1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Yahweh, which he commanded them not.
Their priviledged position among the children of Israel brought great responsibility. So in betraying Yahweh's trust and their honoured status among the people, their judgement was immediate and final (Jms 3.1)
They presumed to offer according to their own thinking (of the flesh). This is what heresy is - strange fire - will worship - turning aside from the narrow way of Yahweh's prescribing. Broad is the way that leads to destruction.
It was the wisdom and power of God, and not the foolishness, that was preached to the Macedonians. Had the foolishness been preached to them, it would probably have run like wildfire; because foolishness is more congenial to the human mind, than the wisdom of God; and assimilates closely to paganism in its hope.
...It is easy to convert men to foolishness, as every "revival" and camp meeting prove; and in a very short time too; yea, in less than the twenty-fourth part of a day. But it is not so with respect to the wisdom of God in the absence of his attestation by miracle and sign.
It requires much testimony and close reasoning to cast out the demons of foolishness, that the truth may find an entrance. You have to convince Christians in their own conceit, that they are not Christians in the judgment of Scripture. This was a difficulty the apostles had not to contend with. They had no spurious, or counterfeit gospels to combat in Macedonia; for there were then but "one faith, one baptism, and one hope of the calling," and these were set forth in their preaching alone.
They had but to state them endorsed by the attestation of God; and they were received with a faith that rested upon his power, and not upon the word, wisdom, or persuasive eloquence of men. Thus, their work was comparatively short and easy, where the truth they stated fell into honest and good hearts. But it is not so now.
In our experience we have met with men of sincere and good intentions...but for the life of them they cannot see" what was visible to any novice in the days of Paul, that for dipping in water to be the "One Baptism," the subject thereof must be enlightened by the "one faith," or dipping cannot be "the obedience of faith."
They are filled with zeal against this self-evident proposition, not because they can shew the contrary, but because it pulverizes their foundation, makes them "naked," and exposes them to "shame;" for the pride of opinion is so strong and inflexible even in the well-disposed, that they cannot endure that they should have been "disciples," and "pastors," and
"guides of the blind, lights of them which are in darkness, instructors of the foolish, and teachers of babes," ... and have yet "need that one teach them what be the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God," (Heb. 5:11-14.)
This is mortifying and intolerable to the pride of Christendom. Paul himself would be rejected if he came to them with the glad tidings that so exceedingly troubled Philippi. They would tell him, that his teaching was "an iron bedstead," and "poorly adapted to the liberal spirit of the gospel," being "new and diverse from the sentiments of all Christendom."
The liberal spirit of the gospel!! As if Paul's gospel were the gospel of modern liberalism! The spirit of his gospel was liberal indeed; for it offered men, without money and without price, an everlasting kingdom with inexaustible riches, unlimited power, divine honours, and eternal life and glory.
This was a gospel of a liberal spirit; and offered man a covenant-right to all these good things upón the easy conditions of believing the exceeding great and precious promises of God, faith in Jesus, and baptism in his name; but our impartial readers of the Bible ... are displeased with it; because it does not grant this right to their Christendom upon its own terms! Their gospels are more liberal; for they offer the babes they teach rights without regard to faith in the promises at all!
Ye natural borns of Christendom, educationally credulous of its dogmas, only be pious, and your gaseous immortalities shall "have the stars" in spirit-land! This is a liberal spirited gospel truly! Nay, it is more liberal than even this, for it gives rights to glory among the stars to infants of the flesh without faith, or hope, or thought, or any thing, but the instincts of their being!
And shall they glorify them in heaven, and send "the pious" to eternal flames; or give them no interest in the future world, because they did not believe in the Kingdom and the things pertaining to it, which Paul preached to the Macedonians?" "Perish the thought!" say they. Away with such "a system of theological ultraism!"
"The ground is extreme, and utterly untenable when explored in the light of facts and apostolic precedent!"
These "sentiments of all Christendom" are sacred in the eyes of pious liberalism, which is pious disbelief of all God's promises unpalatable to the thinking of the flesh.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Aug 1857
10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;
Worship in Relation to the Alien
As the case of Cornelius is cited in opposition to the principles enunciated in the foregoing, a review of it will not be out of place. It is assumed that that God-fearing man occupied a position parallel to that of the religious alien of to-day. And that as the prayers of the one were heard, so those of the other will be. But are these assumptions justifiable? Let us see. Cornelius is described as a "just" and "devout" man, "one that feared God with all his house, and prayed to God always;" as being "of good report among all the nation of the Jews," and, as having known the "Word," which God sent unto the children of Israel (Acts 10:36, 37).
The narrative further implies that he was not only a man of prayer but of fasting (30 v.) These particulars at once suggest the thought that Cornelius may have been a proselyte. Surely a God-fearing man, and one acquainted with Christ's teaching, would have complied with the requirements of the law, which included circumcision. Especially in view of the fact that until this latter enactment had been observed, no part nor lot could be attained in Israel's common wealth.
If Cornelius was a proselyte, it may be said, why was it necessary for Peter to go and instruct him in the way whereby he and his house could be saved? (11:14). The circumstances of the time supply the reason-it was a time of transition. Immersion into the resurrected and glorified Christ was now the appointed way for remission of sins and eternal life. The recognition of this was required from both Jews and proselytes. This is clear from the cases of the Eunuch (8:1-5).
The reference to "uncircumcised" may apply to the "many"-"the kinsmen and near friends"-who had assembled to meet the Apostle. Although Peter's vision of clean and unclean may present a difficulty at the first glance, it may mean the following, and nothing more, viz.:-That Peter was to understand that the time had arrived when Jew and Gentile were upon a level in regard to the way of salvation; that the destinction that had existed hitherto was now no more; that the Gentiles were no longer to be esteemed unclean in the sense of the provisional difference that God had previously made between Israel and the other nations-
"In every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted with him."
Peter's hesitancy in visiting Cornelius may be accounted for by remembering that Christ had said "Go not into the way of the Gentiles" (Matt. 10:5), coupled with the great repugnance that existed is associating with Gentiles. And Cornelius, it must be noted, was a commander of a cohort of Roman soldiers.
It is thought by some that we should take neutral ground upon this subject-that whilst we should not encourage worship upon the part of the alien, we should not discourage it. This, however, is hardly a satisfactory position. If there existed an absence of direct testimony upon the subject, then silence perhaps would be commendable. But positive commands have been given as to the way in which God is to be approached. Let divine revelation concerning Christ as the medium of approach be clearly apprehended, and neutrality will be out of the question.
"He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully" (Jer. 23:28; 2. Tim. 2:2; 2. Thes. 2:15; Tit. 1:9).
One of the many charges Deity brought against Israel's religious instructors was that they "put no difference between the holy and the profane" nor "shewed difference between the clean and unclean" (Ezek, 22:26 and Lev. 10:10). Here is a lesson for Christ's servants of this dispensation. They occupy a position somewhat analogous to Israel's priests, and it rests with them to point out faithfully and fearlessly the distinction God has made among the sons of men (1. Cor. 1:30; 6:11; Jno. 15:3).
As God is particular, so let us be particular. The jealous watchfulness of God over His appointments is forcibly illustrated in the punishment of Nadab (Num. 3.), of Korah (Num. 16.), of Uzzah (2. Sam. 6.), and of Uzziah (2. Chron. 26.) Laxity or disregard of the divine word also brought condemnation on Israel (Hos. 8:12, 13; 9:3). Let us take heed!
"These things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come.'
How brethren should act at public meetings, at meal times when aliens are present, and with their children, are matters which call for a remark or two before concluding. With regard to children, the task will be comparatively simple. Their chief source of knowledge upon such subjects being their parents, it will be but necessary to teach them that they are not in a position to approach God, and that His first requirements are: a knowledge of His will and obedience to His commands. At the same time informing them that God's blessing and guidance are sought by their parents on their behalf.
The case of the adult stranger is, however, different. He is invariably under the impression that it is both his privilege and duty to worship God. Now as there is no common ground upon which to offer prayer, supplication, or thanks, the saints dare not unite with the alien in either. It is incumbent upon the former that they studiously avoid compromising the truth, either by word or action.
At meal times, it would be inconsistent to give thanks in a collective form when the alien are present, unless the relative positions have been explained to them. The exigencies of such a situation may be met by those in the truth returning thanks silently. Respecting meetings for the proclamation of the truth, worship should form no part of them, or if it did, the president should announce that the brethren and sisters would engage in singing or prayer.
This may by some be deemed over-scrupulous, but is it? Let us be consistent and scriptural. It is right to supplicate God's blessing on our work in the truth, but there is a time and a place for everything. It is extremely questionable if a meeting convened for the purpose of reforming and enlightening sinners, is the time and place for singing and praise.
Is it not distressing to witness young brethren and sisters, through lack of moral courage, or non-realisation of their separate condition, handing books to strangers, thus tacitly inviting their co-operation in the praises? Is it in the fitness of things to institute a service wherein (frequently) the major portion of those who are lustily singing and affirming "Amen" is not in a position to render acceptable worship?
A public lecture is a time for the Word to work-for the Word to influence and convince, and if worship is introduced it should be done with the greatest care and discrimination. It is an unworthy and unwarrantable argument which says that worship should be resorted to as a means of giving tone and interest to a meeting.
"Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few." (Ecc. 5:1, 2).
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, Aug 1886