Although I did not know Dr. R.C. Sproul personally, it is certain that his teaching ministry played a crucial part for several years after my adult conversion. I still have a letter he wrote to me in response to one I’d written him. I know his schedule was extremely busy but he took a few moments of his time because that was the kind of minister he was. I treasure it along with a small pocket cross my grandmother gave me back when I was still a young confessing atheist in college. I did meet Dr. Sproul in person once at his church after services. It was after a Ligonier conference my wife and I had attended, years ago in Orlando, Florida. Again, I thanked him for his labor of love.
It would be impossible to recount all of the things Dr. Sproul’s teaching ministry helped me to see as a new convert—green as a gourd. However, two have always stood out and remained with me, and without which I would have surely lost the Gospel. One was Dr. Sproul’s work and teaching on the holiness of God. Dr. Sproul made this come alive, and in all of its terror (for the good!). Not knowing much about the faith at that point in my life, and naively assuming most denominations taught the truth, I would have surely lost the Gospel at length and would not have been prepared, later, to taste its sweetness deeper and afresh in Word and Sacrament.
The second was Dr. Sproul’s teaching regarding the “outside of us” reality of the Word and Sacrament. I am indebted, as are my children, to his teaching as it pulled my family out of the false teachings that base baptism on my/our faith, rather than that baptism gives faith. I’ll never forget Dr. Sproul’s quote that turned the lights on for me, “When God speaks a promise to me in baptism, why would I ask later, ‘Would you run that by me again?’.” Like Luther and all good teachers of the faith, the most powerful Gospel awakening moments often come in short and obvious phrases.
Dr. Sproul’s ministry was the first to point me to the works of Martin Luther—a person who up until then, I only knew from secular history classes in school.
There is no doubt that Dr. Sproul would be embarrassed of making much of himself even at his own death—for his need and love of our Savior was obvious, humble, and infectious. When teaching on the passage in John’s Gospel (John 9) about the blind man at the Pool of Siloam who Christ healed with mud made from His spit, Dr. Sproul paused and said, “If I must have someone spit in my eye, then let it be the spittle of Christ.” That was Dr. Sproul.
It is bitter sweet, even frightening, when Christ calls one of His captains home while we remain on the earthly battlefield as the war rages and all appearances against faith are that we are losing. To lose a leader like this is always too soon!
However, faith sees with its ears. It is a joy to commune along with Dr. Sproul every Lord’s Day, where and when Heaven and Earth literally meet, and we receive a foretaste of the feast to come as we eat and drink the body and blood of the Son of God together at last.
Dr. R.C. Sproul—asleep in the wounds of Christ.