Salvation of Cult Members
How are people caught up in cults not saved? For example, do you think Roman Catholics are not saved, or Seventh Day Adventists, etc. - how? (I don't think they are, but am unable to explain why. Can you help me give an explanation to them/others?)
Salvation is simply realizing that there is a living God, that we do by nature things that are contrary to His will, and that we must turn from ourselves and trust in Him (Jesus-God incarnate) and Him alone for our eternal salvation. A cult, defined simply in terms of practical usage for these purposes, is a group of people who do not believe this, or believe it in a modified way that renders it of none or lessened effect. I am restricting this definition to those possessing at least some affinity for Christ, so Muslims, Hindus and other world religions will not be discussed. But among this high level classification there are major differences.
The worst cults in my view are Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. These two groups deny that Jesus was the living God incarnate, but rather teach that He was a lesser created god. Belief that Jesus is God in the personage of the Son, and is coeternal with the father (John 1:1-18) is central to the issue. This belief knocks out every other religion on the planet. God gave us this distinction so that we may clearly discern from the counterfeits. This is elemental and fundamental to salvation. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus was "a" [g]od, not "the" [G]od. Seventh Day Adventists and Roman Catholics are of a different vein. They add law keeping and works (or stated another way, the righteousness of man) to salvation. I would also include the Church of Christ in the list because they add the work of baptism to salvation (Adventists add Sabbath keeping, and Catholics too many to list). Nothing is more clearly refuted in scripture than this. The whole book of Galatians is completely dedicated to this topic, as are major portions of many other books of the New Testament.
Along the lines of works based salvation, a few denominations are worthy of an [dis]honorable mention. Groups like the Church of God (Pentecostal, Apostolic, etc.), including "Free Will" Baptists, teach a form of implicit works based salvation, although I have found that many in these denominations do not believe this. While these groups do not specify which laws and works are necessary, they imply they are because they indicate that your actions can cause you to lose your salvation. The implication is that you can earn your way out of it, so to speak. But most of these groups are more often characterized as being "cultic" based on their teaching that apostolic gifts are still active in the church today. Technically, they are at fault for placing too much emphasis on works, and too little on the sufficiency of Christ. However, I do not consider their error as egregious as the aforementioned groups.
With that said, I do believe there are some people who come to a saving knowledge of Christ in the denominations that add works. But this is in spite of their teachings, and not necessarily a direct result of them. All we must do to be saved is trust in Jesus as our personal savior. Of course I say this in the sense that Jesus is God. If you have done that, you are saved. He has given His word. But groups that deny the deity of Christ are leading lost souls to eternal damnation. Also, denominations that add works to the gospel of Christ are preaching a gospel that is accursed of God (Galatians 1:8). So, by definition, these groups must be leading some if not many astray.
Hopefully this was not too complex or long to be helpful. In the final analysis, any group that affiliates itself with Christ but doesn't profess Jesus as God and teach His sufficiency alone for salvation is a cult in my mind.