1. Application

Opposition Comes in Many Forms

Ezra 4:1–24 (ESV)

1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel,

Ezra 4 has many examples of the ways in which people seek to oppose the Lord’s work in history.

The enemies of Judah and Benjamin try to infiltrate the building project by claiming they worship the same God. They are Old Testament examples of wolves coming in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Thankfully, the leaders of Israel were on their guard and were able to refuse their offer for help.

There are many people today who claim to be Christians but who in reality want to destroy God’s church. One such example is the liberal scholars and professors in many seminaries and universities that are meant to be training men to become ministers. Many of these individuals claim to be Christians, but they deny the inspiration and authority of God’s Word and they try their best to explain how the world’s sexual ethic is actually compatible with Christianity.

Another example of modern-day wolves is all the so-called prophets and apostles we find in many churches. They claim to have direct revelation from God and often lead people astray and enrich themselves.

The enemies of Judah and Benjamin attack the people of Israel directly by bribing counsellors, writing letters, and forcing them to stop building.

Sometimes opposition to the gospel will be very direct. In many countries, Christians have less rights than other people. Particularly in Muslim and Communist countries, opposition to the gospel is very direct. People can be thrown into prison or taken to labour camps because of their faith in Jesus Christ. In Africa, Christians who do not participate in ancestor worship or traditional African rituals will also face anger and opposition from their families. In Europe, government legislation increasingly is rebranding Christian truth as hate speech.

Sometimes opposition to the gospel will be indirect. Television programmes will label Christians as being old-fashioned and irrelevant. People who hold to a biblical sexual ethic will be mocked in newspapers and on university campuses. If you want to tell people that Jesus Christ alone can reconcile us with God, people will think you are arrogant and unreasonable.

Opposition to God also makes use of sinful methods. The enemies of Judah and Benjamin are happy to use violence (Ezra 4:4; Ezra 4:23), influence politics to make it difficult for believers (Ezra 4:5), and spread lies and exaggerate (Ezra 4:13–16).

In response to opposition, believers must pray (Ephesians 6:10–21), and not repay evil for evil (?). If we have been slandered, if we have been treated unjustly, we pray; we don’t slander back. We leave vengeance in God’s hands. The way in which Christians fight against those who seek to destroy God’s church is not with the weapons of this world, but with prayer; not with underhand tactics, but with clear and bold actions that are in keeping with the Word of God and the truths of the gospel.