“Bring it Out” My Graduation Charge at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando 2015

Logo of Reformed Theological Seminary which reads "Reformed Theological Seminary" in gold and white laid on a maroon background.

Recently we had our 24th commencement from RTS Orlando.  It was a wonderful evening to celebrate God’s goodness in the life of our 2015 graduating class.

Gathering at St. Andrews Church in Sanford, Florida, we were called to worship by the bagpipes and organ (Highland Cathedral). We were blessed by the music of the choir of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.  Our commencement speaker was Dr. Bryan Chapell, former president of Covenant Theological Seminary.  I had the privilege of bringing a short president’s charge to the graduates.

Here’s a summary of what I said.  My charge came from one of Jesus’ parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13.52.

It’s one of the shortest in the Bible. It reads: And Jesus said, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

Parables are often illustrations from everyday life intended to capture the listener and make him a participant. In this parable we have an illustrative comparison which Jesus gave to his disciples. It is a picture of a master of a house who brings treasures out of his storeroom for others to enjoy.  Jesus said, a scribe is like this man.   What did he mean?

Scribes were normally understood to be professional teachers of the Jewish law.  But here Jesus speaks of “every scribe having become a disciple of the kingdom.”  This kind of scribe is a teacher-disciple who has been in the school of Jesus.

Now here is the comparison.  Jesus is speaking to the 12 disciples.  They have spent much time learning from Jesus.  Like the master of a house who brings out treasures to refresh others, his disciples are now responsible to share what they have received  to feed and bless others.

When I was a pastor, members of my congregation would sometimes have me over for dinner. When they did, they would bring out of the kitchen a wonderful meal for me to enjoy.  It was their gift to me.

In a similar way, the disciple-teacher shares from his own storeroom—only it is the storeroom of his mind and heart which has been stocked full of God’s Word.

What kind of treasure does he bring out?  It says, things “new and old.” The reference here is to the new revelation of Jesus (that would be our New Testament), and the Old Covenant which pointed to Christ (our Old Testament).  Disciple-scribes do not spurn the old for the sake of the new.  They know it is all one revelation from God.  This is the treasure that teacher-disciples share.

What a wonderfully positive image this is of Christian ministers!  They have received the treasure of God’s Word.  Now they will be involved in a mission to disciple the nations, which includes “teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded.”  In other words, the twelve are not to sit and soak in it, but rather they must share it with a hungry world.

I told the graduates of Reformed Theological Seminary that they are like these scribe-disciples Jesus is talking about.  They too have been given a rare privilege—of graduate theological study (very few people get to attend graduate school and study at this depth).  They have studied the Scriptures (the Bible is at the basis of every degree program at RTS).  But now they have a sacred responsibility.  What is it? They are responsible to bring it out–to share this treasure from their own mind and heart.

There is a responsibility that comes with Christian knowledge.  We are given it, not to sit and soak, but to share it with others.  This is true, not just for RTS grads, but for all who have learned at the feet of Jesus.

While our students have been at RTS, a sacred transmission has taken place.  The Scriptures have been entrusted into their hands—the living abiding eternal Word of God—the Word which gives life to individuals and congregations.  They have explored the gospel and the riches of reformed theology.  They have learned how to better serve people and strengthen churches.

So I charged them to share the treasure, to preach, to counsel and to teach the Word.  “Bring it out,” I said “in a Christ-centered way, serving those who listen, speaking to our times.  Bring it out in Poland, China, Indonesia, Great Britain, Canada and the United States. Bring it out in pulpits, clinics, coffee shops, hospitals and homes.  Bring it out as his scribe-disciples who are now on mission for Christ.  Bring it out!”

Why? Because as Jesus said, “every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

Have you been blessed like this man in Jesus’ parable?  Are you a disciple of the kingdom of heaven?  Then bring it out.

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