"Enemies of the cross." It's a phrase Paul used with weeping in a letter to the church at Philippi. Who was he talking about? Was it the dogs—the religious Pharisees of the day who wanted to see Christ hung on a tree at Calvary? Was it unbelievers? Was it nominal Christians?
Brothers, become fellow imitators with me and observe those who walk according to our example. For many are walking in such a way that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. I have told you of them often and tell you again, even weeping. Their destination is destruction, their god is their appetite, their glory is in their shame, their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, from where also we await for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:17-20).
Who are these enemies? "Enemy" is a particularly strong word. The Greek word for "enemies" in this verse is echthros. It means "hostile, hating and opposing another and is "used of men as at enmity with God by their sin," according to The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon. It also means "opposing (God) in the mind" and "the devil who is the most bitter enemy of the divine government."
Hatred for Self-Denial
The Passion Translation puts an emphasis on some aspects of this verse that may shed some light on what Paul meant:
My beloved friends, imitate my walk with God and follow all those who walk according to the way of life we modeled before you. For there are many who live by different standards. As I've warned you many times (I weep as I write these words), they are enemies of the cross of the Anointed One and doom awaits them. Their god has possessed them and made them mute. Their boast is in their shameful lifestyles and their minds are in the dirt. But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:17-20).
But again, who are these enemies?
Pulpit Commentary reveals, "[Paul] used to speak thus of them when he was at Philippi; now, during his absence, the evil has increased, and he repeats his warning with tears. 'Paul weeps,' says Chrysostom, 'for those at whom others laugh; so true is his sympathy, so deep his care for all men.' He seems to be speaking here, not of the Jews, but of nominal Christians, who used their liberty for a cloke [sic] of licentiousness. Such are enemies of the cross; they hate self-denial; they will not take up their cross. By their evil lives, they bring shame upon the religion of the cross."
The Danger of Nominal Christianity
What is a nominal Christian? Simply put, a Christian in name only. Nominal Christians have no real relationship with God. Nominal Christians don't read their Bibles. Nominal Christians live in sin and feel no conviction. Nominal Christians typically do not attend church. Nominal Christians love the things of the world.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote: "You adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4, MEV). John the beloved echoed this Spirit-inspired notion: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:15-16).
Nominal Christians are false Christians. It makes sense that we'd see the rise of this demographic in the end times, along with false apostles, false prophets, false teachers and false Christs. Nominal Christians are enemies of the cross because they disregard the sacrifice Christ made on the cross and model a laissez faire Christianity that where grace is cheap. They cheapen our Savior's passion.
Paul left us with these words, which we'd do well to heed in an age of nominalism: "Examine yourselves, seeing whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified" (2 Cor. 13:5).
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.
Help Charisma stay strong for years to come as we report on life in the Spirit. Become an integral part of Charisma’s work by joining Charisma Media Partners. Click here to keep us strong!
Dr. Mark Rutland's
National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)
The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!
FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.
The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.