A cult is any group that defines itself in Christian terms, but denies one or more of the essentials of historic biblical Christianity. For example, the many Mormons that have recently posted here want to be considered true Christians, and even use Christian language borrowed from scripture, but always with a tell tale flaw. While they may use the Christian vocabulary, they do not use the normal Christian definitions. The fundamental doctrine of grace is good example.
We like to take pride in our accomplishments. Yet, the bible teaches that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags,” (Is 64:6). It seems very counterintuitive that salvation is not something you can earn with your good behavior but that it is a free gift from God. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church,“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ” (Eph 2:8–9)
This doctrine of unmerited grace appears in no other world religion. It is just not the sort of idea men would come up with, thus I believe it is an authenticating characteristic of Christianity. Accordingly, the converse is a sure mark of a cult. Men like Joseph Smith or Charles Taze Russell always pervert the Gospel into a personal achievement.
Cults like Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses make good works the means of salvation. Joseph Smith was brazen enough to add to God’s word in his crudely crafted work of fiction. He wrote, “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). This exactly what one would expect in a man-made religion. Yet, surely our behavior counts?
In converse, Christianity makes salvation the means of good works. James the brother of Jesus wrote, that “faith without works is dead” (Jms. 2:17). Cults often use this argument by James to justify their works based salvation. It may seem that James is contradicting Paul’s teaching yet really he is not. James is addressing false converts, who claim to be Christians but show no evidence of it in their lives. When read in context, James’ point is not that works are the basis for salvation but the result of it.
If you are a Christian, this is a sure way to guard against pride. The next time you feel some well deserved satisfaction in your works, consider this:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ” (Eph 2:10)
According to scripture, it wasn’t even your idea! Doesn’t leave much to boast on… does it?