Friday, August 8, 2008

R. C. Sproul On GRACE

Wayne Brouwer once preached a sermon titled, "We've Grown Accustomed To His Grace," in which he used this illustration attributed to R. C. Sproul:

Sproul was assigned to teach the course, “Introduction to the Old Testament.” There were 250 first-year students enrolled and he knew it would be difficult to communicate personally with each one of them so he set forth all the class requirements in a course syllabus, which he explained, in the first class session.

The students were to write three short papers during the semester. The first one was due at noon, September 30, the next one at noon, October 30, and the last one at noon, November 30. He carefully explained what he wanted and what he expected them to do. Then he reemphasized the need to finish the papers on time. He said to them, “Let me make it perfectly clear! I want those papers on my desk at 12:00 noon on the assigned dates or you will receive a failing mark. The only excuses I’ll consider are if you’re confined to a hospital that day or there’s a death in the family.” He paused for a moment; scanned the faces in the room and then asked, “Do you understand?”

Two hundred fifty heads nodded together. “Yes! We understand! It’s all perfectly clear!” they replied.

At noon on September 30, 225 of the 250 students turned in their papers. When Professor Sproul returned to his office, there were 25 students waiting timidly for him at the door. Here, their first year of college, their first assignment, and they hadn’t completed their assignment.

“Oh, Professor Sproul!” they cried, “Please don’t fail us on this assignment! Please give us one more chance! We’re so sorry! Please just give us one more day!”


They looked so pathetic and Professor Sproul didn’t want to hurt anyone so he gave them another day. He couldn’t bear to see them in agony like that! But, he firmly reminded them that it would not happen again! “The deadline is the deadline! No more late papers!”

“Absolutely, sir!” they all agreed and they scampered off to finish their papers.

When October 30 came, 200 students turned in their second papers. This time there were 50 students at his office door. “Oh, please, Professor Sproul! We did it again! We’re really struggling and we’re sorry we couldn’t get our papers finished! Can you give us another chance? Please?”

And once again, Sproul gave in. “Okay!” he said. “But this is it! Don’t let it happen again!” he said in the sternest voice he could muster. “Do you understand?”

Yes! Yes! Yes! They understood. And they were so grateful! They actually broke out singing right there in his office! “We love you, Professor Sproul! Oh yes, we do!” And for thirty days he was the most popular professor on campus.

Then came November 30 and only 150 students handed in their papers on time. This time, 100 students gathered around him after class. “Where are your papers?” he asked.

They were casual and cocky as they responded, “Don’t worry about it Prof! We’ll have them in for you in a couple of days. No sweat!”

But Professor Sproul stopped them cold in their tracks. He pulled out his little black grade book and he opened it to the pages with their names. With a click of his pen, he called, “Johnson! Where’s your paper?”

“I don’t have it today,” Johnson replied, “I’ll bring it in tomorrow!”

Professor Sproul announced, “F” as he entered the grade in his book.

“Greenwood!” he called, “Where is your paper?”

“I’m sorry sir! I’m not finished with it yet!” said Greenwood.

Again, Professor Sproul marked the “F.”

Suddenly the murmuring started. “Hey!” they said. “That’s not fair!”

“What?” asked Professor Sproul.

They answered louder, “That’s not fair!”

Sproul questioned, “You think I’m not being fair?”

They all nodded and agreed vigorously! “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”

So Sproul looked at Johnson and asked, “Johnson, do you think I’m not being fair?”

“Yeah,” said Johnson, “I don’t think it’s fair!”

“Okay!” Sproul said, “I don’t ever want to be thought of as unfair! Tell me, Johnson, wasn’t your paper late last time?”

“Well, yes… it was…” he replied.

Sproul turned the page back, erased the “B” that was entered there and he changed it to an “F.”

Suddenly everyone was struck silent. No one moved. Professor Sproul looked at them and asked, “Is there anyone else here who wants justice?”

They shamefully dropped their heads and quickly slipped away to their rooms.

Years later, R. C. Sproul reflected on that event to his own congregation, “Do you see what was happening? When those first 25 students came begging for leniency, they didn’t know if they would get it or not. And when they came the second time, their hopes had grown. But by the 30th of November, they came expecting mercy. They came thinking that they deserved it. They came planning on it. And so their failures and their sins didn’t mean anything to them any more!”

5 comments:

Stan McCullars said...

That's my pastor!

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...

Hi Stan,

Yeah, I noticed that a few days ago while I was browsing around on your site. That's awesome to have such an incredible preacher as your own pastor. That would almost make it worthwhile to live in Florida (Nah!).

Daisy said...

Wow! That is an incredible illustration.

Stan McCullars said...

Ralph,
It is refreshing to hear the word preached faithfully every week. It makes the humidity somewhat bearable, at least on Sundays.

Daisy,
His illustrations are indeed helpful and they consistently support, rather than get in the way of, the Word.

Jason Robertson said...

I love that story!