R. C. Sproul. The Glory of Christ. Tyndale, 1990. 219 pp.
Sproul’s volume, The Glory of Christ, is a theological book written on the popular level. Apart from the scattered Latin and Greek, it is not technical, and most laymen will find its contents easy to understand. Sproul’s purpose is by no means to give an exhaustive treatment of the life of Christ; rather, he aims to set forth the moments in Jesus’ life when His glory emanated through the cloak of His humanity in a special way. Sproul develops the contents of the book by chronologically surveying the key events in Jesus’ life.
The first three chapters deal with His early years: His humble birth (1) and His visit to the temple (2-3). The next section covers His earthly ministry: His baptism (4), His temptation in the wilderness (5-6), His first miracle (7), Peter’s confession (8), the transfiguration (9), and the triumphal entry (10). The remaining chapters find their context in the final days of His life and beyond: the upper room (11), the cross (12), the resurrection (13), His ascension (14), His second coming (15), and His appearance to Paul on the Damascus road (16).
In the first chapter, Sproul examines the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth that manifest who He really was. Though he was born in the small town of Bethlehem in a manger, the angelic announcement verified that this Jesus was the promised Messiah who was both Savior and Lord (Luke 2:11).
The second chapter begins with an awkward discussion of the covenant and its parallel to the “suzerain treaties.” After a few pages, he discusses circumcision as the “sign of the blessing and of the curse” of the covenant (27). The significance of Jesus’ circumcision lay in His willingness to be the substitute for His people in regard to both bearing the curse for the broken covenant and earning the blessings of obedience to the covenant. He then discusses Simeon and Anna and the fulfillment of their desire to see the Messiah. The chapter is entitled, “Glory in the Temple,” and it is difficult to see the unity and progression of the chapter apart from the fact that the aforementioned events took place there.
Chapter three deals with Christ’s visit to the temple at the age of twelve. Sproul has some interesting insight concerning the episode when Jesus was in the temple with the teachers. While they could have been amazed because of a display of His divine knowledge, what they may have been seeing was simply “His unaided perfect humanity” (49). The fall has greatly hindered the ability of man to think. By the age of twelve, Jesus, not having been influenced by sin, would have been able to surpass the greatest thinkers of His day. In regard to the situation with Jesus being separated from His family and left behind in the temple, Mary and Joseph were guilty of unbelief in what the angel had revealed to them about who their Son was.
The baptism of Jesus occupies the discussion of chapter four. Why Jesus, the sinless one, would receive the baptism of repentance is indeed strange. But “whatever Israel was required to do, the Servant of Israel was required to fulfill for the nation” (62). Jesus became righteousness for His people by fulfilling every single command of God, including baptism.
On a few occasions, the normally clear teacher is ambiguous concerning his position. This is true of his discussion of Christ’s omniscience. He affirms that in regard to Jesus’ divine nature, He “was clearly omniscient” (47). At the same time, in regard to His human nature, “He was not.” Sproul asserts that it is “both possible and necessary for us to distinguish between the divine and human natures of Christ.” When Jesus was hungry or sweating, these were not characteristics of His divine nature. However, it is equally important that “we neither divide nor separate” his natures. The two natures had communion with each other; consequently, the human could know information from the divine. But Sproul hardly gives a solution. Rather, one is left with the impression that he does not know how to handle the problem but is not willing to say so in so many words. This same vagueness appears in his handling of the issue of Christ’s peccability. Sproul affirms that Jesus, the second Adam, had the same moral ability as the first Adam. He had both the ability to sin and the ability to not sin. According to Sproul, this ability belonged only to His human nature. The divine nature, on the other hand, was certainly incapable of sin. He ends the less than lucid discussion with this statement:
We can say then that, touching His human nature, it was possible for Him to sin. We must insist that the human nature of Christ had the ability to sin just as Adam did. However, we must also remember that this human nature was in intimate union with the divine nature, a union that Adam did not possess.
With that Sproul ends his discussion. The reader is left with an unclear answer to the question of peccability.
Sproul’s book is a helpful survey of some of the important events of Jesus’ life. However, this is not one of Sproul’s better works. The contents of the chapters seem unorganized and lack perspicuity and progression. Outlining the chapters would be a difficult task indeed! In addition, the flow of thought often deviates with information that does not always directly relate to the theme of the chapter. Some of the earlier chapters appear to be a compilation of miscellaneous thoughts. One wonders if this book was not based on Sproul’s radio discussions. Nonetheless, in spite of the book’s weaknesses, the average layman will still learn valuable material from this excellent teacher.