Editor’s note: This article was originally published at SWBTS.edu.
There are many significant problems in the world, but none is greater than “lostness,” which has eternal consequences for which God offers a solution, Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, preached in his April 19 chapel message at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) and Texas Baptist College.
In his introduction of Chitwood, SWBTS President Adam W. Greenway described him as “one of the greatest leaders” in Southern Baptist denominational life.
Preaching from Numbers 21:4-9, Chitwood explained lostness is the greatest problem facing the world today. He added that humanity, both collectively and individually, has been “snake bitten,” referencing the venomous snakes that were sent by God in respose to their rebellion in the desert. The sin of the Israelites had consequences, which is always the case with sin, he said.
“This time, God’s judgment on the Israelites’ sin came in the form of venomous snakes. Yet, consistent with His character, just as God judged Israel’s sin, God also offered grace and forgiveness in the form of a cure,” Chitwood noted.
God created a solution for the deadly problem of sin, Chitwood said. He explained the bronze serpent shaped by Moses “was God’s pathway of forgiveness and healing provided out of His great mercy and His great love for a people He called His own.” By looking upon this bronze serpent and repenting of their sins, the Israelites were saved from death by the venomous snakebites.
Chitwood highlighted another “snake bite story” from Genesis 3:13-15, which he described as “foreshadowing” and “prophetic.” He observed the gospel is first introduced in the Bible in these verses where Satan, in the form of a serpent, deceived Eve. “This early reference points us forward to the problem of sin and God’s solution for this great problem of lostness,” he added.
Lostness, Chitwood observed, has been the problem of humanity every day since the fall, and this problem is greater today than ever before. Noting research conducted by the IMB, he said that based upon global population, the global death rate and religious affiliation, 157,690 people die daily who have given no indication that they have heard and believed the gospel.
“That is why,” Chitwood explained, “no problem begins to rival the sheer magnitude of the problem of lostness.”
Chitwood referenced John 3:14 where Jesus presented the ultimate solution to the greatest problem. According to the Scripture, Jesus mentioned the Old Testament account of the story from the book of Numbers and stated, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”
The gospel, Chitwood observed, is God’s solution to lostness — the world’s greatest problem. Reminding attendees that Jesus, who knew no sin, made Himself a sacrifice, he said, “The snake bite story of every human who has ever lived ends at a garden tomb where the One who died is raised, and the head of the serpent is crushed under His heel.”
Concluding his message, Chitwood explained that the one simple purpose for Southwestern Seminary is to address the world’s greatest problem. He added, “My invitation to you, Southwesterner, is ‘come go with us.’”
Chitwood served as pastor of churches in Kentucky for 18 years before serving as executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention between 2011 and 2018.
His entire message can be viewed here.