Truly Reformed Theology
by Burk Parsons
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that no one has taught me more about the Bible and its theology than R.C. Sproul. And it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that no one has taught me more about mercy ministry than R.C. Sproul. Having worked for R.C. going on twelve years, I have witnessed, firsthand, one man’s faith working itself out in love. As the testimonies of his wife and children reveal, his theology of grace sustains his concern for the hungry, the widow, and the orphan. Appropriately, his theology informs his practice, as should ours.
At its core, Christian theology is a theology of grace. One of the primary distinctions of Christian theology is the doctrine of grace, which pervades every area of our faith and life. Throughout the centuries of history, Christians have testified to this truth. When Paul, in the first century, and the Reformers, in the sixteenth century, contended earnestly for the faith, they contended not only to preserve the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone but to preserve the all-encompassing gospel religion of God’s grace. This gospel informs everything we are and, thus, everything we do as we show forth our faith in word and deed, with God’s gospel and God’s glory at the forefront of our mission, not our own socialized gospel or our own societal glory.
The puritans of the seventeenth century were a people of holy and gracious action whose ministry in word and deed was motivated by the biblical theology of grace, which liberates redeemed sinners to give sacrificially in response to God’s giving of Himself on the cross. In a puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision, we read: “Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, to awake at every call to charity and piety, so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, … diffuse the gospel, show neighborly love to all.” Similarly, in the nineteenth century, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813–43) preached to his congregation about God’s call to care for the poor and needy: “My dear friends, I am concerned for the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in that great day … I fear there are many hearing me who may now know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudgingly, desires a new heart. An old heart would rather part with its lifeblood than with its money.”
Gospel ministry in word and deed is nothing new but is as old as the fall of man, when God came to us in our greatest need, clothed us, and gave us a hunger to serve Him that the world might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.