Remembering the First Hypernikon

HypernikonBy Marv Wilson (excerpt from a Stillpoint article, Fall 2014)

When I began teaching at Barrington College in 1963, blackboards and chalk trays were state of the art. Such things look so “vintage” to today’s electronically-wired students, a generation whose orientation to learning inside and outside the classroom has been greatly altered by the technological revolution. Who knows what was cutting edge in 1889 when A. J. Gordon founded the Boston Missionary Training Institute; teaching styles and technology shift quickly. But for 125 years what has been permanent in a Gordon education is the Word of God. The bedrock has always been to go back to Scripture to give us perspective for whatever we do in life. We depend on God daily for living; and we mature through the wisdom of experience; and as we go through struggles and trials we gain greater appreciation of the life that awaits us.

This is as true in 2014 as it was in 1889. All that is different is the nature of the struggles. At Barrington College, at Gordon College, and now at the United College of Gordon and Barrington, students have grappled decade by decade with a constantly changing array of cultural and intellectual issues: World War I, the Depression, modernism and higher criticism of the Bible, World War II, the tumult of the ’60s, the Culture Wars and their aftershocks, postmodernism, and debates about marriage, family and sexuality.

Life is uncertain and unpredictable, but we have the words God spoke as Joshua took over leadership from Moses: “Be strong and of good courage; don’t be frightened; neither be dismayed: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” We have these words of assurance from Hebrews 13:6: “God has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you’; hence we can confidently say ‘the Lord is my helper; I shall not be afraid.’”

No one reading this can remember the first Hypernikon, Gordon’s yearbook. It was published in 1923. The school was called the Gordon College of Theology and Missions then—one of 12 names that cycled through over 125 years—and it offered degrees in theology and in divinity. But just the year before, French courses had gotten underway, and a year before that the school had begun welcoming graduate students. The transition to liberal arts was underway. In 1915 there were 150 students, in 1931 there were nearly 300, so let’s take a guess that the 1923 student body numbered 200 or more. That year’s Hypernikon reveals they were diverse and busy. Men’s and women’s basketball teams started around that time, and played other colleges’ teams at the YMCA near Symphony Hall. Students worked part-time in local churches, in the pulpits and the choir lofts. In a yearbook snapshot, one drives a buggy across the Manitoba prairie during her summer missions trip. The students were interracial, international, and pretty evenly split along gender lines.

We don’t know who chose Hypernikon as the name of the yearbook, but we celebrate the choice. This Greek word that occurs only once in the Bible ought to be a foundational emphasis in each of our lives. Hypernikon (or hupernikomen) means “we are more than conquerors.” We find it in Romans 8:37. It means we are winning a surpassing, most glorious type of victory. Paul, who has known all kinds of hardship, gives to the early Roman church the secret of being successful and victorious in trials. He asks: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Should trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?”

Like Paul, it seems our founder A. J. Gordon wanted us to remember the original hypernikon too. “Victory” is the last word A. J. is reported to have spoken as he exited this life. His victory was glorious, a true hypernikon, for it was in Christ. The words remind us of the need to live confidently and victoriously, for we are a “school of Christ.”

No, in all these things—not some of these things, but all of these things—we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. More than conquerors. Hypernikon people.

Christian growth comes only when there’s a contest, and life is that contest. No pain, no gain. At Gordon, we learn in the classroom; we learn from outreach work; we learn from athletics; we learn from life. Ultimately God will look us over, not for degrees, not for diplomas, not for medals, but for scars gotten
in the daily struggle of coming to be more like him, realizing that his grace is sufficient in every weakness.

Yes, remember the first hypernikon. It only occurs once in Scripture. It was Paul’s standard for living—Romans 8:37—and has become our standard too. In Christ alone we have ultimate victory.