And he (Christ) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
- Ephesians 4:11–14
As we usher in 2018 reflection about those we lost in the prior year occurs. One of the most impacting doctors of the modern church, RC Sproul, died on December 14. Thankfully his prolific teaching is preserved in books and digital files for the edification of generations to come.
I started to recognize God’s call to gospel ministry when I was a teenager. Soon after my pastors and mentors gave me cassette tapes of three preachers- James Montgomery Boice, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul. I listened to the preaching of these men constantly in those early years of my discipleship. Boice and MacArthur exemplified the expository method of preaching I have come to embrace. Sproul preached and taught on Biblical themes like no one I had ever heard. He could take complex Biblical/Theological concepts and make them understandable to Christians on all levels of maturity.
I was a student at Moody in Chicago the first time I heard Sproul teach in person. He was teaching at a local church over three miles away to which I walked in the heat of late summer wearing the Moody-required full suit and tie just to hear him. I was mesmerized as he addressed the issue of election from his book Chosen By God. I was already Biblically convinced of Reformed theology but RC’s clarity about key doctrines sealed the matter for me. The year was 1989 and it began an appreciation for Sproul that has never waned. When his name comes up most people refer to his stellar Holiness of God teaching series. I think that series is responsible for convincing more people of the Reformed faith than any other modern teaching. I cannot count how many current members of Redeemer would say RC Sproul is the person who introduced them to the Reformed faith which led them to RPC. There is probably no single preacher or teacher that has better aligned with the particular views and practices of Redeemer than RC Sproul.
Pertaining to my own ministry practice, RC taught me something beyond the particular doctrinal content he espoused. He demonstrated a passionate effort and ability to make complex Biblical concepts and theological topics understandable to God’s people in the local church. This is what I strive to do. If God gives me the grace to teach half as effectively as RC Sproul even some of the time we will all benefit greatly. God’s Word is rich and the Bible’s theology is deep. Every Christian should have access to effective teaching that opens their understanding about God. Sproul’s example challenges every pastor of a local church. It has been rightly said Sproul influenced generations of Christians by filling the gap “between Sunday school and seminary.”
I was simultaneously joyful and sad watching Dr. Sproul’s memorial service. Various men rose to give thanks to God for the gifts RC possessed and shared. John MacArthur’s tribute was particularly moving as he said- “He opened up my life to the riches of Reformed theology…the full glories of the doctrines of grace exploded on my conscience. He is this eras great reformer.” Sinclair Ferguson preached Isaiah 6 (Sproul’s most famous preaching/teaching text) concluding with these words- “Those who see the Holiness of God and are deconstructed by God and discover the grace of God and live in obedience to the voice of God are brought at the last to the final vision of the glory of God.” These true words gave me comfort about Sproul’s death and a longing for what we will all see one day in Christ. I am thankful for the gifts God gives certain people to build up His Church, especially RC Sproul.