Hello again, my dear friends, I hope this post has found you all doing well! Friday I introduced two new series’ that will be, hopefully, able to flow together. If you missed that introduction you can find it here. As I explained in that post, each Tuesday, Lord willing, we’re going to discuss the doctrines of Christianity that are foundational, or essential. As we do this, I’m going to be comparing these doctrines to the errant teachings of those who falsely claim to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope these refutations will encourage you all, and give you confidence, when sharing the Gospel with members of these cults. The first doctrine I want to address is that of salvation, which every “Christian” cult gets wrong.
First, let’s start with some definitions. What do I, and others, mean when we say “Christian” Cults? This is referring to those cultish groups which insist on using Biblical language while abusing or misusing the Word of God. They follow other writings, apart from Scripture, and almost always have a leader whose written and spoken word are taken as revelation from god. There are cults which are political or atheistic in nature, however most will have an erroneous opinion on who Christ was, or what happens after we die.
Another word I want to define is doctrine, a word which has unfortunately fallen out of favor with most of the professing Christians in the west. Doctrine, which comes from the Greek word didaskolos, is used 58 times in the New Testament. It’s used in Scripture to denote those who teach about God, but today is used to describe the actual teaching, rather than the teacher. When I saw doctrine that’s precisely how I mean it, what someone is teaching in a religious institution. Christians have doctrines, whether they like the word or not. Cults also have doctrines, which are often times in direct opposition to Biblical doctrine.
The last definition I want to make, and this one is very important, is salvation. The Christian who calls the lost to repent and be saved, means something very different than a cult member will. We’re going to discuss that more, but briefly I want to write a precise definition, as a word for the believer might mean something completely different to the cult member. Salvation is the redemption of sinners who are in danger of the wrath of God (Isaiah 59:2) in the form of judgement. Salvation is a free gift from God, who sent His only begotten Son. He, Christ Jesus, bore the sin of all those who would be saved (1 Peter 2:24), not the entire world, that’s universalism. Anyone who brings you a definition of salvation that does not include all our sins being punished on Christ is bringing you a false Gospel that can not save.
Now that we have our definitions in order, let’s discuss this essential doctrine. Salvation is given by God’s grace, the reformers called it sola gratia, grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Bible, in its full counsel, describes salvation as a free gift given by Gods grace(Romans 6:23). There is no Biblical presidents for earning salvation, if there was a way to earn it Christ need not die in our place. The impossibility of keeping the Law is precisely why we need a savior (Romans 6:14-15). This does not mean that a believer can sin more so that grace more abounds, as Paul says, may it never be! We strive with the flesh, we fail, we weep over our sins, but none of these works cause our salvation. It is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in us, conforming is to Christ’s image which causes the believer to hate sin, and war against it. We do so gladly because of the love of the Father, in saving us while we were yet sinners! In short, works do not cause salvation, but salvation does cause the desire to work.
This doctrine of salvation by grace separates born again believers from Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, Roman Catholics, and Christian Science members. These groups refer to salvation, and some will even say it’s all of grace, but they always add works. Mormons and Roman Catholics, for example, will say it’s grace plus works. Islam also teaches , along side faith in Allah, that you have to do the best you can. This significant deviation from Biblical doctrine replaces the Gospel, which brings the good news that all our sins can be forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice on that Roman cross, with a gospel that binds heavy burdens on its adherents. These heavy burdens require the bearer to be perfect, to follow not just Biblical principles, but those added on by the leaders. In this way, maybe, just maybe, that can earn eternity in heaven. Or if it’s Mormonism, one of the three heavens.
When you speak to members of these groups it’s imperative that you make definitions clear. When the door bell rings and you find yourself face to face with two young men, or when you discuss your faith with co-workers, friends, and family members who might be caught up in a cult, they’ll often use the same words we use. This can be very confusing, so be sure to begin with a solid understanding of the Christian doctrines, so that you can make the proper distinctions. Love, dear ones, is the most important thing you bring to the table. You must love the lost enough to correct them, you must love them enough to be patient with them, and you must love them enough to separate their false doctrines from Biblical truth. That’s not an easy task, so I ask that we all pray for one another in earnest, asking the God would give us each boldness, patience, and love. I hope this series is a blessing to you, beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.