Is Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, and their Living Waters Publications teaching the biblical gospel to the Gentile (non-Jewish) world of the time period after the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven? The answer is “no”! See for yourself.
According to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, the gospel (which saves a person, vs. 2, thus giving the person who believes it both forgiveness of all his/her sins and eternal life in heaven – Col. 2:13-14; Acts 10:43; 16:31; 1 Jn. 5:13; Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 1 Pet. 1:3-5) is that “Christ died for our (the believer’s) sins…, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day…”
In 1 Corinthians 15:2, it says, “if you hold fast the word” (i.e., the gospel). The word “if” is the English translation of the Greek word “eige”. This Greek word when used with the indicative mood (the mood in Greek which confirms the reality of the action from the viewpoint of the speaker) in a first class conditional sentence (which affirms the reality of the condition) means “since” – Dr. R. Summers, Essentials of the New Testament Greek, pp. 108, 109. So the apostle Paul is stating that these Corinthians he’s addressing are saved since (if) they had “received”/“believed” the word (the gospel).
But is this what Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron and their Living Waters Publications teach? No! Let’s see what they and their publications have to say. In their online publication entitled “Leaving the Pigsty”, they say:
“There are some preachers who use the word ‘repentance,’ but then explain that it means ‘a change of mind.’ While it is biblically correct to say that the word used in the New Testament for ‘repent’ is metanoeo (which means to change one’s mind), it can be misleading to say that that is all that is required when it comes to salvation. This is why: The Bible says, ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts: Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy; and to our God For He will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:6-7). Isaiah saw fit to tell sinners to forsake their ‘way’ and their ‘thoughts.’ That is what happens with biblical repentance. The change of mind is clearly evidenced in Proverbs 28:13: ‘He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy’ (italics added). To say that it is only a change of mind is to say that the prodigal son simply needs to change his mind about his state and his relationship to his father. The reality is that the genuineness of his change of mind is seen by his getting up and leaving the pigsty.
While it is correct to say that a sinner should change his mind about God, to fail to tell him that he should forsake the pigsty of his sins is like telling a child to change his mind about a stick of lit dynamite that he’s holding. If I care about the child, I’m going to tell him that he should change his mind in relationship to the dynamite, and then cast it away from him. Our obligation to the world, is to (with the help of God) give them understanding as to the way to be saved. He cannot change his mind about God without casting sin and the world behind him. He cannot continue to serve sin.
In Acts 14:15-16 Paul didn’t simply tell idolaters to change their mind about their sin. He told them to turn from it to God: ‘And saying, Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach to you that you should turn from these vanities to the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways’ (Italics added).
Someone told me that I was in error when I told sinners that ‘repentance’ meant to turn from sin. He said that that was called ‘Lordship salvation.’ I suspect that he thought that I was saying we are saved by repentance. Obviously we are not saved because we repent. We are saved by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9), but we access that grace through repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the fruit of true repentance is evidenced by obedience to God – ‘Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him…’ (Hebrews 5:8-9, italics added).”
Notice that the publication correctly admits that the Greek word “metanoeo”, translated in English as “repent”, does mean “to change one’s mind”. However, they say that “it can be misleading to say that that is all that is required when it comes to salvation”, and then they quote Isa. 55:6-7, dealing with the wicked forsaking his way and thoughts, and Prov. 28:13, dealing with a person confessing and forsaking his sins. These verses in the Old Testament have nothing to do with New Testament salvation, as seen in Acts and the Epistles. Then Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron go on to try and prove that repentance is more than a change of mind by using the story of the prodigal son. But the story does not use the word “repent” at all (Luke 15). So, Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron contradict themselves by first saying that the Greek word for “repent” means “a change of mind”, and then saying that it does not only mean that but more than that, that it also means doing some form of human good works, like forsaking sinful actions and thoughts. Yet, God states in Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; and 2 Tim. 1:9 that a person is not saved by his “works”. And a “work” (the Greek word is “ergon”) is any “activity, deed, or act” – Drs. Unger, White Jr., and Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, p. 1243; and Dr. L. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 637. And forsaking one’s sinful actions and thoughts is a human activity, deed or act. Instead, the Bible states that a person is saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9), and “grace” does not include any kind of human work; otherwise, “grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6). The Greek word “charis” for our English word “grace”, when used in relationship to salvation means “favor” that is “unearned” and “without expectation of return” – Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 3, “Vocabulary”, p. 133. So, Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron are teaching a false requirement for salvation. It’s perfectly fine to tell a “saved” person to forsake his sinful lifestyle, but it’s wrong to tell an “unsaved” person that it’s a requirement for salvation.
Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron say that a person “cannot change his mind about God without casting sin and the world behind him”. But where does it say that in the New Testament? Serving God rather than sin is after being saved and is a completely different subject from believing in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior for salvation. The two are not to be confused as one and the same.
In Acts 14:15, Paul does not tell these idolaters to “change their mind about their sin”. Rather, he asks them a question and then states that he and Barnabas were preaching the gospel to them in order that they (these idolaters) should turn from these vain things (i.e., sacrificing to Paul and Barnabas, Acts 14:18) to a living God (apparently, Jesus). We see that turning to a living God (the resurrected Jesus) from idolatry would hopefully result from believing the gospel rather than it being a requirement for salvation.
Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron admit that they define “repentance” as “to turn from sin”, which contradicts what they said earlier, that the Greek word means “to change one’s mind”. Also, Matt. 3:8 and Acts 26:20 clearly show that “repentance” means “a change of mind” rather than some action, such as turning from sin, because “repentance” is differentiated from any action that should follow as a result of the change of mind.
Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron go on in their error when they say that people “access that grace through repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”. Since the author(s) define “repentance” as “turning from/forsaking sin”, then they are saying that “grace” is “accessed”/obtained by “works” plus faith. And as we saw before, the Bible states in Rom. 11:6 that “grace is no longer grace” if it’s on the basis of “works”. Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron then conclude their argument here by trying to use Heb. 5:8-9 as a proof text to imply that “obeying him” (Jesus) is required for salvation. But obeying him/Jesus, here, means to believe him/Jesus, as can be seen from the following passages (Rom. 10:13-16; 1:5; 16:25-26; Acts 6:7; 1 Pet. 2:7-8; Rom. 15:31; 1 Pet. 4:17-18; 2 Thes. 1:8-9; Jn. 3:36; and Acts 5:32), which show that the word “obey” is synonymous with the word “believe”.
To obey is to believe.
In Romans 10:13-16 Paul states that the Jews did not all heed (“hypekousan” means “to hear with a positive response, and so to obey, to submit to” – Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p. 484) the glad tidings/gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So, to heed/obey the glad tidings/report was or is to believe the report/tidings.
In Romans 1:5; 16:25-26 and Acts 6:7 Paul uses the phrase “obedience of faith” or “obedience to the faith”. Paul was an apostle to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His/Christ’s name sake. In other words, people were yielding to the belief of God’s saving message (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 1140); faith is regarded as an act of obedience or commitment to the gospel of Christ (John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 13); the act of faith is the obedience of the understanding to God revealing, and the product of that is the obedience of the will to God commanding (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, vol. 3, p. 931). In Rom. 16:25-26, the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith. In other words, “believing acceptance” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, p. 1134); faith in the gospel (J. Murray, p. 243); obedience to the gospel (M. Henry, p. 1013).
Disbelieving is disobeying, and disobeying is disbelieving (Heb. 3:18-19).
In 1 Peter 2:7-8 Peter states that those who disbelieve Christ, the choice stone, a precious corner stone (1 Pet. 2:6) are those who rejected Christ, the stone, and are those who stumbled over Christ, a stone of stumbling because they are disobedient to the word. So, to disbelieve in Christ is to be disobedient to the word of God, which is the good news about Christ for salvation (1 Pet. 1:3, 7-9, 23).
In Romans 15:31 Paul asks the Roman Christians to pray for him to be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea. And the disobedient are the disbelievers, as seen in Acts 22:17-18; 25:18-19; 26:17-23 (“they will not accept your testimony about Me” – Jesus – Acts 22:18).
In 1 Peter 4:17-18 Peter asks, “…what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” And how does a person not obey the gospel of God (i.e., the good news that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day – 1 Cor. 15:1, 3-4)? By not believing it, as Rom. 10:16 already showed. This is also seen by the contrast of those who don’t obey the gospel with those who are of the household of God (righteous and saved – 1 Pet. 4:17-18). And those who are of the household of God, righteous, and saved are those who have obeyed the gospel by believing it (Rom. 1:16-17; 16:25-26; Col. 1:4-5; Eph. 1:13-14; Jn. 1:12).
In 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 Jesus is said to deal out retribution to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and that they will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord. Not believing in the good news about Christ as Savior is what causes this judgment (Jn. 3:18), whereas belief in Jesus Christ as Savior spares believers from this judgment of retribution and instead gains believers eternal life with Christ (Jn. 3:16, 18; 2 Thes. 1:10).
In John 3:36 it states that “he who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (New American Standard Bible). The Greek word “apeithon” means “obeys not” (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 5, p. 57). W.E. Vine, M. Unger, and W. White Jr. in An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, New Testament, pp. 796, 797 defines “apeitho” as “disobey” or “not persuaded”. The King James Bible translates it as “disbelieves”, while the New International Version translates it as “rejects”. So, to not obey the Son is to reject, disbelieve, not be persuaded about the Son. This also makes sense because “apeithon” stands in contrast to “believe” in this verse and is identical to the parallel thought in Jn. 3:18 (“believes” and “not believed”).
Obeying Christ/God is believing Christ/God.
1 Peter 1:1-9 Peter states that certain people are chosen by God and set apart (“sanctified”) by the Holy Spirit so that they may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled by His blood. A parallel passage is found In 2 Thes. 2:13, where it states that God had chosen them for salvation through setting them apart (“sanctification”) by the Holy Spirit and faith in the truth. The “truth” is the gospel of salvation found in Jesus Christ Himself (Eph. 1:13; Jn. 14:6; Col. 1:5; 2 Thes. 2:10, 12-13). To obey Christ is to believe in Christ, the truth. And what allows a person to be sprinkled by Christ’s blood (cleansed, forgiven of our sins)? Faith in Christ (Acts 15:9; Rev. 1:5; Rom. 3:24-25; Eph. 1:7).
In Acts 5:32 it states that God has given the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him/God. When did people in the New Testament Church Age receive the Holy Spirit? According to Acts 10:42-45; 11:14-17; 15:7-8 these people received the Holy Spirit upon/after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word “pisteusasin” is in the first aorist (meaning “upon completion of the act”) active participle in the dative case (meaning “after believing”). Eph. 1:13-14 teaches the same thing, that it was upon/after believing the gospel of salvation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, to obey God means to obey His command, in 1 Jn. 3:23, to believe in Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, to obey is to believe when it refers to the issue of salvation.
In Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron’s online article, “What’s In A Name?”, they state that, “Repentance is more than confessing your sins to God. It means to stop sinning. No more lying or stealing. No more lusting.” “When you are born again, it’s a radical change.” “…what you must do is repent and trust Him.”
If Mr. Comfort’s and/or Mr. Cameron were correct in what they stated here, then no one would be saved and go to heaven, as no one ever stops sinning here in this life. God clearly teaches in 1 Jn. 1:8, 10 that believers/spiritual children/the brethren/the beloved, whom the apostle John is addressing (Jn. 2:1, 7, 12-14, 18, 20-21, 27-28; 3:1-2, 13, 18, 21; 4:1, 4, 7, 11; 5:13), still sin. They do not stop sinning, as Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron state is a requirement for being born again.
In Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron’s online article, “The God Who Chases”, they say that “God will give him (a non-Christian the author(s) were talking about) forgiveness as a gift if he will repent of his sins and place his faith in Jesus Christ alone to save him.” And Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron go on to define “repent” as “turn away from his sin”. Since forgiveness is a gift from God, then it cannot be obtained by some “work”, like turning away from sin; otherwise, it’s not a gift, but what is deserved, and that is contrary to what the Bible teaches (Rom. 4:4-5; 3:24; 6:23).
In Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron’s online article, “Train Up A Child…”, they say “that in order for a child (as well as an adult) to be saved, he or she must turn from their sin and trust in Jesus to save them”. Where in the New Testament does it say that a person must turn from his sins as a condition for salvation? It doesn’t! The article also states that “repentance is simply a determination to turn away from what is wrong”, and that “without repentance, they (people) cannot be saved”. Where does it say that in the New Testament? It doesn’t! Also, Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron have changed their definition of “repentance” once again. Now, it’s been changed from “turning from” or “stopping” sin to simply having a “determination” to turn away from sin. The authors are as confused about their definitions as they are their theology.
If a Christian in the 21st century is looking in the Bible for the best examples or instructions on how to evangelize (share the gospel of Jesus Christ) with people who are not Christians [which will generally be Gentiles (non-Jews)], then the place to look is in the book of Acts and the Epistles because this is where evangelism to the Gentiles is almost exclusively found. To use Jesus as the model for 21st century evangelism is not good for two main reasons. First, Jesus’ message/evangelizing was almost always to Jews (Lk. 4:4; Matt. 10:5-7); whereas, today’s evangelism is almost always to Gentiles. Second, Jesus’ message/gospel was about the kingdom of God/heaven (e.g., Lk. 4:42; 9:1-2; 16:6; Mk. 1:14-15; Matt. 4:17, 23; 9:35; 13:11, 19, 24, 31, 44-45, 47), that He is the promised Messiah, the King of Israel (Jn. 1:41, 45, 49; 4:25-26) whom the Jews were to prepare themselves for (Matt. 3:2-3) and accept/receive/believe in (Jn. 1:11-12), so that Jesus could set up His earthly kingdom.
Today, however, the Christian’s gospel is that Jesus Christ died for the believer’s sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day and that those who believe this are saved (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
But is this what Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron’s pamphlet “Biblical Evangelism – Using the Divine Law (the 10 commandments)” teaches? No!
The Mosaic Law of which the 10 commandments are a part of does show people that they are sinful, but nearly 100% of all people already know they are sinful, not perfect (Rom. 2:14-15), unless they are deceived. So to tell people they are lying, thieving, murderous, adulterers is not only unnecessary, but also a “turn off” to most people. Even Jesus in the couple of times He used the Law with Jews exclusively did not obnoxiously use it to name call the person He was talking with or to accuse the person of not keeping the Law (Lk. 10:25-37; 18:18-25). Even with the woman at the well, Jesus does not call her an adulteress or fornicator, nor specifically tell her that she had broken the seventh commandment (Jn. 4:17-18). However, Jesus often witnessed to Jews without using the Law (Jn. 3:1-18; 5:19-34; 6:28-40, 47, 51, 54, 58; 7:37-39; 8:22-24; 9:35-39; 10:9-11; 11:25-27, 40-42; 12:33-36; Lk. 7:48-50).
Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron say that “If you will repent and trust in the Savior, God will forgive your sins…”. But as has already been shown, Mr. Comfort’s definition of “repent” not only changes, but always is different from the Greek biblical definition of the word and is a form of good works, which the Bible states won’t save a person.
In the verses in the New Testament where “repentance” is mentioned in connection with salvation, the forgiveness of sins, etc., it’s always used of the person’s need to change his/her thinking. That changed thinking may be about who Jesus Christ is (that He’s the Savior/Messiah rather than a false prophet, Acts 2:36-38; 3:14-20; 5:30-31), or about what would give him/her forgiveness of sins (that it’s trust in Christ as Savior rather than something else, Lk. 24:46-47; Acts 26:17-20; 2 Pet. 3:9), or about trusting in Jesus Christ as the Messiah rather than his/her own goodness or religious works (Mk. 1:14; 6:12; Matt. 4:12, 17; 11:20-23; Lk. 13:3, 5; Heb. 6:1; Rom. 2:4), or about trusting in Jesus Christ as the Messiah rather than trusting in his/her racial heritage as Abraham’s descendants (Matt. 3:1-2, 7-10; Mk. 1:4-5, 7; Lk. 3:3-6, 15), or about what saves a person and gives him/her eternal life (Acts 11:13-18), or about believing in the one true God, Jesus, rather than in idols (Acts 20:18-21, 24-25). In all cases, repentance is a change of thinking/mind, not a change of action, like turning away from sin.
So, let’s see in the book of Acts how evangelism was done because this is the evangelism in the time period after Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the time period of the new covenant/testament/agreement between God and the believing world, not just Jews.
Was Peter’s message to the Gentiles (Cornelius, his relatives, and close friends, Acts 10:24) in Acts 10:39-43 that of using the 10 commandments to obnoxiously condemn them or to point out their sinfulness?
No! Nearly all people already know they are sinful. What they need to hear is how they can be completely forgiven and receive the free gift of eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9), like Cornelius and his group (Acts 10:43; 11:14, 17-18; 15:7-9).
Was Paul’s message to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-47; 14:27; 15:3; 18:6) one of obnoxious condemnation of people breaking the Law by calling his listeners a string of names of the sins they’d committed?
No! Rather, Paul preached the gospel (Acts 14:5-7, 15, 21; 16:10, 17; 17:18, 22-34; 20:24) that believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is how a person is saved (Acts 16:31; 20:21).
Was Philip’s message to the Gentiles with some Jewish ancestry (Samaritans) as well as the Gentile Ethiopian and other Gentiles one of obnoxious name calling of the sins they committed?
No! Rather, Philip proclaimed Jesus Christ to them (the gospel), Acts 8:5, 12, 25, 27-37, 40.
What message did other believers who evangelized Gentiles preach? Was it obnoxious name calling of their breaking of the 10 commandments, or was it the preaching of the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20-21)? It was the preaching of the Lord Jesus.
Even when Paul evangelized the Jews, his message was one of preaching the gospel about Jesus being the Christ/Messiah, the Son of God (Acts 9:20-22), the Savior (Acts 13:23), the One who died, was buried, and resurrected (Acts 13:29-37), and that forgiveness of sins is given to everyone who believes in Him (Acts 13:38-39).
For Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron to use Psalm 19:7 (“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” – KJV) to support their style of obnoxious evangelism is a sign of their biblical illiteracy. Why?
First, the word “converting” (KJV) is taken from the Hebrew word “shub”, meaning “to return or go back (movement back to the point of departure)” – W. Vine and Drs. Unger and White Jr., An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, p. 333.
Second, the word “soul” is taken from the Hebrew word “nephesh”, here, meaning “person”. So, King David who wrote this psalm is saying that God’s Word, the law, returns (“restores” – NASB; “revives” – NIV) a person from depression from doubts (Drs. Jamison, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 414) to mental vitality (Dr. S. Zodhiates, The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, “Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible”, p. 80). Mr. Comfort and/or Mr. Cameron are trying to use Psa. 19:7 to show that using the law (the 10 commandments) is biblical in order to convert (help cause) people to be saved/born again. But the King James Version of the Bible is misleading, as it’s old English. So, going back to the original Hebrew language is important, as is the context of the passage. In this case, the meaning of the verse is far different than the meaning Mr. Comfort is attributing to it.
In conclusion, Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, and their Living Waters Publications are dangerously misleading and false teachers at best and possibly not even Christians at worst. So beware!