What’s the definition of a cult?


By BibleAsk Team


The general definition of a cult (Latin cultus) is “a great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (book or film – cult classics or cult favorites). However, the specific Christian meaning of the word cult  is “a religious group of people that denies one or more of the fundamentals biblical truths.” Sociological classifications of religious movements may identify a cult as a social small group with socially deviant beliefs and practices such as abandoning one’s family, career, society, and even life (mass suicide).

Main Beliefs of Religious Cults

The two most common teachings of Christian cults are that Jesus is not God and that salvation is not by faith alone. Both of these teachings clearly oppose what the Bible teaches. A denial of the deity of Christ results in His death not being a sufficient payment for man’s sins. But the Bible declares, “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

Christ must be divine because His one life atoned for the lives of all humans. Only the Creator’s life is infintely more than the lives of all His creation. If Jesus was a mere man, He could save only one life – “life for life” (Exodus 21:23). But Christ is the Creator and “all things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).

A denial of salvation by faith alone results in salvation being achieved by works. But the Bible declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). It is grace on God’s part and faith on man’s part that grants redemption. Faith is simply the channel (Romans 4:3) for it receives the gift of God.

Salvation is a free gift, without money or price (Isaiah 55:1; John 4:14; 2 Corinthians 9:15; 1 John 5:11). It is not effected by human efforts.  Good works are not a cause but an effect of salvation (Romans 3:31), which are done through the power of God (Philippians 2:13).

Christian Cults Today

In modern days, the most known examples of Christian cults are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons. Both religious movements, though claiming to be Christian, deny the deity of Christ and deny that salvation is by faith alone.

These two organizations uphold their system of religious beliefs above the Word of God and follow the dictates and the religious beliefs of their charismatic leaders. Their devotion to a person (the founder) is more important than their love for God and His Word.  Jesus said, “in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

The Bible Test of a Cult

The Bible clearly states that God’s Word is the litmus test for the truth: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Here is a test to find out if an organization is a cult. Ask them the following questions:

  • Do you pray to Jesus? Christians are those who “call on the name of Jesus Christ” as Lord (1 Corinthians 1:1-2 also Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 116:4; Zechariah 13:9).
  • Do you worship Jesus as Lord and Savior? (Matthew 2:2,11; 14:33; 28:9; John 9:35-38; Hebrews 1:6)
  • Do you consider Jesus as God and make Him Supreme in your life? The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 also 20:28; Hebrews 1:2,3,8; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 1:23; Colossians 2:9-10; John 10:30; 20:31; 14:9-10).
  • Do you see works as a means of earning salvation and favor with God? The Bible says, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer works” (Romans 11:6 also Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 2:21).
  • Do you consider the Scriptures as the only basis for doctrine and truth? Jesus says, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17 also Psalm 119:160; 2 Samuel 7:28; Psalm 119:151).

In cult theologies, Jesus is a created being. He is not to be prayed to, worshiped, or called God. Even when making use of the Bible, these false Christians form their own doctrinal beliefs, to fulfill their personal schemes. They cloth the Biblical truths with their faulty ideas.

A cultist accepts works as means to attain favor with God and doesn’t set the Scriptures as the sole basis for his beliefs. Sadly, he clings to some truths that are mixed with man-made beliefs. The Bible describes these false cults with the words: “They will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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