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I met R.C. Sproul for the first time about fifty years ago. I was a young seminarian at Gordon Divinity School (now Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), which in those days was on the same campus as Gordon College, where R.C. was a young professor of theology. He only taught there two years, but he established himself as a very thoughtful, engaging, challenging, and popular teacher. The students loved him.

We did not become friends then, but I watched his career develop over the years with great appreciation and admiration. It was through James Montgomery Boice that I began to get to know him better, first through the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy and then through the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He was a remarkable leader and influence for good wherever I saw him.

Particularly through his teaching and writing for Ligonier Ministries, it became ever clearer that R.C. had that very rare combination of real academic learning and a remarkable ability to teach nonacademics in a way that is clear and infectiously engaging. Whether the topic was theological, philosophical, biblical, or historical, he taught profoundly, helpfully, and entertainingly. He had the mind and learning of a great scholar, the skill of a great teacher, and the heart of a great pastor.

R.C. was a man of prodigious energy and productivity, and he was never a dour, narrow-minded Calvinist. He enjoyed life thoroughly—food and drink, music and dance, and sports from football to golf. He relished the good gifts of God’s creation. It was always easy (and engaging) to feel his enthusiasm for life. His delight was nowhere clearer than in his relationship with Vesta, his wife and childhood sweetheart. They were a true and remarkable team in every way and for every work.

Of all the adjectives that can and should be used to describe his life and ministry, the one that most comes to my mind is faithful. He began his ministry committed to Christ and the Bible as well as to the value of a thorough knowledge of theology and a vigorous intellectual defense of the faith. He believed passionately that Christianity deserved and was capable of a strong, persuasive intellectual presentation. He saw that Christians need that encouragement and depth to their faith and that unbelievers need to be attracted (or at least confronted) with the insistent claims of Christ. He exemplified loving God with all his mind.

Those early commitments of R.C. remained strong throughout his life. He was faithful. When others compromised the inerrancy of Scripture or the biblical, Reformation doctrine of justification or watered down the teaching of theology, he remained faithful—not only in maintaining doctrines, but in publicly criticizing the compromisers—as the Apostles did. Truth was more important than influence or friendship. He was never unfriendly, and he never failed to be winsome, but he always kept the truth of Christ first. In his life, his ministry, his teaching, and his core commitments, he was faithful.

Truth was more important than influence or friendship.

As I think about his death, my mind goes to Isaiah 57:1–2: “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace.” R.C. was a righteous man. Not in the sense of a sinless man. He would be the first to acknowledge that he was a sinner saved by the free grace of Christ alone. But he was righteous in the sense that Isaiah meant. He was part of Christ’s covenant of grace. He was righteous by the imputed righteousness of Christ, which he received by faith alone, and he lived a new life by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

The righteous man of Isaiah 57 is contrasted with the faithless leaders or “watchmen” of Israel described in Isaiah 56, men who were ignorant, greedy, and lazy. The church in America today has too many leaders who are like the watchmen of Isaiah 56. They have worked calamity in churches by compromising the truth of Christ in the pursuit of ephemeral influence in this passing world. By contrast, R.C. was a righteous man who lived a learned, consecrated, hardworking life for Christ. His death will not make the cover of Time magazine or the evening news, although his life was of very great consequence for the kingdom of Christ. The world fails to notice the truly significant. But Christ knows and gives peace to His own.

Our loss is great, but so is our comfort. R.C. has entered into peace in the presence of his Savior. He is freed of physical struggles, of earthly work, and of sin. He knows now the glories of the eternal Sabbath in the presence of Jesus. The promises of the gospel, which R.C. taught so well, will be our strength even in grief.

R.C. Sproul was an honest man. The man you saw in the pulpit was the same man you would have had dinner with: he was charming, interesting, and thoughtful. And in it all, he was faithful. Now he has heard Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”