For, as I have often told you before and now tell you 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 set on earthly things.

Philippians 3:18-19

“Following” Paul’s example (v. 17; περιπατοῦντας) entails avoiding those who “live” (περιπατοῦσιν) as enemies of the cross. Who are these enemies (v. 18)?

  • Professed Christians whose way of life is contrary to Christian principles of holiness (Note: Paul does not refer to their teaching, but to their lifestyle). They are self-indulgent antinomians who understand God’s grace as a license to live in whatever manner they choose (see Rom. 6:1).
  • Those who deliberately indulge in those activities which Scripture explicitly forbids undermine the power and purpose of the cross (Rom. 6:7). God takes our sanctification seriously and so should we.
  • “Enemies of the cross” is a generic term that sums up their overall character and fate described in four phrases:
    • “Their destiny is destruction” — the final outcome is eternal separation from the living God. For those who claimed perfection (τετελείωμαι, 3:12) in this life and saw it as opportunity to live a life of immorality, Paul declares their real destiny (τέλος) is destruction.
    • “Their god is their stomach” — the sensual, appetitive nature becomes the object of worship; this is all-out hedonism (Rom. 16:17-18 for the same warning against such people)
    • “Their glory is in their shame” — boasting in freedom from all moral restraint is utterly shameful (see 1 Cor. 6:12-13).
    • “Their mind is on earthly things” — those who abandon the heavenly prize (3:14) for the pleasures of this world will find themselves ultimately abandoned by God. Take note of those who claim to love God, but whose lives reflect a greater love for this world (1 Jn. 2:15-19).
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  1. When I was in the belief fold I thought verses like the one you used from Pillipians 3 helped me see what side of the fence I wanted to be on. It was not like I could definitively prove that my shade of god existed, but all I knew is that I didn’t want my destiny to be destruction so I had better straighten up, act right and keep believin. Now I see this verse as a threat, either to keep people believing or to make people say they believe it. Here is how I read the verse now:

    For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of reason. Their destiny is bigotry, their god is their imagination, and their myths are their shame. Their minds are set on things neither here nor there.

    If you find this somewhat offensive, which I would have if I was a believer, try to put yourself in an unbeliever’s shoes. The unbeliever is told that they are an enemy, there destiny is destruction and that they have a lust for carnal things, without an examination of their life. The unbeliever could be giving. loving and compassionate to starving and exploited children, but since they can’t accept christianity as true, they are discarded.

  2. Thank you for commenting. I will give this some consideration and get back with you.

  3. Shawn,
    I see your point. However, there is nothing in this passage that keeps me believing nor have I ever run into any believer who is motivated by this. Instead, I see Paul simply stating de facto what motivates those he knows who do not believe. I do not see this as necessarily true of all unbelievers. We are all moved by something and everyone lives from the inside out. For some it is the grace and goodness of God who saved us; for others it is acceptance among peers, family, financial success, or whatever.

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