“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on thosewho walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with the minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:17-18).
Here we come to one of very sad and agonizing passages in the Bible. Apostle Paul gives us two groups of people found in Christianity. First, they are those who like Paul imitate Christ. The apostle urges believers to follow the example of these people who have their eyes fixed on the cross of Christ.
Secondly, there is a group that Apostle Paul describes as enemies of the cross. Please note, these people are not outside Christianity. They are inside yet they are enemies of the cross. This is a very dangerous group of people because unlike those who are outside Christianity and openly oppose Christ, these people masquerade as Christians and pose like they are working for him yet the truth is otherwise.
The enemies of the cross have often been described as false teachers and false prophets. Now, it’s not funny to label anyone a false teacher or false prophet. Personally, I hesitate to do so unless basing on the testimony of Scripture I clearly see that one is indeed a false prophet or false teacher since God’s Word assures us that “by their fruits, we shall know them” (Matthew 7:16, 20).
In the above passage, Philippians 3:17, 18, the Scripture describes the destiny as well as three fruits of the enemies of the cross. If these fruits or any of these are present in someone who claims to be a Christian or Christ’s servant, I would not hesitate to say that they are a false teacher or an enemy of the cross. Let every man be a liar but God’s Word alone should declare who the enemies of the cross are.
First, in the passage we see that the end or destiny of the enemies of the cross is destruction. Friends, this is not a simple matter. No one should treat this matter lightly because it has to do with the wrath of God. The end of all the enemies of the cross is destruction. I shudder at this statement. Who can stand the wrath of God? Recall how God destroyed the entire earth except for Noah and his sons and a few animals and birds (Genesis 7:1- 24). Consider the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23, 23). “OK, that’s the Old Testament,” someone might say.
Well, think about God’s wrath poured on Ananias and Sapphira for lying to Him (Acts 5:1-11). What about Herod who was struck down by an angel for robbing God of His glory (Acts 12:22, 23)? The New Testament goes further to describe the ultimate destruction of the enemies of the cross in the following way: “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This can’t be a light issue; however, that’s what Scripture says is the end of the enemies of the cross. It’s really scary!
Secondly, the enemies of the cross have their belly as their god. They always work hard for their physical satisfaction and not to please God. They use God’s name to acquire and satisfy their wants. When ‘preaching’ what is supreme on their mind is not “Thus says the Lord” rather what will I gain after ‘preaching’ this message. Will people like me more and give me more money and gifts? They work for their belly and not for God.
Thirdly, the enemies of the cross take glory in their shame. The things that they ought to be ashamed of are the things that they enjoy to do. Instead of being ashamed that often they make the Bible say what it never meant and mean what it never said, they boast of getting special revelations which no one else can see in the Scripture apart from themselves. Some of the things they claim that Bible says are very shameful indeed.
I once heard of a preacher who told people that God had ordered him to collect a certain amount of money from Christians failing which he will die. This preacher had no shame to say this. Really? Can God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ kill a preacher because he has failed to receive an offering of a certain amount? The examples are many. You can also consider of preachers who hire bodyguards to protect them even as they stand on the pulpit to preach God’s Word. Surprised? It is happening. Bodyguards around the pulpit to protect a man or woman of God as he/she is ‘sharing God’s Word’. Shameful indeed!
Finally, the passage highlights that enemies of the cross have their minds set on earthly things. “Forget about eternity, live your best life now for heaven is already here” is the mentality of the enemies of the cross. Now, if I can live my best life now here on earth, what will happen to me when I go to be with my Father in glory? At this point I would like to make this bold declaration: Anyone one who claims to serve Christ but doesn’t help God’s people prepare for eternity with Jesus fails in their task and this cap of the enemy of the cross fits them very well.
If truth be told, it is hard and painful to talk about these things. This is really a hard talk but we have to face it any way. The enemies of the cross really exist and by their fruits we know them. The Bible reminds us not to follow or imitate them. Instead, we should join, imitate and keep our eyes on those who walk according to Christ and His Word. We thank God that by his grace we have such people who seek to honor and glorify Christ always and by the same grace we will follow them, will we not?