"(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: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)" (Philippians 3:18-19)
These verses are parenthetical to the main thought. The Holy Spirit is taking a short side trip in order to reveal the danger of false teachers. If the modifying phrases of the first sentence were removed, the main body would read, "For many walk (as) the enemies of the cross of Christ." The other phrases are describing this main thought. Satan's counterfeits are never far away. When God's people are trying to serve Him, Satan's messengers are usually close by; and they often claim to serve God. However, time will quickly reveal their true motives.
People who profess God to be their authority while rejecting the authority of Scripture are worthy of being avoided. The Spirit calls false teachers the enemies of Christ's cross. Why would the Lord use such terminology? Christ's cross represents man's sin, Jesus' sacrifice, the death of the old man and the need for the crucifixion of the flesh in the Christian's life. All of these things are extremely distasteful to the false teacher. His pride will not permit him to come to repentance concerning his sin and the sinless nature of Christ. He serves the old man; therefore, he has no desire to have him crucified "with the affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24)," and he most certainly has no desire to die to self daily while letting God sit upon the throne of his heart.
Verse nineteen describes certain traits of false teachers which will aid the believer in marking and avoiding them. First of all, the false teacher is destructive and his end is destruction. The Greek word behind destruction is used mostly to describe the eternal damnation of Satan and those who are outside of Christ. It is often translated perdition. The same root of this word may be found in Satan's name Apollyon which means Destroyer (Revelation 9:11). The false teacher's end is damnation in hell, and his lifestyle and teaching will reveal this reality when compared to the doctrine of Scripture. Believers need to be familiar with the Bible's teaching so that they can recognize error when they hear it. A false teacher's doctrine often contains just enough truth to sound convincing; however, when held up to the light of God's word, the destructive errors will show through.
Not only is a false teacher destructive, but he also serves his flesh. A literal translation would read "...whose the God is the belly." The belly is not referring to the stomach alone; the term represents specifically the sensual nature of the flesh. False professors are sensual by nature. They often scorn self-discipline and modesty. They are quarrelsome and arrogant. They see no value in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and Bible study. They are not chaste individuals (II Peter 2:14). They are oftentimes obese and obnoxious. Instead of appreciating God's provision and enjoying it in modesty, they "[feed] themselves without fear (Jude 12)." If the action feels good, they engage in it. If a certain attitude pleases their agenda, they adopt it. When the doctrine of Scripture hinders their lustful passions, they denounce the authority behind the doctrine and continue on in their evil way. Although many of them appear religious, when put to the test, their own human desires will prove to be the authority in their lives. The belly has been chosen over The God.
False teachers and false professors also glory in the things which should be to their shame. An example of this may be seen in their disregard for God-ordained authority. Concerning this, Peter wrote, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who ... walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities (II Peter 2:1, 10)." False teachers are proud and often arrogant people who encourage others toward an attitude of hatred and rebellion. Instead of humble submission to the powers which God has ordained (Romans 13), they promote disrespect and violence. The Bible sheds shame upon the very actions and attitudes in which they glory.
Lastly, the false teacher minds earthly things. Just as a genuine believer is disposed to consider heavenly things, the false professor is disposed to consider earthly things. A man who does not have the Spirit of Christ cannot be expected to have the mind of Christ (Romans 8:9, II Timothy 2:19).
A man can be genuinely saved while allowing his flesh to enjoy many of the same things that are practiced by a false teacher. A believer can be immodest, rebellious, unappreciative, hateful, violent, lustful, undisciplined and destructive. The false teacher does not have a monopoly on the flesh. The believer still lives with himself, and his old nature loves and appreciates all the wickedness that the false teacher enjoys. If God is angry at the attitudes and actions of the damned, He certainly will not appreciate such attitudes and actions in the redeemed who are commanded to represent their Redeemer.