Nehemiah was a great leader of God’s people who coordinated the effort of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. There were enemies of God’s people who did not want to see the wall built. They tried to distract Nehemiah and strike fear into the hearts of those working with him. Sandballat and his cohorts gathered to fight against Jerusalem while the walls were being built (Nehemiah 4:7-8). Nehemiah’s servants used one hand to build and in their other hand they held a weapon to defend (Nehemiah 4:17). Nehemiah encouraged his followers to keep up the work and the fight, saying, “our God shall fight for us” (Nehemiah 4:20).
To the church at Ephesus Paul related that both Jews and Gentiles are one body, the church, the temple of God built upon Jesus, the foundation stone (Ephesians 2:16-22). Yet, while he was mending breaches in the church between Jews and Gentiles, he also had to warn against the attacks of Satan; in Ephesians 6:11, he wrote, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Followers of God in every age have had the double task of building and defending. However, we do not engage in these tasks alone. God builds and fights for us if we follow Him.
We are to build one another up, edifying each other in love (Ephesians 4:12-16). When you think of the word “edify” think of “edifice” — a building. Some things we can do to build up others are visiting widows and orphans in their affliction (James 1:27); teaching one another in singing (Colossians 3:16); and public reading of Scripture, with exhortation and teaching based on that Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13). Jude wrote of the need of Christians to be “building up yourselves on your most holy faith” (Jude 20).
But Jude also wrote of the need to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Just as Nehemiah and his followers not only had to build but also be on guard against attacks from the enemy, we must not only be engaged in building up others, but also defending the faith against enemies of the truth. Many people gravitate to only doing one or the other. Some give only positive words to others, but are too cowardly to engage in defending against false doctrine. Some are always hunting down false teachers, but rarely give attention to building up their brethren. We must do both.
Some ways to defend the faith are to study God’s word to know what it says (2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11) and to note by name those who are teaching false doctrine and identify what the teaching is and its effect (2 Timothy 2:17-18; cf. Romans 16:17-18). Each congregation should be aware of specifically which false doctrines pose threats to them in their particular time and place (Revelation 2:14-15).
Just as Nehemiah assured his followers that God would fight for them (Nehemiah 4:20), so God has provided the means by which we can edify one another and defend the faith today. The Bible, the Word of God, is able to build us up. To the elders of Ephesus, Paul said, “I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up…” (Acts 20:32). The Bible, the Word of God, is also our defense against the attacks of Satan. Notice the explicit and implied references to God’s word in the description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:14-17. Will you put God’s word to use to build and defend?