of the book of Ecclesiastes, he does not end in cynicism. He ends up by saying the end of the matter is to fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

You have indeed studied a great deal. You’ve read many books you have experienced as only a scholar can experience a certain kind of intellectual academic weariness of flesh. Without that weariness, you would not be here without reading those books. You would not have made it here. And you are now walking, breathing embodiments of all you have been taught, of all the teaching that has been invested in you, all the thinking that has been the result of the intersection of teaching and your thinking and engagement with knowledge of the Word of God. There’s weariness, but there’s also exhilaration.

And the writer of Ecclesiastes knows that because he collects books, he’s been collecting wise sayings for the people. He wants to know the wisdom of God, but understanding the wisdom of God can make you weary. Understanding anything, mastering any discipline can make us weary. But it’s really interesting to look here we are told that we are find delight in what we have come to know. The preacher also taught the people knowledge weighing and studying and arrange. In many proverbs with great care. The preacher sought to find words of delight and uprightly. He wrote words of truth without apology.

Boyce College is a confessional Christian college committed to the truth of God’s word and to the inculcation of the Christian faith. We’re not here because we want you to graduate knowing truthiness, but cherishing truth and finding delight in the things of God. Now we hope and pray you’re finding delight this day in what you have received in the academic preparation that you’ve experienced at Boyce College, but we want to point you to an even greater delight to this day in spending the rest of your days delighting in the truth of the one true living God. In the second paragraph, this is where he speaks of the making of many books never ending and much study as awareness of flesh. There is a form of intellectual achievement that ends up being absolutely meaningless. There are intellectual exercises that are nothing more than the endless circling of a question without ever arriving at a destination.

That is not what we are about this morning graduates. This is about the fact that you have finished a course in the sense of Paul in the New Testament. You are finishing a race. It’s not the last race of your life, but you’re finishing a race. There was a beginning and a destination. It is not a maze. It is not an endless circle. You followed a line that’s a part of a bigger line in your life and your stewardship of that life before God. But don’t miss how this passage ends the end of the matter after all the things that we have confronted in the Book of Ecclesiastes. After all the things that you’ve considered in the classroom and in your engagement with books and conversation with friends and hallway debates and classroom discussions and all the hours that you have spent in study and in preparation and cramming for exams and trying to finish that essay test on time, you say, well, what’s the end of the matter?

Is this the end of the matter? Is this what we’re here for? You get a piece of paper in a beautiful folder, and you get to go at home and put it on your dresser. That’s the end of this. Now, if that’s the end of the matter, this would be the most ridiculous ceremony I could imagine. No, the end of the matter is a life lived to the glory of God. The end of the matter is fear God and keep his commandments. The end of the matter is knowing that this is the whole duty of man of humanity. The whole point is to understand that all we are, all we have learned, all we know, all we do will be judged by God. For God will bring every deed into judgment with every secret thing whether good or evil.

So my charge to you graduates of the Boyce College class of 2022 is exult in this day. Enjoy this moment. Cherish your friends as you are together in this sense on this lawn for the last time. Enjoy the joy of parents and family who share this achievement with you. Thank God that of all the people your age on planet Earth, you have had this opportunity because we as faculty, thank God, we have had the opportunity to teach you. Know that your leaving is leaving a big space in Boyce College and pray that we will be faithful to fill that space with others who will follow you to faithful life and service and work. And when your children are looking for a college, bring them here. And by God’s grace, we’ll be doing exactly what we’re doing now to God’s glory. We can’t wait to see what God is going to do through the graduates of Boyce College of 2022. Here’s the end of the matter. All has been heard.

Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man. Amen.