Monday, January 11, 2021

Evangelist John R. Rice Explains Acts 13:39

Acts 13:37-39, But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, particularly the phrase “by him all that believe are justified from all things.” Dear friend, the moment you got saved you were JUSTIFIED FROM ALL THINGS forever! I am so sick of the Lordship Salvation garbage being taught in many churches today! The Bible says the believer us JUSTIFIED FROM ALL THINGS! That means if you choose to live a lifestyle of sin, as a Christian, you are still justified by faith. That means if you commit murder, , as a Christian, you are still justified by faith. That means if you commit adultery, as a Christian, you are still justified by faith. That means if you stop going to church anymore, as a Christian, you are still justified by faith. The Christian believer is already and forever justified from “all” things!

I have some wonderful Bible commentaries by Evangelist John R. Rice (1895-1980). John Rice was Pastor Jack Hyles' (1926-2001) lifelong personal friend, peer and mentor. Dr. Rice was 31 years older than Jack Hyles. Together they shared over 2,000 scheduled preaching engagements across America spanning a time period of 20 years. Dr. Rice went to Heaven in 1980 on December 29th at age 85. Dr. Rice founded the Sword Of The Lord ministry in 1934. During the 46 years Dr. Rice was the editor of the Sword, he received (that are known of) 22,923 letters, which his fans and critics alike wrote to him. 

Although I humbly do not consider myself worthy to even compare myself to such a great man of God as John Rice, I humbly see how God is using my online ministry in much the same manner. Last year I responded to 7,000 emails from web visitors. Since human nature never changes, I have no doubt that I receive many of the same questions as did Dr. Rice, many of which I publish as articles for the edification of everyone. To God be the glory!

Having said that as way of introduction, without further ado, here is Dr. Rice's commentary for Acts 13:39 from his book titled: “Acts—Filled With The Spirit,” pages 302-304:

Note that phrase in Galatians 3:11“That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God . . . . ” Good works make a man appear just to men. They do not make him appear just to God. Salvation depends on what Christ has done for us and our faith in Him, and so being justified in the sight of God.

Being justified in the sight of man is another matter. Discussed in James 2:17-26, there verses 17 and 18 say, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” To show others that I am a Christian takes work as well as grace. So one can be justified in the sight of men only as he lives outwardly, something that shows what has happened inwardly.

Of course, the implication properly is that salvation makes a change in the heart which ought to be manifest openly. And all that is called faith is not genuine saving faith, for in the same passage James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” So a faith which simply means an acceptance of certain Bible truth mentally is not the same as true trust. Any faith which does not bring some change in the heart and motives is, of course, not honest dependence on Jesus Christ.

However, in James remember the emphasis is on “I will shew thee my faith by my works” (vs. 18), that is, to be justified in the sight of men. And Jesus commanded, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). In that sense, good works justify one before men. However, we must remember “that no man is justified by the law IN THE SIGHT OF GOD, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Gal. 3:11). James 2:17-26 does not contradict Galatians 3:11 and Romans 3:20.

We should remember that “if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (Rom. 4:2). Anybody who is saved by his good works may praise himself. He need not praise Christ or God. Don't bring God into it, nor Christ, nor Calvary, nor the blood, nor faith, if you are saving yourself by your good works! If you do the saving, then you get the glory. If Jesus Christ does the saving, He gets the glory. There is no way to reconcile being justified before God by your good deeds, on the one hand, with being justified by faith, on the other hand, so that one has to his credit the imputed righteousness of Christ and so that God does not charge up his sins to him.

An Instant, Once-for-All Salvation by Faith

Here in Acts 13:38 and 39 Paul is giving the same teaching of salvation by faith in Christ as is given in John 1:12; John 3:15, 16, 18, 36; John 5:24; John 6:40, 47; and Acts 16:31. In those Scriptures, when one believes, he is promised that he is born of God, has everlasting life, is not condemned, does not come to judgment. And all that means the same as forgiveness and justification promised here.

Note also that here the salvation promised is instant, once-for-all salvation. “All that believe ARE justified . . . .” The promise is not that one will bit by bit be justified as he daily believes and daily gets more nearly justified. No! Those who believe “ARE” already justified! So one who trusts in Christ “hath everlasting life” (John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:47). And one who is condemned is condemned “because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Faith here is an act of instant committal. So Paul was inspired to write “ . . . For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (II Tim. 1:12). Paul had already believed and that simply means that he had already committed himself and his salvation to Christ! So a one-time committal, and act of the will which trusts Christ once for all for salvation, brings forgiveness and justification from all things! So then the Christian may boldly say and happily claim, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

SOURCE: Evangelist John R. Rice, “Acts: Filled With The Spirit,” pp. 302-304; Sword Of The Lord, Murfreesboro, Tennessee; ©1963

That is beautiful and helpful. There has always been only one way of salvation, through faith in Christ. The new birth in Jesus Christ is instant, irrevocable and permanent. However, I strongly disagree with Dr. Rice on something he said. Let me repeat part of the preceding quote:

So one can be justified in the sight of men only as he lives outwardly, something that shows what has happened inwardly.

Of course, the implication properly is that salvation makes a change in the heart which ought to be manifest openly. And all that is called faith is not genuine saving faith, for in the same passage James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” So a faith which simply means an acceptance of certain Bible truth mentally is not the same as true trust. Any faith which does not bring some change in the heart and motives is, of course, not honest dependence on Jesus Christ.” [emphasis added]

SOURCE: Evangelist John R. Rice, “Acts: Filled With The Spirit,” p. 302; Sword Of The Lord, Murfreesboro, Tennessee; ©1963
Years ago I fell into this same theological misunderstanding, which is typical in Baptist churches today. Dr. Rice says that “salvation makes a change in the heart which ought to be manifest openly. Respectfully said, that is heresy! I used to errantly preach it myself, but I was wrong and stopped teaching it. In fact, God saves a man, and then the Holy Spirit changes him, by sanctifying him with the inspired Word of God. John 17:17, Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.Salvation itself does not change a person one bit. Pastor Jack Hyles preached an entire sermon on this topic titled, what else: Your Salvation Did Not Change You A Bit” (awesome MP3). 

Galatians 5:22-25 teaches that a believer who lives in the Spirit (i.e., we are saved), should also walk in the Spirit (i.e., yield in obedience to the Spirit's leading to the Word of God). A changed life is the “FRUIT of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and not of salvation itself. So it is definitely possible for a person to be saved, but not choose to walk in the Spirit; and therefore, we won't see any changes in that saved person's life. It is a dangerous false teaching for any preacher to say that a saved person's life will show changes openly. Many preachers struggle to understand what I just taught you. I thank God for teaching me, after all these years.

One good thing about having an active website ministry is that people continually analyze everything I publish on the internet. My web visitors keep me on my toes doctrinally, which has helped hone my theology since 2002. That is why I re-edited my book on “Salvation” in 2018, making it better. I am always learning new things too! Proverbs 24:12 and Matthew 12:36 warn that I must someday give account to God for every word I speak (and don't speak), so it is important to me that I am always correcting any flaws, errors or mistakes. To God be the glory, great things He is doing!

Do you want to know something weird? Preachers everywhere today are continually quoting Pastor Charles Spurgeon, in an ongoing battle over the meaning of repentance. They attempt to use Spurgeon as a secondary authority to prove their heresy of Lordship Salvation. But I laughed this week when I realized that Spurgeon was only 20 years old in 1855, the very year that he made a lot of those stupid statements. Corrupt preachers today are quoting a theologically ignorant young whipper-snapper from 165 years ago! Spurgeon knew enough at age 20 to be dangerous in the pulpit!!! Every preacher gets wiser as he grows older.

I love and respect Dr. John R. Rice. Brother Rice would have been the first to admit that he didn't always get it right. I wrote this helpful intriguing blog article, in which I quote Dr. Jack Hyles admitting that he was wrong on the Bible in his early ministry. That encourages me, to know that we can make mistakes as preachers and Christians, and learn from them. That is really big of Pastor Hyles to honestly admit that he was deceived by Bible college professors. I love Pastor Jack Hyles and Dr. John R. Rice, and I thank God for both of them!!!



Pastor Jack Hyles (top) and Dr. John R. Rice (top and bottom)

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