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IS THE CHURCH OF CHRIST A CULT?
October 19, 2014
There are those who have accused the church of Christ of being a cult. Is it true? Is the church of Christ a cult? To begin, we need to define the word, cult.
There are a variety of definitions of cult, depending on context, and those doing the defining. Merriam-Webster defines cult, "A small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous;" and, "A situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much." The latter part of the definition calls to mind such cults as Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church (a.k.a. "Moonies"), Jim Jones' Peoples Temple, or the Branch Dividians, lead by David Koresh. When researching the former definition, I found several web sites that accused the churches of Christ of being a cult based on various teachings that it did not have in common with main line denominations. Applying that part of the definition so loosely could result in one defining a religious group as a cult because of anything it teaches that one disagrees with.
An example is the contention that the church of Christ is a cult because it does not teach salvation by faith only. (Ex., Jesus Is Savior.com; Freedom Quest Ministries It is true that the churches of Christ do not accept that doctrine. But, does that make them a cult? If so, then the church in the New Testament was a cult. It did not teach salvation by faith only. its founder, Jesus Christ, said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Just a few days later, on the day the church began, Peter (who had heard Jesus utter those words) told a huge audience, "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." He later wrote, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21). So, Jesus and Peter clearly teach that salvation is by faith,repentance, and baptism. It is intersting that one of the articles cited earlier states, in response to a church of Christ preacher, "He believed that for a person to be saved, they had to have faith, repent of sins, and be baptized. Well, that's two items too many!" (Jesus Is Savior.com). So, I guess the church in the New Testament was a cult!
Another web site (Freedom Quest Ministries) listed two reasons why the church of Christ is a cult, in addition to its teaching on the necessity of baptism for salvation ("baptismal regeneration"): No musical instruments in worship and rejection of the Holy Spirit. First, the church in the New Testament did not have musical instruments in worship (that is mechanical instruments) either. One can read every word of the New Testament from beginning to end without reading one word about them - no example, no commands, no inference. The New Testament, by all three (example, commands and inference (simply commands us to sing. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). We are told, (right after we are told to sing), "And what soever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Colossians 3:17). We are to do all things "in the name of," that is, by the authority of, the Lord Jesus. Since there is no commands, examples of inferences of mechanical instruments of music in worship, how can we use them by his authority? Further, singing is a kind of music! So, it is inacurate to charge that we do not use musical instruments in the worship! We used the only authorized instrument - the heart. It is authorized by command both in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. If not using mechanical instruments of music in worship makes the church of Christ a cult, then the church in the New Testament was a cult!
As for the charge that the church of Christ is a cult because it rejects the Holy Spirit makes it a cult, that is a false charge to begin with. The church of Christ does not reject the Holy Spirit! The writer asks two questions which, I assume, are designed to prove his point that the church of Christ rejects the Holy Spirit: "Why do we forbid to speak in tongues?" (We don't). "Why do we never talk about the Holy Spirit when he is mentioned on virtually every page of the New Testament?" (We do). The church of Christ does not reject the Holy Spirit. It rejects the idea that men speak in tongues today by the power of the Holy Spirit. But, again, that is because the Bible also does. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:8 (NKJV), "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away." Paul says tongues, as well as prophecies and knowledge by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit would cease. When? When the complete revelation of God will was made. Paul writes, 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 (NKJV), "For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away." The miraculous power of the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 18:18). With the death of the last apostle, the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit was no longer given. By then, "that which is perfect (the inspired will of God) had come, and that which is in part" (miraculous gifts) had been done away. So, if teaching that miraculous gifts are not practiced by Christians today makes the church a cult, then the church in the Bible was a cult also.
Is the church of Christ a cult? Of Course not! The church of Christ in the New Testament was not a cult, and neither is the church of Christ today. Adhering to the authority of Christ does not make a church a cult. Adhering to the authority of the Bible does not make one a cult, whether the majority of those who claim faith in Christ do or not.
Finally, the church of Christ does not meet the other part of the definition of a cult either: "A situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much." The churches of Christ admires only Jesus Christ, the founder (Matthew 16:16-18), and head (Ephesians 2:18-19) of the church. Can one admire Him too much? Certainly few would deny that Christians should be willing to serve Jesus Christ, even unto death, if called for to do so. But that is far different from dying for a mere human being who styles himself a leader of a religious group.)
No, the church of Christ is not a cult. It is a group of sincere Christians who are simply interested in serving their Lord Jesus Christ as best as they possibly can. That means doing his will as far as is humanly possible. That is hardly "extreme or dangerous!" Jesus says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
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