How to Discern Cults: 7 Characteristics--3 & 4 of 7
This is 3 & 4 of the 7 Characteristics of a cult.
Click Here to go to 1 & 2
C. #3 Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving versus helping them to do God’s will
1. Cults: They isolate their people from their families, the church and society. They reject
any who leave and warn them saying that they will be judged by God or will lose God’s
best if they leave. People are taught to make lifelong commitments to the group. Some
group teach that their members must get permission before joining another ministry.
2. The Bible: A leader’s concern is to help people succeed in doing God’s will for their own
lives, regardless of whether it means joining another ministry. The foundational value is
that God owns the people, not the leader of a ministry.
D. #4 Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders versus loyalty and connecting people to Jesus
1. Cults: Cults seek to connect their members to the cult leader and require loyalty to him
instead of to Jesus. Loyalty is defined as not questioning the leader. It is very dangerous,
when the leader cannot be questioned.
a. Faithfulness is defined as supporting the leader, rather than obeying Jesus.
b. Cult leaders warn their members to “ not touch God’s anointed.”
2.The Bible: Our first loyalty and connection is to Jesus (Col. 2:19).
19Holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body…grows… (Col. 2:19)
E. #5 Crossing biblical boundaries of behavior versus walking in purity and financial integrity
1. Cults: Cults cross biblical boundaries of behavior especially in immorality and finances.
False teachers can be detected by their covetousness and immorality (2 Pet. 2:3-18)
3By covetousness they will exploit...14having eyes full of adultery…heart trained in
covetous practices…18They allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness.
(2 Pet. 2:3-18)
a. They usually insist on owning or controlling the money and property of members
who “join the community.” They often promote unethical ways of gaining money
(i.e., lying about collecting money for charities that do not exist).
b. Some insist on high moral standards for the group, but not for the leaders, who are
called to have “spiritual partners” for the benefit of the movement.
2. The Bible: Scripture teaches sexual purity and the private ownership of property.
a. In Acts 4:32-35, the disciples laid their money and property at the apostles’ feet as a
one-time free will offering, not as a permanent economic arrangement.
How to Recognize Cults: 7 Characteristics Page 4
F. #6 Separation from the Church versus a culture of honor towards the Church
1. Cults: Cults separate from the wider Church and operate with an elite spirit, believing
that they alone have a special status with God. They have a polarized mentality of “us
versus them.” They criticize the larger Body of Christ and often claim to be the only ones
truly saved. They view all other ministry and denominations as being in error.
2. The Bible: We love God by loving the whole Church that is dear to Him. We cultivate a
culture of honor by blessing others with a spirit of inclusion without elitism. We identify
compromises in the Church but without criticizing specific ministries by name.
a. We all have deficiencies or weaknesses in ministry and need other ministries to
express the fullness of Christ. We are to bless the budding virtues of specific
ministries, regardless of their deficiencies (weaknesses) and without needing to point
out their differences in ministry focus, style, and standards of excellence.
b. There are times to bring judgment to ministries that have destructive doctrines and
behavior (Mt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-11; 2 Cor. 11:12-15; 1 Thes. 5:14, 21; 2 Thes. 3:6-
14; Rev. 2:2, 14-15, 20). We must do this in the right way and with a right spirit.
G. #7 Emphasizing special revelations that contradict Scripture versus loyalty to Scripture
1. Cults: Cults emphasize the special revelations of their leader that contradict the Scripture.
2. The Bible: We emphasize the infallibility of Scripture as the final authority of truth. We
emphasize the main and plain themes of Scripture such as the supremacy of Jesus, the
two great commandments, the Great Commission, the Sermon on the Mount lifestyle,
prayer, reading the word, winning the lost, healing the sick, serving others, etc.
III. JUDGING FRUIT
A. Jesus said that we can only test and know a ministry by its fruit—its words and deeds. We can
only judge fruit, not motives. If the Lord gives you insight into a person’s hidden sin, it is a
commission to pray for that person. We may also go to them in private, in a kind, tender and
pastoral way to ask questions about their beliefs and practices. The Lord restricts us to only
evaluate or discipline others based on their fruit (what they actually do or say), rather than on
what we discern. In this way, the Lord protects the Body of Christ, so that it is not filled with
accusation and slander. We are to dwell together in a culture of honor, not a culture of suspicion.
15Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are
ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits…17Every good tree bears good fruit, but
a bad tree bears bad fruit…
20Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Mt. 7:15-20)
B. Practical ways to avoid deception include regular, prayerful Bible reading; setting our hearts to
obey the Lord; staying in close relationship with others; regular involvement with a body of
believers that has established leaders who uphold biblical doctrines and leadership principles;
and maintaining a teachable spirit—a spirit that receives instruction and correction from others.