By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
JACKSON — Four Tennessee Baptist pastors were front and center during the Festival of Preaching held March 8 at Union University.
The festival was held prior to Union’s REF500 Conference on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The Festival of Preaching focused on the five central themes of the reformation.
“Preaching played such a role in the Protestant Reformation,” said Ray Van Neste, director of the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University, which hosted both the Festival of Preaching and REF500.
The Tennessee pastors were joined on the program by Jim Shaddix, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, opened the festival with a message on “Scripture Alone.” Gaines asked the audience, which included Union students attending chapel, “Why is Scripture so important?”
Scripture is important, Gaines said, because “the Bible leads to salvation.” He challenged those in attendance to share as much Scripture as possible with non-Christians.
Gaines also noted that the Bible helps Christians mature and to be more like Jesus. “The Bible will liberate you from every sinful stronghold you have,” he said. He encouraged everyone to take a “Bible bath” every day. “Immerse yourself in the Word of God,” he challenged.
In addition, the Bible prepares Christians to be used by God, to proclaim God’s Word, and to tell others about Jesus, Gaines said.
Fred Shackelford IV, pastor of Ellendale Baptist Church, Memphis, focused on “Christ Alone.”
Citing Paul’s message in Colossians 1 that Jesus is enough, Shackelford challenged those in attendance to ask, “Is Jesus really enough for me?”
Shackelford noted that people who truly believe Jesus is enough for their life have a faith that is centered on Jesus. “People will let you down and the world will let you down. Jesus will not let you down,” pledged Shackelford, a former president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
People who know Jesus is enough also have a love that shows Jesus to the world, he observed. “If Jesus is everything, people need to see Jesus in us. They need to feel His love.”
Finally, he said people who know Jesus is enough for them know that their hope comes from Him alone and nothing else.
Justin Wainscott, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jackson, dealt with “Grace Alone.”
During the reformation, one of the truths that was rediscovered, Wainscott said, is that “salvation comes to sinners by grace alone.”
Instead of using traditional New Testament verses that deal with the subject of grace, Wainscott based his message on Ezekiel 16:1-14 where the word “grace” is not even mentioned. “I’m becoming more convinced that the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is better depicted than dissected,” he noted.
The story found in Ezekiel illustrates the truth of salvation by grace alone, he said. “It paints a picture” while also pointing people to the ultimate bridegroom — Jesus Christ, who “demonstrated His love for us that while we were yet sinners, He died for us.”
Wainscott added no one can stand before God on his or her own merit. “We can only do it because Jesus Christ stands with us. None of us are deserving. That’s the point. That’s why it’s called grace.”
Eric Smith, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, Savannah, closed the afternoon session with a focus on “Faith Alone.”
He noted that everyone is on a quest to find righteousness. Smith observed people look for righteousness in a lot of places and in a lot of things. Righteousness found outside Christ does not “stand up to God’s scrutiny,” he stressed.
True righteousness “comes through faith in Christ” and it is “permanent,” Smith said.
“You’ve been made righteous by the death of Jesus.”
In the final session, Shaddix addressed the theme of “To God Alone Be the Glory.” He preached from I Corinthians 1 about how God established an economy in the church that is radically different from the economy of the world, so that He alone can receive the glory for the work of salvation in people’s lives.
God chose a foolish message, Shaddix said — the idea that believing in the work of a Jewish carpenter can bring eternal salvation. God also chose a foolish means, namely preaching, to proclaim that foolish message, and He chose foolish men to proclaim that message.
“God set it up this way so that nobody might steal His glory,” Shaddix said. “The only conclusion people can draw is, ‘Only God could have done that.’ ”
— Tim Ellsworth of Union University contributed to this story.