Being disciples on mission is not easy for Christians, according to theologian Craig S. Keener.
With biblical references from the gospels of Matthew and John and Luke's accounts in Acts, Keener emphasized the role of disciples in fulfilling the mission of Jesus Christ. He was the speaker for the annual biblical studies lectures hosted Feb. 4-6 by Samford University's Beeson Divinity School.
Building on the Great Commission found in Matthew's 28th chapter, Keener noted that Matthew's message that the gospel is for all nations begins with the Gentiles included in the genealogy of Jesus in chapter one and continues through the Roman centurion who professed faith at Christ's crucifixion.
Keener said the "imperative" of the Great Commission requires Christians to give up "residential security, financial security and social obligations."
If we feel unequal to the task, we should consider the examples of Jesus' disciples, he explained. "The disciples fell asleep in Gethsemane. They abandoned Jesus at Golgotha. And yet, Jesus never rejected his disciples," Keener said. "Indeed, he commissioned his disciples."
Being a witness to "Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth," as written by Luke, also can mean challenges. As an illustration, Keener told the story of his wife, who was a refugee in the Congo forests for 18 months. She has a doctorate from the University of Paris and now works with her husband for ethnic reconciliation in the U.S. and Africa.
In his final lecture, based on John's gospel, Keener acknowledged that "without the Holy Spirit, we are not adequate to the task God has set out for us."
"If you feel inadequate, you're just not being honest," he said. "But, God is more than adequate."
Keener proved to be a popular speaker with Beeson students and employees.
"[Kenner] is a delight to hear because of his insightful scholarship and his humble and Christlike spirit," said student Tyshawn Gardner. "His lectures helped me to understand afresh the love of God in Christ as I go forth to work alongside brothers and sisters in Christ in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth."
Keener currently is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky. He is an award-winning author and has taught in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Betsy Childs is web and publications editor for Samford's Beeson Divinity School.