Moderator of Synod Dr. Steve Suits addressed the Erskine community at a special chapel session in the Due West Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church Feb. 12.
Suits, a physician who serves in an urgent care setting, is a father of eight, a former medical officer in the United States Navy, and an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia. He stressed that he was not invited to the campus to discuss his work in emergency medicine or other professional roles he has played, but simply to speak as “a servant of the ARP Church.”
Suits recalled what Erskine President Dr. David Norman told him about speaking to Erskine students. “If you could just tell them what the church desires for them,” Norman said.
Basing his remarks on the third chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Suits introduced the title of his talk. “The thing the church desires for you is ‘Gaining the Thing that Matters Most,’” he said.
Suits outlined “antecedents to Paul’s Christian walk,” elements of the apostle’s background, including his education, that “could be sources of pride” but which prepared him for his Christian life; examined Paul’s attitudes after his encounter with Christ; and spoke about the actions flowing from the apostle’s attitudes.
Summing up his credentials as “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” in verses 5 and 6, Paul says that “as to the righteousness which is in the Law” he was “found blameless.”
Paul’s “antecedents” aren’t all bad, but his former attitudes are transformed so that, as he claims in verse 7, “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
If Christ is what matters most, Paul’s attitude toward worldly things is to be imitated: “…I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,” Paul says in verse 8.
As the apostle expresses it in verse 9, he does not seek “a righteousness of my own derived from the Law” but instead “that which is through faith in Christ.” Paul’s actions, Suits said, are focused on “pursuing that for which Christ laid hold of him.”
If Christ is what matters most, then Paul’s actions as described in verse 13—pressing on, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead”— are be imitated.
“When we hear Paul’s story, what do we do with it?” the moderator asked.
Issuing a series of challenges, Suits asked students what they consider their “surpassing value,” and what their friends would say about their answer to that question.
For the apostle Paul, “Jesus was the highest thing in his life, his savior…He gives him ultimate obedience,” Suits said.
“What has Christ laid hold of you for right now?” he asked. “What will you do about it? Will you stretch forward?”
Using a Greek word employed by Paul (an especially strong word found only once in the New Testament) and often translated ‘rubbish,’ Suits advised students to reach for what matters most and count the rest as ‘skubalon.’
Erskine Chaplain Paul Patrick led the worship service and introduced the speaker.
Dr. Brooks Kuykendall served as organist. The Erskine Choraleers, directed by Dr. Mark Nabholz, sang “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” arranged by Moses Hogan.