1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
Last week we began looking at Paul’s Doctrine of the Cross. It was so important to him that he mentions it 10 times in his letters. Let’s review what we have covered -
· 1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”
· 1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
· Galatians 5:11 “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
· Galatians 6:12 “As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
· Galatians 6:14 “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
· Ephesians 2:14-16 “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:”
· Philippians 2:6-8 “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
There are three passages left that round out Paul’s Doctrine of The Cross --
· Philippians 3:18 “they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:”
· Colossians 1:19-22 “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:”
· Colossians 2:13-14 “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”
We will look at just one of them today.
· Philippians 3:17-19 “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 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 mind earthly things.)”
Paul is giving the Philippian believers a “heads up!” He is saying, look out! Beware of The Enemies of The Cross of Christ. The first question is, who are “the enemies of the Cross of Christ?” To be sure there are enemies of the Cross of Christ outside the church. However, I think Paul’s primary focus are the enemies that are within the professing church. I think there are two varieties of enemies of the Cross of Christ WITHIN the church. First there are the tares & second there are the carnal/worldly Christians.
Let’s consider the tares first. We must always remember that there are tares planted among the wheat. The enemy, the Devil, plants them there. And the thing is, the tares look like wheat (Matthew 13:24 & ff). Paul clearly had firsthand experience with this problem He talks about being “in perils among false brethren” in 2 Corinthians 11:26. We have even experienced that here on several occasions during my 30 plus years of ministry at this church! Basically, Paul is warning the Philippians of the same thing our Lord warned about in Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
In this passage Paul tries to help them distinguish between sheep and wolves; between lovers of the Cross of Christ and Enemies of the Cross of Christ. He does this by pointing to himself - “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” Philippians 3:17
Paul points to himself as a role model. The Greek word translated “be We followers together” is συμμιμηται – summimetai (soom-mim-ay-tay'). In this compound word mimetai means to mimic or be an imitator and sum means together with. What Paul is saying by the use of this word is as I am a follower of Christ; join with me in following Him. Further, the idea is, imitate me no farther than as I imitate Christ. He articulates this very specifically in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
The second enemy within the church is the carnal/worldly Christian.
The carnal/worldly Christian is a spiritual adulterer! Being a friend of the world makes the carnal/worldly Christian the enemy of God. James 4:4 attests to that! “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” The worldly Christian brings reproach upon Christ and even causes the name of Christ to be blasphemed among the unsaved! (Titus 2:5).
Having said that, the end of those who Paul is exposing is said to be destruction, which is a translation of the Greek word απωλεια – apoleia, which can mean loss of wellbeing, such as being a castaway such as Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 9:27, or it can also refers to the state after death wherein exclusion from salvation is a realized fact.
So, it is wolves in sheep’s clothing and or carnal/worldly Christians that Paul issues his warning about in Philippians 3:18-19 “(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 mind earthly things.)” He points out characteristics of “the enemies of the cross of Christ.”
! “whose God is their belly”
! “whose glory is their shame”
! “who mind earthly things.”
Let’s examine them one at a time:
! “whose God is their belly”
The first characteristic of these enemies of the Cross of Christ is that they are self-indulgent and live for sensual gratification. Their focus is on the sensual gratification of their appetites, whether food, drink, games, or sex. It is all about them! They are not interested in serving others! They are self-focused. All they care about is themselves and making provisions for their own gratification. They are “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God”
They make a god their belly, pleasing their own desires, and all their care is to please those desires and make provision for them. (2 Timothy 3:4). Romans 16:18a says, “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly….”
Old Dr. Harry Ironside wrote – “Heedless of their eternal destiny, these enemies of the cross go on in their folly, indifferent to the admonitions of Scripture, conscience, and the Holy Spirit. They are also indifferent to the warnings and entreaties of men of God who, like Paul have chosen the better part and know whereof they speak. Casting all godly counsel and sound advice to the winds, these flamboyant fools sport on the edge of a moral precipice, display their heedlessness and folly before everyone, glory in their shame, and exult in that which should cause them to bow in penitent grief before redeeming mercy.”
That brings me to the next point…
! “whose glory is their shame”
Ironically these who profess to be Christians prided themselves in the things they should have been ashamed of. They brag about things of which they ought to be embarrassed about. They indulge in modes of living which ought to be utterly embarrassed of. Paul warned the Galatians believers not to be carnal and, “use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.” Galatians 5:13. Jude warns of false believers in the church who promote, in the name of God’s grace, living lives of self-indulgent sensual gratification - “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Any way you slice it, these false believers or carnal believers are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
That brings me to the third and final characteristic –
! “who mind earthly things.”
The whole study and attention of these tares and carnal/worldly Christians are taken up with earthly matters; they are given to the flesh and its lusts; they have no true spirituality, despite their religious façade. But their lasciviousness and uncleanness seem to be principally intended.
As despicable as these people were, the apostle’s heart was deeply pained on their account. He wept over them! There are 3 reasons why -
1. Because they held and taught a false doctrine;
2. Because they perverted many by that teaching; and,
3. Because they themselves were perishing through it.
There are tares among the wheat in Bible believing churches. There are wolves posing in sheep’s clothing, even in this church! The devil has planted them here! I am reminded of Matthew 7:21 “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” When these false Christians stand before the Lord, what will He say? – “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:23
And what of the carnal believers? They too are the enemies of Christ! At the Bema Seat judgment, it will be a sad, sad time for them. They will lose all their rewards…but be saved. (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).
Are you the Enemy of The Cross of Christ? Are you a carnal/worldly Christian? Or do you profess Christ and not possess Him? Either way, repent and get right with God!
"He who provides for this life, but takes no care for eternity, is wise for a moment, but a fool forever!" Tillotson