As we exited the double doors at the back of the church the pastor was there to greet us and shake our hands. He had a warm smile and a twinkle in his eyes as I filed by exchanging quick pleasantries. I thanked him for his message which — though it wasn’t impressive or remarkable by any metric — was preached with simplicity and authority telling of the glory of Jesus as he calmed the storm. In that moment I was fascinated by how ordinary it all was, especially because just the day before this pastor, R.C. Sproul, had spoken to a conference attended by thousands of people from all over the world.
R.C. Sproul was a titan of the Christian faith. He was uncompromising on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, a strident defender of the Bible, and perhaps did more to raise an awareness of the holiness of God than any other in the last century. In the coming days I’m quite certain we’ll begin to see in part how big of a footprint this man left, but its fullness will only be measured in its breadth and depth when we all stand in the presence of God. Men and women, young and old, educated and uneducated will bear testimony to the lasting impact R.C. had on their lives.
In the hours since his death what I’ve marveled at is the reason behind his impact. If I can write it, R.C. wasn’t particularly hip and trendy. In his ministry he didn’t push the envelope or toe the line of edginess. He didn’t go to great lengths to contextualize culture or pant after a trivial relevancy. Rather, he was committed to the historic Christian faith expressed in the ancient creeds, he dug in on the penal substitution of Jesus Christ, and stood in the circumference of Reformed Christianity even before its resurgence. Yet, he captivated millions. Why?
I suppose some could say it was his personality, larger-than-life vision, or stage presence. It’s true, R.C. was the perfect combination of many things. But I tend to think the answer is ultimately found somewhere else. His effectiveness, I think, is rooted in the Bible. R.C.’s passion was to clearly and simply teach and preach the Bible as it has been given to us by God. He was a man of the Book. Those familiar with his teaching will remember how often (for he regularly repeated himself) he reminded us: “You are required to believe, to preach, and to teach what the Bible says is true, not what you want the Bible to say is true.” That will bring us, no doubt, into direct conflict with the sin in us and around us, but it will also direct us to that righteousness which alone can give us a standing before God — the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
At best, R.C. was a vessel through whom the Bible came in a demonstration of the Spirit and power. He once wrote, “I believe the greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests his power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it. His Word. He alone has power to change lives for eternity and that power is focused on the Scriptures.”
In the weeks and months ahead family, friends, and colleagues will write personal and moving tributes for this great man. I will read them and give thanks to Jesus for his life and legacy. But as I sit here tonight I’m particularly thankful for a man who taught and preached the Bible with clarity and simplicity. He has finished his course, he has kept the faith. Well done, brother.