If the apostle Paul was distressed by the Greeks’ fascination with the newest religious fads (Acts 17:16, 21), he would be dismayed over the potpourri of false gospels flourishing today. Many seekers of truth are ensnared by Christian counterfeits … drawn and deluded by doctrines of deceit.
Those drawn into cults are asking questions and looking for answers. They are asking the wrong questions. Instead of, “Which group accepts me and provides answers for my life?” they need to be asking, “Will I accept the truth God has already revealed in the Bible and His answers for my life?”
A cult can be defined as a religious group which teaches doctrines or beliefs which deviate from the broad consensus of orthodox Christian doctrine down through the ages. Cults either distort truth or focus on half-truths.
The small amount of truth which they do proclaim is often mixed with doctrinal error and is therefore dangerous. Cults succeed in deceiving many. As Paul warned, “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine... They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3–4). Jesus said, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many” (Mark 13:6).
What Has Caused the Proliferation of Cults?
Cults thrive on ignorance and uncertainty. Christians who do not know what they believe or why they believe it are especially vulnerable.
The church as a whole, has become lax in their responsibility to teach God’s Word and disciple Christians. Paul admonished Timothy to, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“He [Paul] was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. . . .
(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing
nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)”
Acts 17:16, 21
A cult is a “sect or group of people” that holds to deviant doctrines. A cult is a “system of religious beliefs” that distorts orthodox biblical doctrine.
The word cult is not used in Scripture. However, the Bible does refer to those who are “turning to a different gospel,” whose leaders “pervert the gospel of Christ.”
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
Characteristic of all cult leaders is the belief that they alone have the one true
message from God.
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
2 Timothy 4:3