Quotes by R.C. Sproul Jr.
First, there is no “gift of singleness” if by gift we mean a supernatural outpouring accompanied by some kind of revelation that it is God’s hidden will that you remain single all your days. I would suggest that there are two proper ways to speak of this gift. First, if you are single, you have the gift of singleness… The “gift” of which Paul speaks is the freedom that comes to us when we are not burdened with pleasing our spouse… Second, I believe we can speak of the gift of singleness if by that we simply mean a lack of a current pressing need to marry. I too have this kind of the gift at present. I am sympathetic to men who are eager to marry, or in certain circumstances, to remarry. But I do not at present share that urgency. Indeed I honestly can’t imagine remarrying. I am savvy enough, however, to know that this could change in a moment. God’s Word gives me liberty. If the desire comes to marry I would be without sin to do so. I would not be turning up my nose at some kind of pseudo-charismatic “gift” God had given me. I’d be giving thanks for the wife He would be giving me.
Sin is powerful, even for those who have been reborn. Grace, however, is more powerful still. This is a true and trustworthy saying, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of which I am the chief (I Timothy 1:15). To diminish the power of grace is to diminish the scope of our own sin. Jesus, after all, didn’t come to save the polite, well-behaved people. He came to save His own, and gave them first repentant hearts.
Systematic theology is theology that is systematic. It is less narrative, less story, less organic, all key terms in our postmodern age. It is the study of the things of God in a systematic, orderly fashion, where we not only consider what this text says and that text, but where we consider all that the Word says about revelation, then all the Word tells us about who God is, then all that the Word tells us about who Jesus is, and then all that He has done for us. Systematic theology then goes on to consider the doctrine of man, of sin, of sanctification, of the sacraments, the church and the end times. Systematic theology is a way of looking at God’s revelation that strongly affirms the coherency and consistency of all that God reveals. It is an attempt to put all texts in their ultimate context—all other texts.
While the rest of the evangelical world seems bound and determined to pursue zeal without knowledge, I fear we have learned to be skeptical about zeal instead of ignorance. The answer to zeal without knowledge is never knowledge without zeal, but a zeal inspired by, driven by, informed by knowledge.
Studying holiness must lead to repentance. Studying salvation must lead to gratitude. Studying the end times must lead to hope. We need to study to show ourselves improved, that is, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Systematics is not a dusty endeavor, but ought instead to be Miracle-Gro for the fruit of the Spirit. To know Him is life. To study Him, therefore is health.
Remember, the strangest fire is that which we think safe to take into our bosom [Pr. 6:27].
I had a profound, deep, emotional, religious experience, fueled by a man made, false presentation of Jesus [while watching a movie]. Much like the children of Israel had a profound, deep, emotional, religious experience, fueled by a man made, false presentation of God, in the form of a golden calf. The problem with the movie isn’t, in my judgment, that it is a technical violation on the edges of a law God made, that seeing it might make Him mad because He’s so persnickety. The problem is that, for me anyway, I was lead right into the vicious heart of idolatry, which was cleverly disguised as a positive Christian experience.
Those who can rest while still exercising dominion are not only more productive, but more rested.
Your obedience is not the bedrock of your assurance. Given the remains of sin within us it can be profoundly difficult to give a clear measure of our own spiritual growth. In fact I have been known to argue that the better we get the worse we seem to ourselves. That is, as we grow in grace we grow in our capacity to see our own sin more deeply. Which the devil delights to use to discourage us. It is Christ’s obedience that secures for us our eternity.
What, after all, is church membership? I would argue that it is a covenant grounded in the affirmations of both the church through the elders, and the member. That is, the member publicly affirms both his dependence on the finished work of Christ alone, his affirmation of the faith once delivered, and his willingness to submit to the church. The church, on the other hand, affirms its conviction, through the elders of the credibility of the profession of faith of the member, and vows to serve and protect the member through the means of grace, including faithful church discipline. To put it more simply, the undershepherds affirm the sheepness of the member, the member the undershepherdness of the elders.
Murder is a most grievous sin. Once we get past the common evangelical error that all sins are equally wicked we recognize that murder will surely be one of the biggest sins. After all, we are told those who practice these things will not see the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:21). That said, however, we know of at least two men guilty of murder who are in heaven, David, and Paul. The list in Galatians 5 is not a list of unforgivable sins. Instead it is a list of those sins, which when they are practiced, evidence a lack of saving faith. Practicing these sins, however, is not the same thing as committing them. We practice these sins, or any sin, when we give up, when we no longer fight the temptation, when we embrace the sin as good. When, however, we fight, when we repent for falling into these sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9).
The list in Galatians 5 is not a list of unforgivable sins. Instead it is a list of those sins, which when they are practiced, evidence a lack of saving faith. Practicing these sins, however, is not the same thing as committing them. We practice these sins, or any sin, when we give up, when we no longer fight the temptation, when we embrace the sin as good. When, however, we fight, when we repent for falling into these sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9).
We must seek a balanced picture on this issue. We ought not to beat up on those who have attempted to end their lives, nor offer no hope to those who have lost those who have ended their lives. There but for the grace of God go we. Compassion and understanding are the order of the day. That said, we must not lose sight of the grievousness of this sin. Suicide is shameful, selfish, destructive.
How can you know if you have the gift [of singleness]? If you are not married, and are at peace about it, you have the gift, even if you hope one day to marry. God does not allow us to peek into our own future. And Paul in [1 Corinthians 7], if he is encouraging anything, is encouraging us to embrace our liberty. Insofar as you are not breaking God’s law you may do as you wish. If you marry, give thanks for the gift of marriedness. If you are single, give thanks for the gift of singleness. Indeed in all things give thanks.
This doctrine is called “Apostolic Succession” and is part and parcel of Roman and eastern Orthodox communions. It is also deeply problematic. Among the challenges – multiple competing popes in the 1300’s, the schism between Rome and the eastern communions, and worst of all, the plain truth that no one can actually trace a direct line of authority all the way back to the apostles. This perspective is clean, understandable, and patently false.
A church without authority is no church at all, and that self-created authority is in essence no authority at all. If person A is free to establish his own church of his own will, person B, when under this self-created authority can flee said authority simply by self-creating his own authority.
Courtship, of course, isn’t a concept that comes with a proof text. [It is not] some sort of biblical program. The Bible doesn’t have programs. It does, of course, call us to wisdom in helping our children reach that brightest line that marks adulthood-marriage. Which means our goal ought to be wisdom. Which means parents ought, while rightly having godly suspicion of the wisdom of the kids, to have suspicion about their own wisdom. They ought to be guarding against their own egos intruding.
Because those in the world are so quick to live vicariously through their children, to catalog their successes in conversation and on social media, we Christians are tempted to follow suit. We want to show the world that our following in the pathway of Christ doesn’t make us losers, but that in fact we are empowered for even greater successes. We Christians herald our outspoken athletes and our teenage pop stars and in turn highlight whatever headlines our own children garner. Our standards, however, ought to be different. Our faith isn’t a better path to a better life, as the world defines it. It is instead a different path, a different life, and a different understanding of what we mean by better. We cherish academic success, but smart, I’m sorry to report, is not listed among the fruit of the Spirit. Neither is pretty, wealthy, athletic, musical. There is nothing wrong with those things, nothing wrong with excelling in those things. They are not, however, the goal. They are not the measure of success for those called to pick up their cross and follow Him.
What…Protestants protest is the false authority of Rome and her false gospel. We protest not because we are complainers, grumblers, sticks in the mud. We protest precisely because of our dual love for Jesus Christ, and those who are not yet covered in His blood. We do not protest Rome for all she ever was, or ever said. Indeed we protest the notion that Protestantism is something novel. We protest the turning aside from the gospel once delivered. We protest the notion that we are a mere branch of or an offshoot from the true church. We are, insofar as we hold to the glorious gospel truth that we have peace with God through trusting in the finished work of Christ alone, the continuing church, the sons of Augustine, Athanasius, Anselm, the sons of the father of the faithful, Abraham.
We protest that Rome is not catholic, that she in fact shuts out the saints. We, however, are catholic, embracing all those who turn to the living Christ alone. We protest that guarding, defending, proclaiming justification by faith alone is not sectarian, narrow, nor divisive. It is instead a fulfillment of the command that we contend for the faith (Jude 3). We protest against squishy, feel-good ecumenism that imperils souls, that buys the love and respect of men and sells the wrath of God. We protest the beard-stroking, nuance exploring, subtlety affirming of those who refuse to remember that Rome damned and damns justification by faith alone with clarity, forthrightness and immutability.
Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once and He volunteered. [That’s] clever but also explains why good things happen to bad people.
The great tragedy of the last thirty years is not ultimately that the heathen, those who the Bible tells us “love death,” are killing their children.
The Christian Right stands now at a crossroads. Our choices are these: Either we can play the game and enjoy the honor that comes from being players in the political arena, or we can become fools for Christ. Either we will ignore the silent screams of the unborn so that we might be heard, or we will identify with the suffering and speak for those who are silenced. In short, either we will speak for the least of these, or we will continue to sell our souls for a mess of political pottage.
Christians should be at abortion mills, all of them, every day. And we should not be silent. What we should be doing is proclaiming the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should be imploring butchers, butchers’ assistants, boyfriends, grandmothers, pregnant moms to turn from their sin, to repent and throw themselves on the mercy of God in Christ. We should be pleading with the blind that they not further sear their consciences, and dance across the precipice of hell. We should be calling men to be men, to protect rather than murder their children.
Can we have any hope that one who commits suicide does indeed place their trust in the finished work of Christ alone? Can a person, confident in God’s grace, hoping for His mercy, ever reach such a level of despair as to commit this grievous sin? Yes. While the faith which saves is sanctifying in us, it does not on this side of the veil finish the job. Any time any of us sin we are gainsaying our commitment to the gospel. We are implicitly affirming that our hope is in something other than Christ. That, however, is precisely why we need Christ – because we are sinners who place our hope in other things, because we are sinners who lose sight of His promises, because we are sinners who focus on our hardships rather than His provision.
[Jesus Christ’s] victory, of course, does not mean that we rush off to kill all our enemies. It means instead that we are to love them. Our love for them must be strong enough, however, to tell them with both passion and compassion, that their hopes are in vain, that their gods are mute and dumb, and that there is only one name under heaven by which a man must be saved. Our love for them does not present the Christian Gospel as an option. It does not lead us to argue that it’s a good option that has worked well for us. Our love instead commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, lest they perish. Our love calls on all our enemies to kiss the Son, lest He be angry and they perish along the way (Ps. 2:12).
We evangelicals make the foolish mistake of thinking that when enough souls decide to make Jesus the Lord of their lives, that He will become the Lord of all things. The reality is that Jesus is already Lord over all things. His kingdom, strictly speaking, does not expand, for even now it knows no borders. He does not, therefore, engage in some sort of power sharing arrangement with other pretenders to His throne, whether they be false deities, or those who falsely worship them. His lordship is not something we accomplish. It is something we recognize and submit to. It is not something we negotiate; it is something we proclaim.
A service that might attract the lost would be one that does not hide the transcendent, but reveals it. A service that might attract the lost would be one that does not deliver more of the same, but that shows forth the One. A service that might attract the lost would be one heaven bent on giving a map, rather than celebrating being lost. A service that might attract the lost would be one that panders to those who are sick of being pandered to, by refusing to pander. A service that might attract the lost would be one that offers discomfort to those who are sick and tired of being comfortable… If anyone is seeking, he is seeking what he has not found in the world.
[Unbelievers] will not affirm the lordship of Christ over them because they fear that Christ will reign over them. We are fearful of affirming the lordship of Christ over all things, including our neighbors, because we are afraid of our neighbors ruling over us. Pluralism is a half-hearted attempt at a compromise of convenience – we won’t condemn you if you won’t condemn us. We won’t say you are wrong, if you won’t say that we are wrong. We won’t find your views backwards and repugnant, if you won’t find our views backwards and repugnant. What a deal? And all it costs us is the central and first affirmation of our own faith: Jesus is Lord. All we have to give up to win peace with our neighbors is the proclamation of the Gospel.
Worship isn’t a means to an end, but the end of all means
We do not design [worship] for the lost, nor for the found. We listen to the seeker of the lost, as do as He commands. We come to worship Him in spirit and truth. We come to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness. We come to worship Him, for His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.
The very pleasure of pornography is the shock of it. This explains the all too familiar phenomena of the downward spiral. Like illicit drugs, each “hit” requires a stronger hit the next time to get the desired effect. What was once delightfully forbidden soon becomes all too commonplace. And so darker perversions are pursued. The path from marijuana to crack cocaine runs parallel to the path from Playboy to pedophilia. It is, in the words of Solomon in the Proverbs, the path to death.
The Internet – a curious combination of fiber optics and silicon has given us a technology that has carpet bombed the last great defense against sexual perversion, shame. The reason for the explosion of online pornography is simple enough. The Internet is the first pornography delivery system that doesn’t require any interaction with a live human being. The only thing standing between millions of men and oceans of pornography fifteen years ago was the public shame of consuming it. The public shame is now gone. There is no longer a convenience store clerk, or video store clerk, or bouncer at the “Gentleman’s Club.” On the Internet it’s just you and the pictures.
We do not jettison worship for the sake of evangelism, but evangelize for the sake of the worship.
That Jesus calls us to pay our taxes doesn’t make all taxation moral any more than His telling us to obey our parents makes them sinless.
Rich people are greedy for the same reason poor people are greedy, because they are people. Gratitude, not poverty, cures greed.
We worry so much that we worry about what we’ll worry about when we get to heaven.
How can the person who has committed suicide repent? Once they have committed the sin, it is too late for them to repent. This concern, I believe, has its roots in Roman Catholic theology. We do not live our lives in a constant race to stay ahead of the game in terms of our repentance. We do not, when we die, have forgiveness for all our sins, save those we commit after our last confession. When we embrace the finished work of Christ, when we place our hope in Him, all our sins, past, present and future are forgiven.
This concern [of dying with unconfessed sin], I believe, has its roots in Roman Catholic theology. We do not live our lives in a constant race to stay ahead of the game in terms of our repentance. We do not, when we die, have forgiveness for all our sins, save those we commit after our last confession. When we embrace the finished work of Christ, when we place our hope in Him, all our sins, past, present and future are forgiven.
My kin are those who have been bought by the blood of the Lamb. They are my brothers and my sisters, even if they root for the wrong football team. My calling is to love them like family, for they are family. They, like me, have been born a second time, born into the family of God. We share a common Father, we share a common mother, the church, and we share a common brother, Jesus our Lord.
When we seek to pit God’s law against His love we show ourselves ignorant of both.
If there were such a thing as a seeker, what would he be seeking? The church growth movement seems to believe he would be seeking more of the same. In a world consumed with lighthearted entertainment, we offer up less professional, less entertaining lighthearted entertainment? Why, I keep wondering, would a “seeker” get up on a Sunday morning, and travel to some giant box to hear a third rate rock band preceding a third rate comic giving a third rate “message” that leaves him in the same state that he arrived in?
As is so often the case, when we live coram Deo, before the face of God, the thinking of the world gets turned upside down. My freedom consists in large part in being free of the lies of the culture, in believing God’s truth when all around me stumble in the darkness. I need not believe that children are a burden nor that my headship in my home is a heinous crime against equality. I need believe neither that manliness consists of owning a powerful truck, nor that manliness is having the power to blubber like a baby. Because God the Father has adopted me as His son, I am no longer a slave to folly. Because I am free, I no longer believe the lies of my former father, the father of lies. Because the shackles have been loosed and the blinders removed, I know I need to fear no man, but God alone. Our Captain and King has freed us so that we might be free men, and such are men indeed.
Does that mean He plays favorites for the likes of outspoken Christians like Tim Tebow or Drew Brees? Of course. Because God loves those who are His, even as He loves His own Son, God is certain to favor them. That favor, however, isn’t a path to winning a football game, but is instead the path to true victory, becoming more like Jesus. God isn’t glorified in giving Tim Tebow unlikely victories that somehow redound to God’s glory. No, God is glorified in making His children, including Tim Tebow, more like His Son. Sometimes that means leading them to the thrill of victory. Sometimes it means leading them through the agony of defeat.
I have a friend who was sent to plant a church in a hostile city, in a neighborhood dominated by sexual perversion. While making the rounds, introducing himself to pastors already serving in the city one pastor warned him that so many others had sought to minister to that demographic, but, the pastor reasoned, they just weren’t reachable. My friend, though he had served in the special forces, and could well be Chuck Norris’s younger brother, broke down in tears. He explained to the pastor, “If the gospel has no power to save them, it has no power to save me.”
There are, of course, those whom God has determined that He would never give new life to. Those who have committed the unpardonable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31), will not be regenerated. Those who have trampled under foot the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:29), will not be regenerated. Those who have committed the sin unto death (I John 5:15-16) will not be regenerated. I do not pretend to know whether this is one, two or three distinct groups. I do know this – that those who fall under these texts do not come equipped with a signed affidavit letting us know for certain that they are guilty of this sin. As such, I don’t believe we can single out real flesh and blood people and determine – “That one is beyond redemption.”
Repenting is neither more nor less than crying out to God in Christ, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.” Believing is rejoicing in the faithfulness of His promise, that as we so repent, we go home justified. It is not the depth and power of your repentance that earns God’s favor. None of us repent as deeply as we ought, and so must ever repent for the weakness of our repentance. But Jesus came to save sinners.