For as I have often told you before, and now declare even with tears: Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
I. MANY PERSONS ARE FOUND IN THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH WHO ARE THE ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF Christ. They were there even in apostolic days, in spite of gifts of discernment and the power of discipline. It is an altogether chimerical idea to think of a perfectly pure Church. There was no such Church in the days of Christ or the apostles. The persons here described appear to be of the same class as those referred to elsewhere as "they who serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly" (Romans 16:18); persons who caused "divisions and offenses," whose life was a practical denial of the principle that they who are Christ's "have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24).
II. MORAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE FORMALISTS AND THE DOOM THAT AWAITS THEM.
1. The real object of their worship. "Whose god is their belly." Like those referred to at Rome, they "served not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly" (Romans 16:18). They were sensual and self-indulgent, forgetting that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking" (Romans 14:17).
2. The gross perversion of their moral judgments. "Whose glory is in their shame." They gloried, under the name of liberty, in what ought to have inspired feelings of shame, so as to bring upon them the retribution, "I will turn their glory into shame" (Hosea 4:7).
3. The earthly cast of their life. "Who mind earthly things."
(1) The apostle does not encourage the neglect of earthly things, much less cast any discredit on those natural feelings which link us to the realities of earthly life.
(2) But he censures the living for this present visible world to the neglect of the invisible kingdom by which we are surrounded. The earthly things may be pleasures, riches, honors, power, place. "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5). To mind them is
(b) to admire them (Luke 21:5, 6);
(d) to concentrate thought and interest upon them.
(3) Reasons for not minding earthly things.
(a) They are beneath the consideration of Christians;
(b) we have higher things to mind (Philippians 2:20);
(c) the minding of heaven and earth is an inconsistent service (Matthew 6:24);
4. The doom of these formalists. "Whose end is destruction." Notwithstanding their high professions and their ecclesiastical privileges, their end is eternal death. There is but one cad of such a life: "The end of those things is death" (Romans 6:21); "Whose end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:8); "Whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:15).
III. THE EMOTION OF THE APOSTLE AT THE CONTEMPLATION OF SUCH A CLASS OF SINNERS. "I tell you even weeping." He wept at their wickedness as much as at the thought of their deserved doom.
IV. THE NECESSITY OF REPEATED WARNINGS AGAINST EVIL IN THE CHURCH. "Of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping." It was needful that the apostle should lift the voice of warning against a tendency as fatal in its ultimate results as the deadliest heresy. - T.C.
And now tell you even weeping that they are enemies to the Cross of ChristI. WHAT IS THE CROSS? Not simply the instrument of torture, but the sufferings Christ endured and the blessings which result from them. In this enlarged acceptation consider the Cross as —
1. The foundation of our hope as fallen sinners. To the sinner viewing futurity apart from the atonement the prospect is appalling.
2. The source of our spiritual enjoyment, peace, joy, access to and fellowship with God.
3. The main the me of the gospel ministry. It furnishes the preacher with a rich and endless variety of topics, of which it is the harmonizing and illustrative principle.
4. The most legitimate object in which we may triumph, and of which we may make our boast. Some boast of their ancestors, wealth, honours, learning, etc.
5. The pledge of everlasting glory.
II. WHO ARE ITS ENEMIES?
1. Those who deprive it of its saving virtue.
2. Those who decline its purchased privileges.
3. Those who preach another gospel of which it is not the centre.
4. Those who make their boast of any other object.
5. Those who reject it as the condition of their heavenly crown.
(R. Cameron.)I. ST. PAUL WAS IN THE HABIT OF REPEATING THE SAME THINGS TO HIS CONVERTS. We learn from this not only that he thought the Philippians should be on their guard against the enemies of the Cross, but that he feared the lesson would be forgotten unless repeated time after time. There is an incessant craving for novelty, so that the preacher is likely to find himself blamed if he dwells chiefly on truths a hundred times told, and yet these simple truths are those which most need being pressed on men.
II. ST. PAUL'S DISTRESS AT WHAT HE HAD TO SAY. Why did the apostle weep? What is there in the sins of others to cause a righteous man to weep? Nay, he would not be a righteous man if they did not move him to tears. We do not expect it of the wicked. They are not moved by their own sins, it were strange indeed if they were moved by those of their fellows. But if we Christians only think of the wretchedness of the wicked in this life and that to come, there is cause enough to fill the breast of every one of us with grief too mighty for utterance. You who cannot see a fellow creature in pain without feeling pain may witness a scene of such misery as was never found on earth, and be indifferent to it if you can.
III. THOSE WHO CALLED FORTH THIS TEARFUL AND FREQUENT MENTION. Not enemies of Christ but of His Cross, and therefore those who opposed or disliked the truths associated with the death of our Redeemer. Putting aside the speculative enmity of the Socinian and the profligate who is only the enemy of the Cross as he is the enemy of all religion, we notice —
1. Those who in any measure or degree would set aside the work of mediation and look to their own righteousness for salvation.
2. The inconsistent professor, whose practice is at open variance with the gospel. The Cross is so constructed that it inculcates holiness while it offers pardon.
3. The covetous, who oppose its example of self-sacrifice.
(H. Melvill, D. D.)
I. THE FIDELITY OF THE APOSTLE is commended by —
1. His warning," I have told you." As wisdom hath eyes to note evils, so faithfulness hath a tongue to notify them. We are seers of God in respect of our eyes, and prophets in respect of our tongues. We are blind guides if we see not, and dumb dogs if we give not warning of what we see. We should not be like dials or watches to teach the eye, but like clocks and 'larums to ring in the ear. God will never thank us for keeping His counsel, but for divulging it. The prophet prays, "Set a door before my lips," not a wall, but a door that may be seasonably let loose and free when convenience or necessity require it. If I see a blind man walking towards some deep pit and do not warn him, I am not less guilty of his death than if I had thrust him down (Ezekiel 33:7). A sleeping sentinel is the loss of a whole city.
2. The frequence of the warning — not once or seldom, but often. St. Paul feared not tautology, rather like a skilful workman he beats still on the same anvil. There can never be too much warning where there can never be enough heed. Nice ears are all for variety of doctrines; as palates of meats. St. Paul hates to feed this wanton humour, and tells them this single diet is safe for them. We tell over the same coins, and spend night after day in the same game without weariness. There is an itch of the ear which St. Paul foresaw would prove epidemical in latter times. Too many pulpits are full of curious affectations, new crochets, strange mixtures of opinions, insomuch that old and plain forms are grown stale and despicable. There cannot be a more certain argument of a decayed and sickly stomach than the loathing of wholesome and solid food, and longing after new and artificial composition. O foolish Israelites, with whom too much frequence made the food of angels contemptible. "The full despiseth the honeycomb," and there are many thus full of the world and sinful corruptions. But for us let not these dainties of heaven lose their worth for their store. Often inculcation of warnings necessarily implies danger, and there is much danger of the infection of evil.
3. The passion — "Weeping." What is it that could wring tears from those eyes? Even the same that fetched them from our Saviour, and from all eyes that pretend to holiness — compassion of sinners. What shall I say to such as make merry with sin? O that we should laugh at that for which our Saviour wept and bled. Tears do well in the pulpit. As it is in the buckets of some pumps, that water must be first poured down into them ere they can fetch up water in abundance; so must our tears be let down to fetch up more from our hearers. Worldly men as they have hard hearts have dry eyes, but the tender hearts of God's children are ever lightly attended with weeping eyes. And if good men spend tears on sinners how much more ought sinners to weep for themselves. See who it was for whom Paul wept: dogs and the concision. So, then, Christ's charitable children should not desire or rejoice in the destruction of those who profess hostility against them. Every man can mourn for the fall of a friend, but to be thus deeply affected with the sins or judgments of wicked persons is incident to none but a tender and charitable heart. God's children are like their Father (1 Timothy 2:4: Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 33:11).
II. THE WICKEDNESS OF THE FALSE TEACHERS.
1. Their number — "many." Note, then, that the rarity of conscionable men should make them more observed and valued, as grains of gold amidst the rubbish of the ore and dust. Paucity is wont to carry contempt with it; but with Christians one is worth more than a thousand. It is better to follow one Noah into the ark than to perish with a world of unbelievers. "Many" are opposed to "us." It is not for us to stand upon the fear of an imputation of singularity: we may not do as the most, but as the best, The world is apt to make an ill use of multitude: on the one side arguing the better part by the greater, on the other arguing mischief tolerable because abetted by many. If the first should hold good paganism would carry it from Christianity, and hell from heaven. "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil." What abatement of torment will it be to be condemned with many. If the second, that which heightens evils should plead for their immunity, so none but weak mischiefs should receive opposition. Strong thieves should escape while petty pilferers should be punished. Away with this base pusillanimity. If the devils can say "my name is legion," let your powerful commands cast them out.
2. Their motion — "walk."(1) Natural. Walking is living. Every minute is a new pace. None can stop our passage. Whether we do something or nothing we move on by insensible steps toward our long home.(2) Voluntary. So the wicked ones walk like their setter (Job 1:7). Wickedness is seldom other than active.(3) Walking implies an ordinary mode of life. It is not a step, or a pace, that can make a walk, but a proceeding on with many shirtings of our feet. It is no judging of a man by one action. The best man may step aside as David and Peter — but their walk was in the ways of God's commandments. What is the course of men's lives? If drunkenness, debauchery, etc., their walk is an ill way to an evil end; pity those and labour to reclaim them. But if their general course be holy it is not a particular miscarriage that can be a just ground of censure.
3. Their quality — "Enemies of the Cross of Christ." But who can but hate that which was the cause of the death of our best Friend. Surely we love not Christ if we hate not what was accessory to His murder. But if we regard it as improved by Christ for man we must love it. The cross was the death that gives us life; so that we cannot be at once enemies of the Cross and friends of the crucified.(1) As Christ, so His Cross has many false friends who are no other than enemies. Unjust favours are as injurious as derogations. To deify a saint is as bad as devilizing him. Romanists exceed in this way their devotions to the Cross; whose friendship to the altar is a defiance to the sacrifice.(2) The Philippian Pseudapostles were enemies.(a) In doctrine, who joined circumcision and other legalities with the Cross, so by a pretended partnership detracting from the virtue of Christ's death. And so, now how palpable enemies are they who hold Christ's satisfaction imperfect without ours.(b) In practice, viz., those who shift off persecution by conformity to the present world — caring more for a whole skin than a sound soul — and loose livers. Christ's Cross is our redemption from sin; and those who wilfully sin frustrate the Cross and mock at redemption (Galatians 2:20).
4. Their end. A woeful condition beyond all thoughts. Here is every circumstance that may add horror to a condition.(1) Suddenness (Psalm 37:2; Isaiah 5:24; Proverbs 10:25; Psalm 73:19).(2) Extremity. The wrath of God is as Himself infinite.(3) Impossibility of release. If the torment might have an end there were some comfort. O mad sinners, that for a little momentary contentment east themselves into everlasting perdition!
(Bishop Hall.)I. There is reason to believe that MANY PROFESSORS OF RELIGION ARE ENEMIES TO THE CROSS OF CHRIST (Matthew 13:24-30, 47-50; Matthew 7:21, 23). But observe in passing —
1. That Christianity is not responsible for hypocrites and self-deceived professors. Religion does not produce nor countenance hypocrisy.
2. Christianity does not stand alone. There are many false friends, patriots, professors of honesty, temperance, etc.
3. We claim for Christianity only the good it has done, and point to the sinners it has reformed.
4. We ask that on this subject the language of discrimination and justice should be used.
II. HOW MAY WE DETERMINE WHEN PROFESSORS ARE ENEMIES TO THE CROSS OF CHRIST?
1. When they have not been born again. "The carnal mind is enmity with God."
2. When they live in the indulgence of any known sin. It needs no argument to show that the man who is seeking my hurt in any way is my enemy. The man who indulges in known sin shows that he disregards God's authority, and despises the work of Christ which is to cleanse us from all iniquity.
3. When they pursue a doubtful or undecided course of conduct without any effort to know what is right.
4. When they manifest in their conduct none of the peculiarities of those who truly love Him. These are not morality, good temper, etc., for worldly men have these. Christ did not die that His followers might be like other men, but that they should he a peculiar people.
5. When they have a deeper interest in their worldly affairs than in the cause of their Redeemer (ver. 19, Philippians 2:21; 2 Timothy 3:2). The proof of this proposition lies in a nutshell.(1) Christ said, "He that is not for Me is against Me."(2) There is no better way of knowing a man's character than observation of his walk and conversation.(3) The interests of Christ's kingdom are intended to be supreme. He seeks no divided sway (Luke 14:26).(4) The principles of Christianity cannot lie dormant in the soul. If they exist they will be manifested.
6. When nothing can induce them to give up their worldly concerns for the cause of religion upon God's demands. We make a great mistake when we speak of our time, talents, property. The affairs of this life, as well as prayer and praise, should be pursued as part of the service we owe to God. The gospel was designed to overcome the love of the world, and to induce men to surrender all when God urges His claims (Luke 9:23; Luke 14:26).(1) If a professed follower of Christ will not abandon those amusements which are obviously and certainly inconsistent with the gospel, he is the enemy of the Cross of Christ.(2) So is he who will not surrender his property to God when He demands it for His service.(3) And he who employs all his time in doing his own will.
7. When they are opposed to all that is peculiar in the doctrines of Christianity.(1) When the doctrines of the Bible in general are admitted, but in detail are denied.(2) When those truths which are found in natural religion are acknowledged, but the truths peculiar to the gospel are doubted.(3) When a man will not examine those doctrines to satisfy his own mind whether they are true or false.(4) When a man becomes angry when those doctrines are preached.(5) When in the circle of the worldly he is unwilling that it should be known that he holds them.
8. When they are opposed to the peculiar duties of Christianity.(1) When the obligations of piety are admitted in general but denied in particular.(2) When there is no sympathy with the plans of true Christians in the spread of the gospel.(3) When all the sympathies are on the side of the enemy of Christ.
III. WHY IS THE FACT OF THEIR BEING IN THE CHURCH FITTED TO EXCITE GRIEF. Because —
1. They are cherishing hopes that will be disappointed, and are exposed to danger that is unfelt (2 Corinthians 2:4).
2. Their influence.(1) The loss of so much positive strength to the cause of the Redeemer.(2) It tends to discourage the true friends of God.(3) It is a real hindrance to the cause of God, for "he that is not with Me is against Me."(4) It gives occasion for the reproach and opposition of a wicked world.(5) It is the occasion of the loss of the souls of men. An ungodly parent adds to his own destruction that of his children.
3. The slender probability that they will ever be saved. The apostle did not anticipate the conversion of those whose end was destruction (Matthew 13:30). There is more hope for the open sinner and the heathen than for the self-deluded professor.
(A. Barnes, D. D.)I. COMMON. Many betray their profession by their —
II. ENMITY TO THE CROSS. It —
1. Contradicts its teaching.
2. Puts discredit on its glory.
3. Hinders its success.
III. MATTER OF REGRET. The inconsistent —
1. Dishonour Christ.
2. Injure others.
3. Ruin themselves.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
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