Biblegems # 58
Jesus said, “There will be many false messiahs and false prophets who will do wonderful miracles that would deceive, if possible, even God’s own children. Take care, I have warned you!” (Mark 13:22, 23)
Have you ever been accused of being in a cult because you attend a church that does not belong to a familiar denomination or, perhaps, because of the Bible translation your church uses? This Biblegems blog should help you discern if you are in a healthy, Christ-centered church or in a cult.
First, we need to know what we mean by the term “cult.” As we use the term today, a cult refers to a group that has split away from one or more core doctrines of the Christian faith. Those key doctrines are listed below. Sometimes “cult” is used to describe a group, religious or not, that has a controlling, dictator-type leader who uses manipulative techniques to keep his followers loyal, and often keeps his followers isolated from the outside world. It is not uncommon for both of these types (bad doctrine and manipulative leader) to found in one group.
The Bible does not use the word “cult” at all. It is a modern term. But the concept is very scriptural, usually identified with false teachers and false prophets. For example, the apostle Peter writes: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2Pet. 2:1).
So what are the “destructive heresies” Peter is referring to? Below is a list of basic Bible doctrines that are fundamental to true Christian teaching. As you go through the list, ask yourself (and if necessary, ask your church leaders) where your church stands on these doctrines. Christians can disagree on many secondary issues, but the doctrines below are fundamental to biblical Christianity.
1. GOD. There is one God, who is infinitely perfect, existing eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Dt 6:4; Matt. 5:48; 28:19).
2. JESUS. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. He died on the cross for our sins, was resurrected on the third day and is now at the right hand of God as our great High Priest. He will come again to establish His eternal kingdom, righteousness and peace (Phil. 2:6-11; Lk. 1:34–38, 21:27; I Pt. 3:18; Heb. 2:9, 8:1, 10:37; Rom. 5:9; Acts 2:23–24; Matt. 26:64; Tit. 2:11–14).
3. The BIBLE. The Old and New Testaments, inspired by God and without error as originally given, are the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men (2 Pt. 1:20–21; 2 Tim. 3:15–16).
4. Man. Man, created in the image and likeness of God, fell through disobedience, resulting in physical and spiritual death. All men are born with a sinful nature, are separated from the life of God, and can be saved only through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who die without Christ will exist forever in hell, while those who trust in Jesus will exist forever in heaven (Gen. 1:27; Rom. 3:23;1 Cor.15:20–23; Rev 21: 1–4, 8).
5. Salvation. Salvation has been provided through Jesus Christ for all men, and those who repent and believe in Him are born again of the Holy Spirit, receive the gift of eternal life, and become the children of God (Tit. 3:4–7).
6. The CHURCH. The Church consists of all those who believe in Jesus Christ, are redeemed through His blood, and are born again of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the Head of the Church, which has been commissioned by Him to go into all the world as a witness, preaching the gospel to all nations (Eph. 1:22–23; Matt. 28:19–20; Acts 2:41–47).
7. Christ’s Return. The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be personal and visible (Heb. 10:37; Lk. 21:27; Tit. 2:11–14).