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.
“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).