For to Me, to Live Is Christ and to Die Is Gain...Remembering Rev. Eric Alexander

We learned this past weekend that Eric Alexander has gone to be with Christ. It was early Sunday morning when I received a text from a friend with this news. My first response was to get on my knees and thank the Lord for Eric. What a dear man. It is his blessing to be received to glory and our blessing to have known him.

Later in the day, I began to reflect on how we should think about Eric's life and death – but Eric, himself, had already done the thinking for us over twenty years ago when he preached the memorial service for his dear and close friend, Dr. James Montgomery Boice. I was privileged to be at that service (and by a remarkable and unexpected providence later to meet Eric at a dinner gathering). Eric said five simple words about Jim Boice experiencing the glories of heaven, words that I have never forgotten: "See that you join him."  

Eric spoke those memorable words after preaching through the Philippians passage that served as the text for the service, "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God's provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far."[1]

All that Eric said about the life and death of Jim Boice can now be echoed back and equally said of Eric.

He was a complete exemplar of this text—for me—to live is Christ and to die is gain. No one but a true Christian could make this statement. "Christ is life to me" was his distinct and distinguished testimony from his earliest days, and his leaving this world so few days ago was an exodus into glory…I can just imagine our dearly loved brother there, truly memorized as he had never been before, saying, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind had conceived what God has prepared for those who love him "…There is no human language, there is no human word to express it, but because of what it means to depart and be with Christ which is far better, all we may say today is that "far better" covers everything. It is far better to be in glory than to be here in this world. We will never really understand the full meaning of it until, by God's grace, we join him. See that you join him. See that you join him. [2]

After saying those memorable words, Eric closed his thoughts about Jim Boice by reciting from Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress the story of Mr. Valient-for-truth's last words and testimony before being taken to the Celestial City. There is no better way to draw this brief remembrance of Eric to a close. Others will say much more about Eric Alexander in the coming days, but like his friend, Jim Boice, who preceded him in death, we may indeed say that Eric will be remembered for being valiant for truth.

"After this, it was noised abroad that Mr. Valiant-for-truth was taken with a Summons by the same Post as the other, and had this for a Token that the Summons was true, that his Pitcher was broken at the Fountain. When he understood it, he called for his Friends, and told them of it. Then said he, I am going to my Fathers, and tho' with great difficulty I am got hither, yet  now I do not repent me of all the Trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My Sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my Pilgrimage, and my Courage and Skill to him that can get it. My Marks and Scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his Battles who now will be my Rewarder. When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the Riverside, into which as he went he said, Death, where is thy Sting? And as he went down deeper he said, Grave, where is thy Victory? So he passed over, and all the Trumpets sounded for him on the other side."

Eric has passed over the "river without a bridge," escorted by angels into the Heavenly City where, no doubt, all the Trumpets sounded for him. He has left the Church the rich legacy of his preached sermons. We would do well to hunt down and listen to every available recorded sermon of Eric Alexander – thankfully, a great many of which are available through the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. That investment of time and energy will return great dividends and help each of us pursue the summons to "see that we join him" – and we will join him by the grace of God.

James W. Bruce

Vice Chairman

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals


Notes

[1]Phil. 1:18-23, NIV.

[2] Quotations taken from the audio recording of Eric Alexander’s message at the Memorial Service for Dr. James Boice.

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