Enemies of the Cross

Intro: New month – new focus in our yearlong journey through the epistle to the Philippians. In August we will investigate what many consider to be the theme of Paul’s letter – joy. Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! So, if you struggle with being joyful in your life, or are not sure what this exhortation entails, stay tuned… But before we proceed to those words in chapter 4, today I want to share some thoughts on the last verses of chapter 3.

  • Phil 3:15-21Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 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. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

I. “Have this mind…” The “mind” (way of thinking, attitude) mentioned here may refer all the way back to Paul’s description of the mind of Christ Himself – humbly leaving heaven to endure the death of the cross, because He put our welfare above His own. It certainly refers to the most immediate context of chapter 3 (Paul’s mind in being willing to throw everything else in the garbage in order to Know Christ, follow Him in suffering, and pursue the prize of God’s calling). The apostle recognizes that we may all be at different waypoints on this quest to have the mind of Christ, but we are commanded to walk according to what we know(to the degree we have already attained) and remain united in our thinking.

II. “Let us walk…” Paul refers to two different walks, or ways of thinking and living. Some are walking as Paul was walking – in the mind and ways of Christ. Paul tells the Philippians to “note” those who are walking this way (v. 17). The word note is skopeo (skop-eh-o) which means to observe closely, fix your gaze upon”. The noun form of this word is used in v. 14, and translated “goal”. When I read this verse I think of some in this audience who are walking this way – whom I strive to imitate. I think of others who have gone before me (Glindle Johnson, Carvin Crapps, Gano Garner, Roy Phillips, Ron Matthews, Vesta Welsh, Phyllis Phillips, my own grandmother, the list goes on. Paul tells me that the lives of others can serve as guide markers and focal points on the journey.

III. “Enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ…” But, just as there are some who are walking with Jesus, there are others who are walking differently. (v. 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:”) It is not hard for us to identify many of those who are walking this other path. Paul describes them here. He calls them enemies of the cross of Christ.

A. “even weeping”But first, I want us to notice Paul’s emotional reaction to these others. How do you feel when you consider those who oppose Jesus, or seek to eradicate the Way of Jesus? Those who preach another gospel, like the Judaizers of Paul’s day, or scoff at the cross as foolishness, like the Greeks of Paul’s day? Sometimes they makes me angry. Sometimes I am perplexed. But seldom does it make me shed tears of sorrow. (V. 18 – I now tell you even weeping) Elsewhere Paul expressed this emotion toward the lost. Rom 9:1-3 – I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh”

• Ps 119:136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

• Jeremiah 13 go buy a new belt (loincloth) and wear it to the river Euphrates. Hide it in the rocks. Go back sometime later to get it… it is ruined… good for nothing. So will My people (whom I have tied about my waist) be because of their pride. – Jer 13:15 – But if you will not hear it, My soul will weep in secret for your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly And run down with tears, Because the Lord’s flock has been taken

B. Identifying the Enemy… Who is an enemy of the cross of Jesus? [waging a battle when you do not know what the enemy looks like can be difficult.] Many conclude that Paul’s warning here is focused on false teachers that threatened the church in Philippi – both judaizers who denied the need for the sacrifice of the cross of Jesus; and those Gentile philosophers who rejected the cross as foolishness. It seems true that Paul is discussing those who claimed to be Christians. Although he may be discussing false teachers, the character Paul describes here as the enemy of the cross reaches beyond the false teacher. We can learn the character of the cross by considering the character of those who oppose it. What does the enemy of the cross look like?

1. The Doom They Face: Whose end is destruction” – Paul begins his description of Jesus’ enemies by declaring their final demise. They cannot survive because they are fighting against the only true source of salvation from sin. The Greek word for end here is telos which signifies a goal or conclusion of a specific act. How will it end for those who oppose the preaching of the cross? What they are doing will have eternal consequences. It does matter what we teach.

2. The Deity They Serve: whose god is their belly – the word belly (appetite) translates koilia, which refers anatomically to the abdomen, particularly the stomach. Here it is used metaphorically to refer to all unrestrained sensual, fleshly, bodily desires. (Paul uses the term in 1 Corinthians 6:13 – “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them…”)

a. This can easily refer to the false teacher who is unwilling to teach the truth because it might cost him in some way. He uses his religion as a way to serve his own desires and appetites. Rom 16:17-18 – Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. Paul spoke of those who preached Christ from envy and strife, and selfish ambition. They did it to make Paul’s life more difficult and to please themselves. (Phil. 1:14-16)

b. The cross of Jesus stands forever opposed to selfishness and self-serving ambitions. In Phil 2:3 Paul calls on Christians “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself... His argument is centered in the cross of Jesus as One who “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” – Phil 2:7-8

1) If your marriage is failing because of your selfishness, you are an enemy of the cross.

3. The Disgrace They Bear:whose glory is their shame” – the sense is that they were willing to boast (glory) in the very things that they should have been ashamed. MacArthur calls this “the most extreme form of wickedness — when the sinner’s most wretched conduct before God is his highest point of self-exaltation.”

4. The Things They Value:who set their mind on earthly things.” This is often termed by preachers and teachers as worldliness. Those who place their attention on the pursuits that characterize this world are enemies of the cross. James 4:4 – 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.

a. Why is this antithetical to the cross? Jesus’ willingness to endure the cross displayed a real concern for the spiritual over the physical. The writer of Hebrews calls on us to look unto Jesus…“the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

1) Although we can easily speak of the worldliness of those who are outside of Christ. But the real object of Paul’s words here is the threat of worldliness in the church. We can easily identify and reject the outwardly immoral person. But it is possible for a worldly minded person to be galvanized into respectability in the church.

• 1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

2) Albert Barnes writes… “How many professing Christians are there who regard little else than worldly things! How many who live only to acquire wealth. to gain honor, or to enjoy the pleasures of the world! …It is not so much those who deny the doctrines of the cross, as it is those who oppose its influence on their hearts; not so much those who live to scoff and deride religion, as it is those who “mind earthly things,” that injure this holy cause in the world.(from Barnes’ Notes,)

3) Jesus Himself often warned His closest, most devoted disciples against the threat of physical things and the pursuit of money, prestige, and honor. Luke 12:15 – 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

4) Even Paul was impacted by close disciples who were destroyed by worldliness – 2 Tim 4:10 – for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world,

i. One writer wrote about the worldly Christian… “The gratification of the flesh, as seen in his interest in those things that make for greater social prestige, his business enterprises, his social life among his friends of the world, putting the church in the background while he is putting forth every effort to “get ahead in the world.” It is this type of worldliness that is so devastating to the Cause of Christ.”This type of worldliness is in viola­tion of the command of Jesus to “seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”(Matt. 6:33) Those who do otherwise are enemies of the cross of Christ.

Conclusion: Those who follow the way of the cross have a hope that goes beyond this world. Paul voices it by declaring, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” – Phil 3:20

  • We must cling to the cross of Jesus, no matter what. Our determination to do this would put us in opposition to the world we live in, and even with some who claim to be Christians. But the way of the cross leads home. Let us therefore conduct ourselves as good soldiers of Christ Jesus, never lending our support to the enemy.
  • “The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)
  • Paul, when coming into the city of Corinth, determined not to know anything among them save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)
  • And while others did glory in the flesh, Paul said, “far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” ( 6:14)