A Fresh Look at the Enemies of the Cross of Christ
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, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. -Phil 3:18-19
I recently heard the phrase "enemies of the cross of Christ" used in reference to unbelievers. But if we note the context, Paul is juxtaposing Christians who follow his pattern of suffering with those who take the road of accommodation and comfort. And that comfort does not just come from the world, it comes from within Christendom.
Surely there is a temptation to avoid conflict, criticism, ostracism, and persecution by joining the world and hiding one's beliefs so as to be accepted. But there is also a temptation to subdue biblical truths in order to foster a false unity and an acceptance within Christendom.
Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has dearted for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. -2 Tim 4:9-16
Those mentioned in this passage are Christians. Demas had forsaken Paul. Demas was, at one time, a close associate of Paul's in the spreading of the Gospel of the Dispensation of the Mystery revealed to our Apostle and taught in his post-Acts epistles.
Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. -Col 4:14
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. -Philemon 23-24
But not just Demas, Alexander and all in Asia abandoned Paul. These were Christians. These are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. These are those who have life through his name (Jn 20:31). Life is a free gift, but obedience to revelation is choice. Rightly dividing is a command.
Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm [evil]. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. -2 Tim
This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. -1 Tim
Paul hopes those who forsook him would not have that charged against them. He accuses Alexander and Hymenaeus with blasphemy against himself (Paul). These are Christians who have blasphemed and have rejected the apostle.
He prays that Alexander would have his works judged. Remember from recent studies, a Christian is justified (declared fit) for resurrection life by grace through faith alone, but must be justified (declared fit) for crowns, rewards, the prize, and the kingdom (for those who have that as their hope) via works born out of faith.
Paul speaks much of the joy and honor to suffer for Christ and the Gospel committed to him. He brings us into this part of the Christian life as he reveals who will be counted worthy to suffer for His name and the truths of this age.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. -2 Tim 3:12
While the world did persecute Paul, and that idea is included here, the context is withing Christendom. Paul's greatest persecutors (as the Lord's) came from within Judaism and Christendom.
But you remain in those things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you learned them. -2 Tim 3:14
We follow Christ by following the example of Paul (2 Tim 1:13). This brings us back to our original thought. We are to follow the pattern of Paul by joining him in his suffering for the truths of the Dispensation of the Mystery. This persecution will come from within Christendom. It will come from those who reject the way of suffering (the cross), even suffering for Christ's sake. Those who choose the way and doctrines of comfort and profit.
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. (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...)
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.
Paul weeps for believers who do not walk according to his example. And who would be deceiving believers? Teaching things they ought not to teach? Unbelieving Jews? No. These are those who are trying to put those who have come under Paul's preaching of the Mystery under obligation to earthly ordinances (cp. Col 2:16-23). These are not "Jews" (the word being absent from Paul's post-Acts epistles, but "of the circumcision." Since the One New Man was revealed, these is no more Jew until this age ends (we looked at this in our last study), but there are those who seek to put men under the Law and under earthly ordinances.
Those noted in Philippians are those who seek to accommodate the world when it comes to the truths of scripture and accommodate other Christians when it comes to the Gospel of the Dispensation of the Mystery. But be encouraged. When we desire to be found with Paul rather than with those who had abandoned him, we are in a place of future blessings.
The world never abandoned Paul (for he was never of the world), he was abandoned by Christians, some of whom sought to make his imprisonment for us Gentiles even worse. But Paul rejoiced in it all (and so should we).
You know that everyone in Asia has abandoned me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, for he often took care of me and was not ashamed that I was a prisoner. -2 Tim 1:14-15
Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. -Phil 1:15-17
These are Christians, my friend. Paul rejoices in knowing Christ is preached, no matter the reasoning. But why the anger and animosity towards Paul from Christians? They must have had something against him. The answer is found in those who continued to love Paul. These latter knew Paul was "appointed for the defense of the gospel" committed to him. the gospel of the Dispensation of the Mystery; the gospel of the One New Man (Ephesians). The gospel here is not simply Christ as Savior. Paul rejoices in what those who hate him preach, which must be the truth Christ crucified. They don't hate Paul because of Christ, they hate Paul for releasing all from the Law and all earthly ordinances.
Today, very few Christians would profess an animosity towards Paul (although that is not unknown by those who have placed the "red letters" above the rest of scripture), but when Paul's revelation of the one new man in Ephesians, apart from the ordinances of the future New Covenant for Israel, is taught, they reject it. By doing so, they are rejecting Paul's ministry and the man himself.
Let us be bold to speak the truths of this current dispensation as Paul our Apostle was, and be prepared for the rejection from fellow Christians which often comes with it.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. -Eph 6:17-20
We should not seek to be difficult or argumentative. Our words should be seasoned with grace. But be prepared for rejection and argument nonethelesss. We must not strive. We must remain gentle, but we must boldly proclaim the truths to any who will listen. To what degree someone is willing to listen, I will leave with you. We can still fellowship with those who reject Paul's gospel, but we need to find our primary fellowship with those who have embraced the truths of the Dispensation of the Mystery.
If you are new to this blog, there are a number of studies concerning the gospel of the Mystery.
Here are a few for your consideration:
Are We Preaching the Right Gospel?
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Should Christians Practice Passover?
Basics for Understanding the Bible
VIDEOS: Introduction to Personal Bible Study