“Strange Fire” – Nathan Brewer

Nathan Brewer

No matter how unpleasant it may be to accept, or how difficult it is for some to admit, there is one Bible fact that is “un-get-aroundable.” No where in the New Testament is the use of mechanical instruments of music authorized in Christian worship. Because of a lack of Bible knowledge, many who use these instruments in worship don’t realize they are doing so without God’s permission. Yet, there are those who know full well that using a piano or organ in worship is not specifically sanctioned by the New Testament, but continue to do so.

One popular notion is that, “they used them in the Old Testament” so it must be okay now. It’s strange that people never try to justify animal sacrifices today by going back to the Law of Moses, but they do so for the organ. But we don’t live under the Jewish Law now. All men today are answerable to the Law of Christ. He is our great Lawgiver (Heb. 1:1-2; Matt. 17:5; John 12:48). We are responsible for keeping Christ’s Law—The New Testament.

One of the most popular responses when confronted with this fact is, “But the Bible doesn’t say we can’t.” That was the argument given to me by a denominational preacher when I brought the New Testament’s silence on the subject to his attention. Is this popular argument a valid one? Does God’s silence on a matter authorize it? Allow me to introduce you to a couple of fellows who used the same logic in their worship to God. Meet Nadab and Abihu:

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put strange fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. [Emph. added, NB] And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord (Lev. 10:1-2).

Apparently, Nadab and Abihu were operating under the same assumption that most of the religious world employs—if God doesn’t specifically forbid a thing, then it is authorized. These two sons of Aaron were fulfilling their duties by burning incense to God. Unfortunately for them, they decided to ignore God’s command regarding which kind of fire to use. They substituted what they wanted for what God had commanded. But notice the emphasis in the above scripture: There is no record of God telling them which kind of fire not to us. The text simply states that they offered fire, “which he commanded them not.” Those boys were devoured by holy fire sent down from heaven, not because they they did what God said not to do, or had specifically forbidden, but because they didn’t do what God specifically told them to do. They didn’t live long enough to argue that, “God didn’t say we can’t.” They had to learn the hard way.

God no longer requires burnt offerings by His followers. We are under a better covenant today, sealed with Christ’s blood (Heb. 8:6; 9:11-14). But Christians today are a “holy priesthood” and we are to, “offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). We are commanded to sing when we worship God (Col. 3:16). When a mechanical instrument of music is added to this command, then “strange fire” is offered to God which, He “commanded not.” This is so because God has told us to sing. Although the specific commands have changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament, God still expects strict obedience from the followers of Christ. That’s a principle which hasn’t changed. Jesus said if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Christians are commanded to sing—not sing and play. Man has added mechanical instruments to worship because that’s what man wants. If God wanted it, he would have said so. Worship according to man’s doctrines produces vain worship (Matt. 15:9). God has told us how to worship. When we use mechanical instruments in worship, then something is used which, “God commanded them not.”

Maybe you think that while God punished Nadab and Abihu years ago, He will surely overlook something as “insignificant” as mechanical instruments in worship today. But those who discount the New Testament—the covenant of Christ which was sealed with His blood (Heb. 9:14-16)—will be punished as surely as Nadab and Abihu for rejecting the commands of God.

The two sons of Aaron had to learn the hard way that God’s silence does not authorize. They learned the hard way that offering “strange fire” which God never told them to use was not pleasing to Him. Let’s not be like them. Let us learn from their tragic example not to go beyond what God has authorized in His word. The loss of our souls is too great a price to pay for our failure to learn this lesson.

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Author: Editor

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