Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 15, 1962
NUMBER 40, PAGE 3,15

Brethren, Shall We "Work," "Fight" Or "Flee"?

E. L. Flannery, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

"They that build the walls and they that bare burdens laded themselves: everyone with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other held his weapon; and the builder, everyone had his sword girded by his side, and so builded." (Neh. 4:17-18)

Most who read this will say that he is a "builder" in the cause of Christ. Some may even speak despairingly of the "fighters" among us. But Nehemiah's "builders" were also expected to be "fighters" if occasion demanded it! They builded when possible and fought when it was necessary. The question used as a title for this article is faulty, implying that a choice exists to the Christian — that he may choose to be a "builder" and to ignore controversy in our "good fight of the faith." (1 Tim. 6:12) Such has never been! Truth has always had to fight error in order to build.

In building again the fallen walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah has given us an excellent example of how to proceed in our efforts to rebuild the walls of spiritual Zion to restore New Testament preaching and practice. In the midst of the present departures and controversy now raging within the church, let us apply to our present problems the lessons we can learn from Nehemiah.

Shall We "Fight"?

Well, did Nehemiah fight the opposition? He did when they sought to hinder his work of restoration of the walls. Fighting was not Nehemiah's purpose, but when those opposed to Nehemiah's work "conspired.... together to come and fight against Jerusalem, and to cause confusion therein" (Neh. 4:8) and to "cause the work to cease" (Neh. 4:11), then he was set to fight them. The enemy was determined to block the building of the walls. How? By starting a fight to cause "confusion" and fear, and thus cause the work to cease. To overcome their plan Nehemiah prepared his workers to fight, arming them with swords, spears, and bows. He reminded them of some things worth fighting for — their brethren, sons, daughters, wives, and houses. (Neh. 4:14)

It was to be total warfare! Physically armed (sword, spear, bow), and psychologically prepared ("fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your houses"), Nehemiah's men would certainly have put forth a tremendous effort to repulse the enemy.

Today the enemy has taken possession of some of our sons and daughters. With but one or two exceptions, every college operated by "members of the church of Christ" are doing all within their power to teach students that the college may be supported from the church treasury; that the church may contribute to and work through human institutions.

Some bible school literature is openly and aggressively teaching that the church may work through human institutions. Shall we lose our sons and daughters to them without a fight? Shall we lose our wives to error accepted by them because of some emotional tie of argument, or shall we fight for them and their souls?

Shall we permit good, but misled, brethren to leave us to embrace error without fighting for them? without exposing the false teacher that beguiled them? Nehemiah taught and trained his people to fight to retain their people!

Nehemiah cited his fighting workers to a higher source of power to encourage them: they made their "prayer unto... God," (Neh. 4:9) and were assured that God would fight for them. (Neh. 4:20) But Nehemiah believed in self-help, too, so he "set a watch against them day and night." (Neh. 4:9) He never made the mistake of ignoring the enemy's presence nor of underestimating his strength. He was never taken by surprise by the enemy. He believed in preparedness, and was ready to meet his opposition whenever ("none of us put off our clothes" (Neh. 4:23) and wherever ("in what place soever ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us; our God will fight for us" (Neh. 4:20) the enemy pitched the battle.

Brethren, we too should pray for God's help in our fight for truth. We, too, should set a watch for the opposition and be ready to meet it whenever and wherever it appears. Ignoring the presence of the enemy (or the teaching of error) can but lead to disaster. Nehemiah's example is the wise one.

Shall We "Work"?

The very purpose Nehemiah had in mind in returning to Jerusalem was to rebuild the walls. He came to work! His survey and plans concerned the work to be done. He inspired the people to work. God created the church to perform a work, and she had better not forget to work, to function in the fields of endeavor God made her responsible for. But how shall she proceed? Well, how did Nehemiah proceed with his work?

Nehemiah was grieved on learning of the desolation of Jerusalem and that her walls lay in ruble and ruins. He prayed God to use him in the work of restoring the walls and lifting the shame and reproach from God's people. (Neh. 2:4) On reaching the ruined city Nehemiah carefully surveyed the ruins, and in his mind laid plans how best to organize the workers for the job to be done. Having a clear cut plan in mind enabled him to instruct and inspire others to action. Action! This word is the key to Nehemiah's success. How many plans are just talked ("brethren, we'd better think about this for a while") and never activated! To build the walls would take action, and the mare action taken before the enemy became aware of it the better the chance of success. In fifty-two days the job was finished. (Neh. 6:15) Nehemiah said, "so we built the walls...for the people had a mind to work" (Neh. 4:6)

Today we need to survey the condition of the church, to vie the walls of Zion, to see the departures from faith, to see the distress that has been created. Surely this should grieve the heart of all God-fearing people.

Surely men of God, men of conviction, will pray God to use them in defending truth and in restoring unity based upon truth. Surely each one will seek to inspire others to actively participate in the good work. Let us try earnestly to encourage others to have a "mind to work"--a mind to seek the lost, to edify the saints, to help the needy, to defend the truth. Let's work more than we ever have. Let's work while we have opportunity to work.

Meanwhile, let us fully realize that when we do work aggressively for the Lord and His truth we will soon be confronted with opposition. We will face a fight. If we cease the work, of course, there will be no fight. How shall we react to opposition?

Again let us follow Nehemiah's example as cited above. Brethren, we face a strong, subtle, clever, unscrupulous enemy. Do not underestimate him. Do not try to ignore his presence. He has riches, prestige, influence. He has deceived some well-meaning brethren. Set a watch for him. He may do his damaging work through some person, some magazine, some tract, some pressure tactic. And yourself with truth and use his medium — persons, magazines, tracts, tracts-- in defending the truth. Expose his error at every opportunity, whenever and wherever he attacks.

Nehemiah set half his people to work and half to fight We need today some able men ready at all times to expose error involved in the present controversy by public debate, by the written word, by other means. And every member of the body of Christ should be able to work and to fight for truth. Like the workers of Nehemiah, each of us should have the "spear" in one hand and the shovel in the other. Every Christian sooner or later is sure to need his "spear". And in a crisis every member of the church should join the fight for right that truth may prevail. Too many members think they can remain neutral during church troubles, during controversy. Members tried that during the controversy over the missionary society (1849): some stood neutral when instrumental music was introduced into the worship; some stood aloof when the premillennial issue came up in the 1930's; and some now seek neutrality in the institutional controversy. Others leave the fight to the preacher. But every member should join the fight for truth and help rout the enemy, the false teacher.

Hear The Trumpet Sound?

Do you hear the call of the trumpet? "In what place soever ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us." (Neh. 4:20) The trumpet sound is heard today in many congregations in the land. Who will stand up to error and fight? Don't speak of being a "worker" when you ought to be a "fighter"! Had Nehemiah's workers taken this "peace-loving" (?) attitude and refused to fight the enemy, then the workers would have failed.

The trumpet sound is heard today from the "mission" field. Some earnest evangelist has had his support cut off by some elders priding themselves in being "mission minded", but pressured into this action by the institutional combine.

The trumpet sound comes from some small, struggling church holding to truth but needing help. Stronger churches must "resort thither". Send your preacher for a meeting. Send men out to help teach on Sundays. Send an evangelist to assist them for a period. If the enemy attacks them, "resort thither" and meet the attack when they sound the trumpet seeking your help. Let us in every way work to build our strength; let us fight to maintain it.

Shall We "Flee"?

Shall we be afraid? Shall we flee for refuge? Fear is potent, and how the enemy hopes we will succumb to it! Nehemiah, on being advised to flee to the temple for refuge said, "Should such a man as I flee? ...I will not go in." (Neh. 6:11) He was not intimidated by the false, slanderous reports. Tobiah's letters to put Nehemiah" in fear" (Neh. 6:19) utterly failed. God's will was his guide and man could not deter him from it. (My, how old brother Anonymous does work like Tobiah on his letter writing!) Nehemiah would not flee! He would work. He would fight. But flee, he never would!


So, brethren, shall we work? Yes, we must. Shall we fight? Yes, indeed, when necessary. Shall we flee? Never, and under no circumstances. Do not flee from the work, do not flee from the fight. Let none become discouraged. If God be for us who can be against us? Nehemiah had only 42,360 people, 7,337 servants, and 245 singers--- a total of 49,942---but he succeeded in the midst of a more numerous enemy by outworking and outfighting them.

Today we have thousands of fearless preachers, men of deep conviction; thousands of conservative, faithful congregations throughout the land; thousands of loyal Christians, loyal to God and loyal to His word and revealed pattern. These all stand ready to work, ready to fight, but with no intention of fleeing.

How pathetic it would have been if such a man as Nehemiah — man of vision, man of decision, man of courage and action — had fled to the temple for refuge! How pathetic today to see men of ability flee to the editorial "confessional" column; flee to the camp of the institutionalists because of fear!

We need action! Let us work! Let us fight! God will be with us in this sort of action.