The good fight for the faith is first fought within yourself. But the war doesn’t end there. Sinful assassins sneak into the ranks in order to kill the gospel fight from within.
In your effort to wage war against gospel negligence, you will face gospel killers—people who wage war against the gospel. They are people with misdirected love, corrupt relationships, hypocritical professions, and dangerous associations. Consider the words Paul used to describe them in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
You might think of “love” in this context as pursuit. This, at least, is how it is manifested. Gospel killers show signs of being lovers of self, money, and pleasure. They pursue what benefits them most. They are self-absorbed, self-centered, pursue the accumulation of material things (not just income), desire to have, and chase the gratification of the flesh. Misdirected love puts self first and chases all the wrong things.
Misdirected love makes a master out of anything other than God (3:4), so all other characteristics of a gospel killer follow quite easily. This is particularly true when it comes to loving others. If we do not love God supremely, we cannot love others righteously. For this reason, gospel killers are proud (thinking too highly or lowly of oneself), without self-control, reckless, and swollen with conceit.
Additionally, they are arrogant (holding contempt with others), abusive (speaking evil of others), disobedient (incompliant with others), heartless (unloving to others), slanderous (falsely accusing others), brutal (dealing fiercely with others), despise good (hating those that do good), and treacherous (betraying others). In other words, gospel killers have corrupt relationships because they corrupt them.
Paul’s description of gospel killers is most shocking when you discover that he is not describing the world—although they would certainly fit the script. Rather, he is describing false converts—hypocritical Christians. A hypocrite is someone who disguises himself to be someone he is not. Paul wrote they “have the appearance of godliness, but deny its power” (3:5). They say “no” to the Lord of the gospel while saying “yes” to the idea of heaven. The gospel sounds good to them, but they are not in it for the truth. They refuse the reality of godliness through obedience. So, in light of Jesus’ teaching on this subject in Mark 7:21-23, they have a hypocritical profession of faith.
Paul commanded Timothy (and Christians, as well) to avoid gospel killers. It is a strong charge to shun and avoid any association with them. It means to keep away and have nothing to do with them. In other words, avoid their company. This is because gospel killers will seek to kill the gospel in you. Because they are not seeking your benefit, they are unable to cultivate quality relationships. They are hypocritical Christians and will essentially be after your head. Gospel killers have dangerous associations.
With all that said, it is easy for us to point out people who might be characterized by all or some of these aspects, but maybe we don’t need to look very far. Maybe we have neglected the gospel for so long that we have begun to “kill” its impact in our lives and in our witness.
Carefully consider these strong words of Paul, and ask the Lord to weed out the sin in your life. Ask Him to reveal your true pursuits, the condition of your relationships, and why you profess faith in the Lord of the gospel.
Don’t be a gospel killer. They make poor friends and lousy Christians.