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THINGS I LEARNED FROM DR. JOHN R. RICE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 2, 2012

“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).


When I was a teenager I read the life story of James Hudson Taylor, and I felt that God was calling me to become a missionary to the Chinese. I joined the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles. That fall I went to Biola College (now University). I was finally saved there when I heard Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge preach from the third chapter of II Peter. I failed my classes there, except for the class on soul winning. I got a job and worked in the Chinese church on Friday and Saturday nights, and all day Sunday. About that time I read the Journal of John Wesley, and learned what a revival was. I was praying all the time for revival to come to the Chinese church. I started going to college at night, while working forty hours a week in the daytime, and working all weekend at the Chinese church. I graduated from Cal State L.A. in the spring of 1970. A few months earlier revival began to sweep through the Chinese church. Hundreds came into the church and were converted. From 1969 to about 1973 the church was in the midst of a mighty series of revivals, led by the pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin.

In the Fall of 1970 I went to Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary near San Francisco. During the second year at Golden Gate I started a church there with the help of two friends from the seminary. All three of us were grieved over the attacks on the Bible at the school, but I said little about it for two years. During my third and final year at seminary I was elected the editor of the school’s student paper. It was then that I began to defend the Bible, both in the paper and in class. I was told by the president of the seminary that I was getting a bad reputation that would keep me from being hired by a Southern Baptist church. After a great struggle I decided that didn’t really matter and went ahead defending the Bible. The professors spoke strongly against the Scofield Study Bible, and against Dr. J. Frank Norris and Dr. John R. Rice. I figured that the Scofield Bible must be good or they wouldn’t criticize it so much, so I bought one and have preached from it ever since. But I thought that Dr. Norris and Dr. Rice were weird. I never read anything by either of them. I judged them without really knowing anything about them.

After I graduated I continued to vigorously expose the liberalism at the seminary. I sent mailings and videos exposing the attacks on the Bible at the seminary to the chairman of the deacons of all the Southern Baptist churches in California. One of the liberal professors had to resign, and one of the compromising presidents had to resign in the middle of a semester, as a direct result. Our church sent $600 each month to Dr. Bill Powell to help him mail copies of his Southern Baptist Journal, which exposed theological liberalism, to all the Southern Baptist churches in America. My wife and I went each year to the Southern Baptist Convention to pass out the Journal. People screamed at us, and threatened us. At the last convention my wife was over six months pregnant. They spit in her face and threw things at her, even though she was great with child. When we got back to our room she said, "Robert, how could those people be Christians?” I bowed my head in shame.

As I had been warned, I was “blackballed” by the seminary. They put out letters and mailings against me, and my Southern Baptist friends of a lifetime turned against me. I was deeply discouraged and heartbroken. It was in the midst of this time of deep depression that a friend gave me a copy of Dr. Robert L. Sumner’s biography of Dr. John R. Rice, titled Man Sent from God. I sat down to read a few pages of it one night, but I couldn’t put it down. I read all night long, finishing it about 9:00 in the morning. I was struck by the similarity of Dr. Rice’s experiences with the liberal Southern Baptists and mine. Within a few months I purchased nearly all of Dr. Rice’s many books, and eagerly read them all.  John R. Rice became one of my guides and mentors, along with my pastor of 23 years, Dr. Timothy Lin.

In the fall of 1980 I went to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Dr. Rice’s office, and videotaped an interview with him. He passed away a few weeks later, but I have continued to read his many books and sermons on an almost weekly basis. I have learned many useful and helpful things from Dr. Rice, and I am going to share a few of them with you tonight.

At the beginning of the sermon I read Dr. Rice’s life verse,

“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).

That was the theme of the life and ministry of Dr. John R. Rice. He was a great scholar and Bible student, but he never lost sight of his main calling as an evangelist, soul winner, and advocate of Heaven-sent revival. Here, then, are four of the things I learned from him. I didn't agree with him on storehouse tithing, the signs of Christ's coming, and some other matters, but he deeply influenced me on these four points. 

I. First, I learned a lot about preaching from Dr. Rice.

When I first started preaching in the 1950s I consciously copied the evangelistic style and sermon construction of Billy Graham. He was a great preacher back then. My friend Moishe Rosen, of Jews for Jesus, said his preaching was "electrifying" in those days.  But later I was told to preach so-called “expository” sermons. I struggled trying to do that for several years. But I felt constrained and held back by trying to preach from convoluted, intricate outlines on many verses of Scripture, with points, subpoints, and sub, subpoints. I felt strangled and enslaved, held in bondage and restrained, by what I was taught about so-called “expository” preaching. Then I read what Dr. Rice said on this subject. Dr. Rice said,

      No sermon that Jesus preached...did He ever preach what is now called an expository sermon. And so with the sermons in the book of Acts by Peter, by Stephen and by Paul – none were expository sermons. In every case a preacher stood up to preach to get a certain result, and he preached toward that result. So ought preachers today preach toward a certain end, not simply to expound the Bible itself for its own sake (John R. Rice, D.D., Why Our Churches Do Not Win Souls, Sword of the Lord, 1966, pp. 74, 75).

I learned from Dr. Rice that so-called “expository” preaching did not come from our Baptist or Protestant forefathers, who all preached from one or two verses of Scripture. Dr. Rice said the modern “expository” sermon came from the Plymouth Brethren and was popularized by Dr. Harry Ironside, a Plymouth Brethren preacher. Dr. Rice said that Wesley, Whitefield, Spurgeon, and Dr. Torrey preached, “Bold, uncompromising, controversial [sermons] that condemned sin.” He said we need “preaching that condemns sin, that fights heresy, that shows the way out of trouble, that warns people of the wrath of God” (ibid., pp. 77, 78). Dr. Rice said,

      Whence came this horrible breakdown in standards in America? Why is sex everywhere pressed on people, and movies and magazines are more lewd, and women less virtuous, and men more profane than before? Because America, with its millions of church members, has relatively few strong...preachers. There are not many preachers who preach on sin, on the coming judgment, on the awful Hell for Christ-rejecting sinners...The pulpit has failed the churches, and the churches have failed America (John R. Rice, D.D., Bible Doctrines to Live By, Sword of the Lord, 1968, p. 311).

The Bible says,

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).

Dr. Rice said,

      The first aim of every preacher called of God should be to win souls. A minister may say, as an alibi, “I am called to be a teaching pastor. My ministry is to the church. I must feed the flock of God.” But that, I insist, is an alibi for outright disobedience to the plain command of God. The Great Commission is still binding on preachers. The Gospel is to be preached to every creature...Charles Spurgeon was a pastor all his days and never called himself an evangelist. Yet multiplied thousands were saved under his ministry, and [Spurgeon’s church] was called a “soul trap.” The preaching in the church services ought to be strongly evangelistic, as well as in other places (John R. Rice, D.D., Why Our Churches Do Not Win Souls, ibid., pp. 67-69).

I agree with Dr. Rice on those points of preaching. He has encouraged me to follow the old-fashioned, soul-stirring method of presenting the Gospel. And Dr. Rice believed that the Gospel should be preached in every service, telling lost sinners that Jesus loves them, and that He will save them. Dr. Rice said,

Oh, what a fountain of mercy is flowing,
   Down from the crucified Saviour of men.
Precious the blood that He shed to redeem us,
   Grace and forgiveness for all of our sin.
(“Oh, What a Fountain!” by John R. Rice, 1965).

He loves so long, He loves so well,
   He loves you more than tongue can tell;
He loves so long, He loves so well,
   He died to save your soul from Hell.
(“He Loves You Still” by John R. Rice, 1960).

II. Second, I learned a lot about defending the faith from Dr. Rice.

The Bible says, “Ye should earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Dr. Rice strongly contended for the faith throughout his ministry. Dr. Rice said,

       The pastor who does not expect to win many souls can preach nice little sermons on…brotherly love. But the man who expects to arouse the conscience, stir the emotions and bring the will to a holy repentance…must preach on great truths of the Bible…The great themes of the depravity of the human heart, the atoning death of Christ, the need of the new birth, salvation by grace through faith, a literal Heaven and a literal Hell are all evangelistic themes. And they necessarily involve the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, and they are the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
       It is no accident that the great soul winners have been defenders of the faith. Spurgeon carried on a noble campaign against “the Downgrade Movement,” now called modernism, and left the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland at a cost of great reproach, and led that great church out, because of sin. And Spurgeon preached wonderfully, upholding the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the deity of Christ and other fundamentals of the faith (John R. Rice., D.D., Why Our Churches Do Not Win Souls, ibid., pp. 71, 72).

Dr. Rice said,

       As long as there is doubt in the mind of the preacher or in the minds of the hearers as to the absolute authority of the Bible as the infallible Word of God, his message is weakened, the impact on the community is watered down, the reason for soul winning is diminished (ibid., p. 73).

Why should I murmur, hold back from sorrow,
   Dread to lose money or friends in His name?
Oh, I should welcome perils or scourging
   If I might thus have some part in His shame!
All my heart’s love, all my fond dreams,
   Make them, Lord Jesus, only for Thee.
All that I am, all I could be,
   Take me, Lord Jesus, Thine e’er to be.
(“All My Heart’s Love” by Dr. John R. Rice).

Sing the chorus with me.

All my heart’s love, all my fond dreams,
   Make them, Lord Jesus, only for Thee.
All that I am, all I could be,
   Take me, Lord Jesus, Thine e’er to be.

III. Third, I learned a lot from Dr. Rice on the subject of revival.

The Bible gives us a prayer for revival when it says,

“Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6).

Dr. Rice believed in supernatural, God-sent revivals. He said, “Let it be settled once for all that revivals are divine manifestations. A revival is a miracle of God. It is not natural, but supernatural. It is not ordinary, but extraordinary. It is not human, but divine. Only God can give a revival” (John R. Rice, D.D., The Soul Winner’s Fire, Sword of the Lord, 1969, p. 79).

In his book, We Can Have Revival Now (Sword of the Lord, 1950), Dr. Rice said, “The greatest revivals the world is ever to see are yet future. Greater revivals are to come than the world has ever experienced. That is plainly taught in the Word of God, and what a comfort it ought to be to our hearts! When we find that God has plainly promised greater revivals than any the world has yet had, that will certainly prove that the day of revivals is not passed” (p. 29).

Dr. Rice said that in 1950. The Communists were driving all the foreign missionaries out of China when he said that. Over 25 years of torture and imprisonment lay ahead for the Christians in China when he said that. But since 1980, the year Dr. Rice died, one of the greatest revivals the world has ever seen has exploded in the People’s Republic of China! Today it is estimated that there are over 120 million Christians in China. More people are now in church on Sunday morning in China than in America, Canada and the United Kingdom combined! Dr. C. L. Cagan estimates that there are over 700 conversions to Christ in China every hour, night and day, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week! Think of it – 700 conversions every hour! Dr. Rice was completely right when he said in 1950, “The greatest revivals the world is ever to see are yet future” (ibid., p. 29).

I myself have been an eye-witness to three “supernatural,” God-sent revivals. At the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles, between 1969 and 1973, I saw the miraculous power of God draw over 2,000 people into our small church of about 125 people, making it one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in California. I saw services that went on all day Sunday, with tears of repentance and miracle conversions. I myself preached in one of those services where 46 young people were converted, and that was just one of the services that went on night after night! I checked recently and found that nearly every young Chinese person that was saved that night is still in that church forty years later! When my wife and I went there in May, for the 60th anniversary of the church, one Chinese young person after the other came to tell me they were saved during times when I preached in that great revival!

In Marin County, north of San Francisco, in a church I started there in 1972, we saw about 600 Hippies get saved in a few months, stopping their sinful life-style and drugs, and becoming solid Christians. This was the second revival that I saw with my own eyes.

In 1992, my wife and our boys and I attended a conference on Fundamentalism at Dr. Rod Bell’s church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. At the very end of the conference, on the last Sunday night, I was scheduled to preach. A member of the church told me, “Whatever you do, don’t preach an evangelistic sermon. Everyone in the church is already saved.” That made me very nervous because God had laid on my heart to preach a simple evangelistic sermon. Great and famous men of God would be in the congregation. What would they think if no one came forward? I was sweating. I asked my wife to take our boys out of the motel room for a few hours that Sunday afternoon. I fasted and prayed and called on God all afternoon. I was still praying and sweating when we got to the church. They sang and the pastor introduced me. Suddenly I felt the anointing of the Holy Spirit flash through me. I preached that simple sermon with great ease. Three grown men came forward. One of them was the associate pastor, the pastor’s own son! He came forward to be saved with tears streaming down his cheeks! Then the Holy Spirit came down like a cloud. An old man who had been in the church for years crawled on his hands and knees down the aisle screaming, “I’m lost! I’m lost!” A quartet of young girls went to the platform to perform, but they couldn’t sing. Tears were streaming from their eyes as they called on Jesus to save them. The service went on until midnight. Seventy-five people were hopefully converted that night in a church where they thought “Everyone is already saved.” Ian Paisley’s son said to my wife, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Then the revival really broke out. I flew back from Los Angeles to speak for that pastor again a few days later. In the next three months over 500 people were hopefully saved and baptized in that church!

These are eyewitness accounts of what I have seen God do in three revivals – which Dr. Rice called, “a miracle of God.” I know you can’t “work up” a revival by human means. But I also know Dr. Rice was right when he said, “We can have revival now.” We are praying for God to send a revival to this church in our times of fasting and prayer. One of Dr. Rice’s songs says,

Today we reap, or miss our golden harvest!
   Today is given us lost souls to win.
O then to save some dear ones from the burning,
   Today we’ll go to bring some sinner in.
(“So Little Time” by Dr. John R. Rice).

I wish I could take time to talk about Dr. Rice’s belief in the need for the preacher and his people to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I wish I could take time to speak about Dr. Rice’s belief that a Christian should be a fundamentalist but, as he said, “not a nut.” I agree with Dr. Rice that we should not defend the false idea that the King James Bible is itself given by inspiration, and corrects the Hebrew and Greek from which it was translated. I wish I could take time to tell you what Dr. Rice said about making the local church a place of joy and great happiness. I wish I had time to tell you why Dr. Rice said, “I love Christmas.” And I wish I had time to talk about his great book on “The Home, Courtship, Marriage and Children.” I agree with Dr. Rice on those great Bible themes! How I wish that pastors everywhere would go back and read what Dr. Rice wrote on those subjects. But I will end with one final point.

IV. Fourth, I learned a lot from Dr. Rice on the subject of prayer and fasting.

God said through the prophet Isaiah,

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

In his great book, Prayer: Asking and Receiving, Dr. Rice said,

       I know that real fasting and prayer and humiliation of mind as we wait on God will get the blessing God wants to give us! Have you tried fasting and praying and waiting on God until the victory came?...Dear child of God, do you feel led to try it? Then fast and pray until God meets you in blessing (John R. Rice, D.D., Prayer: Asking and Receiving, Sword of the Lord, 1970 edition, pp. 230, 231).

We will be fasting and praying as a church next Saturday. If you have medical problems, please ask your doctor before you fast with us. Those who are very old or sick may wish to join us in a partial fast by drinking only tomato juice, or some other juices or soups, during our fast day next Saturday. Be sure to drink plenty of water all day. And be sure to take special time to pray during the day that God will bring in many new people to our church this Fall. Pray by name, if possible, for new people that have come in the past few weeks, and for others we will bring in next weekend, and in the weeks to come. Pray that they will be stay in our church and be saved. And remember the life verse of Dr. John R. Rice,

“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).

Please stand and sing the last song on your song sheet, “The Price of Revival,” by Dr. John R. Rice.

The price of revival, the cost of soul winning,
   The long hours of praying, the burden, the tears;
The pleading with sinners though lonely, a stranger,
   Is repaid at the reaping up there.
Reaping, heavenly reaping! For souls won down here.

The treasures of earth, oh, how vain and how fleeting;
   They vanish like mist and they wither like leaves;
But souls who are won by our tears and our pleading
   Will remain for our reaping up there.
Reaping, heavenly reaping! For souls won down here.

To come to that reaping with wood, hay and stubble,
   How sad to appear at the Lord’s judgment seat,
With no one we’ve won to trust Jesus our Saviour
   To present at the reaping up there.
Reaping, heavenly reaping! For souls won down here.

Please come up here on the platform, and stand in front of the pulpit, as we sing the last stanza, and Dr. Kreighton Chan will lead us in prayer for our time of fasting and prayer next Saturday, and for the success of our soul winning efforts this Fall.

The wise, they shall shine like the firmament glory
   When payday shall come for the winner of souls!
Then they who’ve saved many by salvation’s story
   Like the stars, blest forever, shall shine.
Reaping, heavenly reaping! For souls won down here.

(Prayer). You may be seated.

If you are here tonight and you are not yet a born again Christian, please listen very carefully. The Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven and was nailed to a cross, where He died to pay for our sins. They put His body in a tomb, sealed it, and set a Roman guard to protect it. But the Lord Jesus Christ rose physically, flesh and bone, on the third day. The risen Christ had fellowship with His followers for forty days. They handled Him, and saw that He was not a spirit. At last Jesus ascended back to Heaven, where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father. When you turn from your sinful life-style and trust Jesus, His precious Blood will cleanse you from all sin, and He will give you eternal life. We are praying that you will come to Jesus and trust Him, and be saved very soon. And whatever you do, be sure to come back here to church next Sunday! God bless you! Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Psalm 126:1-6.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Price of Revival” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

THINGS I LEARNED FROM DR. JOHN R. RICE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).

I.   First, I learned a lot about preaching from Dr. Rice, Isaiah 58:1.

II.  Second, I learned a lot about defending the faith from Dr. Rice,
Jude 3.

III. Third, I learned a lot from Dr. Rice on the subject of revival,
Psalm 85:6.

IV. Fourth, I learned a lot from Dr. Rice on the subject of prayer
and fasting, Isaiah 58:6.