After Judah went captive to Babylon, God brought back the people to rebuild the city and restore the temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel around 538 B.C. to the times of Haggai and Zechariah around 520 B.C., the work on the city and temple went forward. But there were problems. Locals in the land who were not part of God’s people first tried to be included in the building process and then tried to discourage the people of God from building at all.
Ezra 4:1-3 – 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, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”
In our modern world, it is sort of assumed that, if a person claims to be a part of the religion, we should accept them as part of the faith. The modern world sees all claims to Christianity as equally valid. But they are absolutely not.
Just as the people of Judah told the locals in the land that only the Judeans had the right to participate in the rebuilding of the temple, so biblical Christians should not be afraid to say to those who claim to worship God that only those who come to the Lord biblically, by grace through faith in Christ alone, are part of the family of God. Not all who claim to follow the Lord actually do. Not all who claim to worship the Lord actually do. Not all who claim that they know the Lord actually do.
This all should not be difficult to grasp. If two people make claims that are mutually exclusive, no way can they both be correct at the same time and in the same way. If one group says that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone while another group says that salvation is by grace through faith plus works, they cannot both be correct. If one group says that the Bible is the perfect, inerrant, infallible, inspired word of God while another says that the Bible is evolving and contains errors, they cannot both be correct. If one group says that no person is forgiven apart from the grace of Christ and another says that all religions eventually lead to God, they cannot both be correct.
We might wish to learn from the strong response of the Jews to the people in their land. The Jews understood that those in the land were not truly following God. They were not part of the people of God. And the Jews had no shame in telling the people of the land that they are not included in the work.
Similarly, let us be honest. Yes, please let us be loving and kind too. But may we never give the impression that the family of God includes anyone who rejects the person and work of Christ. Let us not pretend that someone can be forgiven in any way other than by God’s grace alone through personal faith alone in Christ alone. May we be real enough with others to tell them of their need to come to Christ to seek mercy. And may we not be ashamed to say to others, even others we love, that we are not all on the same team.