Monthly Archives: November 2015
A common question is “what makes a group a cult?” Of course one must consider deceptive, destructive practices and other deviations from orthodoxy, but the fundamental and fatal departure defining a cult is to err on the Person and work of Christ.
Paul defined it best when he warned about false teachers coming with “a different Jesus” and “another gospel” (II Corin. 11:3-4, 13-15; Gal. 1:6-9).
Peter defined “damnable heresies” as “denying the Lord that bought them,” which is denying the Person and work of Christ (II Peter 2:1-3).
How do most cults distort the gospel? They add works or obedience to commandments (law) as the prerequisite for justification or salvation.
The Bible is clear that eternal life is a pure gift, by grace, and man’s works or obedience cannot in any way satisfy God’s righteousness.
Grace plus works for salvation is like trying to mix oil and water; “and if, by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace,” (Romans 11:6).
“By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight,” (Romans 3:20).
In the epistle which directly responds to this issue, Paul clearly explains, “Even we have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law, for by works of the law shall no flesh be justified,” (Galatians 2:16; see also Ephesians 2:4-9; Titus 3:5-7).
God’s law, a reflection of His justice and righteousness, requires perfect obedience. One sin, whether by commission or omission, whether done with or without knowledge, separates man from God eternally (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Matthew 5:48; James 2:10; Galatians 3:10).
That is why Christ obeyed the law perfectly, meeting the requirement – so that His perfect record could be imputed to us when we trust only in Him – faith in Christ (I Corinthians 1:30; II Corinthians 5:21; Romans 10:1-4; 4:4-6).
How do the cults pervert the gospel? How do they fatally mix works with grace and in fact end up rejecting Christ? Most of them deny the full deity and humanity of Christ always resulting in a deficient “different gospel.”
For instance, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that there are four basic requirements needed to gain eternal life (Watchtower, February 15, 1983, pp.12-13).
The first is to be “taking in knowledge” which means that you must be participating in their “Bible studies” (actually Watchtower publication studies).
The second requirement is “to obey God’s laws, yes, to conform one’s life to the moral requirements set out in the Bible.”
The third is to “be associated with God’s channel, his organization” which in fact means that theirs, “the one true church,” is actually the co-savior.
The fourth is to “support his government by loyally advocating his kingdom rule to others.” This means one must go door to door witnessing and without ever balking or questioning a Watchtower edict.
Another blatant example is found in the Mormon basic textbook Gospel Principles.
The Mormon leaders state that the final judgment will be on the basis of works according to “those things which the Lord has commanded us to keep,” (pp. 283-284).
Then all will “be assigned to the kingdom we have earned” (p. 285; emphasis mine).
The Mormon leaders go on to teach that for eternal life one must be “obedient to all the commandments of the Lord,” (p. 290, emphasis mine).
They then list 22 of those requirements which include celestial marriage, total repentance of all wrong doings, speaking the truth always, baptisms for the dead, full tithe paying, and “keeping all the Lord’s commandments until the end of this life on earth,” (pp.291-292, emphasis mine).
Herbert W. Armstrong founder of the Worldwide Church of God claimed to be God’s apostle and like most cults claimed to restore the true Christian church.
He wrote in his major doctrinal work, Mystery of the Ages that in order to achieve salvation and progress to Godhood is to “do his commandments,” (p. 191).
Armstrong goes on to state that the “one test commandment is the fourth-keeping God’s Sabbath” which of course he insists must be Saturday.
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There are many churches and individuals who believe that people must be baptized in water in order for them to be saved from their sins and go to Heaven when they die. Some churches teach that baptism is essential to salvation. Those churches generally believe that anyone who trusts Jesus, but does not also get baptized in water before they die, must then go to Hell, because they did not perform the “good work” of getting baptized that they might be saved thereby.
Churches believing that baptism is essential to salvation tend to de-emphasize the Blood of Christ as an all-sufficient payment for sin. Instead, they believe that the blood of Jesus is not really sufficient to “cleanse us from all sin”. (See I John 1:9). Instead, they believe that salvation must be obtained through both the good work of Christ on the cross, and through the good work of man in baptism. People who hold to this false doctrine believe that Man therefore becomes a “co-redeemer” together with Christ. They believe in salvation by the grace of God plus the works of man. This is the erroneous belief that Jesus and man both work together to pay for sin, a doctrine also taught by the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church.
One of the most well-known churches teaching that baptism is essential to salvation is the “Church of Christ”. I once heard a man say that he knew of a preacher who was raised in the Church of Christ and stayed in the Church of Christ all of his life. Nevertheless, even though he was a preacher in the Church of Christ, on his death bed he wanted to be baptized “once again”, just to “be sure” that he would go to Heaven instead of going to Hell when he died.
Those churches believing that baptism is essential to salvation often use such verses as Acts 2:38 to support this point of view. This view of baptism held by the Church of Christ can be traced to its founder, Alexander Campbell. Alexander Campbell once said that, “Immersion is that act by which our state is changed” The idea that baptism itself saves, (instead of Jesus alone saving us from our sins through His own redeeming blood shed on the cross), is called “baptismal regeneration”.
The act of baptism is actually a picture of what should have already happened in the lives of believers before they were baptized. Namely, that they have already been forgiven for their sins and therefore they have already been made ready for Heaven by trusting Jesus alone for salvation. This then brings up an interesting question: If all of their sins were already forgiven before they were baptized, then how can there be any sins left over for baptism itself to “forgive” or wash away? Also, which sin will they be sent to Hell for, if someone had trusted Jesus, but then died before getting baptized?
I was baptized a few times before I was actually saved. In fact, all that happened to me on those occasions was that I got wet. I was not saved by getting baptized. When I did get saved by trusting Jesus alone for my salvation, I was e again baptized — but this time out of obedience to Christ! Since I had already been saved, I had no need to try to earn my own salvation by my own good work of baptism. Jesus had already saved me. Jesus did all the saving. It was all Christ.
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SOURCE: This article is a slightly condensed version of a small booklet that I wrote a few years ago. It’s purpose is to expose the false teachings of the so-called “Church of Christ.” If you attend a Church of Christ, or you know someone who does, I challenge you to read this study carefully, checking all of the scripture references in your Bible and praying for the Lord to show you the truth (Jn. 16:13). Remember, Jesus said SEEK and you shall FIND (Mt. 7:7).
What is the Church?
The Church of Christ people fail to realize that the “true church” is a spiritual organism, NOT a physical organization. In the tract, Introducing the Church of Christ, by Delton Haun (Haun Tract Co., Pasadena, TX.), we read on page 8 that, “The Lord promised only one kind and built only one kind–There is only one body (Eph. 4:4), and that one body is the church. (Col. 1:18)”
Here Haun isn’t referring to the SPIRITUAL body of Christ. He is referring to his own religious group, which he CALLS the body of Christ. He is referring to his particular group of people who believe and practice the same things, NOT a spiritual body of born-again believers.
This can be very confusing for an unsaved reader who knows not what it means to be born-again spiritually into the spiritual body of Christ (Jn. 3:3; I Cor. 12:13). The only “church” that the natural man can understand is a PHYSICAL church that he can see with his eyes. A natural man who has never been saved cannot understand how it is possible for people to be “born” into the spiritual body of Christ. Unfortunately, the Church of Christ people don’t understand it either.
On pages 9 and 10 of this same tract, Haun says that, “The church of Christ today is no more or no less than the New Testament church reproduced in doctrine and practice in this twentieth century.”
This is a common belief in the Church of Christ. Another tract titled, Are You Looking for a Church? (Exum Press, Crystal Lake, IL.), says on pages 11 and 12 that the Church of Christ people are actually going back and becoming members of the “original church that Christ built.” These people believe that the true Church ceased to exist for about seventeen centuries, and that THEIR church has restored the true faith for today. This would mean that such great Christian men as John Wesley, Martin Luther, John Knox, and George Whitfield were not really members of the “true church” because the “true church” didn’t exist in their lifetime.
There is absolutely NO SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT for this doctrine. In Matthew 16:18, the Lord Jesus Christ plainly said, “. . . . I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The true church has existed since the day Jesus started it. All throughout church history, millions upon millions have entered into the spiritual body of believers by receiving Christ as their Lord and Saviour (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 10:13). If you have received Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then you are a member of the true church, no matter WHAT denomination you are associated with, and if you haven’t received Him, then you are NOT a member of the true church, regardless of how many religious groups you join. Salvation is not in a church; it’s in a PERSON–the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church Name
The Church of Christ claims to reserve for itself the ONLY scriptural name for a New Testament church, although the term “church of Christ” is found nowhere in the Bible.
On page 4 of George Baily’s pamphlet, Why I Am A Member of the Church of Christ (Lambert Book House, Shreveport, LA), we read these words: “Since the church belongs to Christ shouldn’t the church be so called? It is certainly scriptural to refer to the Lord’s body as the ‘church of Christ’.”
This is the result of human reasoning, not Bible study. There is nothing particularly wrong with the term “Church of Christ,” but it is wrong to insist that this is the ONLY scriptural name for the church when the term isn’t even found in the Bible! A Bookmark of Basic Bible References, by John Hurt (Hurt Publications, Smyrna, TN), gives several scripture references to “prove” that the term “church of Christ” is the only scriptural name for the church. The references listed on this bookmark are Romans 16:16, Acts 4:12, Matthew 16:18, Philippians 2:9-10, Isaiah 62:2, and Colossians 3:17. The term “church of Christ” is found NOWHERE in any of these references, because the Lord never specified a special name for the church. The disciples were first called “Christians” at Antioch (Acts 11:26), but a specific name is never given to the church itself.
SOURCE: I fear that many members in the church of Christ are trusting in repentance and baptism, rather than Christ. We repent on the account of Jesus and his work and a hate for our sin; we are baptized on the account of Jesus work on the cross, the place He remitted sins. If we are looking unto water baptism as the agency whereby we are remitted of sin, we grossly fail to comprehend the work of Jesus on the cross. Doing so, we have turned the grace of God into a system or works whereby our obedience to baptism is efficacious and thus we preach another Gospel.
Remission of sins was a ONCE AND FOR ALL event. The book of Hebrews spells this out clearly. Jesus Blood is not like bull and goats which could NEVER TAKE AWAY SINS. We do not appropriate the work of Christ in Baptism. We are justified “by faith in Hs blood.”
In Acts 2, Peter declared to them the Gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection. They was cut to their hearts and ask what they needed to do about their obvious faith in Christ as their sacrifice for sin. They clearly understood that Jesus remitted sin though His death and was raised that they might live. They knew sin was remitted on the cross, they knew Jesus shed blood not covered their sin, but took it away. Rom. 5:8-10, says: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him: for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This verse is very deep and clearly states that we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son (when we were enemies) and it says how we are justified – by His blood. Jesus removed the wall between man and God, now we are justified by faith in the Blood which reconciled us to God when we were yet sinners. The church of Christ are so hung up on Baptism, that they do not even know when we were reconciled to God. By Jesus death we were reconciled while we were enemies while we were yet sinners.
Peter seeing that they had saving faith in the shed blood of Jesus, said; repent and be baptized on the account of remission of sins. The Greek word EIS points like a finger in a particular direction, and in this case, it pointed back to the sacrifice of Jesus – the One who shed His blood for remission of sins. They responded in faith towards the work of Christ. They were not responding as one seeking Jesus blood in baptism, but responding in faith TOWARDS the Gospel.
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