“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1
Apostasy is rampant in many churches, but outside of the orthodox denominations, the “falling away” from sound doctrine turns into heresy and blasphemy in pseudo-Christian religions. There are many cults in this world that derive from many religions. Today I’m going to talk about pseudo-Christian cults, but first we must define a cult.
Cult: a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular leadership figure or object that is unorthodox in comparison to orthodox religious doctrine.
Leadership of an individual or group of individuals that claim special knowledge or prophesy and profess unorthodox beliefs.
Order their followers to not associate with non-believers of their religion except when proselytizing.
Re-define orthodox words to mean something that the orthodox religion would consider heretical. (example: Jesus is the Son of God, becomes Jesus is the son of god – but god has other son’s too)
The Bible is rejected as the Word of God and it is claimed to have many errors, deletions or additions.
Other religious writings take precedence over the Bible. (example: Book of Mormon or Watchtower magazine are considered more accurate and important than the Bible)
Reject the deity of Christ; marginalize Him as just a prophet, created being or good moral teacher.
Reject the clear Biblical doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity.
Works based; suggesting that Jesus’ death on the cross, his burial and resurrection were not sufficient for salvation, or they reject Jesus’ atoning sacrifice all together.
These are most of the deviations from orthodoxy that are perpetrated by pseudo-Christian cults. This would include the following: Mormonism, Jehovah Witness, Islam and many more. These mentioned are just the most influential. So, some would question, then why isn’t Christianity just a cult of Judaism? What will follow is my feeble attempt to explain why, Christianity is unique.
Christianity has its roots in Judaism, but reflects a new covenant between God and Man. It leaves behind the original covenant that required atoning animal sacrifices. As a sidebar: blood sacrifices were abandoned in 70AD after Rome destroyed the temple. But, even though the old covenant required these atoning sacrifices, you can clearly see from a careful examination of scripture that “grace through faith” saved people even in Old Testament times.
Jesus was not just a charismatic leader; He was God come down to earth as God the Son. The Trinity is also clearly revealed in the Old Testament, not just the New Testament. So, God the Son presented the new covenant and established it as – grace through faith alone – because Jesus’ atoning sacrifice was sufficient to not only cover sins, like the animal sacrifices of Judaism, but His sacrifice was sufficient to abolish all sin – past, present and future – for all that accept Him as Lord and Savior. He’s not just a charismatic leader, prophet, created being or good moral man, but the God of creation, the almighty God.
The Cannon of scripture is fixed in the 66 books of the Bible, not because men decided that they were scripture, but because the church accepted them as the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God in their original written form. They present a continuous revelation that proclaims a Messiah would come and establish a new kingdom, starting as a new covenant. The early church accepted the writings of God through the apostles as Holy Scripture, as do Christians and Messianic Jews today.
So, let’s sum this up. The leader of Christianity, Jesus, is God, not just a man. Christians can freely associate with anyone. No doctrine of the Old Testament is violated, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Matthew 5:17. Jesus is the fulfillment of clear Old Testament prophesy. Christianity uses the orthodox meaning of New and Old Testament terminology. The Bible is the one and only Holy Book. No other written literature will ever take precedence over the Bible. Christianity, as a religion is unique as the only religion that relies on the all sufficiency of the willing sacrifice of Jesus to atone for their sins. Grace through faith alone is uniquely Christian and all other religions require additional works, deeds, or sacrifices. This is why Christianity is not a cult of Judaism – it is an extension and fulfillment of God’s plan that started with Judaism and then, became a new covenant and unique religion, Christianity.
Please be aware of what cults are and how to recognize them. Cults can even crop up in orthodox denomination like Baptists, Lutheran or non-denominational Christian churches. All it takes is the congregation worshiping the pastor over Jesus, or the pastor calls in question biblical scripture and starts marginalizing it, or rejecting parts of it. Be ever vigilant and if apostasy creeps into your church, address it immediately, and if it continues, move to another church. Look for the truth through research and always reconcile all your research to scripture, because that’s the only way to know the truth.
I pray this strengthens your faith and empowers you to discern apostasy.