Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 13, 1964
NUMBER 14, PAGE 4,12b-13a

The "Holy" And The "Common"


Robert H, Farish

"And Jehovah spake unto Aaron, saying, Drink no wine, nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tent of meeting; that we die not: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: and that ye may make a distinction between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean." Lev. 10:8-10.

Nadab And Abihu

The occasion of this prohibition against the priests partaking of intoxicants was the death of Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire upon the altar. "And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them." Here is the thing for which God destroyed them — "offering strange fire which God had not commanded." God defines this as a failure to make distinction between the common and the holy. The fire was common fire — fire not commanded. There is no intimation that the common fire was sinful per se. It would have been allowable in any common use, but must not be used in lieu of or in addition to the holy. Many things, right within themselves, (right as common things, employed in common usage) become wrong and sinful when used in worship to God. The worship of God is holy and no common (unauthorized) thing can be introduced into it without dire consequences resulting. This example "written for admonition" should excite concern in all to "make distinction between the holy and the common."

The failure to make distinction between the holy and common was one of the mistakes charged against Judah by Ezekiel. This mistake was one of the major causes of her captivity. It is significant to note that the priests whose responsibility it was to teach the people "to make distinction" were severely condemned for their failure in this respect. They were charged with doing violence to God's law. "Her priests have done violence to my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have made no distinction between the holy and the common." Ezek. 22:28. A failure to teach others to make distinction between the holy and common is labeled as doing violence to God's law, profaning his holy things.

We do violence to the word of God and profane his holy things, when we prostitute the church to common things (unauthorized things). Regardless of the merit of these things; of their rightness and fitness as common things, they cannot be attached to the church which is a holy thing.

The principle of making distinction between the holy and the common is further enunciated by Ezekiel in describing what the conduct of the priests should be upon the return from captivity. "And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean." Ezek. 44:23.

These Old Testament cases are for our admonition. "Now these things happened unto them by way of example and were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come." I Cor. 10-11. The failure to make distinction between the holy and the common will bring tragic results today.

Many things are being advanced and urged upon the church as things which the church ought to do. Arguments are advanced to prove these things are "good." Some loosely reason thus: "The work of the church is to do good, and this is a good thing; therefore, this is a work of the church." One of the mistakes of such reasoning is the failure to "make distinction between the holy and the common," and another is that of dealing in dangerous generalizations. It is unnecessary to spend time proving that these things are good. These things advanced are conceded to be good but they are still "common things" in contrast to the church and its work which are "holy things." The danger of such generalizations is seen when we consider the extent of license granted. A list of things that must be admitted as work of the church would be endless e.g., instruction in scientific farming, soil conservation, baby care, health, recreation, entertainment, diet, etc. Nothing good could be denied. Anything not sinful in its nature could rightfully claim its support from the church. Such reasoning allows too much.

The church is holy — its mission is holy. Neither the church nor its mission must be confused with common things. The distinction must be clearly drawn. It is not the function of the church to entertain and educate either the young or the old. It is not the task of the church to provide leadership in a hundred worthy endeavors (commendable within themselves). The work of the church is to save the sinner, edify its members, and help the needy.

This thought is worth consideration. Could Nadab and Abihu have used strange fire occasionally, just so long as they didn't make it a permanent part of the "program" to worship?

— 413 E. Groesbeck, Lufkin, Texas