“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:12-13 NKJV).
While admonishing the Christians in Philippi to follow his example, Apostle Paul sternly warned them to separate themselves from the Judaizers or self-indulgent Christians who are not walking according to his teaching and the examples he had set. Paul referred to them as “the enemies of the cross of Christ.”
Paul writes in Philippians 3:
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. (NKJV).
Paul’s admonition to note and separate from the enemies of the cross of Christ is undoubtedly still very much relevant today.
As it was in the days of Paul, many so-called believers or ministers of God today are nothing but “the enemies of the cross of Christ” either by their doctrine or lifestyle. Paul was apparently not referring to the ignorant unregenerate people outside the Church, who were persecuting the saints, as the enemies of the cross of Christ.
From our human perspective, those persecuting the followers of Christ because of their faith and commitment to Christ are the enemies of Christ. But from divine perspective, they are not the real enemies of Christ. They are just ignorant religious zealots whose eyes have been blinded by Satan, the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).
From Paul’s epistles, it is unmistakably clear that the real enemies of the cross of Christ are within the Church.
In his epistles, Paul gives us some characteristics of the people he refers to as the enemies of the cross of Christ. It is wisdom for us to examine carefully these characteristics so that we may be able to identify and separate ourselves from these enemies of the cross of Christ within the Church today.
Paul describes the enemies of the cross of Christ as those “whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame–who set their mind on earthly things.” (Philip. 3:19 NKJV).
Let us examine this description carefully.
First, Paul describes the enemies of the cross of Christ as the professed believers or ministers “whose god is their belly.”
What does Paul mean by this terminology, “their god is their belly?”
Paul was simply saying they are either legalistic or indulging in sinful, fleshly desires. The enemies of the cross of Christ are those in the Church who are trusting in themselves, in their self righteousness, or in their good works as a means of salvation.
They are those who don’t believe or preach that salvation is only by grace alone and through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ the Saviour (Eph. 2:8-9).
The cross of Christ speaks of the finished work of redemption through Christ’s substitutionary or sacrificial death for our sins. The cross speaks of everything Christ provided for us through His death. It speaks of the grace by which everything was provided.
God is completely pleased and satisfied with Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins on the cross. God’s wrath against us for breaking His law was completely emptied on Christ on the cross. Christ received the wages of our sins on the cross (Heb. 2:9).
The Scripture states: “The burden of our sins He Himself carried in His own body to the Cross and bore it there, so that we, having died so far as our sins are concerned, may live righteous lives. By His wounds yours have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 WNT).
The work of our redemption was finished on the cross; there is nothing to be added to it (John 19:30)!
Therefore, anyone who seeks to add his good works to the finished work of Christ on the cross as a means of having a right standing with God, or as a means of obtaining salvation from God, or as a means of earning God’s love, acceptance, favour or blessing is simply an enemy of the cross of Christ.
When you approach God for anything trusting in your own self righteousness, performance, goodness, or good works; you are simply demeaning or disregarding the finished work of Christ as the only basis for having a loving and intimate relationship with God, and as the only means of obtaining God’s acceptance, favour or blessing and thus you are an enemy of the cross of Christ.
Anyone who claims to belong to Christ but who is not completely trusting alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross as the only basis of having a loving and intimate relationship with God is simply a liar; he is an enemy of the cross of Christ.
Sadly, many people today who are confessing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour are rejecting Him by their actions as they continue to trust in their own righteousness, goodness, performance or good works as a means of pleasing God and obtaining or earning God’s love, acceptance, favour or blessings.
Our self righteousness which comes by the works of the law cannot be mixed with God’s righteousness which comes by faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work alone. Both are incompatible. It is either you receive God’s righteousness as a gift, or you cling unto your imperfect stinking self righteousness (Rom. 9:30-32, Isa. 64:6).
On the other hand, this terminology, “whose god is their belly” Paul used to describe the enemies of the cross of Christ speaks of being led, controlled or governed by fleshly desires and appetites.
Therefore, the enemies of the cross of Christ are the professed believers or ministers who indulge in sinful pleasures and live as debtors to the flesh, fulfilling the lusts, passions or desires of the flesh.
Living according to the flesh or gratifying the desires of the flesh will ultimately result in corruption, death or destruction. This is why Paul states that the end of the enemies of the cross of Christ is destruction.
Paul said, “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: whose end is destruction…” (Philip. 3:18-19 NKJV).
Paul also warns, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8:12-13 NKJV).
“For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Gal. 6:8 NKJV).
“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6 NKJV).
Beloved, if you profess to belong to Christ and yet still live as a debtor to the flesh; your lifestyle negates or contradicts the power and purpose of the cross.
The cross is the gateway to supernatural lifestyle. The sinful life terminates at the cross and Christ-life starts at the cross. The cross releases the believers to walk in newness of life, to live and walk as Christ did (Rom. 6:4, 2 Cor. 5:15, Gal. 2:20).
This is the power and purpose of the Cross of Christ!
Therefore, anyone who professes to belong to Christ but does not live according to Christ, but rather according to the flesh is demeaning the cross of Christ, thereby making himself an enemy of Christ.
Find out more about the enemies of the cross of Christ within the Church in the second part of this piece.
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the Cross of Christ where my sinful life was terminated. Dear Holy Spirit, teach and help me to embrace the Cross daily so that I may live a supernatural life, in Jesus’ name. Amen.