DALLAS? Addressing Criswell College’s 34th commencement, former Criswell professor Richard D. Land turned to Ezra 7:6-9 to describe the goals and aspirations of God’s servants, encouraging the 47 graduates to know and do the Word of God as they teach it wherever God directs them.
“Ezra knew his Bible,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, comparing that quality to the expectation of a Criswell College graduate. “When we have the good hand of our God upon us it means God’s power is being applied in and through our lives.”
Ezra first prepared his heart, Land explained. “This is a man who had an enviable reputation as a Bible scholar and yet he made it the settled goal and purpose of his life to seek the law of the Lord.”
Land warned graduates of a subtle temptation to treat God’s Word with familiarity. “You’ve had more time to study in the last three or four years than you’re ever going to have again,” he said, urging them to handle the Word with reverence.
“In ministry, integrity is everything,” Land reminded. “To really know it you have to do it. Practice what you preach. The closer we draw to the Lord, the more aware we are of our sinfulness and things that need to be changed.”
Land told graduates to follow Ezra’s example as they teach the statutes and the judgments. “A man of God is not a title that is conferred; it is an aura that comes from one who seeks to know the Word of God, do the Word of God and teach the statutes and the judgments.”
Thirty-six students were awarded the bachelor of arts degree and one student received an associate of arts degree. Eight students earned the master of arts degree and two received master of divinity degrees.
Honorary doctor of divinity degrees were awarded by the school’s board of trustees, recognizing distinguished service in the cause of Jesus Christ by both Land and longtime New Testament and Greek Professor H. Leroy Metts. Land was honored for his exemplary leadership in pastoral ministry, visionary leadership for ministry education and administrative leadership as president of ERLC.
In presenting the honorary degree, Criswell College Interim President Lamar E. Cooper Sr. commended Land’s service as a professor of theology and church history in the early years of Criswell College, and later serving as vice-president of academic affairs. Land led in designing the biblical studies curriculum and the graduate program during his 13 years at the school.
Since 1988 Land has led the ERLC to form biblically-based resources on moral and social issues and stand for biblical principles and family values before local, state and federal legislators, Cooper said. He commended Land’s willingness to “take a public stand for biblically correct social and moral issues” and his innovative use of the media to educate and inform the public on crucial issues facing the world.
Land is a native Houstonian and sixth-generation Texan. He and his wife, Rebekah, have three grown children.
Metts was commended for his “unswerving commitment and dedication” to Criswell College since joining the faculty in 1976.
“Throughout his tenure, Dr. Metts has impacted the lives of hundreds of students he has faithfully mentored,” Cooper said. “He not only meets with students during the early morning hours before classes begin, but he is a genuine friend to them outside the classroom in their personal and ministry endeavors,” he added.
In 2001 a Greek Language Award was introduced in honor of Metts and the alumni association honored him by inaugurating a scholarship awarded annually in his honor. While serving at the college, Metts also chaired the New Testament department for many years. He pastored churches in South Carolina and Texas and taught adjunctively for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Metts and his wife, Jeanie, have two grown children and three grandsons.