But there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
They are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
Often, the best way to positively set forth the gospel message is by exposing those things which stand against it.
Not only are we armed with “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), but also with “the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16). We are not only to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), but to be even as Paul,“set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). We must not only build the walls with carefulness, but we must be at all times prepared to defend those walls against their enemies (see Neh. 4:17). One of the old Puritans, Thomas Manton (1620-1677), said,
“It is our duty not only to fodder the sheep, but hunt out the wolf. Error is touchy, and is loath to be meddled with; yet we must warn, and warn often.”
We indeed seek to warn the children of the Living God, even with tears as the apostle “that many walk,… that… are enemies of the cross of Christ”… These “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29) must needs be exposed.
When we say ‘enemies of the cross’, what do we mean? Simply this: ‘the cross’ is often used in the Scripture to denote ‘the gospel’ (1 Cor. 1:18, Gal. 5:11, 6:12).
Those who are ‘enemies of the cross’ are enemies of the gospel which is the message of God’s redeeming grace revealed in His son, Jesus Christ. An enemy of the gospel is ultimately an enemy of Christ.
I believe these ‘enemies of the cross’ fall into three categories:
1. Those who openly oppose the gospel and teach against it. These enemies are seen quite clearly, so very few words of warning are needful. We are not sent to do battle with infidels and supposed atheists, but we will”let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch”(Mt. 15:14). They are “raging waves of sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13).
2. Those who make no profession of love for Christ nor faith in His person. This group is often not so easily distinguished as ‘enemies’ of Christ as the first group clearly is. contained in this category are those who are obviously opposed to Christ for their false Gospel is an open sin and they heed not the warnings of the gospel to “flee from wrath to come” (Mat. 3:7) nor obey its commands to repent (Acts 18:30) and believe the gospel and be baptized (Mk. 16:16). But this group also contains those who do not live in open sin and unrestrained wickedness, yet do not follow Christ and profess Him before men. While those of the latter division are esteemed more highly in the eyes of men, they are equally condemned in the sight of the Lord, who said, “he that is not with me is against me” (Mat. 12:30). “Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him sill I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32,33). “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27).
3. Those who professedly and seemingly walk in the gospel, yet in reality are set against it. This category is the most difficult to deal with; for those who make it up are often extremely hard to distinguish from the true bearers of the cross. Therefore they are the most dangerous enemies and the ones which Paul specifically warns us of in the texts. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14,15). Another difficulty in dealing with this group is that many sincere people (and I doubt not, come true children of God) follow the teachings of these false prophets out of ignorance. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John. 4:1).
These enemies of the cross are those who set up any standard for faith, conduct, doctrine, or practice, other than the Holy Scriptures.
Of course they would not be bold so as to blatantly deny the supremacy of the Word, yet they subtly set up other standards. Such persons rely on tradition (“Well, we have always believed this or done this”), what their denomination or church teaches (“If it’s not what my church believes, I don’t even want to hear it or think about it”), special revelations and leadings of the Lord (“I feel like the Lord is leading me to…”), or their own ideas and understanding (“That doctrine cannot possibly be true because I don’t understand it”), rather than being like the Bereans who, “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). They are the ‘enemies of the cross’ for, “if they speak not according to this word (the law and testimony) it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
Those who teach that the free will of man is the determining factor in salvation are also subtle ‘enemies of the cross.’
Their teaching has spawned a generation of hypocrites who “draw near (the Lord) with their mouth… but have removed their heart far from (Him) and their fear toward (Him) is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). Many have been swallowed up by their zeal to make converts. but oh how many true converts are there in this day of those “who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:19) and have a “form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim. 2:5)? Who can give “a reason of the hope that is in them” (1 Pet. 3:15)?
These are also ‘enemies of the cross’ whose message of salvation begins, is sustained, or ends with anyone or anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Some give pre-eminence to the Holy Spirit, and truly He is to be worshipped, but His presence is always marked by the fact that Christ alone is exalted. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come… He shall glorify me (Christ).” (John 16:13,14).
Finally, they are ‘enemies’ who preach any message which gives men any thing that they can glory in or boast of in their salvation. From the beginning to end, our salvation is all of God’s grace. He has designed it, He has provided it, He applies it, and He sustains it. He is going to have all the glory in salvation of men and He will not share that glory. Salvation is in Him and Him alone (Acts 4:12). We are helpless and hopeless. We need Him. He does not need us. We are shut up to His mercy. A man will not be saved unless God is pleased to grant mercy. There is no salvation but that which He wills to bestow upon men. Oh but this is good news, for He is a God who delights in mercy. He has shown to thousands who call on His name. My friend, I plead with you to fly to His throne this moment and seek that saving mercy. Perhaps He shall be pleased to save you from your certain ruin. Bow down at His feet today; call upon Him while He is near. But oh believe not the great swelling words of those who tell men that they can be saved anytime they want to by an act of their own will. I tell you even weeping, ‘they are the enemies of the cross of Christ’.