•••by Russell Young
Paul disclosed to believers in Philippi his observation that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Phil 3:18-19, NIV) His epistle had previously addressed his personal goal for righteous living in order that he might become like Christ in his death and “so, somehow to attain to the resurrection.” (Phil 3:11, NIV) The “destiny” of those who live as enemies of the cross, according to his understanding, will be “destruction.” (v 19) In this passage he is not addressing those who have not confessed faith.
His teaching poses a very real issue for each of us and for doctrinal teachings that are being presented in many churches. Doctrines that allow and teachings that provide allowance for believers to live as enemies of the cross need to be examined; otherwise, many may end up with their eternal hope destroyed.
What does it mean to live as an enemy of the cross? An enemy is a person who is an adversary, or hostile to, or tries to defeat another or that one’s purposes. He or she undermines or acts in opposition. The writer of Hebrews has stated that Christ died to set people free from the sins committed “under the first covenant.” (9:15, NIV) His sacrifice has provided cleansing from the sins that would have brought death. Peter has admonished his readers by saying that those who act in opposition to the work of the cross make it ineffective, thwart the value of the Lord’s sacrifice, and render it meaningless. (2 Peter 2: 20)
Paul’s teaching is not uniquely expressed in his letter to the Philippians or by Paul himself. The writer of Hebrews has also recorded, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26-27, NIV) Peter spoke of “those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature” (2 Pet 2:10, NIV) and stated that “blackest darkness is reserved for them.” (v 17) Paul also addressed the issue in his letter to the Galatians: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.” (Gal 6:7-8, NIV)
These truths from the Word should cause teachers and pastors to examine what they are teaching, and what they should be teaching. Their understanding of “grace” and “freedom” should perhaps be re-visited. Those who allow that the “believer’s” eternal salvation was assured and settled (eternal security) at the point of his or her confession need to recognize that the teachings presented by Paul and others allow opportunity for a person to reap destruction following their confession of faith. Those who permit that eternal redemption occurred at the time of confession of faith need to examine the Scriptures more fully. The manner in which a person lives his or her life has eternal consequence. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6, NIV)
The writer of Hebrews spoke of Christian maturity (Heb 5: 13- 6;3) and of the need for believers to train themselves to distinguish good from evil and to accept teachings about righteousness.
Who are the enemies of the cross? Of course it is all of those who make ineffective the work of the cross and who treat it with disdain. In this passage Paul is addressing those who have joined the fellowship and he is concerned about their walk. They were taking the Lord’s sacrifice for granted and living on their own terms. They do not appreciate the depth of their need or the preciousness of his love offering for them.
It is easy to assume and to accept love and the promises of love if they cost nothing of the recipient. And, it is important for believers to understand exactly the accomplishments and the limitations of God’s tolerance and love-yes, the limitation of his love. The Lord said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” (Jn 15:10, NIV) The promise of his love rests in keeping his commands. In a parable referencing himself the Lord concluded with, “but those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them here and kill them in front of me.” (Lk 19:27, NIV) The enemies of the Lord are those who do not submit to his rule of their lives. This includes those who do not follow his leadership, who have been deceived by the misrepresentation of his enduring patience, forgiveness and love when such allowance is gained through a twisted presentations of his Word.
There is a limit to his patience, forgiveness, and love. When confessors revel in the freedom that they suppose they have and live apart from the Spirit’s leadership, and when they deliberately continue to sin, they are treating as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them and have become enemies of the cross of Christ.
Believers must submit to the rule of the Spirit. This requires a conscientious effort (working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), and a donning of the armor of God. The person led by Christ must learn to reject the interests of the flesh and the attractions of the world. “For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the father but from the world.” (1 Jn 2:16, NIV)
The evil one is quite ready to give permissions that Christ does not. The deceiver might be closer than you think and his persuasions more powerful than you know. The believer must fight the battle with the help of Christ. He must engage the enemy of his soul. Christ came to defeat the works of the devil and in no place does he give permission for sin to prevail.
It is easy to live with an unrighteous attitude and to proclaim love for Christ. It is probably true that those whom about Paul is talking do not even appreciate that they are walking as enemies of the cross. When freedom and security are promised it is easy to waiver in vigilance. The Lord said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt 7:13-14, NIV)
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