Vol. 3, No. 6
Nehemiah 4:16-18. The context of this passage is the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem in the days of the return following Judah's seventy years captivity in Babylon. The great work of Nehemiah as a wise and faithful governor is seen as he stood upon his guard against enemies of opposition to the work.
The emphasis in these verses is upon balance. How important is balance? When a baby is learning to walk, he needs balance. When a child is learning to ride a bicycle, he needs balance. When a young man is learning to preach the Gospel, he needs balance. Gospel preaching should be characterized by beautiful balance. The principle of Joshua 1:7 applies to preaching as well as to life. Second Timothy 2:15 will not permit extremism. Foy E. Wallace, Jr., once said, "Truth is always found between extremes." Amen!
The skill of Nehemiah and the returnees in rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem is seen in their striking a balance between the twin necessities of work and war. He kept half of them busy in the work (Vs. 16). He kept the other half in a state of watchfulness with the implements of war in hand (Vs. 16). He kept every worker ready with a sword at his side (Vs. 18).
If the "things written aforetime were written for our learning" (Romans 15:4), what might we learn from this? Two primary lessons suggest themselves just here. First, there is the lesson of a division of labor in the church. Not all of us can do the same things in the Lord's work, nor should we. In order to show the division of labor in the setting of spiritual gifts in the first century church Paul wrote, "For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?" (1 Corinthians 12:14-15). Thus, no Christian, however humble his endowments or talents, should decide that he is useless to the body of Christ. Let us all do what we are qualified to do!
Second, there is the lesson of the balance between work and war in spiritual matters. As people who wear the name of Christ, we must be workers and we must be fighters. Our task is to work out our own salvation "with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), and to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12). Some of us are good in the work, but have neglected to be soldiers (Jude 3). We might be impressed with the zeal of such, but their knowledge leaves us empty because zeal without knowledge is useless (Romans 10:2). On the other hand, some of us are so busy fighting that we forget that there is a work to do. We might be impressed with their knowledge, but their zeal leaves us cold!
The picture in Nehemiah 4 is that of workers who are prepared to fight. Christians should be no less than workers and fighters. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit that we ought to have at our sides, both in our labors and in our conflicts (Ephesians 6:17).
The word law means "a rule of action." It is frequently used in Scripture: the "law of Moses" (Malachi 4:4), "the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2) and "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25). Our consideration narrows to the law of Christ for salvation (James 1:25). Much confusion exists because religious people generally fail to understand that God has more than one law of pardon for sinful men.
What is pardon? It is to release from penalty, restore as before, to offer forgiveness of sins. The Bible shows that there are two laws of pardon because there are two types of people who need pardon from their sins. The Lord has given one plan for one not a Christian in becoming a Christian. He has given another plan for the spiritual return of an erring Christian. All responsible people are divided into two categories: spiritual aliens or citizens of the kingdom of God (Ephesians 2:19-22). God gave the formula for forgiveness to suit the sinner's spiritual condition.
Confusion arises in applying the wrong law to those under consideration. The religious world tries to make one law of pardon apply to all men. The law of pardon, which applies only to a Christian in error, is often erroneously applied to those who have never obeyed the gospel of Christ.
An alien sinner is one who is not in the kingdom of God (Ephesians 2:11-12). That is, such a one has never accepted Christ, never had his sins forgiven and has never come into the fellowship of the church of Christ. The law of pardon that applies to alien sinners enables them to become children of God. It procures the remission of past sins and brings one into Christ (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27). He becomes a citizen with the saints and a member of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).
What plan did God give to suit the alien sinner's condition? We are instructed to hear Jesus Christ (Matthew 17:5), believe on Jesus (John 8:24), repent of our sins (Acts 2:38), confess the name of Christ (Romans 10:10) and submit to immersion into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). This is merely saying that one must be converted (Matthew 18:3).
Conversion to Christ does not keep one from ever sinning again (1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 John 2:1). An erring Christian is in need of pardon as much as any alien. The second law of pardon is stated in 1 John 1:9. Sins are to be confessed to God (Luke 15:18), and when committed before others are to be confessed to others (James 5:16). Consider the case of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:13-24). His condition was that he needed forgiveness for his sin (Vss. 21, 23). His duty was to "repent and pray" (Vs. 22).
We all need pardon from the merciful God who will pardon our sins (Isa. 55:6-7). There is no sin that God will not pardon if we but obey his will.
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