Just as the Christian movement was getting launched, a heretical spin-off arose threatening to overshadow the “good news” of the Gospel. Gnosticism taught that the body and anything physical was inherently sinful, whereas the spirit was inherently good. In this perspective, Jesus came down to the world to save us from the physical world and transfer us to a purely spiritual one.
While there was Scriptural precedent for this heresy, (such as Romans 8:3: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering,”) gnosticism missed the bigger, redemptive purpose God had in creating mankind and the world itself!
God didn’t provide His Son to rescue us from our bodies or the physical realm. Rather, he came down to provide the resurrection power of His Son in order to rescue us, our bodies, and the entire world from the power of death!
This “good news” is glimpsed in this chapter, by how Nehemiah addresses the situation facing Israel. He doesn’t offer a purely spiritual solution to the brokenness – at least not at first. Faced with the grim reality that Israelites are selling their daughters into slavery (Nehemiah 5:5) he attacks the social, economic, and political causes first by “accusing the nobles and officials” (Neh. 5:7) and bringing together “a large meeting to deal with them.” He demands that they “give back to the people immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them,” (Neh. 5:11). It’s only after they agree with his demands that he calls the priests into the assembly, and introduces an overtly religious element into the solution (v. 12).
In light of all of this, Nehemiah governs his people “out of reverence for God” (v. 15) and “devotes himself to the work” (v. 16) that is needed by his followers in every dimension of human life.
Christ came to “make all things new” (Revelations 21:5). Christians have a tendency to focus on the spirit to the detriment of the body. But both are incorporated in Christ’s new Kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
May we be the conduits of that Kingdom today in our community: addressing the spiritual evil all around us – and rooting it out of every economic, political, and social facet of human existence.
Pastor Ryan Lunde
Young Adult Ministry