Identifying Enemies of the Cross
4 Characteristics of Enemies of the Cross
“17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:17-21 NIV
In Philippians 3:17-21, Paul warns his readers and laments that there are some people within the church who profess to be Christians, but whose lives bear fruit of the world. The people Paul speaks of here are the opposite of the legalists. These professing Christians celebrated their “freedom” or “liberty” in Christ to indulge their flesh. Paul also deals with people like this in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, and in Romans 6. They thought that salvation from God would come without repentance or conversion and justified themselves by arguing that as long as your “soul” was saved, it didn’t matter what you did with your body. These people wanted the rewards of the salvation, but refused to take the responsibility to take up their cross (Mathew 16:24-26). It burdened Paul’s heart to see them distort the message of Jesus into a cheap grace, but Paul calls them, “enemies of the cross of Christ.”
Here are 4 Characteristics of Enemies of the cross
They are destined for destruction. “Their destiny is destruction”
This is a sad statement for some who profess to be Christians, but live as enemies of the cross of Christ. As Paul writes this, he may be referring to either ultimate damnation or to their present destruction. Bible commentator David Guzik suggests that Paul appears to be alluding to ultimate damnation.
They are driven by their own passions. “Their god is their stomach”
This passage does not refer simply to what people were eating, but rather to their indulgences in general. Paul here speaks of people who chose to live only for the pleasures of their body, mind, and soul. They wanted what they wanted, when they wanted it. Paul is heartbroken to see people who profess to be Christians, who want to use God for their own passions and have a disregard for God’s passions.
They are proud of their own passions. “Their glory is their shame.”
These people that Paul speaks of celebrate in the fact that they live only for their own pleasure. While the call themselves Christians, they are proud that they live their lives only for self and have no regard for the cost of the cross.
They think only of their own passions. “Their mind is set on earthly things.”
These professing Christians focus their minds not to worship and please God but to get along as they want to in this world. It can be a danger for churches to fall into the trap of trying to satisfy those whose minds are set on earthly things by just preaching messages on how to fulfill your own passions and desires.
If a preacher wants to gain a large crowd, it would be much easier to focus on feeding people messages that are designed to encourage them to have “their mind set on earthly things” and to satisfy the god of their “stomach” when instead the Christ follower should be focused on pleasing and worshipping God. It is scary to me to think that professing Christians who share teachings that crowds enjoy (because it improves their earthly passions) can be considered “enemies of the cross of Christ” without even knowing it!
I find it very comforting that Paul doesn’t just tell us what the enemies of the cross look like. He challenges the Philippians to observe who they are in Christ.
“20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21 NIV
If you have been an enemy of the cross, which all Christians were at some point, Paul calls you to repentance. You don’t have to remain an enemy of the cross. Turn your attention to Jesus Christ. Turn over control of your life to the Holy Spirit. Remember whose you are. When Paul says, “our citizenship is in heaven…” he is reminding the early church that Roman citizens never forgot that they belonged to; Rome. No matter where they were, Roman citizens knew without a doubt that they belonged to Rome and needed to be sure their conduct was becoming of a Roman citizen. Paul says, to the Christians, “Your conduct should match your citizenship too.” He wants them to remember that no matter where they were at, or whom they were with, they were “citizens of heaven.” That is a strong reminder for Christians today as well. We are citizens of Heaven and we need to live as such. If you have not been living as a citizen of heaven, repent and come back. Don’t be an enemy to the cross.
Guard my lips Holy Spirit that I may not unknowingly become an enemy of the cross. May I live for Your passions. May I embrace Your priorities. May I be driven of Your desires. Forgive the many times that I have placed too much focus on me and my desires. Change my heart to be more like Yours today. In the strong name of Jesus, amen.