If one wants to remain popular, the best stand to take on any issue is that of indifference. But if we are to be true to our God and His holy Word, we cannot be indifferent over the issues concerning the gospel. Many in our day have taken the gospel and rounded off its edges so that it will be offensive to no one. They have diluted it and mixed it with strange fruit, so that it might be more palatable and easily digested by men. But the 'true gospel' will always be offensive to some because, "the Stone which the builders disallowed (rejected), the same is made the Head of the corner, and a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offense" (1 Pet. 2:7,8). Its edge can never be blunted, "For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). We need never apologize for His Word, nor should we ever back down from openly proclaiming it. Though there be many who despise the gospel and its Christ; "unto you therefore which believe He is precious" (1 Pet. 2:7).
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 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:
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 as to blatantly deny the supremacy of the Work, 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" (Isa. 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" (Isa. 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)." (Jn 16:13,14).
Finally, they are 'enemies' who preach any message which gives men anything 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'.
If anything is hated bitterly, it is the out-and-out gospel of the grace of God, especially if that hateful word 'sovereignty' is mentioned with it. Dare to say, "He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion" (Rom. 9:15), and furious critics will revile you without stint. The modern religionist not only hates the doctrine of sovereign grace, but he raves and rages at the mention of it. He would sooner hear you blaspheme than preach election by the Father, atonement by the Son, or regeneration by the Spirit. If you want to see a man worked up till the satanic is clearly uppermost, let some of the new preachers hear you preach a free-grace sermon. A gospel which is after men will be welcome by men; but it needs a divine operation upon the heart and mind to make a man willing to receive into his inmost soul this distasteful gospel of the grace of God.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Long sin's darkened midnight held me,
Bound and ruined in its grasp;
But the Light of lights was shining,
Though mine eyes were closed fast.
Then came the mighty, heavenly Power,
Marching on with purposed step;
Took my blinded self-desire,
Crushed it at the Savior's feet.
Now the glories of that Day-Star,
Shine within my lightened breast;
And shall still my eyes keep open,
Til He leads to lasting rest.