Enemies of the Cross

Philippians 3:17–21

[17] Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. [20] But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (ESV)


While there are those who faithfully serve Christ and persevere in righteousness (whose example we ought to imitate), there are those who oppose him, especially his work on the cross. These are the enemies of Christ’s cross.

(a) They oppose Christ’s righteousness (Gal. 2:21).

Instead of proclaiming the good news that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, they teach that we can be saved by our own strength and good works, contrary to what Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8-10. In effect, they devalue what Christ did on the cross for us. On the cross, Jesus cried, “It is paid in full!” There is nothing more we can add to the work of salvation which he accomplished for us. Ours is simply to receive by faith the free gift of salvation.

(b) They oppose Christ’s call to self-denial (Luke 9:23-24).

Those who truly believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior will live for him who died for them. They will deny themselves, take up his cross daily and follow him. That is what it means to be a true believer – a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is true that we are saved by faith alone, but the faith alone that saves cannot remain alone. It is its nature to bear fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the true believer will obey Christ’s commands, do good works, and suffer for Christ’s sake. If he refuses to take up Christ’s cross, it is doubtful he really believed in the first place. Worse, if he says that we can now sin all we want because Christ has already saved us, he is clearly an enemy of the cross of Christ and was evidently never saved in the first place. The Bible says in Matthew 1:21, “You shall call his name ‘Jesus’ for he shall save his people from their sins” – not in their sins!

1. Their DESTINY is destruction (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8)

The enemies of Christ’s cross are workers of iniquity. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. By their fruits you shall know them. We are saved by faith alone, but the genuineness of our faith is proven by our works. If our lives remain unchanged, it simply shows that our faith was never genuine to begin with.

2. Their DEITY is their belly (2 Tim. 3:1-5).

Christ is not the one they really worship. Their god is money, pleasure, self, and what have you! When preachers make use of the ministry not to teach the truth but to tickle people’s ears in order to enrich themselves, they show what it is they really worship.

(c) Their DEVOTION is set upon earthly things (Rom. 6:21; Rom. 1:26-27)

They spend their time, thoughts and energies on the things of this world. They glory in their shame: they are proud of their sins and display their shameful deeds for all the world to see! For them, right is wrong, and wrong is right. They argue, “How can it be so wrong when it feels so right?” This comes as no surprise, seeing that their thoughts and affections are directed towards the pleasures of this world and the satisfaction of self. They will do anything and everything to justify their sins. Sin is irrelevant; the satisfaction of self is everything!


No wonder Paul says that he weeps as he tells the Philippians about these people. This is beyond sad; this is tragic! Nothing is so destructive of the gospel as the lives and teachings of these enemies of the cross. Let us beware of them and let us beware that we do not become like them!

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