Enemies of the Cross – What is the Real Issue?

Philippians 3:18-19  (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:  19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

Fortner 01Because he was a man devoted to the Gospel, zealous for the glory of Christ, and concerned about the souls of men, the apostle Paul clearly identified men in the early church who were “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Sometimes, he even called them by name!

Those enemies of the cross were preachers and teachers who came in the name of Christ, professing to be followers of Christ, and pretending to preach the Gospel of Christ. But they were offended by the cross of Christ. The fact that Christ died on the cross did not offend them; but the doctrine of the cross they could not and would not endure. Because of their great hatred for Paul’s message, the doctrine of the cross, they sought to destroy his ministry by raising smoke screens and clouds of dust around it, falsely accusing him of many hideous things. Some said, “Paul is not a true apostle.” Others said, “Paul is an antinomian.” Another raised the cry, “Paul is a preacher of licentiousness.” And some said, “Paul is lording over God’s church.” By these things, the false preachers and teachers in the early church tried to discredit Paul’s ministry, and sought to excuse their rebellion and enmity toward the doctrine of the cross.

We have such men in the church today. Some are preachers, some are teachers, some are deacons, and some are in the pews. They falsely accuse God’s faithful servants of many evil things. They raise many false issues in an attempt to hide the one real issue. They are “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” What is the source and cause of their anger, wrath, and hostility toward those who faithfully preach the Gospel?  What are the real issues?

Who is God?

The real issue is this — Who is God? Is he totally, absolutely, and universally sovereign, or is he not? The Word of God says that he is; and the natural man hates that fact (Isaiah 46:10; Daniel 4:35-37; Romans 9:11-23). God is sovereign in all things: creation, providence, and salvation. God does what he will, when he will, with whom he will, in the way he will, and gives account of his actions to no one. Either God is absolutely sovereign, or he is not God.

What is Man?

The real issue is this— What is man? Is man good, or is he vile? Is man weak, or is he depraved? Is man sick, or is he dead? What does the Bible say? You do not have to read much to find out (Romans 3:9-19; 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3). These things are true concerning all men by nature, no matter what their age, their race, or their condition in life: All men are spiritually dead, without life toward God. All men are morally depraved. Their hearts are evil, vile, wretched, and incapable of doing that which is good in the sight of God (Matthew 15:19). There is nothing you can or will do, of yourself, by your own power, of your own accord, to change your nature. And all men are justly condemned. Unless God Almighty intervenes and does for you what you cannot do for yourself, you are going to wind up in hell. And if you do, it will be right and just; you have well earned it.

How is Salvation Accomplished?

The real issue is this— How is salvation accomplished? Man will accept any method of salvation which allows him some part in the work. And he naturally rebels against any method of salvation which denies him all pride and dignity. The scriptures are clear. — “Salvation is of the Lord!” — “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Salvation is not an offer; it is a free gift. Salvation is not accomplished by the gentle persuasion of the Holy Spirit, never invading the territory of the sinner’s free-will; but it is accomplished by the sovereign power of God the Holy Spirit, irresistibly drawing sinners to Christ and creating faith in their hearts. Salvation does not come by the decision of man, but by the revelation of God. Salvation is not walking down an aisle. It is bowing to Christ the King. The new birth is nothing less than an effectual awakening of dead sinners by God the Holy Ghost. It is God giving life to the dead. It is a spiritual resurrection.

Who is Jesus Christ?

The real issue is this—Who is Jesus Christ? Modem day preachers have made a conscience-soothing, fire-escape from hell, and named it Jesus. The modem preacher has made Jesus a pathetic, helpless beggar at the sinner’s heart’s door. The preacher of easy-believism and decisionism has made the will of Christ, the work of Christ, and the glory of Christ subject to the sinner’s will.

He has put the Son of God into the sinner’s power, saying, “What will you do with Jesus? Will you accept the Lord? Won’t you  let Jesus come into your heart? Let him have his way with you.” It’s all a lie, a blasphemous delusion, a snare of hell. My friend, Jesus Christ is God, the sovereign Lord and King (John 17:2). He has you in his hands. You don’t have him in your hands. The question is not, “Will you receive Jesus?” but “Will Jesus receive you?” The question is not, “Will you accept the Lord?” but “Will the Lord accept you?” He has the authority, the right, and the power to save you or to damn you. The one thing you must do is bow down to him. Bow down before the great King and sue for mercy. — “Lord, if you will, you can make me whole.”

What did Jesus Christ Do?

The real issue is this — What did Jesus Christ do? Did the Son of God die to make salvation a possibility for all men, or did he make an infinite satisfaction to divine justice, accomplishing the eternal redemption of his people? The modern theory of the atonement is this — The Lord Jesus Christ died at Calvary to make it possible for all the people of the world to be saved, though he did not actually secure and make certain the salvation of any. And when any sinner believes on Christ, the blood of Christ becomes powerful and effectual to save him.

That blasphemy makes the blood of Christ a dormant and useless thing, until the sinner’s faith makes it meritorious and effectual. But what does the Word of God say? If there is anything plainly taught in the Bible, it is this — The Lord Jesus Christ actually put away the sins of his people, and actually obtained eternal redemption for us when he poured out his life’s blood unto death at Calvary (Romans 3:24-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:12, 26).

Though the doctrine of the cross offends unbelieving men, and stirs up their wrath, every faithful man, called of God to preach the Gospel, goes on preaching it with boldness. This is the only hope of my soul. And, though you may not know it, it is your only hope, too. Any who preach any other Gospel are “the enemies of the cross of Christ,” and are to be treated as such (Galatians 1:6-8).

Don Fortner, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church
Danville, Kentucky

About Greg Coleman

I am a Particular Baptist who affirms the absolute sovereignty of the triune Godhead in all things. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in the God-man Jesus Christ. He is the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Disposer and Judge of all that ever was, is now or ever shall be. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and men. He was made to be sin for his people and saved them from their sins by his substitutionary, sacrificial death on the cross thereby satisfying the justice and wrath of God against them. The sufficiency of his death to the satisfaction of God’s justice is proven by his physical resurrection from the dead and enthronement in glory at the right hand of the Father. Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
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2 Responses to Enemies of the Cross – What is the Real Issue?

  1. Outlaw Monk says:

    I agree with you that some Christians tend to make Jesus a “conscience-soothing” escape. It’s almost like we make Jesus a commodity—“got Jesus?” We’re more concerned sometimes with what God can do for us rather than what we can do for God.

    I’m interested in your take on free will. You say the Holy Spirit persuades “never invading on the territory of the sinner’s free will.” If we are naturally sinful, and have the inherent tendency to turn away from God (1 cor. 2:14) then by our free will it would be our tendency to reject the God’s grace. I think the Holy Spirit operates outside of our free-will. We are free to make decisions in earthly things, like obeying the Law, but I think the gift of salvation goes beyond free-will—especially since God is omnipotent and already knows what choices we will eventually make.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts; good article, interesting stuff.

    • Greg Coleman says:

      Thank you for taking time to read and comment. Excellent observations and a good question.

      Every man’s natural (lost) condition is fallen and depraved. We are spiritually dead. We not capable of understanding the things of the Spirit of God. We are by nature at enmity with God, children of disobedience, children of His wrath, and under condemnation. Man has no free will. We do however, have freedom of choice to act within the nature we received from Adam. The Scriptures teach that everyone has the freedom of choice to make choices within the limits of our fallen nature. We are responsible for the choices that we make. Man is responsible.

      As I read what Pastor Fortner wrote in the context of the paragraph that you quoted from I understand him to be declaring that salvation is accomplished exclusively by the gracious act of the sovereign God. I understand him to be contrasting this positive statement regarding how salvation comes to the three following FALSE concepts that are generally taught in evangelical churches:

      1. Salvation is an “offer” that can be rejected or accepted.
      2. The Holy Spirit gently attempts to persuade sinners to accept Christ as an act of their own “free will”.
      3. The Holy Spirit will never intrude on an unbeliever’s “free will”.

      The Father elected the people of the Lord Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world.

      The Lord Jesus Christ redeemed His people at Calvary.

      The Holy Spirit effectively calls and regenerates the people of the Lord Jesus, granting unto them repentance and faith.

      May the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ bless you and yours.


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