The Enemies of the Cross

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18, 19)

It is a terrible thing to be God’s enemy. It’s terrible and it’s arrogant to be an enemy to the greatest of all manifestations of the love, wisdom, and compassion of Christ: His Cross. To be an enemy of the Cross of Christ is to be God’s enemy. It is to openly rebel against against God’s merciful desire to save a sinner from his sins by the atoning death of His Son.

Most right-thinking people have no problem honoring Jesus as a baby in a manger, yet they routinely deny His Cross. These people love to sing Christmas carols chock-full of doctrine and theology about the Incarnation, but they don’t like songs about the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. A lot of people, so-called Christians included, may not be the “pronounced” enemies of the Cross, but they are certainly ashamed of it. The question we would like to ask such people is this: Why are ashamed of Jesus’ death but not of His birth? The reality is, Jesus Christ was born to die; He came to earth for the express purpose of giving His life as a sacrifice for sin.

But there have always been people like this. Otherwise harmless, often religious people, who are counted among God’s enemies. The apostle Paul encountered them almost everywhere he went and in Philippi they were part of the Antinomian movement that had taken root in the church there. They professed to be Christians but lived sinful lives. The belief is as old as the church, but it was Martin Luther who coined the term “antinomianism.” It’s a tricky heresy because it espouses salvation by faith alone but without the accompanying change of lifestyle. Antinomianism is alive and well in Church of Jesus Christ today, although antinomian pastors and church leaders would never admit it. Anybody that preaches the wonderful doctrine of “justification by faith alone” without the accompanying obligation to holy living is at least flirting with the antinomian heresy.

This kind of people claim to love God yet never try to live up to the demands of the Cross, which include this:

The Spirit however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centred in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22—25)

They claim to love God but won’t be crucified with Christ. To shun the Cross is to be its enemy because they shun what the Cross stands for:

1. Divine sacrifice, 1 John 4:9, 10

To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins.

The Son of God, coming and dying on the Cross, was God’s way of revealing His heart to mankind—a heart moved to infinite sacrifice by agonizing love. We are familiar with this kind of love; it manifests itself in different ways. For example, an entrepreneur who loves an idea will sink his all to start his business in hopes that it will be successful. God loved sinful man so much that He sunk His all in the transaction that occurred on the Cross: the life of His Son for yours! But in God’s case, there was no risk of failure; it was not speculation, but a purposeful, planned expenditure of divine grace and love that secured your soul.

To reject what God did on the Cross is to be an enemy of the Cross; it is to throw God’s love and grace back in His face.

The antinomians in Philippi showed their enmity by living lives full of self-indulgence. Their God, Paul observed, was their bellies! In other words, they pretty much did whatever made them feel good; whatever gave them a sense of satisfaction. Self-indulgence is dangerous for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is that it stands in complete opposition to the self-sacrificing spirit of the Cross. The Cross of Christ is the greatest example of not only self-sacrifice and self-denial, but it is also the best example of the use of free will. Willingly, without any persuasion, Jesus gave everything He had to save sinners. To live a life opposite to that kind of spirit is to deny it. The carnal mind—the mind set on worldly things—is at war against the mind and spirit of God.

Those who live for themselves are living in rebellion against the purpose of the Cross and the Spirit of the Cross. To be more concerned about the body than the spirit is like being more concerned about the wood of the Cross than the Man who hung on it.

If you call yourself a Christian, the Cross not only saves you, but it shows you how to live!

2. Divine holiness

The intensity of God’s hatred to sin is revealed by the death of His Son on the Cross. The greatness of sin demanded an even greater sacrifice! That’s the equation we’re all familiar with, but there is another way to look at it. The greatness of God’s sacrifice shows the greatness of man’s need—and God’s need. The need was great on man’s side because of his sin, but the need was great on God’s side because of His holiness. Something had to come between the fires of man’s sin and the divine holiness of God; Someone who was equally sinless and holy needed to stand between these two opposites. Only One man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, was qualified to do the job.

That’s why God cannot save a sinner apart from the Cross. If He could have, He would have answered Jesus’ prayer in Gethesemane differently. It was the love God had for a lost and dying world that caused His Son to drink from His cup of death. It was the holiness of God that would not let that cup pass from His Son. And it was God’s holiness that caused His Son to cry out:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1)

Good works and good words do nothing to atone for sin. Those who think living the good life will get them safe passage through the pearly gates couldn’t be more wrong. You can be a good person and still be God’s enemy if your goodness proceeds from something other than the Holy Spirit within you.

To shun the Cross is to shun holiness; it is to choose the antinomian way of living the way you think is right. To embrace the Cross is to embrace the spirit and attitude of holiness and holy living.

3. Divine riches, Romans 8:32

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

The death of God’s Son on the Cross is God’s promise to all believers that everything they need will be within their reach. If you are born again, nothing you need will be denied you. You have God’s promise on that.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Jesus sacrificed all so you could have all. The storehouse of God’s riches has been open wide for us by the Blood of His Cross. These spiritual and eternal riches are not only what God has, but of what He is. He not only gives us gifts, but He makes us, through faith, partakers of His divine nature!

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3, 4)

If we make the kingdom of God our pursuit in life, whatever our needs may be, they will be met. Every temporal and eternal blessing finds its fulfillment in the Cross. So, to shun the Cross is to refuse God’s best.

But, there are those who only want worldly things; they have no desire for anything spiritual. Their pursuit is for things confined to this world. They have no concept of “heavenly blessings” because they haven’t experienced any because they aren’t looking for them. This person shuns the Cross because they can’t see its value.

4. Divine ultimatum

Going back to Philippi for a moment, Paul writes that there is only one end for those antinomians—those enemies of the Cross—and it is death. There is no other destiny open to some one who shuns the Cross of Christ. When a person—even a good, clean living person—rejects the Cross of Christ, he is rejecting God’s terms of salvation.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Salvation is not found under the name of a church or a philanthropic organization. It is not found in good works or good living. To reject the Cross is to choose sin, and as we know by now, the wages of sin is death. The writer to the Hebrews nailed it with this rhetorical question:

…how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3)

God’s terms are unalterable.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12)

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