With the explosion of different sects that claim to honour and follow Jesus, how does one differentiate between true Biblical Christianity and an aberrant religious movement? Just what are “the marks of a cult?”
After Jesus fed the five thousand, those who came to find Jesus asked him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?” (John 6:30). Do not miss the audacity of their questions. They asked Jesus these questions the day after the feeding of the five thousand—after that miracle, after that sign, after that work. They refused to see it.
When considering the five-fold ministries, the average believer can understand that pastors care for their flock, evangelists preach to the unconverted, teachers instruct their students, and prophets prophesy the Word of God. But what do apostles do to show they are apostles? Are there apostles today?
Christ has become merely a means to an end, and believers are induced to come to the Master’s table, not to experience fellowship and intimacy with the Master, but to enjoy what is on the Master’s table. In sharp distinction to this message, the Jesus of the Scriptures is not a means to an end; He is the end (cf. Phil. 3:7-8). McCullough writes, “the church is more often influenced by cultural trends than theological commitments. Our obsession with self has led us astray into the temple of idols: in particular the god-of-my-comfort, and the god-of-my-success.” Shakespeare says it most succinctly, “you pay a great deal too dear for what’s given freely.”
Jesus exhorted His followers not to “labour for that which perishes” but to “labour for that which is eternal” (John 6:27). The prosperity gospel, by contrast, encourages Christians to focus on what they can receive from Christ in the here and now. Much so-called Christian television and radio programming today panders to what people’s “itching ears” want to hear: the promise of earthly gain.
The Word-Faith teachings are corrupt. Their undeniable derivation is cultish, not Christian. The sad truth is that the gospel proclaimed by the Word-Faith movement is not the Gospel of the New Testament. Word-Faith doctrine is a mongrel system, a blend of mysticism, dualism and Gnosticism, that borrows generously from the teachings of the metaphysical cults. The Word-Faith movement may be the most dangerous false system that has grown out of the Charismatic movement so far, because so many Charismatics are unsure of the finality of Scripture.