Good examples are important aren’t they? There was a Christian father who was explaining to his little boy what a Christian is—in his innocence the youngster looked up and said, “Dad, have I ever seen a Christian?”
Good examples are powerful as well. Mark Twain once said that “few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” Doesn’t it bug you when you aren’t quite doing something as well or with as much dedication as you ought to and you look over at the next person who’s giving their all?
In our last study in the book of Philippians we looked at the Philippians 3:17.
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
We saw the importance of following good examples and Paul clearly is an example that is good to follow. In contrast to Paul’s good example and others like him, Paul paints a much different picture in Philippians 3:18-19. Here we will see the enemies of the cross of Christ described. We see their bad example which is opposite of the way a believer should live. Let’s look at Philippians 3:18 and 19 together.
18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who set their mind on earthly things.
Just as there are good and Godly examples for us to follow there are examples that we need to avoid. Paul talks about the enemies of the cross of Christ in verses 18-19. We see the enemy described in verse 18.
1. The Enemy Described
Philippians 3:18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
Notice that Paul says that many walk this way. Many are the enemies of the cross of Christ. He doesn’t say there are a few who walk this way. He says that there are many that walk this way. Many suggestions have been made as to what specific group of people Paul has in mind here. While I don’t think it is clear enough to narrow it down to a specific group, it does seem clear that Paul is referring to professing Christians whose lifestyle betrays the cross of Christ. There were people like this around in Paul’s day and unfortunately there are people like this around in our day. MacArthur describes them this way.
“…these are people who say they are the friends of Christ and the cross of Christ, who advocate Christ, who identify with Christ, whose names are on the church roll, who want spiritual leadership, but they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. They're very subtle. It takes discernment to recognize them.” (John MacArthur)
And listen to Spurgeon’s words about the same group of people.
“Beloved, I would rather have a thousand devils out of the church, than have one in it. I do not care about all the adversaries outside; our greatest cause of fear is from the crafty "wolves in sheep's clothing," that devour the flock. It is against such that we would denounce in holy wrath the solemn sentence of divine indignation, and for such we would shed our bitterest tears of sorrow. They are "the enemies of the cross of Christ." (C.H. Spurgeon)
Paul goes on to say that he’s told the Philippians often about these types of people, the enemies of the cross. It’s a theme we see throughout the New Testament. There are those who profess Christ but are spiritual counterfeits. There are false teachers out there. Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ and we need to be aware that not everyone who professes the name of Christ actually belongs to Him. Jesus warned us about false prophets in Matthew 7:15.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
They may appear harmless at first but they are destructive and deadly. Jesus told us to beware of false prophets. We need to watch out and not be deceived by them. Peter also warns about false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1.
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
Paul had often warned the Philippian believers about enemies of the cross of Christ. He makes that clear in our passage. He warns in other places about false teachers. Listen to the warning Paul issued in Acts 20:28-30.
28 "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
29 "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
There are professors who are not possessors. There are those who may profess Christ but don’t actually have a personal relationship with Him. Paul describes for us the enemies of the cross of Christ and when he refers to the enemies of the cross of Christ, I believe he is referring to those who don’t preach a pure gospel—those who add or subtract from the gospel of Jesus Christ. It could refer to those who add works to salvation or to those who reduce salvation to an empty meaningless confession that doesn’t require any commitment or change in lifestyle.
If someone recites the sinner’s prayer and continues to live the same old sinful way and no change or transformation takes place, it’s likely there was never a genuine profession of faith.
Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Jesus didn’t preach a man-centered, health, wealth and prosperity gospel. He says that a true follower will deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ. Sometimes you hear statistics about how many people profess to be Christians in the United States, then you shake your head and wonder how we can be such a Godless nation and how so much wickedness can flourish in this country. I believe it’s because many who say they are a Christian are actually enemies of the cross of Christ. How do I know? What did Jesus say in Matthew 7:21?
21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Be careful of those who claim to know Christ but don’t live a life that honors Him. Empty professions are meaningless. One who genuinely professes Christ is going to live in a way that honors Him. I’m afraid that some are going to be in for a rude awakening when they face the end of their life on earth.
We are told to examine ourselves. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says that we are to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith.
Those who truly know Christ are going to be walking far differently than those who are enemies of the cross of Christ.
I want you to note too that Paul was concerned about the enemies of the cross of Christ. He says, I tell you now even weeping. Paul was moved with compassion and emotion. He cared deeply about people. He cared very much about their spiritual state. He sorrowed over the lost. He knew the condition of the enemies of the cross of Christ. He knew the destruction they could cause. He knew their destiny. We see the destiny of the enemies of the cross of Christ in the first part of verse 19.
2. The Enemy’s Destiny
Paul tells us that the end of the enemies of the cross of Christ is destruction. The word used here is the opposite of salvation. They are headed for destruction. Their future is not a happy one. Eternal destruction awaits the enemy of the cross of Christ. They may seem to be enjoying life on earth but destruction in Hell is what they face in the future.
Instead of eternal life that is given to those who trust in Christ, the enemies of the cross of Christ face death and destruction. The end they face is described in 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
An unpleasant future is in store for the enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction and Paul did not announce this with a smug attitude but with a broken heart.
I want you to also note the enemy’s deity.
3. The Enemy’s Deity
After Paul tells us the destiny of the enemy of the cross of Christ, he tells us about the enemy’s deity. Notice what Paul says about their god. He says their god is their belly. This is an interesting phrase that Paul uses. What does he mean when he says whose god is their belly? I believe it refers in a broad sense to physical appetites, passions and desires and not simply the stomach and gluttony but sensual desires in general.
The idea is that instead of serving God they are consumed with gratifying their own physical desires. They serve themselves. They make idols out of their own fleshly desires. Their philosophy is “if it feels good do it.” “If it brings me pleasure that’s what I’ll do and pursue in my life.”
The enemies of the cross of Christ live to please themselves, not God. Instead of living a crucified life to serve God and others, they live to serve self. They live for pleasure. Their god is their belly. They indulge themselves. They are focused on themselves. They live to do whatever pleases “me.”
What a contrast to the way Paul lived his life. Look back at verse 10 in chapter 3 of Philippians.
Philippians 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
Paul’s passion was to know Christ. He lived to please and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. But the enemies of the cross of Christ live to please self. Their god is their belly. This brings us to the enemy’s disgrace.
4. The Enemy’s Disgrace
We also see it in verse 19—the enemy’s disgrace. Look at what Paul says about the enemies of the cross of Christ. He says their glory is in their shame.
It means that they are proud of things they should be ashamed of. Does that sound familiar? We see that attitude today don’t we? Instead of being ashamed of immorality and immoral acts, the enemies of the cross glory in it.
Let’s look for a moment at Ephesians 5:11-12.
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.
And listen to Isaiah 5:20.
20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
That is what the enemies of the cross of Christ do. They call evil good. They glory in things that should bring shame.
Note also the final thing that Paul tells us about the enemies of the cross of Christ is about what they delight in.
5. The Enemy’s Delight
They set their mind on earthly things. Their delight is found in the things of this world. God’s Word tells us in James 4:4;
4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
The enemies of the cross of Christ are friends of the world. They set their mind on earthly things. Their focus is on the things of this earth instead of the matters of eternity. They pursue material prizes and possessions that will one day be gone. They are consumed with the here and now instead of living a life that will count for eternity. They are living according to the flesh.
Listen to Romans 8:5-8.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The enemies of the cross are carnally minded. Their mind is set on earthly things not spiritual.
A couple of weeks ago we took a look at the kind of example we need to follow as believers in Jesus Christ. Today we have taken a look at the enemies of the cross of Christ. Their example is one we need to avoid. Don’t follow those who are enemies of the cross of Christ. Be on the lookout for those who profess Christ but whose lifestyle doesn’t back up their claims. Spurgeon said…
“The greatest sorrows of the church have been brought upon her, not by the arrows shot by her foes, not by the discharge of the artillery of hell, but by fires lit in her own midst, by those who have crept into her in the guise of good men and true, but who were spies in the camp, and traitors to the cause.” (C. H. Spurgeon)
We need to be careful that we aren’t led astray by the wrong kinds of examples like Paul describes for us as he tells us about the enemies of the cross of Christ. It’s so important that we know the Word and are living obedient lives and aren’t swayed by those who distort the gospel.
And I hope that no one here this morning could be described as an enemy of the cross of Christ. Hopefully each one here today knows the Lord Jesus Christ and has the deepest desire to live a life that honors Him. Hopefully the destiny you face this morning is one of eternal life not destruction. Because as Romans 6:23 clearly states;
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you realize today that you have never trusted Christ eternal life can be yours if you will repent of your sin and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
It’s sobering to realize that there are many who are enemies of the cross of Christ. For those of us who know the Lord, let’s have a concern for seeing others coming to know Jesus Christ. Let’s be careful as followers of Christ that we are not apathetic and shallow in our knowledge of God’s Word. And let’s be certain we are living obedient lives and giving a verbal witness that will help others to know our Savior.
Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church