Can You Identify A Cult?
by Norman Olson, 1989

A cult. That word appears often in the news. Why shouldn't it? The World Book states that there are an estimated 3,000 cults in the world! Many of them are growing at an astonishing pace. Even professing Christians are being recruited -- obviously the Word of God and its application was not properly taught or learned in these cases.

 We also need to be familiar with, and to familiarize others with, the basic marks of a cult. What are some of the ways we can identify false religions?

 First, watch for their attitude toward the Word of God. We are living in a day of "extrabiblical revelations." These are supposedly inspired statements in addition to the Bible. Those who offer any other writing as sacred beyond the Scriptures must be rejected (Rev. 22: 18, 19). (Also, watch out for those who subtract from the Scriptures. Religious liberals who say that parts of the Bible are fairy tales are one example.)

 Second, see what they believe concerning salvation. Is it by works? Does it depend on how many doors a person knocks and how much literature he distributes? The Bible declares salvation to be by grace alone (Eph. 2:8, 9). A person can do nothing to inherit eternal life. It is only through Christ's finished work on the cross that one is saved. There are all sorts of works, formulas, spiritual hoops and religious activities that false preachers say one must go through to inherit eternal life. All of them must be seen as works, not grace.

 Third, determine what they believe about assurance of salvation. False religions generally say that one cannot know for sure whether or not he is saved until after he dies. But they contradict the clear teaching of Scripture (l John 5:13).

Fourth, watch to see if they elevate a certain person or that person's words to a level in the direction of the God-like. Beware of any group that makes a "messiah" out of someone.

 See, too, what the attitude is toward the true Messiah. Is Jesus regarded as God? (See John 1:1, 14, 29; 2 John 7.)

 Fifth, watch doctrinal vagueness or inconsistency. True Bible preachers are amazingly similar in their preaching content because it comes from the right source. False preachers contradict themselves even within a given cult or ism. They are given to fables, according to the Bible (2 Tim. 4:3, 4); therefore their message can be one thing one day and another the next.

 A sixth mark of a cult is a tendency to claim new discoveries, especially from the Scriptures. Much of this might be to attract financial support, an action that is in itself another mark of a false religion. Frequently their leaders have a desire, often extreme, for personal gain. Perhaps the organization is suspiciously large or rich, as we have seen so dramatically in recent years.

 It is important for you to be aware of the characteristics of cults, but.a knowledge of world religions will not save anyone. Even more important than knowing about cults is knowing for sure that you possess eternal life. This is obtained only through trusting God's Son, the Lord Jesus, as Savior because of His finished work on the Cross for you. John 3:36 states; "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about this all important matter, do not delay. Decide today. Then seek out a Bible preaching church (write to the address below for churches near you), where you can let others know of your decision and where you can hear the Word of God and grow spiritually.

 -- Norman Olson

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© 1989 Regular Baptist Press