FROM THE PROFS: Student born again during Systematic Theology lecture

Alex Sibley
| May 11, 2021

Editor’s note: “From the Profs” is an occasional feature highlighting past experiences of Southwestern Seminary and Scarborough College faculty in sharing the Gospel.

Research Professor of Theology Malcolm B. Yarnell III still rejoices over a student who was born again during a theology lecture. 

Nearly 15 years ago, Sanghwan Lee, then a Master of Divinity student, was sitting in Yarnell’s Systematic Theology II class at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, listening to a lecture on eschatology. To the surprise of both Lee and Yarnell, by the end of the lecture, Lee tearfully placed his faith in Jesus Christ for the first time.

In a letter to Yarnell written after the class, Lee, who graduated in 2010 and now serves as director of business intelligence for Swit Technologies Inc. in Dallas and pastor of a young church plant in the area, explained that he previously valued faith over theology and the Bible before realizing that “it never works like that.” 

“Without having a right theology, there is no way to have right faith,” he explained. “Without having right faith, no one can serve the God of the Bible.” 

On what would turn out to be the day of his second birth, Lee listened to Yarnell’s lecture, and roughly 10 minutes in, Lee realized that tears were rolling down his cheeks, and he could not stop crying. 

“You might wonder what made me cry,” Lee wrote. “It was your teaching.”

Lee clarified that though Yarnell’s lecture was not emotionally charged, his passion was evident. He described Yarnell’s teaching as “mingled with the Scripture,” saying that it “went into my heart, divided my thoughts and attentions,” and left “me standing before God.”

Convicted of living the past 30 years as a “fake” Christian who never truly professed faith in Christ, Lee says he found his “carnality, wickedness, iniquity, and sinfulness” through Yarnell’s teaching.

“So I repented, repented, and repented in the class,” he wrote. “That was the very day that I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord.” 

Lee told Yarnell that his teaching enabled him “to see Jesus with my eyes, touch Him with my hands, describe Him with my mouth, and feel Him in my heart.” 

Having previously viewed ministry as a job, Lee says his perspective “dramatically changed” that day. Specifically, he says he came to understand ministry as not a job, but as a divine calling and mission, which he believes he received on the day he was truly saved. 

“This realization has powerfully driven me into ministry because I know that there are many people like me in the church,” he says. “I really want to help them to spiritually wake up like I did in Dr. Yarnell’s class. For this reason, my pastoral concentration is to teach the sound Christian doctrines.”

For Yarnell, this experience reinforces his commitment to place the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of every lesson, “whether in a private evangelism encounter, in a church sermon, or in a seminary lecture, and to pray for the Holy Spirit to move,” he says. 

“I thank God that He used me to work grace through His Word in a theology class,” Yarnell says. “I will always remember the day when a hundred students filled the Truett Conference Room with cheers after Sanghwan confessed his newfound faith. May He do so again!”