What if the most faithful Christian church preceded Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism? Would it make sense that some would excessively criticize it? Well, as it turns out, some have derogatorily accused the genuine Church of God of being a cult.
What is a cult? Does the Bible endorse or warn against a "cult" of Christians who also believe what is commonly considered to be the Jewish law? This article will try to answer those questions and deal with some common accusations.
The term cult has been defined as follows:
cult noun ( RELIGION ) Definition
• [C] a religious group, often living together, whose beliefs are considered extreme or strange by many people
Their son ran away from home and joined a religious cult.
• [C] a particular system of religious belief
(the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press. viewed 04/07/12)
The genuine Church of God is not a group that people run away from their homes to join. It is also not some type of commune where its members live together. As far as the second definition, a particular system of religious belief, that definition seems to apply to any religious system.
Were you aware that the original Christians, were considered to be part of a cult. Notice that Paul was charged with being the leader of a religious cult:
2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented the charges against Paul in the following address to the governor: "Your Excellency...5 We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes...
10...Paul said, "I know, sir, that you have been a judge of Jewish affairs for many years, so I gladly present my defense before you. 11 You can quickly discover that I arrived in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago to worship at the Temple. 12 My accusers never found me arguing with anyone in the Temple, nor stirring up a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of the city. 13 These men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing.
14 "But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets.
(Acts 24:2,5,10-14, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust.)
Christians with "Nazarene" practices have long been accused of being part of a cult (or "sect," Acts 24:14, NKJV/NJB) by persecutors of various types. Jesus warned that the faithful would be persecuted (Matthew 5:11-12) and Paul even claimed that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecutions" (2 Timothy 3:21). So, of course, keeping the same practices that Jesus of Nazareth, the Nazarene ringleader called the Apostle Paul, and others throughout history does not make one part of an inappropriate "cult" (see also Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).
The relatively small size of the genuine Church of God is consistent with the type of church that Jesus said He would have:
32 "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32, NKJV)
32 Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom. (Luke 12:32, Douay-Rheims)
Note that both Protestant and Catholic renderings of Jesus' words demonstrate that His followers should NOT be afraid of the fact that His real flock will be little. Jesus also taught only a few would find the way to eternal life in this age (Matthew 7:14; 20:16). The Apostle Jude indicates that the number of saints was relatively small (Jude 14), while the Apostle Paul called the small group a “remnant” (Romans 11:5).
We in the Continuing Church of God do not engage in odd activities like polygamy, shaving heads, ritual animal sacrifices, or building armed compounds, etc.
So why do some critics claim that the Church of God is a cult?
The anti-Church of God websites and other sources that suggest that the COG is a fraud, scam, and/or terrible doomsday cult are wrong. Some critics make direct outrageously false statements, while others are more subtle and pretend to be trying help. Yet, the Bible teaches that it is "the Devil" (Satan) who is "the accuser of our brethren" (Revelation 12:9,10). The Bible also warns that although Satan's "ministers" try to appear to be righteous, they will come to their end (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)--none should follow false accusers.
Perhaps the most famous critic against the Church of God was Dr. Walter Martin, who prefers to use negative labels such as "Armstrongism." He prefers that possibly because he knows that the expression Church of God is used extensively throughout the New Testament for the true Church (about 12 times in singular and plural forms), and he prefers to call the true Church of God derisive names. Dr. Martin published the following in 2003:
The Armstrong cults believe that Armstrong was God’s sole channel of divine truth. (Martin W. The Kingdom of the Cults. Baker Books, 2003, p. 502)
But that is not true. That was never the position of any truly in the Philadelphia remnant. Plus, Herbert Armstrong made errors and I and other COG leaders have repeatedly acknowledged that he did. Sadly, however, COG critics tend to like to listen to other COG critics and often accept improper assertions about the COG as facts. Notice something else that Herbert Armstrong taught:
“Don't believe me – BELIEVE YOUR BIBLE – BELIEVE GOD!” (Armstrong HW. Personal. Plain Truth magazine, September 1963, p. 1)
All non-biblical doctrinal literature, including what someone like Herbert Armstrong wrote, should be proven by the Bible to be believed (cf. Acts 17:11). Dr. Martin is basically bearing false witness, but many have relied on him instead of checking for the truth.
Of course, the Bible shows that "many false witnesses came forward" against Jesus (Matthew 26:60) and there were many "witnesses" with false charges against the Apostle Paul (Acts 24:1-14). Just being falsely accused by a lot of people, then, obviously does not disqualify one from being faithful. The Apostles, like Peter and others, also warned that some who at one time claimed to have association with the true church could turn bitter (Acts 8:18-23; Hebrews 12:14-15)--sadly many of more vocal accusers seem to be in that category. Notice also what Jesus Himself taught:
20 If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).
The Apostle Paul taught:
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. (2 Timothy 4:16)
If you really believe that you should follow Jesus, please do not be turned aside by those who speak against those who teach His message--Jesus and the Apostle Paul both suggested that those were signs of being part of the true Church of God.
In my view, the main reason that some have made claims about the genuine Church of God supposedly being a cult is that they "are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29).
Jesus Himself taught about love (Matthew 5:53-45; 12:29-31), the need for repentance (Matthew 3:2; Luke 13:3), His sacrifice (Matthew 26:26-32), the law (Matthew 5:17-18; see also What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments?), the Holy Days (Luke 22:14-21; John 7:37), monogamy (Matthew 19:4-6), avoiding unclean meats (Luke 11:11-12; Matthew 7:9-11; see also The New Testament Church and Unclean Meats), the "beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:4-8), the coming Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21), protection for the Philadelphian Christians (Revelation 3:7,10; see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians), and His return (Matthew 24:30-31). We in the Continuing Church of God do as well.
Basically in the Continuing Church of God, "we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). Many were offended by Jesus' actual teachings when He was on the earth (John 6:66), and many still are today.
Here is a listing of various beliefs of the Church of God:
There are more beliefs and they can be found at www.cogwriter.com and www.ccog.org
While many who profess Christ do not follow the practices of the original Christians, those in the Continuing Church of God strive to.
Genuine Christianity is about love. Love to God (Matthew 22:37-38) and love to neighbor (Matthew 22:39). And that “the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8) and that we help show love towards God and neighbor by obeying Jesus and trying to fulfill Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20. Despite human flaws (and no one in the Church of God is perfect nor was anyone in the early apostolic church), the faithful in the COG strive to teach and practice what the Bible teaches.
Of course, it was Jesus who foretold that the true church would be a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), hated by the world (Matthew 10:22), persecuted (Matthew 10:23), and called names (Matthew 10:25). He also foretold only a few would find the way to life in this age (Matthew 7:14; cf. Matthew 12:31-32) and that most would let outside influences stop them from following the true way now (cf. Matthew 13:18-23).
We of the Continuing Church of God urge repentance in this age, explain the love of God, and warn the world of the results of its sins and God’s ultimate judgment. We believe that those called, chosen, AND converted in this age are being saved to serve in support of getting the message of God out as a witness in this age and in the age to come. We believe that those called of God in this age to be faithful Philadelphia Christians will be moved to support that. The Bible shows that truly God is a God of love (John 3:16; 1 John 4:16) and has an exciting plan of salvation. And that we individually are called to give in a unique way (for more details, please read the article What is the Meaning of Life?).
Please study your Bible and check out what we teach. For truly God is a God of love and has an exciting plan of salvation (some other articles of possibly related interest may include Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants and Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?).
The Bible teaches that "the Devil" (Satan) is "the accuser of our brethren" (Revelation 12:9,10). Jesus said the Devil was "a liar and the the father of it" (John 8:44). Do not be dissuaded by those who do not really believe the Bible and make misleading comments about the COG: "lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11) as the Apostle Paul wrote. The Apostle Paul also warned that Satan's ministers can seem to be "ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) so all should be careful about Church of God accusations. If you hear one, first find out if it is REALLY true (most I have read are not upon detailed investigation), and then if it is, if that should according to scripture disqualify the entire church--and even then consider what happened related to the faithful in scripture.
The Apostle Paul himself was often accused of being the ringleader of a cult that professed Christ that also believed in biblical practices that some Jews also believe. We in the Continuing Church of God strive to hold to the same version of Christianity that Jesus taught and that the original apostles and their followers strove to follow: see also The History of Early Christianity page.
Note: We truly of the Continuing Church of God only accept as inspired the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament and no other document. Therefore, although other current and historical documents/articles/books/booklet/posts by various Church of God leaders throughout history often have value, as they generally also tend to contain personal opinion, we do not consider that any of them are on the same level as sacred scripture, and hence believe that they can contain error.
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Thiel B. Is the Genuine Church of God a Cult? www.cogwriter.com COGwriter 2012/2013 0205