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. For our citizenship is in Heaven…. (Philippians 3:17-21).
There is a reason each of the four gospels devotes at least a fourth of its chapters to the final week of Jesus’ life on earth. His death-burial-resurrection is the heart of the story.
The cross is not just the heart of the story; it is the story!
In Philippians 3, Paul weeps over church members who claim to be authentic and present themselves as leaders and teachers but are actually “enemies of the cross of Christ.” He does not say specifically what these trouble-makers are doing. Often, when Scripture is silent on something crucial like that, I suspect it means the Holy Spirit does not want us to camp out on what these offenders did, lest we become too narrow in our focus. Enemies of the cross of Jesus can be found across Christendom today and their emphasis may be entirely different from the shenanigans of the First Century.
Scholars think that in context, because of Paul’s indictment of them (their god is their belly, etc) these “enemies of the cross” were probably libertines, forerunners of the Gnostics, or Judaizers. Or both. The first group taught that since they were saved anything they did afterwards did not matter, which brings great shame to the cause of Christ. The second group held that they were saved by their works. In each case, the result was to undermine and nullify the work of Jesus on the cross.
After all, if we go right on in the same wickedness and debauchery after being saved as before, what was the point of the cross? And if we are saved by our good works, why did Jesus go to all the trouble of dying for our sins?
The good-time charlies and the rigid Pharisees are both enemies of the cross and have no place in church leadership. (Let the church pay attention to this! Everyone may enter the church without changing their lives; but only the faithful and godly should be given leadership positions.)