No one is so far gone that the grace of God cannot reach him or her, the head of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) said at a worship service at Samford Universitly's Beeson Divinity School Tuesday, Sept. 25.
"And when anyone comes into the knowledge of God's grace, what a marvelous transformation is possible," said Dr. Neville Callam, who was elected general secretary of the BWA earlier this year.
Callam's Samford visit was the first stop in an 18-city North American tour for the Jamaican.
He focused his remarks on the word "grace," which Paul used in the blessing that is believed to end his writings to the people of Corinth.
Paul, said Callam, pronounces a benediction that is both a wish and a prayer. "Paul remembers that grace that has its source in Christ and he prays that the Lord will bestow this gracious favor on the Corinthians," he said.
"Our world needs to know more about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," said Callam, noting that a life without unmerited divine favor and the God-given blessing that cannot be earned would be a tale of "unspeakable horror."
Callam cited fifth century theologian Augustine's declaration that it is this free grace that enables "wayward travelers," to find their way back home in the arms of the Maker.
Theologian Aquinas, he said, also was seized by the mystery of divine grace, both the "habitual grace of God," which elevates a person to a new order of existence, and the "auxilium," or the disposition to lead the life of discipleship.
"When all is said and done, after we have sought to lead the godly life and have failed, after we have endured the bitter taste of failure in our effort to please God, how reassuring it is that we can rest on the grace of our Lord Jesus," said Callam.
St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century theologian, was the focus of a mediation led by Samford political science professor Dr. Bill Collins during the service in A. Gerow Hodges Chapel. Aquinas is one of series of Christian leaders being featured during Beeson's emphasis on "Walking with the Saints."
Callam, a Harvard University graduate and specialist in Christian ethics, has been active with BWA since 1985. He was vice president of the organization during 2000-2005.
BWA is the largest Protestant Christian communion in the world with 110 million members.
In addition to his Beeson address, Callam was feted at a reception hosted by Samford President Emeritus Thomas E. Corts and his wife, Marla.
In introducing Callam to the 100 guests, current Samford President Andrew Westmoreland assured him "of our support for you personally and for the work of Baptists worldwide."
Callam noted the historic significance of Birmingham in Baptist life through Samford, Woman's Missionary Union and many mission-minded churches. "We specifically chose Birmingham as our first visit because Baptist missions and global support is alive here," he said.
Callam also met with Birmingham-area pastors about global missions opportunities.