A religious cult as defined by Dictionary.com is “great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers; a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”
More narrowly defined in a Christian context a cult is, specifically, “a religious group that denies one or more of the fundamentals of biblical truth.” A cult is a group that teaches doctrines that, if believed, will cause a person to remain unsaved. A cult claims to be part of a religion, yet it denies essential truth(s) of that religion. Therefore, a cult claiming to be Christian will deny one or more of the fundamental truths of Christianity while still claiming to be Christian.
The Bible itself reveals what is important and essential to the Christian faith. These essentials are:
- The deity of Christ,
- Salvation by God’s grace and not by works,
- Salvation through Jesus Christ alone,
- The resurrection of Christ,
- The Gospel (Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,1 Corinthians 15:1-4 NIV)
- Monotheism (only one God)
- The Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit).
- The inerrancy of the Bible (The historic Christian teaching is that the Bible is both inerrant and infallible. It is without error, inerrant. because it is impossible for it to have errors it's infallible).
The two most well-known examples of cults today are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Both groups claim to be Christian, yet both deny the deity of Christ and salvation by faith alone. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe many things that agree with or like what the Bible teaches. However, the fact that they deny the deity of Christ and preach a salvation by works qualifies them as cults. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and members of other cults are moral people who genuinely believe they hold the truth. As Christians, our hope and prayer must be that many people involved in cults will see through the lies and will be drawn to the truth of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
The most important thing we can do for those involved in cults or false religions is pray for them. We need to pray that God would change their hearts and open their eyes to the truth
2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
We need to pray that God would convince them of their need for salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is God.
Colossians 1:15-20 NIV The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
John 1:1-5 NIV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Without the power of God and conviction of the Holy Spirit, we will never succeed in convincing anyone of the truth.
John 16:7-11 NIV But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
We must leave the result of our witness up to God. It is God’s power and grace that changes people, not our efforts. While it is good and wise to be prepared to give a vigorous defense and have knowledge of false beliefs, neither of these things will result in the conversion of those trapped in the lies of the cults and false religions. The best we can do is pray for them, witness to them, and live the Christian life in front of them, trusting that the Holy Spirit will do the work of drawing, convincing, and converting.