Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 21, 1958
NUMBER 16, PAGE 2-3b

Strange Fire

Howard S. McCutcheon, San Francisco, California

It is now as in days of old when, "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 the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." (Lev. 10:1-2) "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? (Jer. 23:29)

There are many of our brethren today who are offering STRANGE FIRE before the Lord in their institutional temples, worshiping idols of their own creation. Trying to go to heaven on what the Bible does NOT say. Seemingly thoroughly satisfied to do things in the realm of religion and religious effort even though the Bible is as silent as the tomb on their innovations. All too often I have heard from the lips of our young preachers who have graduated from David Lipscomb College, Freed-Hardeman College, Harding College, Abilene Christian College and George Pepperdine College a remark which to me borders on infidelity, "There is no pattern in the New Testament, therefore, we are operating under a law of liberty which permits us to do anything in the work or worship of the church which to us seems expedient." The venerable prophet Jeremiah wrote through inspiration of God, "0 Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps." (Jer. 10:23) The inspired Apostle Paul in writing to young Timothy said, "Howbeit for this cause I obtaining mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, FOR A PATTERN to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." (I Tim. 1:16) Again, "Hold THE PATTERN OF SOUND WORDS which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim. 1:13 ASV) "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." (Prov. 19:21) "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." (Psalms 33:11) Our God from the beginning has directed man in all the paths of righteousness and to state there is no pattern in the New Testament impugns the wisdom of Almighty God.

One traveling on the beautiful highways of today must be guided by what the official highway markers say, not by what they do not say. If one should try to reach his destination by what the highway markers do not say, he would never reach it. It is not what the Bible does not say, but what it says that is our guide or pattern. What it does not say is too uncertain. It does not say too many things. What it does say is limited and specific. Those who would keep in the "strait and narrow way" must observe and do all that it says and only what it says. He ignores what it says imperils his soul: for, "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63) "So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17), and "without faith it is impossible to please Him." (Heb. 11:6) There is our pattern which we must follow or perish.

Christ is still "head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that Ellen all inall." (Eph. 1:22-23) "One only is the lawgiver and judge, even He who is able to save and destroy." (James 4:12). Today we have a group of lawmakers among us, offering strange fire to the Lord by what they term "The Law of Expediency." I know that, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalms 19:7), but I fail to find in the Bible the term "Law of Expediency." I do find it used by fallible men who from the beginning of the church in the First Century until now have used it to introduce unscriptural matters into the work and worship of the church. Those who introduce the Bible Colleges, Orphan Homes, Missionary Societies, Sponsoring Type Churches and the Herald of Truth to do the work of the church and instrumental music in the worship of the church, have all attempted to justify these things on the "Law of Expediency." The apostolic church was never fractured into Bible Colleges, Orphan. Homes, Missionary Societies, Sponsoring Type Churches, Herald of Truth, et al; nor did they organize such in the world. They knew nothing of the hobbies of this Modern age. In their church capacity ALONE they worked. They did not transfer one cent or prayer to any human institution, lest in so doing they would exalt the inventions of men above the wisdom of God and thereby rob the church of its glory. None of the inspired apostles wrote one word about the so called "Law of Expediency." Paul, inspired of God wrote, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." (I Cor. 10:23) Therefore, before a human institution is given work as a expediency that God gave the church to do it must first be proven to be lawful. The apostle Peter through inspiration wrote, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;" (I Pet. 4:11) Yes, the "Law of Expediency," when used in an attempt to justify the idols of men, man-made human institutions to either supplement or supplant the church in its God given work is offering strange fire before the Lord, and those who have used it will suffer the same consequences for their actions as did Nadab and Abihu.

The time is now when the elders of the church, the editors of our religious papers, the educators in our so-called "Christian" colleges and our preachers should "preach the word" and leave everything else alone. No man has any right to give his "views" on anything in religion, or to tell what he "thinks" about it. All speculative teaching, writing and preaching should be avoided. God said through Moses: "The prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die." (Deut. 18:20) James the inspired apostle said: "Be not many masters (teachers), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (James 3:1) Every elder, editor, teacher, preacher and writer is tempted at times to speak or write without authority. Let us pray that we may in such hours of temptation stop on the side of known truth. We should remember the words of one of old: "I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more." (Num. 22:18) To teach and practice things in the name of Jesus Christ that He never commanded is a plain usurpation of His divine authority, and the Lord will not hold him guiltless who does so. Be it remembered that majorities or minorities, or anything else decide anything. The word of God only is authority. Nothing is settled till it is settled right, and it is never settled right till settled by the word of God.

There is no middle ground between the word of God and human device. We are, therefore, uncompromisingly opposed to all things not taught by the apostles of Christ in the New Testament. Anything the Lord did not teach through His inspired apostles, and the New Testament church did not practice, is Strange Fire before the Lord and is to be regarded as intolerable. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ." This will put an end to all untaught matters which have divided the church throughout the years. No one has a right to write a thing or speak a thing, contrary to this passage, which has to do with the destiny of the souls of men and women. For, "howsoever goeth onward and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." (2 John 9 ASV) "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever; that we may do all the words of this law." (Deut. 29:29) Let us never depart from revealed things and thereby fall under the condemnation of spiritual death and final separation from our God.