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George Bryson Calvary Dove

Livingwaterfreegift

 

 

 

 

I will tell you up front. This website is not associated with Ray Comfort or his ministry called Living Waters. It is not here to promote Hell’s Best Kept Secret or to argue that the principle Ray believes he rediscovered is The Way of the Master. It is not here to promote the ideas that:

 

(1)   Law plus Grace equals the Gospel.

or:

(2)   Law must be preached before Grace for a Gospel presentation to be biblical.

 

Instead, ‘Livingwatersfreegift.com’ is a response to the challenge that Calvary Chapel pastors and church leaders are presented with on the ‘calvarychapelfreegift.com’ website. Since Ray chose to openly target the pastors and people of Calvary Chapel (see calvarychapelfreegift.com) with his message of ‘Law plus Grace equals the Gospel’ I decided to respond on a website that is no more related to his ministry than his ministry is to Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa or the Calvary Chapel movement as a whole. I do not see Ray’s message and ministry as an attack on Calvary Chapel or negatively personal in anyway. I am also sure he is sincere and believes what he is saying. I believe he thinks that Calvary Chapel pastors should accept his message and method as the only biblically acceptable way to win the lost because he believes his message and method (Hell’s Best Kept Secret and The Way of the Master) is the only way to win the lost and is motivated accordingly.

 

On the other hand, I am just as convinced that he is wrong. I believe it would be a big mistake both scripturally and practically for Calvary Chapel pastors to go the way Ray is asking us to go. As a member of the Calvary Chapel family for more than 40 years, all I am doing here is responding to his challenge. I am not angry or bitter with Ray. I have no doubt that he is doing what he believes God would have him do and obviously does not consider it inappropriate to use the Calvary Chapel name to reach out to Calvary Chapel pastors in the way he does. Nevertheless, by doing so, I feel that Ray has given me implicit permission to respond on a website called Livingwatersfreegift.com. I realize that some may see my response as a counterattack, but that would be to misread Ray’s motives and my purpose in responing this way.

Picture used by Ray to suggest an endorsment for "Hells Best Kept Secret."

From left to right: Don Stewart, Ray Comfort, Pastor Chuck Smith, Pastor Brian Brodersen.

From left to right: Don Stewart, Ray Comfort,
Pastor Chuck Smith, Pastor Brian Brodersen

Picture used by Ray to encourage Calvary Chapel pastors to invite him to speak at their churches.

Ray Comfort speaks at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

Ray was the hour-long guest on Pastor Chuck's "Pastor's Perspective" on October 9th, 2008, two days before he was a platform speaker at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa at the "Awakening" Conference, where more than 1,500 attended. If you would like Ray to speak at your church, please contact...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those pastors who know me well, also know that Ray’s efforts to reach out to Calvary Chapel pastors, has concerned me for a very long time. I felt compelled to respond, however, when a picture with Chuck Smith, Brian Brodersen and Don Stewart appeared on Calvarychapelfreegift.com. For me, the use of this picture on a Living Waters publication website was disturbing because it seemed obvious that Ray was using it to at least suggest that these men agreed with or endorsed the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret.  Following is an e-mail that went out to a small number of Calvary Chapel pastors. It expresses some of my concerns and was initially intended to remain in-house. Obviously, we are past that now.

 


Dear Calvary Pastor

 

As you may know, there is a Living Water ministries website dedicated to reaching out to or winning over pastors in the Calvary Chapel family of churches. Although it is a Ray Comfort/Hell’s Best Kept Secret/Way of the Master/Living Water site, it is called calvarychapelfreegift.com. It comes with a picture (seen above)of Ray Comfort with Chuck Smith, Brian Brodersen, and Don Stewart adjacent to the words:

 

Commendations from Calvary Chapel Pastors, and leaders closely associated with Calvary.

Although nothing was said by Chuck, Brian, or Don on this site (commendations or otherwise) the picture was clearly intended to give the impression that these men agreed with and endorsed the message and ministry of Ray, The Way of the Master or Hell’s Best Kept Secret. I wish to give the benefit of doubt to whoever placed these words next to this picture and concede that he/they may have believed that Chuck, Brian and Don do endorse the message and method of Ray.

Regardless, to ensure that this is the message a Calvary pastor would get from this website, another picture was included showing Ray speaking from the pulpit of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, which some erroneously suggest is an implicit endorsement by Pastor Chuck Smith. On this site (produced and maintained by Living Waters publications), Ray says:

 

If you are a Calvary Chapel pastor or a church leader, we would love to send you my book called, The Way of the Master (published by Tyndale House Publishers) and two CD’s.

Ray or one of his associates asks:

 

Why then would some Calvary Chapels resist this teaching?

The answer:


The enemy hates what Ray teaches, because of what it can do.

If you do not agree with Ray’s Law Plus Grace “Gospel”, does that mean you are in league or agreement with the enemy on this matter? In an interview with a Calvary pastor already won over to The Way of the Master, Ray is asked:

 

Are you saying that your way is the only way to present the gospel?

Ray answers:

 

Actually, it’s not ‘my way.’ The question should rather be, ‘Is this the biblical way to present the gospel?’

So how does Ray answer the question ‘Is this the biblical way to present the gospel?’ Ray clearly, emphatically, and repeatedly insists that “the principle” or “method” proposed and promoted as The Way of the Master or Hell’s Best Kept Secret represents not only a biblical way, but the only biblical way to present the gospel. To be sure that Calvary pastors do not miss this point he includes the following testimonials:

 

This is the hottest message on the planet! (Tom Grinner, Gateway Broadcasting)

It will revolutionize the Church. (Pastor Reb Bradley, CA)

The best thing I have ever heard! (Pastor Wayne Welborn, MO)

I began to weep as I saw the importance of this message. (Pastor Ken Armstrong, CA)

I am a 52 year old pastor. I have had my own TV program, but when I heard this teaching, I felt as though I knew nothing. It shocked me! (A pastor from Oklahoma).

In one letter to Ray, a pastor wrote:

Hell's Best Kept Secret has completely destroyed my theology. What was first anger toward you, caused me to search the scripture, and has now turned to a sincere thank-you." (Pastor Jerod McPherson)

Someone else wrote:

Today I listened to “Hell's Best Kept Secret” for the first time. It changed the way I look at everything. I was blind to it until today. (Scott Wilson, KY)

Another pastor wrote:

I listened to “Hell's Best Kept Secret” 250 times! (Pastor Chris Stockwell)

Compared to other books:

The Way of the Master will rank in the top most important books ever written on evangelism. It ranks with and in my opinion is better than Spurgeon's Soul Winner which I must say has been one of my all time favorites (Ron Begin (FL).

I am at a loss for words. Overwhelming, distressing, and enlightening. I feel as if I have just taken a drink of water from a fire hydrant!--Jason Stewart (CA)

I have over one thousand books on evangelism, soul-winning, and revival in my personal library, and none of them are worthy to be compared to this book. --Pastor R. W. Jones (TX)

The “gift” from Ray also comes with a warning from Ray:

 

When Christians discover this teaching they become passionate about it. But when church leaders resist it, there is division.

Unfortunately, this warning has proved to be prophetic for some Calvary Chapel churches that do not accept or who presently “resist” the message and ministry of Ray Comfort. One does not need to be a prophet to predict that we are likely to see a lot more division in our midst if the message of Ray Comfort continues to be promoted as the only biblical way to present the Gospel to Calvary Chapel pastors and churches?

This is not about using the law biblically. This is about insisting that (1) law plus grace equals the gospel (2) Jesus and His apostles always preached the law when evangelizing the lost (3) and that Calvary Chapel pastors should repent from not believing in the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret and join with Ray in promoting and using what he calls the Way of the Master as the only biblically acceptable way to evangelize the lost.

The above mentioned errors are serious and carry with them the potential to do a great deal of damage and cause a great deal of division among us. Although the challenge this matter represents to the pastors and people of the Calvary Chapel movement is now public, I was hoping to keep my response as in-house as possible. I have no interest in going after Ray or His message and ministry in a public way. But if we do not respond to this challenge and soon, our house (i.e., the Calvary Chapel family of churches) does risks becoming divided on this issue even more than what is already the case. I do not believe it is too late to minimize the damage and division. Nevertheless, I believe that for some Calvary Chapel churches it will soon be too late to prevent the damage and division that will surely follow if we allow Ray to go unanswered. For a clarification of my concerns or for a biblically-based rebuttal of the message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret, you may write me at georgebryson@cccpm.org.
In Christ, George

Rather than continuing to send out out a biblically based rebuttal (which comes in both a shorter and longer version) I have decided to post the shorter version on this site. If more information is needed, I will add the longer version at a later date.


 


THE

WAY

OF

THE

MASTER

 

 

A

NEW

AND

IMPROVED

CALVARY CHAPEL

OR

A TROJAN HORSE?

 

Sometime in the early years of my ministry to and in Russia (i.e., the early 90’s) I came across a book at the Calvary Chapel ministry base in Moscow. It was titled Hell’s Best Kept Secret. To the best of my recollection I had never heard of this book or its author before that time. Although I have since heard a lot about its author (mostly good) from mutual friends, I have never personally met him (at least not to my knowledge). He did send me a friendly note once with a copy of one of his recent books. While I do not know who brought the book to Russia to use in our mission, I do know that the missionaries were divided as to its scriptural and practical value.

 

1. Some claimed that it was the only biblical way to witness for Christ.

 

2. Others said that while it was a good way to evangelize, perhaps even the best way to evangelize, it should not be viewed as the only biblical or legitimate way of evangelism.

 

3. Still others thought it was just one of many options for witnessing and should not be promoted above other means or methods for the Soul-winner. For them it was merely a matter of preference.

 

4. There were even some who thought it was an unbiblical and legalistic approach to reaching the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and should be avoided altogether.

 

Of those who had actually read the book, everyone seemed to have a fairly strong opinion. So I decided I should read the book for myself to see what all the fuss was about. It did not take me long to read because it is fairly brief. Its main message was hard to miss. The primary point was just about the only point made in the book. It was also fairly easy to draw conclusions about the book and its message because it left you with an either/or decision. In fact, the claims made in the book backs the reader (I think intentionally) into a logical and theological corner, effectively asking the reader to reject or accept the main message of the book based on Ray's interpretation of certain scriptures as well as the arguments put forward in the book.

 

I am convinced that it would be fairly difficult to remain neutral about the main message promoted as Hell’s Best Kept Secret for anyone who actually takes the time to read it. In my conversations with a lot of folks, some who held positive impressions and some who held negative impressions of what they believe the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret is, I have discovered that many have not actually taken the time to read the book. My guess is that this includes some whose names are used to give the impression that they are endorsing or in agreement with the main message of the book.

 

The author of Hell’s Best Kept Secret (Ray Comfort) identified himself with Calvary Chapel, as an assistant pastor in a Southern California Calvary Chapel. In light of Scripture, however, it seemed to me that the book would never gain much of a following within the Calvary movement because it seemed (to me) so obviously contrary to and radically different from the views of Calvary Chapel in general and of Pastor Chuck Smith in particular. Because I concluded that Ray was teaching (1) the Law must be preached before grace to be biblical (2) and Law plus grace equals the gospel to be unbiblical and could easily lead to considerable (and unnecessary) controversy and division inside and between Calvary Chapel churches, I pulled the book from our library shelf.

 

I then told the short and long-term missionaries working with me in Russia at that time that I would not object to them preaching law before grace, on the condition that they would not insist that anyone else on our ministry team accept the message and use the method promoted in the book. That is, I did not say they could not use the Law while evangelizing but I told them that they could not insist that anyone else on our ministry team do so. I had two primary concerns. (1) One is that Hell’s Best Kept Secret included the law as part and parcel to the Gospel. (2) Two, the author insisted that the book’s approach to evangelism (i.e., law before grace) was the only biblically acceptable approach for Evangelism.

 

I told the team that I had no interest in getting sidetracked with this matter but I needed them to agree not to teach that the law was part and parcel to the Gospel or that using the law in an evangelistic message was the only biblical way to reach the lost with a saving message about Jesus Christ. To this day these are my only two major concerns about Hell’s Best Kept Secret

 

From time to time the book would come up in a discussion, and it almost always resulted in rather intense (if not heated) conversation. I must admit that I have always been very negative in my assessment and expressed opinion concerning Hell’s Best Kept Secret since the time I first read it. It would be safe to say that I am probably even less unbiased today, believing as I do that my bias against the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret is better informed. I am also convinced that most Calvary Chapel pastors will find Hell’s Best Kept Secret unacceptable and unscriptural for the two reasons already mentioned.

 

I suspect that most Calvary calvary pastors would not have a problem, if in the context of an eavangelistic encounter, the evangelist used the Law to point out that a sinner was a sinner according to God and His moral law. On the other hand, I also suspect that they would be troubled if they heard that members of their church ministry team were insisting that (1) the law was part and parcel to the Gospel or that (2) using the Law to preach the Gospel was the only biblical way to evangelize.

 

I concede, however, that the message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret seems to have gained considerable ground over the last few years among many respected mainstream Evangelicals, including a few notable Calvary Chapel pastors. This fact cannot and should not be denied or ignored. It has certainly not been lost on me. In fact, some of the Calvary pastors who at least seem to agree with the teaching of Hell’s Best Kept Secret include some very godly men that I have a great deal of respect for. I would be hard pressed to find much to disagree with them about. This is one reason that I write this article with some trepidation. The Lord knows I do not wish to deliberately or unnecessarily offend anyone, especially those I respect and consider friends.

 

So, believing as I do what can I say to those who would appear to have already endorsed the message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret? How can I even explain the fact that well respected and scripturally knowledgeable Calvary Chapel pastors and other Evangelicals I admire seem to be openly endorsing the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret? At least in some cases I believe they are getting from Hell’s Best Kept Secret something different than what is actually proposed and promoted in the book. Thus, at least some of them are not really endorsing the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret after all.

 

One of my goals in writing this rebuttal is to identify and look closely (in the light of Scripture) at the main message and methodology promoted in this book. Only time will tell if I have succeeded. The Lord is my witness - I will be saddened if I fail. I am, however, very convinced that a closer look at what is taught in Hell’s Best Kept Secret will reveal to many pastors, even those that presently seem OK with this teaching, just how incompatible the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret is with the doctrinal and theological position of Calvary Chapel pastors and many other Evangelicals - and most importantly with Scripture. I can only ask of the Calvary Pastor that he have an open mind with an open Bible as he now reads what I have written about the main message and methodology of Hell’s Best Kept Secret.

 

A LITTLE HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

 

Ray Comfort, author of Hell’s Best Secret, is a self-described itinerant preacher and the founder and director of Living Water Ministries. He is probably best known for an approach to evangelism called The Way of the Master, which is what Hell’s Best Kept Secret is all about. Recently, Ray joined forces with Kirk Cameron. Cameron is a very likable Christian actor, probably best known for his days on the 80’s hit sitcom, Growing Pains.

 

THE FORGOTTEN BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE

 

At the heart of Living Water Ministries (which includes the message of The Way of the Master, Hell’s Best Kept Secret, The School of Biblical Evangelism as well as the overall ministry and message of both Ray and Kirk) is something they refer to as a “forgotten” biblical principle of evangelism and Gospel preaching. The ministry emphasis of Ray and Kirk is on helping and encouraging Christians rediscover, understand, and use this forgotten biblical principle of evangelism in evangelism,

 

In brief, Ray believes that he has rediscovered the original and only method used by Jesus to win the lost to a saving faith. It seems that Ray’s mission in life is to make sure that as many Christians as possible discover and adopt what he believes is The Way of the Master as their only way of evangelizing the lost. According to Ray, although this “biblical principle” was supposedly lost (to the church) for many years, believing it represents orthodoxy (i.e, believing the truth) and using it represents orthopraxy (i.e., living in accordance with the truth) in relation to a proclamation of the true Gospel.

 

Again, according to Ray, this forgotten biblical principle is not just one of many valid ways to reach the lost. Nor is merely the best way to reach the lost to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. According to Ray, it is the only biblical way to do so. And for all practical purposes, it is impossible to distinguish the method from the message involved in this principle. Thus, for the most part, we will discuss them as one. Ray explains how he found this mostly ‘lost’, ‘forgotten’, and even ‘rejected’ principle of evangelism as follows:

 

I began to study the book of Romans intently, and specifically, the gospel proclamation of men like Spurgeon, Wesely, Moody, Finney, Whitfield, Luther, and others that God used down through the ages, and I found they used a principle which is almost entirely neglected by modern Evangelical methods.

Ray says that after this study:

I began teaching that principle…

Ray also says:

I was eventually invited to base our ministry in Southern, California… specifically to bring this teaching to the church of the U.S. Things were quiet for the first three years, until I received a call from Bill Gothard, who had seen the teaching on video. He flew me to San Jose in Northern California; I shared it with a thousand pastors. Then in 1992 he screened that video to 30,000 pastors.

Ray then says that:

The same year David Wilkerson called from New York. (He had been listening to the teaching in his car and called me on his car phone). Immediately, he flew me 3,000 miles from L.A. to New York to share the one-hour teaching with his church; he considered it that important.

For me, it is obvious that Ray really believes he has discovered (or rediscovered) something very significant in the grand scheme of things, evangelistically speaking. If Ray is right, this something means the difference between heaven and hell for many (if not most) people. According to Ray, it is that important. Ray comes across not only as very serious but as very sincere. I have no desire or reason to question his motivation or challenge his sincerity and in writing this critique I am not suggesting Ray is a wolf or a heritic although I do believe that he is in error with regard to his main message. It seems to me that both Ray and Kirk mean well, believe what they are saying, and truly desire to honor the Lord in their ministry and message.

Because of the nature and significance of the claims made by Ray about what he believes is the only biblical way to evangelize the lost, even stating that this is the only method used by Jesus Christ in witnessing, it seems prudent to probe a little deeper into the claims made by Ray. When you read Ray’s books and listen to his tapes you discover that he invites, welcomes, and even encourages a “Berean-like probe” of his claims. From what I can tell, he would be the last one to expect a Christian to accept what he is saying as true without being convinced that it is in accordance with the teaching of Scripture.

According to what Ray says, the position he takes on the principle he has “rediscovered” is radically different from what many other devout students of Scripture believe. It also represents a radical departure from what most Calvary Chapel pastors presently believe, as well as what Pastor Chuck Smith has historically taught.

In effect, Ray is asking us, Calvary Chapel pastors, to change our minds about something very important to us. If Hell’s Best Kept Secret is right, we should change our minds and what we are teaching. If it is wrong we should reject his teaching on this particular matter. The only way to scripturally test the truthfulness of his claims, is to subject what he is saying to the light of God’s holy and infallible Word. That is what I intend to do. From what I know about Ray, he would agree. In fact, Ray says:

Be as the Bereans and search the Scriptures to see if these things [I am teaching] are so. If they are not, forget what I'm saying.

It should also be noted that Ray’s general statement of faith is historically orthodox and in agreement with mainstream Evangelicalism. In short, it is biblically sound. However, when it comes to the specifics of his main message and methodology it is a different matter altogether. Ray’s passion and zeal to reach a lost and dying world with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is both commendable and infectious. I also share some of Ray’s concerns about the temptation to water down or “dumb-down” the Gospel message in order to supposedly make it more “relevant”, “appealing”, “compatible” or “palatable” to the modern mind. What I object to and challenge is the notion that the The Way of the Master is or was the way the Master (Jesus Christ) evangelized. I do not think it is the best way, the only way or even a biblically-mandated way to reach the lost. If someone chooses to use the Law in his preaching to the lost, I do not object. I only object if they say this is the only way it can be done biblically.

A TIME OF FRUSTRATION

 

In the Introduction to his book, The Way of the Master Ray reveals to the reader that prior to his discovery of Hell’s Best Kept Secret, he experienced a lot of frustration in his life and ministry. That is, of course, not unusual. Specifically, Rays says he was frustrated about the high percentage of backsliders from both his evangelistic efforts as well as those of the modern evangelical world. Hell’s Best Kept Secret claims to identify the problem as to why evangelistic campains (especially the big ones) so often fail. It also claims to have the solution to the problem. Ray says that:

 

In 1980, I had been preaching open air each week day for about six years. This was in Christchurch—a city of 350,000, way down-under in New Zealand. When the crowds would mock the things of God, I would encourage myself by saying, ‘I have the privilege of preaching the everlasting gospel, in the last days, in the uttermost parts of the earth, in the city that bears the name of the Lord.’ However, I was at the same time becoming very frustrated by a massive fall away rate that I found existed among new converts. I had an itinerant ministry, and heard pastors say things like, ‘We had a series of meetings last month. There were 0 converts and I can’t find even one in my church.’ My frustration was added to because the Church in general didn’t even seem interested in reaching the lost. It had as much attraction to the word ‘evangelism’ as the world has to the word “righteousness”

 

A TIME OF EXPECTATION

 

With this frustration as the backdrop, Ray goes on to explain what can best be described as a time of expectation. Ray says that:

 

In 1981, a visiting preacher came to my home church (at which I was the assistant pastor), and when he was speaking, he had me come forward so that he could pray for me. As he began to pray, he suddenly stopped and became very joyful. He then said, “I see a huge multitude of people—a massive army of young people preaching the gospel … and you are leading them.” I was a little embarrassed, but at the same time I was excited by such a thought.

 

A TIME OF ILLUMINATION

 

As frustration was followed by expectation, so expectation was followed by illumination. According to Ray:

 

A year or so later, in August of 1982, I discovered the principle expounded in this book (i.e., The Way of the Master). This eventually became known as a teaching called, ‘Hell’s Best Kept Secret.’ On the 24th of March, 1984, as I waited to take off in an airplane, I noticed that someone had left a small scrap of paper sitting precariously at the top of the seat pocket. They had obviously removed a newspaper from the pocket, and the small portion had ripped off and remained there. As I leaned forward and took hold of the two-inch-square piece of paper, I mumbled in semi-jest, “Could be a word from the Lord.” I turned it over and my eyes widened as I read, ‘I’ve yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them (John 16:12, KJV).” I remember being mystified by the words ‘ye cannot bear them’ (also around that time, a Bible verse leapt off the page at me. It was from John 13:7, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter”.

 

A TIME OF PREPARATION

 

We will consider the specifics of what Ray was enlightened about a little later. For now it is enough to point out that a full realization or illumination (or the discovery of Hell’s Best Kept Secret) came slowly to him over a period of time. It was during this time that he says he was also being prepared to share what he had discovered. After his illumination, and still years before he experienced much success in his ministry (and with his new and greatly improved message) Ray was visited by a long and very dark period that he now sees as key to his preparation for what God had in store for him. He explains:

 

On the 22nd of June, 1985, I entered into the deepest, darkest, most frightening experience of my life as I began to suffer ongoing episodes of irrational fear. These agoraphobic attacks left me so broken that for more than a year, I couldn’t even muster enough courage to eat a meal with my family. It took five long years to recover from these experiences. It was A. W. Tozer who said, ‘Before God uses a man, God will break the man.’ I was certainly broken. Through that experience, I learned the meaning of those words from John 16:12. To bear means ‘to endure,’ ‘to bring forth,’ and ‘to disseminate.’ That terrible time left me with a broken spirit, yet it brought me to a point where I could endure the attacks and bring forth (and disseminate) the many things I had learned. This book [i.e., The Way of the Master] is about those ‘many things”.

 

It must be stressed that the principle that Ray discovered and began teaching in 1981, was not merely offered as an improvement of methods being used at the time. That alone might not justify a close examination of the message and ministry of Ray. Again, Ray is not merely suggesting a new way to improve an old message. Rather, he is proposing and promoting an entirely different method and a new message. The dramatic or drastic difference to be found in the method and message that Ray is proposing and promoting in Hell’s Best Kept Secret is evident in the reaction many have reported after embracing it. Concerning Ray’s teaching related to Hell’s Best Kept Secret, on his Web-Site we read that:

 

This is the hottest message on the planet! (Tom Grinner, Gateway Broadcasting)

It will revolutionize the Church. (Pastor Reb Bradley, CA)

The best thing I have ever heard! (Pastor Wayne Welborn, MO)

I began to weep as I saw the importance of this message. (Pastor Ken Armstrong, CA)

I am a 52 year old pastor. I have had my own TV program, but when I heard this teaching, I felt as though I knew nothing. It shocked me! (A pastor from Oklahoma).

In one letter to Ray, a pastor wrote:

Hell's Best Kept Secret has completely destroyed my theology. What was first anger toward you, caused me to search the scripture, and has now turned to a sincere thank-you." (Pastor Jerod McPherson)

Someone else wrote:

Today I listened to “Hell's Best Kept Secret” for the first time. It changed the way I look at everything. I was blind to it until today. (Scott Wilson, KY)

Another pastor wrote:

I listened to “Hell's Best Kept Secret” 250 times! (Pastor Chris Stockwell)

In reference to his book titled The Way of the Master, and on a “Calvary Chapel” web site promoting the message and ministry of Ray, we find the following endorsements:

The Way of the Master will rank in the top most important books ever written on evangelism. It ranks with and in my opinion is better than Spurgeon's Soul Winner which I must say has been one of my all time favorites (Ron Begin (FL).

I am at a loss for words. Overwhelming, distressing, and enlightening. I feel as if I have just taken a drink of water from a fire hydrant!--Jason Stewart (CA)

I have over one thousand books on evangelism, soul-winning, and revival in my personal library, and none of them are worthy to be compared to this book. --Pastor R. W. Jones (TX)

According to Ray himself:

“Hell’s Best Kept Secret” was so radically different from what was being taught within the contemporary Church, I felt that it would put an end to my itinerant ministry. I thought that it would cause me to be seen as a legalist, and that doors would quickly close.

Despite Ray’s concerns about a potentially negative response to the message and ministry of Hell’s Best Kept Secret, he says:

 

…The exact opposite happened. Doors began to open…It is now 2006, and as I look back over the years, I shake my head in disbelief at what has happened in just 17 years. I sometimes imagine if, back in 1981, that minister had said something like:

I not only see a massive army preaching the gospel, but I see that God is going to give your ministry incredible favor with world-renowned and respected men and women of God. He will surround you with gifted and faithful men, and He will bring a famous Hollywood actor to minister alongside you. This man will preach ‘Hell’s Best Kept Secret’ on television, and that will cause your Website to get over a million hits in one day. God will then raise up a television program about this teaching, called, “The Way of the Master,” that will be broadcast in 70 countries and on 20 networks.”

Ray went on to say that:

 

Even though this will be a program about “evangelism,” it will win the People’s Choice Award 2004, 2005, 2006, and NRB 2005, 2006 ‘Best Program Award.’ He will also raise up a radio program of the same name that will be broadcast around the world, and will equip Christians to learn how to biblically reach the lost. He will establish a huge online Bible school with thousands of students from all over the earth hand-cranking out a gospel tract you had written [that] will end up with over 60 million gospel tracts being printed. The principles taught by this ministry will spark a world-wide revival that will bring multitudes to Christ and bring glory to His name. If the minister had said those things, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Although Ray would not have believed it if he had it heard all of these things back in 1981, in 2006, he says that all of this (and more) had come to pass. That is:

 

…All these things have become a reality. Almost daily we see the hand of God opening doors. Recently top representatives from a major U.S. denomination representing more than 42,000 churches visited our ministry and said, “We have the vehicle; you have the goods. What can we do to get this teaching to the Church?” We receive thousands of e-mails from around the world saying that this teaching is setting entire churches on fire. I am humbled that God would take a little nobody from the uttermost parts of the earth and trust him with this incredible, forgotten teaching—a teaching that was once proclaimed by some of our greatest Christian forefathers.

So what is this forgotten biblical teaching or principle of Evangelism, The Way of the Master, or Hell’s Best Kept Secret?  I will introduce it to you by allowing a pastor to tell of his very dramatic-traumatic dream:

 

Dear Brother Ray,

I have been a pastor for 25 years. I always thought I was doing a reasonably good job. Kind of like the folks that tell you they consider themselves "good people." I had tried to preach, what I thought, was the whole counsel of God. I prayed, over the years, with many people to accept Jesus and make Him Lord of their lives. My wife Judy and I moved to Ruidoso, New Mexico about six years ago to plant a church. Shortly after arriving I was convicted that something was horribly wrong with my ministry. I read the scriptures and prayed earnestly that God would show me what was wrong. The feeling continued to grow and I became depressed and moody.

I asked Judy to pray for me and explained my problem. I didn't know if this was the Holy Spirit convicting or Satan attacking. She prayed that God would reveal the cause of my depression and make Himself clear as He revealed any problem with my ministry for Him. That night I had the most terrifying, realistic, blood chilling nightmare any man has ever had. I am a Vietnam veteran and I know a little about nightmares. Nothing in my experience has ever come close, nor do I ever want it to, to the horror of that night!

I dreamed that it was judgment day and I was standing right next to the throne of God. I noticed that to my left and my right were pastors as far as I could see. I thought this was odd that the Lord would reserve this front row space for pastors only. I looked out across a space of only a few yards and there were millions, maybe billions, of people, yet I could see each one of their eyes staring at me. As I studied this group I noticed that I knew many of them from times at the altar or ones who had sat under my teaching.

I was pleased to see that they had made it to heaven, but confused because they didn't look happy. They looked very angry and hateful. Then I heard the voice of the Lord say, "Away, I never knew you." I was suddenly frightened that what I was seeing was those who "thought" that they were saved. Then I saw all of them pointing a finger at each of us pastors and together, in one voice that shook my soul, "WE SAT IN YOUR CHURCH AND THOUGHT WE WERE SAVED. WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US WE WERE LOST?"

Tears were pouring down my face and the faces of all of those pastors. I watched as one by one those people were cast into hell. One and then another, and another, and another…, until they were all gone. I died inside as each one screamed in agony and gnashed their teeth, cursing us as they went into the lake of fire. Then I was looking into the face of Jesus and He said to me, "Is this the part where I'm suppose to say, ' Well done my good and faithful servant?" I woke up with a scream and my heart pounding and I was begging Jesus to forgive me.

I died a million deaths that night. Since that night I have done two things on a daily bases. I do everything I can to preach the law before grace in the hope that conviction of sin will bring a sinner to true salvation. The other thing that I do is pray for every person I have ever preached to asking God to repair any damage I have done. I also never believe anyone when they tell me they are saved. It is my duty to challenge them and search out the solidness of their salvation.

Your ministry and material has been a great blessing to me. I am learning to be more effective and confident as I teach others how to share their faith by using the Law. I have seen several people saved, who thought they were saved, as I have used The Way of The Master material to teach them evangelism.  I do want to hear those words, "Well done my good and faithful servant", and thanks to you and your team I have a better chance of hearing them. Thank you! I just wanted to let you know, some pastors are waking up to the truth. The desire of my heart is to please God. I pray that my days of being a man pleaser are over along with the nightmares. I also pray that God will use me to bring other pastors into the truth of the Gospel message so that they will not have to face the nightmare that I did.

 

Blessings,

Steve Kreins
First Church of God
Waco, Texas[1]

 

To pastor Kreins the truth of the Gospel message says that the Evangelist should:

 

…Preach the law before grace

 

And that we should:

 

…Share…faith by using the Law

 

Is the principle or teaching promoted as The Way of the Master or Hell’s Best Kept Secret, the only way to evangelize effectively or biblically? During an interview with Ray, a Calvary pastor and supporter of Ray asked:

 

Are you saying that your way is this the only way to present the gospel?

 

Ray answered as follows:

 

Actually, it's not “my way.” The question should rather be, “Is this the biblical way to present the gospel?”…Be as the Bereans and search the Scriptures to see if these things are so. If they are not, forget what I'm saying. But if what I'm saying is biblical, it's your call as to what you do with it.[2]

I accept Ray’s invitation and will ask the question; “Is this the biblical way to present the Gospel?” Ray’s response is clearly his way of diplomatically saying that the way he discovered and teaches is the only right and biblical way to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the slogans used on The Way of the Master web site is “Seek and save the lost the way the Master did. The way the Master sought to seek and save the lost, is, according to Ray, spelled out in his book The Way of the Master as the “principle” or teaching proposed and promoted in Hell’s Best Kept Secret, and the corresponding message promoted through his ministry. It is the forgotten secret that he discovered and is now using to win the lost. To miss this, is to miss the central point of Ray’s ministry and message. Ray asks:

 

Why are sinners turned off and tuned out [to modern evangelistic methods]?

He answers:

 

Because we no longer preach the full message of the Gospel. We have omitted the key to genuine repentance-the Law of God.

Ray goes on to explain that:

 

In a manner of speaking, when the sinner sees the awful consequences of breaking the Law of God-that he cannot escape the certainty of judgment-he will see his need to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. When we preach future punishment by the Law, the sinner comes to Christ solely to flee from the ‘wrath to come’.

According to Ray if a sinner does not come to Mt. Calvary by way of Mt. Sinai, the impact of Calvary and its Cross on the sinner is likely (if not certainly) to be inadequate to bring about his salvation. Ray asks:

 

Have you ever wondered why the sinner is not moved by Calvary? His mind wanders and he yawns when you share how the Son of God shed His blood to pay for our sins. “So what?” he thinks. He isn’t moved to tears like the saint who knows the depth of his lawlessness and the tremendous pardon that God has granted him. (Emphasis added)

Ray goes on to say that:

 

…Because the sinner is ignorant of the standard, the certainty, and the severity of God’s Law, the good news of the Father paying the penalty for him, also makes no sense. He has no idea what the Law demands of him-he doesn’t understand the holiness of God. He doesn’t understand the certainty of God’s judgment-eternal damnation. Because of this ignorance, the sinner continues in sin…The good news of the Father’s love in paying his penalty has no real meaning to him. The Scripture truly states, ‘The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthian 1: 18)’.

Ray says:

 

The purpose of the Law is fourfold:

To show the world its guilt before God.

To give us the knowledge of sin.

To show us the depth of our sin.

To be a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.

Putting all of this together, Ray says:

 

We have seen that ignorance of the Law leaves the sinner careless about his soul. The good news of Calvary is foolishness to him. The only way to awaken him is to show him the divine law and all its consequences for the guilty soul. Then and only then will he be brought to a place of despair and cry out for salvation. No wonder preaching of the law is Hell’s Best Kept Secret.

Only the biblically illiterate would deny that the Bible acknowledges an important role for the law in the life of national (O.T.) Israel, and individual Jews from the time of the Decalogue through Pentecost (1Ki 2:3; 2Ki 23:25; Ezra 3:2). It is also obvious that the righteous (moral and ethical) standards of the law are reiterated and binding upon the New Testament believer from Pentecost till the Lord returns. (Ps. 19:7, Mt. 5:17, 18, Rom. 7:12-14). The question (in so far as this discussion is concerned) is not what a believer should do or not do. A Christian is called as a believer to live according to holiness and all that this implies in terms of conduct and character, attitudes as well actions (Rom.  6: 13, 2 Cor. 4: 6, Col. 3: 10, 1 John 4: 7, 1Co 6: 19). Our objective as believers in Christ is to say and do what is pleasing, honoring, and glorifying to our Lord in every circumstance and at all times and in all places.

 

It is also clear that The Law as a moral standard has universal application (and implications) for the non-believer as well. There is a divine law above the law of the nations. This same moral law was codified in at least nine of the Ten Commandments. When and if a law of man contradicts or conflicts with the moral and ethical laws of God, men will be judged by that higher law, regardless of their knowledge (or lack thereof) of the Law of God given to us through Moses and the Prophets. Expressed in the Mosaic Law in general and the Ten commandments in particular, as well as the message given through the Old Testament prophets, The Law was a School Master, historically, to bring the Jewish Nation and the individual Jew to faith in the Messiah. The Law in this sense served the Nation of Israel and the individual Jew with distinction. Is, however, the Law our School Master (Gal. 3:24, 25) in the sense that Rays suggests? Are we under that law until we come to Christ?

 

The question is not; can the law be used in an Evangelistic conversation or proclamation to help the sinner understand his sinfulness? The question is not; are people genuinely saved when the law is used before grace (in the way Ray believes the Bible calls for) to win the lost to faith in Jesus Christ? The question is this; does the principle or teaching (in The Way of the Master or Hell’s Best Kept Secret) reflect the way Jesus-The Master- evangelized the lost? Or stated differently, is the way of the Master the way of the Master in so far as evangelism in concerned? Is what Ray refers to as The Way of the Master, the only, best or even a biblically mandated way to saving faith in the Master?

 

ACCORDING TO RAY

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?

 

The third chapter of Hell’s Best Kept Secret is where Ray first makes his scriptural case.  The first passage he quotes, intending to support his thesis that Jesus always used the law before grace when evangelizing the lost actually helps make the case that Jesus never (as far as we know from Scripture) used the law this way. The first supposed example of Ray’s always law before grace principal is Luke 10:25-29: In Ray’s own words:

 

Jesus did not give [the lawyer] the good news - He pointed to the law.

Ray asks:

Why didn’t Jesus preach the gospel to the lawyer? Scripture reveals the attitude of his heart…Can you see that this man was not ready for the good news? His question was not an enquiry of contrition. He wasn’t repentant; He had no knowledge of sin because he had no understanding of the law.

Does this mean that we should only preach grace to the person who is repentant or contrite? According to Ray, Jesus “pointed to the law” and evidently that had no effect on the lawyer. Is the Evangelist only supposed to preach grace if a person accepts the verdict of the law? If that is so, should we then only be evangelizing the repentant or contrite sinner? According to this view we can only preach the bad news to the unrepentant and uncontrite sinner. But the good news is, according to this view only for the repentant and contrite sinner. From these words, we gather that Ray believes that it is possible to preach the law without the Gospel. The main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret is however, that you cannot preach the Gospel without including the law with grace.

The next passage Ray uses supposedly in support of his thesis is from Acts chapter 2. However, Peter did not preach the law in this instance so it cannot be used to support Ray’s “law first” thesis. Even Ray admits:

If you study that passage, Peter did not preach the law. Why? He didn’t need to. He just preached Christ and Him crucified.

In our first example we have the law without grace. In this second passage, we have Christ and Him Crucified without the law. What happened to the rediscovered principle of law before grace? The third passage that Ray points to as scriptural support for his “discovery” involves Peter’s witness to Cornelius. According to Ray, Cornelius did not need Peter to preach the law to him either. Ray says:

Like the Jews gathered for Pentecost, Cornelius was a devout man. The law of God upon his heart made him conscious of sin; therefore he did not need more Law. He needed grace.

If this is so, when we talk to a person who has the law on his heart and a corresponding consciousness of sin, we do not need to preach the law - only grace. The fourth example Ray gives us concerns Nicodemus. Ray says:

Nicodemus…came with an understanding of the Law; he was guilty before God and he knew it. He came with a humble acknowledgment of the divinity of Christ. Jesus just pointed to the cross. He didn’t need to mention the Law, sin, or judgment-He just gave him the good news.

If this is true, then a proclamation of Grace without preaching the law is enough. After Nicodemus, Ray turns to Nathanael. Ray says:

I believe that Nathanael labored under the burden and weight of sin. That is why he so readily embraced the Savior.

So if you are talking to someone laboring under the burden and weight of sin, you do not need to give them the law when you offer them Christ. After Nathanael, Ray moves on to the Samaritan woman at the well:

The woman at the well needed little convincing of her sin; she knew she had broken the seventh commandment by committing adultery.

If you are talking to someone who knows they are a sinner or are guilty of a particular sin, you do not need to preach the law to them. Ray also says:

The Roman Jailor knew the law of God in His heart. When he cried out to be saved, it was not from the earthquake. He cried in humility to be saved from the wrath against his sin. It was then that the apostle preached Christ to him.

We will revisit the Roman Jailor account a little later. If, however, Ray is right about what happened in the above examples, there is only one person in all of these examples, the lawyer, to whom the law was preached and that was not prior to grace but instead of grace according to Ray. Grace was preached to all of the others without law because they did not need the Law. Not one example is given by Ray of someone to whom the Law and grace or law before grace was preached. Still Ray says that:

…Where the Gospel was preached to the ungodly, it was always preceded by the Law.

Always! Based on these examples, perhaps never would be more accurate? It is statements like this that has led to the main message and method found in the ministry of Living Waters. But can we say that the men and women that Ray says were exempted from needing to hear about the law when evangelized are not ungodly? At a later time, if necessary I will publish a more complete rebuttal and refutation of Hell’s Best Kept Secret? For now, I will make just a few points that I hope will give “some cause to pause” and if need be, to reconsider the main thesis of Hell’s Best Kept Secret.

1.     If the law should always precede grace in preaching, then why does Ray seemingly find it difficult (if not impossible) to give us examples of this principle or at least examples that do not seem to contradict it?

2.     If the method Ray is referring to is so much more effective than what he refers to as the modern Evangelical methods of evangelism, does he have evidence that he has a better success rate than the other methods he is critical of? This is a fair question because of all that he says in criticism of other methods compared to his method.

3.     Does he include the likes of Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Louis Palau, and Greg Laurie as examples of practitioners of the modern methods of evangelism (with their attendant high failure rate) or examples of those who use this mostly forgotten or neglected method of evangelism (with its high success rate)?

4.     If Ray says that these men are successful because they use the forgotten or neglected method, then how can he say it is mostly forgotten or neglected, since they represent the most visible modern attempts at reaching the lost of our generation for Christ?

From what is posted on his websites and published in his articles and books, it is clear that Ray believes that current and common evangelistic programs and practices do not use (or did not do so before Hell’s Best Secret was rediscovered and later published by Ray) the law before grace principle. On the main Living Waters website, Matt Johnson insists that:

The Way of the Master is not an evangelism program, but a Biblical concept, that will not go away. In fact, it’s not new at all, but has been used in the Church for the past 2000 years or so, with the exception of the last century.  

The last century would include Evangelists like Billy Graham, Luis Palau, and Greg Laurie. Ray cannot have it both ways. Again, if Ray is challenging modern evangelistic methods because they represent an unbiblical approach to evangelism (as well as a monumental failure in evangelism) then he is saying (a) these men and their methods are unbiblical and a failure or (b) they do not use modern methods (or they do use the biblical and successful approach found in Hell’s Best Kept Secret). The only other conclusion is that they are successful despite the fact that they are unbiblical. Ray may really like Billy Graham and Greg Laurie (and I think he probably does). But that is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Despite the claim of Ray that the principle of law before grace was until recently lost to a modern generation of Christians, it is a tenant of Reformed theology that has been consistently maintained and even emphasized by many in the Reformed community since the time of John Calvin. I cannot understand why more in the Reformed community who seem to really like the message and ministry of Ray, have not bent over backwards to point this out.

If it was a secret to the rest of us, it was certainly not a secret to Calvinists who have never stopped teaching it. More important than who agrees or who does not agree with the law before grace principle is the question: how biblical is this principle if at all? To discern this we must simply examine what Scripture says about law in relationship to grace. I submit that the book of Romans, Galatians, the four Gospels (especially the Gospel of John) and the book of Acts specifically and clearly challenge the whole concept of Law before Grace and the equation that Law plus Grace equals the Gospel.

Does Mt. Sinai stand between the sinner and Mt. Calvary? Can we lead the lost straight to Mt. Calvary to find the Savior or must we go to Mt. Sinai first? Scripturally speaking does the Gospel give the tablet of stone a place along side the Cross of wood? Practically speaking is it more effective to tell the sinner he is a sinner because he did what the law said he should not do or to show the sinner how truly sinful he is by pointing to Christ on the Cross? It is my view that the law before grace principle misrepresents the purpose of the law, however unintentionally, and greatly underestimates the power in the message of the Cross.

Throughout the messages and writings of Ray he is both explicit and implicit in his teaching that law is not only supposed to be before grace but that grace without the law is not enough to bring a sinner to the Savior. His clear and unequivocal position is that grace alone without the law does not equal the Gospel. I will admit that if preaching grace must be preceded by preaching the law that preaching grace without preaching the law would constitute a failure to preach the Gospel. Ray and others who believe in the law before grace principle should also admit that if Gospel preaching does not require preaching the law first, then his position is a distortion of the Gospel by adding to the Gospel what is not part of it. We can all agree that what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7 is relevant and authoritative to a biblically informed discussion of the Gospel. Paul said to the Corinthians:

I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand, by which you are also saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all, He was seen by me….

Most Evangelicals agree that a reference to our Lord’s burial was for the purpose of authenticating that Jesus really and physically did die when Scripture says He died for our sins. Most Evangelicals also agree that the witnesses are referred to as confirmation that our Lord really and physically did rise and return from the dead when Scripture tells us that He rose again the third day. He did not just die, He died for our sins. He did not just rise from the dead, but He conquered death paving the way for our future and glorious resurrection from the dead. Pastor Chuck Smith says that:

Paul summed up in these verses what the Gospel is. The word Gospel means “good news”, and this was the good news that Paul was preaching. First of all, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” This is what we call the “substitutionary atonement.” He took our sins on Himself and died in our place. This had been prophesied in Isaiah.

Why would Paul make no mention of the law in this reference to the Gospel? Was his omission accidental or deliberate? If it is true that we cannot preach the Gospel without preaching the law, what are we to conclude from what Paul tells us in Romans 1:16-17?

I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also for the Greek. For it is the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith. 

We know from these verses that faith in the Gospel of Christ is essential to salvation. If Ray is right, why is there no mention of the law as playing even a small role in salvation? The law is not mentioned as a pre-grace or pre-faith factor or as definition or description of the Gospel. The way to receive what God has provided on the Cross and offered in the Gospel proclamation is through faith alone in Christ alone. The Apostle asks:

…How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10: 14-17).

Once again we see no reference to law before grace. Why? When writing to the church in Ephesus the apostle Paul said:

…God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2: 4-10).

I submit that the letter Paul wrote to the Romans teaches exactly the opposite of what Ray says he got out of it regarding the relationship of Law to Grace. The foundational and fundamental fact is that salvation is of and from the Lord (and only of and from the Lord) and is expressed by the apostle Paul in the words you have been saved by grace (Eph. 2:5.) Pastor Chuck insists that:

Christians have been saved by grace. The grace of God is the source of salvation; faith is the channel, not the cause. God alone saves. Salvation never originates in the efforts of people; it always arises out of the loving kindness of God. Truly, "salvation is of the LORD" (Jon. 2:9).[3]

Based on this passage most Evangelicals are comfortable in saying that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. While unsaved we are saved without any assistance from works. Once saved by grace we are saved for good works. Just as we do not need to do anything accept believe to receive salvation, so we do not need to know anything except that Christ died for our sins and then rose on the third day. Of course, to believe Christ died for our sins we must believe we are sinners. Instead of saying that the law must be preached before grace can be preached, the apostle John testified that as the Law came to Israel through Moses:

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1: 17).

After our Lords vicarious death on the Cross, victorious resurrection from the dead, and His glorious ascension to heaven, the apostle John looked back on what he personally witnessed and says of Jesus:

 

 …We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14).

With his own salvation in mind, the apostle says:

…The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Tim. 1: 14-17).

To require that an unsaved person understands the purpose of the law is to require something more and something other than what God according to Scripture requires. Jesus said:

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 16: 16-18).

Where is the law to be found in this and similar passages of Scripture? In the book of Acts we read about that man (already mentioned) that we will call the suicidal jailer. He was in fact the jailer on duty and evidently responsible for Paul and Silas in their Philippian incarceration. Luke tells us that:

 

…At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself  (Acts 16: 25-27)

Obviously, the jailor thought he was going to be held accountable for a prison break. For whatever reason or reasons, he must have felt that suicide was preferable to what was awaiting him when he faced his superiors. But at that very moment:

 

…Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved’? (Acts 16: 28-30)

What an opportunity for Paul and Silas to tell this man everything he needed to know about how to get saved! In the minds of some today it must seem like Paul and Silas wasted this opportunity to share with this man a salvation message. Instead of a lecture on the meaning and importance of the law in relationship to grace, the Gospel, or salvation, Paul and Silas simply and clearly said:

 

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16: 31).

Pastor Chuck notes that:

 

The events surrounding the arrest of Paul and Silas, the way they responded to suffering and the mighty acts of God brought the jailer to his knees. He finally knew he needed God's salvation. But how could he be reconciled to God? Paul and Silas's answer was simple - just believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.[4]

Thus, we see that salvation applied and appropriated in this initial sense is as simple as believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing more and nothing less is required for salvation. Ray has, however, unwittingly added to the faith alone in Christ alone requirement for salvation from the penalty of sin. Logically he must deny (at least by implication) that faith in Christ is enough or he must define faith to include this hidden or forgotten principle. Not only does the book of Acts fail to provide examples of the method of Hell’s Best Kept Secret but also the letter to Romans fails to include the message. Moreover, the four Gospels, especially the Gospel of John (that explicitly tells us that it was written for Evangelistic reasons) all contradict what Ray is teaching. 

CALVARY CHAPEL

AS A TARGET

A brief search on the Internet reveals that Ray has targeted the pastors of Calvary Chapel. That is not necessarily a bad thing. If they are right about law before grace as essential to a Gospel presentation then we need to be won over to their view. If they are not right we need to resist this message for the sake of the entire Calvary Chapel movement. If Calvary doctrine is going to conform to the teaching of Hell’s Best Kept Secret we should only move in that direction if we are corrected by Scripture. If we’re going to do such a doctrinal turnabout our eyes should be wide open. Ray warns Calvary Chapel Pastors not to resist his teaching as follows:

When Christians discover this teaching they become passionate about it. But when church leaders resist it, there is division. We don’t want that to happen. Again, this site doesn’t exist to promote the teaching. It exists in the hope that it will stop division.

Unless I am misreading Ray, he is saying that if you accept what he is saying as biblical and true, you will become “passionate about it”. If you “resist it” division will result. He is therefore urging Calvary Chapel pastors to accept his teaching as true and biblical so that they can avoid or stop “division”. But why would resisting his teaching bring about division unless those who believe in it push the issue when it is resisted. My resistance concerning this teaching is not based on a misunderstanding of what Ray is teaching. It is not a knee-jerk reaction to something I do not understand. It is not difficult to understand the message Hell’s Best Kept Secret. It is difficult, and even impossible for me to accept in light of what Scripture says. My resistance to this teaching is a scripturally informed response to what Ray and friends see as the need for a major shift (at least for Calvary) in doctrinal and practical matters.

I actually accept this “major shift” assessment. The only question of real importance: is it a biblically sound shift? Obviously, I do not think so. As I see it, going with Ray would represent a major change for Calvary Chapel. Is it, however, a change for the better? Is it a biblically sound change?

If we go in the direction that Ray desires to lead us we will be going in a very different direction. Let there be no mistake about this. We are as a whole going one way doctrinally and Ray is going another way. He wants us to turn around and go with him.

 

Calvary Chapel is far from theologically and doctrinally perfect, but have we been so wrong on such a foundational and fundamental issue that we need to change our doctrine and practice so radically? On calvarychapelfreegift.com they quote a Calvary Pastor as saying:

 

Why…would some Calvary Chapels resist this teaching?

He answers this question as follows:

The enemy hates what Ray teaches, because of what it can do.

The clear implication is that if you do not accept the message of Ray, it is the enemy that is keeping your from doing so. Should we now abandon what we have believed? Should we abandon what Pastor Chuck Smith has taught us from Scripture? Should we abandon what we believed we saw in Scripture for ourselves before Ray rediscovered the principle found in Hell’s Best Kept Secret? Should we cast off our previous views as nothing less than a serious error in thinking and theology? If so, let us not do so without some serious in depth analysis of Ray’s main message and corresponding methodology. As I see it, Calvary represents a fairly big tent. We can agree to disagree on a lot of minor issues. But as Ray will agree, what he has in mind in Hell’s Best Kept Secret is not a minor issue.

I do not believe that the biblical doctrine of salvation as understood in Calvary Chapel needs to be changed in this way or to this degree. Again, while we are growing as a movement and our understanding of certain specifics will also grow as we grow, are we ready to say that we have been fundamentally and foundationally wrong on such an important matter as the relationship of law to grace? It is, of course theoretically possible that we have been wrong and Ray is right. Changing our minds and theology on such an important matter as Ray suggests we should, would not represent an improvement of Calvary Chapel.  It would involve a repudiation and rejection of Calvary Chapel doctrinally and theologically speaking.  

We cannot go with Ray and stay with Chuck. If we adopt what Ray calls The Way of the Master, we must reject the way of Calvary Chapel. If this were merely a matter of personality or style that would be different. Taking sides would be simply to cause division. But when a line has been drawn such as Ray has drawn, it is a matter of siding with truth versus error. I think Ray has to agree with my assessment. If he is right, Chuck is wrong. Would we like to see a new book for a new Calvary titled Why Law Before Grace or Why Law Plus Grace Changes Everything?

Pastor Chuck makes no claim to infallible teaching. However, to logically and scripturally accept the position of Ray, we must say that he has been fundamentally wrong on a matter which is foundational to the Calvary Chapel movement. If we are going to side with those who say that Chuck is and has always been wrong on this matter, then we should be convinced by nothing less than Holy Scripture. To do otherwise is to fall victim to a theological Trojan horse.

If I have overstated or misstated the case, let Ray (and those in agreement with him) say so. All Ray would have to do is openly and clearly say that preaching the law before grace is not the only biblically acceptable way to present the Gospel and the law is not part and parcel to the Gospel itself. If he did, the whole discussion would be different and controversy would be avoided. However, if he did admit such a thing, then his whole message and method would be lost.

I am ready, if need be, to publish a full-blown response and rebuttal. I find the alternative of letting the Way of the Master become the Calvary way entirely unacceptable.

Most Calvary Chapel Pastors who I have spoken to about this matter, say they do not believe that the book claims to be the only biblical way. Ray could easily settle this matter by stating unequivocally that it is not the only way.  Ray cannot do this (even if he wanted to) without repudiating the main thesis of his whole message and ministry. Ray knows this. Ray has effectively backed himself into a corner while in the process backing the rest of us into a corner. If Ray were to back down on the central point of his teaching, it would mean that he did not discover something that had been lost to the church for many decades. That would be to gut his message and repudiate his ministry.

While Ray might say that he agrees with what Pastor Chuck says about salvation being by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, he cannot say this and be consistent. For Ray and Hell’s Best Kept Secret, the sinner cannot be saved without an acknowledgement of the law and his failure to keep the law as a pre-requisite to salvation and the grace that is needed to bring about the salvation of a lost sinner. If you would like to look into the future and see where Hell’s Best Kept Secret will take those who travel down this road. The message of Paul Washer is the message of Ray Comfort with the gloves off. What we Calvary Chapel pastors do now and how we respond today, will in all likelihood determine what a future generation of Calvary Chapel pastors will sound like. My prayer is that God will give us the wisdom, courage, and grace to respond to this present challenge in a manner that pleases, honors, and glorifies Him.

Finally, although there are no commendations of Ray Comfort, his message or ministry from Chuck Smith, Brian Brodersen, or Don Stewart on the site calvarychapelfreegift.com there are:

“Commendations from Calvary Chapel Pastors, and leaders closely associated with Calvary”. The “Calvary Chapel pastors, and leaders closely associated with Calvary” listed on the calvarychapelfreegift.com website include”

Chuck Missler (closely associated)

Dave Hunt (closely associated)

K. P. Yohannan (closely associated)

Pastor Bob Coy, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale

Pastor Jack Hibbs, Senior Pastor Calvary Chapel Chino Hills

Pastor Brian Bell, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel Murrieta

Danny Lehmann, Calvary Chapel Honolulu

Pastor Mike Sasso, Pastor, Calvary Chapel Downey

Pastor Brian Hughes, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel Auckland, New Zealand

Pastor John Atkinson, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel North Long Beach

Pastor Jeff Deane, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel O'Hare

Pastor Trent Douglass, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel Saving Grace

I believe these men meant every nice and encouraging word they said about Ray that is quoted on this site or they would not have said them. But do the commendations associated with their names constitute an agreement with or endorsement of the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret? This is clearly what Ray and associates what you to believe. This is clearly how some Calvary Chapel pastors are interpreting these commendations. As I see it, these commendations do not equal an endorsement of the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret. If they are intended to do so, I am willing to eat some humble pie and be corrected by these men. Why do I believe that the commendations attributed to these mean do not equal and endorsement of the main message proposed and promoted in the Hell’s Best Kept Secret?

 

First, it should be noticed none of the commendations attributed to these men includes anything that suggests an agreement with or endorsement of the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret. I do not know all of these men and I have not heard all of these men preach the Gospel or teach on topics that would shed light on this matter. But what I have read and have heard from them in conversations and in recorded and written messages, make clear to me that they do not believe the following:

 

1.     Law must be preached before grace in evangelism in order for the message to be biblical or the only biblically valid way to preach the Gospel.

2.     If a message does not include Law with Grace, it is not a Gospel message or Gospel presentation.

3.     Those who hear a Grace message unaccompanied by a Law message will likely (if not certainly) experience a false conversion when and if they respond to this grace without law “false” Gospel message.

4.     After responding to a “false gospel” as is found in a grace without law gospel message, an unregenerate will likely (if not certainly) become a false professor or a false Christian.

 

This is what Ray is teaching as the rediscovered lost, hidden, secret principle called Hell’s Best Kept Secret. In effect, Ray is saying that many of us (for many years), Chuck Smith included, have been preaching a false Gospel leading to false conversions and producing false Christians. He has a right to say this (if he believes it) but he should also be very upfront about it, especially on a website whose primary purpose is to win over Calvary Chapel pastors to the message and corresponding message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret. I am quite confident that not one of these men (no matter how much they like or appreciate Ray and his heart to reach the lost for Christ) would agree that the principle of Law before Grace or Law plus Grace equals the Gospel. They could of course, prove me wrong, but nothing said or suggested in their commendations leads me to believe they would.

 

In order for these “commendations” to be “endorsements” of Ray’s message, they would have to say something more and something other than what is recorded on this site. While these commendations are no doubt effective but they are not in and of themselves endorsements of the main message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret. When used this way they are misleading.

The Free Gift

P.S. I almost forgot about the free gift. If you are a Calvary Chapel pastor or a church leader within a Calvary Chapel fellowship or if you are on staff with or a leader in the ministry of Living Waters, and would like a copy of the 120 plus page primer titled CALVARY CHAPEL - What We Believe - The Biblical Doctrine of Salvation please write: georgebryson@cccpm.org

what-we-believe

P.S.S. Given my-well known opposition to Reformed theology, some folks suspect that my opposition to Ray’s main message has to do with his views on Calvinism. The truth is that I do not know what Ray believes about Calvinism. I suspect, however, he is not a Calvinist at least not a five point Calvinist. The fact that his view on Law and Grace seem to dovetail with many Calvinists is beside the point. Lots of Arminians hold to a similar view with regard to the Law Plus Grace equals the Gospel thesis. That is, there are a lot of folks that hold to an Arminian version of Lordship Salvation doctrine, and Ray may be one of them.

It cannot reasonably be denied that many Reformed websites seem very excited about Ray’s message and ministry. I think this can be explained by the fact that they agree with him on the relationship of the Law to Grace. Unless information is provided that suggests otherwise, the message of Hell’s Best Kept Secret and the corresponding ministry of Ray Comfort should be evaluated apart from Calvinism. Many have noted that a number of well known Calvinists such as John MacArthur Jr. seem to be supportive of the message and ministry of Ray. But so is David Wilkerson, and I do not think anyone believes David Wilkerson is a Calvinist. It is true that some Calvinists give credence to the Ray Comfort/Calvinism connection by what they say about him. On one Reformed web site the Reformed owner of that site said:

Listening to Ray’s messages and reading his material I believe he’s a Calvinist. He uses The Law lawfully to prick the sinner’s conscious. This kind of teaching is antithetical to Calvary Chapel’s dispensational teaching regarding The Law and The Christian.

More importantly, from his Reformed perspective:

Ray Comfort is reaching out to Calvary Chapel Pastors…by calling them to examine the Scriptures to see if what Ray says is true. This attempt to reach and teach biblical evangelism really is good news.

For those who might think that calvarychapelfreegift.com is actually a Calvary Chapel website, for the record, the domain name of calvarychapelfreegift.com belongs to: Living Waters Publications
 
Technical Contact is: Living Waters Publications

Registrant Contact is: Living Waters Publications

Calvarychapelfreegift.com is a Living Waters website created to recruit Calvary Chapel pastors and church leaders. Livingwatersfreegift.com is a Calvary Chapel website, created to provide information for Calvary Chapel pastors and church leaders so that they will be better able to the resist and counter the recruiting efforts of Ray Comfort and company.



[1] As quoted in What Would Jesus Do? by Ray Comfort.

[2] Calvarychapelfreegift.com

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid