“All of life comes back to the doctrine of God.”
–Stephen J. Nichols, R.C. Sproul: A Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 195.
“All of life comes back to the doctrine of God.”
–Stephen J. Nichols, R.C. Sproul: A Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 195.
“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (Mark 4:39–40, NIV)
The life of Jesus was a blaze of miracles. He performed so many that it is easy for us to become jaded in the hearing of them. We can read this narrative and skip quickly over to the next page without being moved.
Yet we have here one of the most astonishing of all Jesus’ miracles. We have an event that made a special impression on the disciples. It was a miracle that was mind-boggling even to them.
Jesus controlled the fierce forces of nature by the sound of His voice. He didn’t say a prayer. He didn’t ask the Father to deliver them from the tempest. He dealt with the situation directly. He uttered a command, a divine imperative. Instantly nature obeyed.
The wind heard the voice of its Creator. The sea recognized the command of its Lord. Instantly the wind ceased. Not a zephyr could be felt in the air. The sea became like glass without the tiniest ripple.
Notice the reaction of the disciples. The sea was now calm but they were still agitated:
They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’ (Mark 4:41, niv)
We see a strange pattern unfolding here. That the storm and raging sea frightened the disciples is not surprising. But once the danger passed and the sea was calm, it would seem that their fear would vanish as suddenly as the storm.
It didn’t happen that way. Now that the sea was calm, the fear of the disciples increased. How do we account for that?
It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that men invent religion out of a fear of nature. Man feels helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, men invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease.
God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.
What is significant about this story in Scripture is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they ever met in nature.
They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would men invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place?
We can understand men inventing an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The words that the disciples spoke after Jesus calmed the sea are very revealing. They cried out, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ The question was, ‘What manner of man is this?’ They were asking a question of kind.
They were looking for a category to put Jesus in, a type that they were familiar with. If we can classify people into certain types, we know immediately how to deal with them. We respond one way to hostile people and another way to friendly people.
We react one way to intellectual types and another way to social types. The disciples could find no category adequate to capture the person of Jesus. He was beyond typecasting. He was sui generis—in a class by Himself.
The disciples had never met a man like this. He was unlike anyone they had ever encountered. He was one of a kind, a complete foreigner. They had met all different kinds of men before—tall men, short men, fat men, skinny men, smart men, and stupid men.
They had met Greeks, Romans, Syrians, Egyptians, Samaritans, and fellow Jews. But they had never met a holy man, a man who could speak to winds and waves and have them obey Him.
That Jesus could sleep through the storm at sea was strange enough. But it was not unique. I think again of my fellow passenger on the airplane who dozed while I was gripped with panic.
It may be rare to meet people who can slumber through a crisis but it is not unprecedented. I was impressed with my friend on the plane.
But he did not awaken and yell out the window to the wind and make it stop at his command. If he had done that, I would have looked around for a parachute.
Jesus was different. He possessed an awesome otherness. He was the supreme mysterious stranger. He made people uncomfortable.”
–R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993), 77–81.
“The true believer savors every crumb that comes from the hand of God. The good news is that in the overflow of mercy and grace that comes to us from the hands of God, even though we should be satisfied with crumbs, He is not satisfied with giving us crumbs. He has lavished His grace on us.”
–R.C. Sproul, Mark: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2011), 174.
“Approximately forty years ago, during the summer between my undergraduate college years and seminary, I was working and living with my parents in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
One evening I drove over the mountains down into a long valley in the midst of the Laurel Highlands and came eventually to the Ligonier Valley Study Center, just outside the little Western Pennsylvania hamlet of Stahlstown, where R.C. Sproul was hosting at his regular weekly Question and Answer session a British Old Testament scholar, J. Alec Motyer.
As a still fairly new Christian, I found the Old Testament to be a confusing and off-putting part of the Bible. I will always remember his answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church (I can’t remember if R.C. posed it to him or someone from the audience).
After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their ‘testimony’ to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:
We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator— the one who stands between us and God— came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.
Then Dr Motyer concluded: ‘Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.’ My young self was thunderstruck.
I had held the vague, unexamined impression that in the Old Testament people were saved through obeying a host of detailed laws but that today we were freely forgiven and accepted by faith.
This little thought experiment showed me, in a stroke, not only that the Israelites had been saved by grace and that God’s salvation had been by costly atonement and grace all along, but also that the pursuit of holiness, pilgrimage, obedience, and deep community should characterize Christians as well.”
–Timothy Keller, “Foreward” in Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2015), ix-x. Keller also alludes to this Motyer quote here.
“We need Christ—the real Christ. A Christ born of empty speculation or created to squeeze into the philosopher’s pattern simply won’t do. A recycled Christ, a Christ of compromise, can redeem no one. A Christ watered down, stripped of power, debased of glory, reduced to a symbol, or made impotent by scholarly surgery is not Christ but Antichrist.”
–R.C. Sproul, Who is Jesus? (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 1983/2009), 1-2
“The Heidelberg Catechism states, in the answer to Question 47, ‘Christ is true man and true God. With respect to His human nature He is no longer on earth, but with respect to His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is never absent from us.’ This statement tried to do justice to Jesus’ own teaching before He left this planet. On the one hand, Jesus said, ‘I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me’ (John 7:33).
On the other hand, He said, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ (Matt. 28:20b). Jesus announced a real departure and also a real abiding. Therefore, historic Reformed theology says Jesus has departed in His human nature. His human nature is at the right hand of God in heaven, and we won’t see that human nature again until He returns or until we go there. But in respect to His divine nature, Christ is still present with us.
We have a tendency to think that heaven is up there and earth is down here, and the human nature of Jesus is in heaven while the divine nature of Jesus is here on earth. However, that view results in the union of the Incarnation being fractured. Calvin said the body and blood are up there because they are part of Jesus’ human nature, which is localized. But the human nature up there is perfectly united with the divine nature, which is not limited to any one locale. So the presence of Jesus Christ spans all of creation through the divine nature.
Calvin looked at it this way: When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper here on earth, we are communing with Christ in His divine nature. Calvin said that in this act of mystical communion with the divine presence of Christ, the human nature of Christ is made present to us. In other words, when we meet at the Lord’s Table with Christ through His divine nature, that nature is still in perfect union with the human nature. Therefore, we are communing with the whole Christ.
It is not because His body and blood are brought to earth or our bodies and blood are carried to heaven. It is simply that in this intimate meeting at the Lord’s Table, we commune with the perfectly united person of Christ, not just with His divine nature. So even though we are apart from the human nature of Jesus, we really commune with Him in His human nature. This view keeps the human nature human and the divine nature divine, and strongly emphasizes that we truly are communing with the real presence of Jesus Christ at the Lord’s Supper.”
–R.C. Sproul, A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity, (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2006), 121-122. Available online here.
“Time is the great leveler. It is one resource that is allocated in absolute egalitarian terms. Every living person has the same number of hours to use in every day. Busy people are not given a special bonus added on to the hours of the day. The clock plays no favorites.”
–R.C. Sproul, “Time Well Spent,” as quoted in C.J. Mahaney, “Biblical Productivity,” as cited on http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/Reference/Blog/cj-mahaney-biblical-productivity.pdf (accessed May 5, 2009).
“When the Scriptures tell us that God saves us, that salvation is of the Lord, we tend to forget that salvation is also from the Lord. What do we need to be saved from? We need to be saved from God— not from kidney stones, not from hurricanes, not from military defeats.
What every human being needs to be saved from is God. The last thing in the world the impenitent sinner ever wants to meet on the other side of the grave is God. But the glory of the gospel is that the One from whom we need to be saved is the very One who saves us.”
–R.C. Sproul, Saved from What? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 25.
“Is the death penalty for sin unjust? By no means. Remember that God voluntarily created us. He gave us the highest privilege of being His image bearers. He made us but a little lower than the angels. He freely gave us dominion over all the earth. We are not turtles. We are not fireflies. We are not caterpillars or coyotes. We are people. We are the image bearers of the holy and majestic King of the cosmos.
We have not used the gift of life for the purpose God intended. Life on this planet has become the arena in which we daily carry out the work of cosmic treason. Our crime is far more serious, far more destructive than that of Benedict Arnold. No traitor to any king or nation has even approached the wickedness of our treason before God.
Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, ‘God, Your law is not good. My judgment is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.’
The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority. It is a revolutionary act, a rebellious act in which we are setting ourselves in opposition to the One to whom we owe everything. It is an insult to His holiness. We become false witnesses to God.
When we sin as the image bearers of God, we are saying to the whole creation, to all of nature under our dominion, to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field: ‘This is how God is. This is how your Creator behaves. Look in his mirror; look at us, and you will see the character of the Almighty.’
We say to the world, ‘God is covetous; God is ruthless; God is bitter; God is a murderer, a thief, a slanderer, an adulterer. God is all of these things that we are doing.’”
–R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1985), 115-16.