A few years ago, in a paved area northeast of the theater of ancient Corinth, someone showed me an inscription dating from the middle of first the century a.d., that reads, “Erastus in return for his aedile, paved it at his own expense” (Latin: ERASTVS. PRO. AED. S. P. STRAVIT). He explained that this Erastus had fulfilled his promise and, in gratitude, to honor those who had helped point him to the high office of aedileship, he laid a pavement and paid for it himself.
I had traveled to Corinth several times before. Still, on this particular tour, I couldn’t help but think about how this inscription supports what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 1:26–31: that there are a few who are noble and wise and that God sometimes chooses them to make a big difference in ministry. After all, God loves to take those who can’t do it and then do it through them so that He alone gets the glory.
This truth reminds me of the imagery often used by Dr. Donald K. Campbell, the Seminary’s third president. “When you see a turtle on a fence post, you can be certain it didn’t get there by itself. That’s how I see my own life. I’m a turtle on a fence post.” Dr. Charles Swindoll, who followed Dr. Campbell as president, often says the same thing.
I think all of us would have to admit we’ve had some great turtle-lifters in our lives, like those who helped Erastus into public office there in Corinth. And because of their help and encouragement, we get to do the work of the gospel.
Drs. Walvoord, Campbell, and Swindoll have all served as encouraging turtle-lifters in my life. Whether as a faculty member, an administrator, or president, I couldn’t have asked for more prayer and support in my role than what they gave me, and for that, I am deeply grateful. Indeed, not many mighty, noble people exist, but there are exceptions when God wraps catalyctic people around our lives.
As I think about the legacy of DTS, every single one of us has stories of God bringing the right people at the right time. They may have been public people with prominence in their professions, or others whose businesses flourished, or those with influence in their context. God graciously provided them to come alongside us, and they were used by God to do His work in our lives.
The general rule is true: there are a few like Erastus. Perhaps he was the same city treasurer mentioned in the New Testament, who served as a turtle-lifter for Paul and remained his companion, even sending greetings from Corinth in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Rom 16:23)? Whether this is the Erastus of Paul’s life or another Erastus in the city, the principle is still the same. Those of us who serve in ministry are not here because of our exceptional giftedness, merit, or worth. God tells us that we’re given our roles because of grace and because people came alongside us to serve as turtle-lifters.
DTS is here today because many people have graciously served in the ministry of the Seminary for over ninety-five years. We appreciate the heritage and legacy of our beloved friends and mentors. We remain grateful for the turtle-lifters who will be and are in our lives already. We pray we never forget that we exist only because of His grace and for His glory. And may we provide the lift for the next generation of God’s servant-leaders.