“Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.”
Paul set forth a striking four-fold description of the “enemies of the cross of Christ.” It is difficult to determine whether these people were renegade believers or hostile unbelievers.
“Whose end is destruction”
The first portrait of these rebels depicts their “end”—their “destruction.” The word “end” does not mean the cessation of existence. It portrays the issue and course of action of their lives.
Their religion seems feasible: Be a good neighbor, pay your debts, join the P.T.A. Those are earmarks of a good citizen but not necessarily of a good Christian. We may unpack all our obligations to our fellow man, but this will not impress God. Not the horizontal, but the perpendicular is the issue with God.
On the other hand, their religion may comprise more spice: “If you join us, we put no limits on your sex life . . .” In the first century, a certain popular philosophy believed it was man’s duty to plumb the depth of sin just as much as it was to scale the heights of virtue. Sin was their duty. By living at both ends of virtue and sin, their experience was complete.
In the Bible, “destruction” is not annihilation or extinction. The word connotes the idea of waste or ruin. People who are enemies of the cross end in ruin. They are not annihilated. At death, they do not slip into eternal unconsciousness. They continue to exist, but they wreck the quality of life either in time or eternity. They know nothing of God’s quality of life. Their end is more than termination; it is a state of moral ruin. “Destruction” essentially has to do with separation from God.
“Whose god is their belly”
The second characteristic of these haters of the cross is that their “god is their belly.” Their god is their appetite.
“For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly . . .” (Rom. 16:18)
These people are not atheists. They have a god. It is their appetite. They are their own god. There is no true atheist. Most atheists bow before their own brains. They worship themselves. They are self-indulgent. They sit in judgment of the Bible. Their god is made up of what they can taste, smell, see, hear, and feel. Their god is made of what their finite brains can understand. They invent their own gods. People who manufacture gods of their own making live lives of practical atheism. They savor self-indulgence. Christians manufacture gods of their wives, husband, or children. Others worship their business or job. A great god to many believers is the mighty dollar. Their god is their belly. A man’s god is that to which he wholly gives himself. His god is what drives him.
Ruin is the end of a self-indulgent philosophy of life.
What drives you? The dollar? Sex? Good causes such as your family, career? Is God the central purpose of your existence?