Christian Destiny Christian Destiny
The Marks of a Cult

by Dr. Dave Breese

4. Presumptuous Messianic Leadership

This is the notion that a contemporary human being has been appointed by God to be some special kind of a saint, a guru, a messiah who represents divine authority that must not be violated.

The Christian message is that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He alone is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). He alone is our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). The Church is the Body of Christ, of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22,23). The Christian knows that only Jesus Christ deserves disciples. The followers of Christ relate to one another as members of a Body. They are to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). They are to submit them selves to one another (1 Corinthians 16:16). The Scriptures clearly declare that when they announce themselves as knee-jerk followers of a human leader, they have sunk into carnality. “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one says, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:3,4). Even the great Apostle Paul, when writing to Timothy, said, “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:7).

One of the marks of a cult is that it elevates the person and the words of a human leader to a messianic level. The predictable characteristic of a member of a cult is that they will soon be quoting their leader, whether Father Divine , Prophet Jones, Mary Baker Eddy, Judge Rutherford, Hubbard Armstrong, B'hai, Buddha or Beelzebub with some kind of final authority. A messianic human leader has used the powers of his intelligence or personality and with them imposed his will and directives on the ignorant.

The success of this approach is usually predictable, for there are few who are intellectually responsible enough to think for themselves. Their mental laziness has led them to seek a leader who can give them all of the answers and personalize or objectify their religious need. They want someone to speak to them with authority, even finality.

Many converts to a religion stand in inordinate awe of the person who brought them into the electrifying experience of the discovery of that faith. Few leaders can withstand the temptation to develop the personal promotion that will retain their exulted image in the minds of their devoted followers.

It is possible that many cultic leaders began as humble people but soon came to believe their own promotion. They stamp their name on everything and make themselves utterly indispensable to the faith of their followers. They often cleverly continue to promote the image of external humility while in fact spending millions to keep their name in lights before their starry-eyed followers.

The Christian makes no such mistake. He is aware that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He knows that from the least to the greatest, each Christian, but for the grace of Jesus Christ, would be corrupt and lost. He remembers that our greatest human leader, the Apostle Paul, said, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). The Christian has no final human leader except Jesus Christ. He is warned about this by Christ Himself who said, “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8). All Christians, from the least to the greatest, are humbled by the question, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).


1. Extra-Biblical Revelation — False doctrine from outside the Bible

2. Salvation by works — Denial of salvation by faith alone

3. Uncertain Hope — Cultistis are never sure of heaven

4. Presumptuous Messianic Leadership — Arrogant religious rulers command others

5. Doctrinal ambiguity

6. Denunciation of Others — All others are infidels, reprobates

7. Claim of “Special Discoveries”

8. Defective Christology — Denial of the Deity or humanity of Christ

9. Segmented Biblical Attention — Ignoring the whole counsel of God

10. Entangling Organizational Structure — Membership equals salvation

11. Financial Exploitation — Money is the object


This 1981 booklet is an early version of what later became the full-length book, The Marks of a Cult: The Warning Signs of False Teachings, published by Harvest House.
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The Marks of a Cult