The Mystery of the Unauthorised Fire.

There is an incident in the biblical record that causes abiding consternation for many of God’s people. It is the story of how two of the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, were slain suddenly by God. But Why………..?

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the  Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near  me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace. (Lev. 10:1–3)

Aaron, of course, was the older brother of Moses and the first high priest of Israel. God had consecrated Aaron and his sons to the holy vocation of the priesthood. It was in the context of their priestly service that two of Aaron’s four sons, Nadab and Abihu, each got a censer—a kind of vessel that was used in antiquity to contain the incense that was burned as an offering before God—put fire in them, put incense on them, and offered what the book of Leviticus calls “unauthorized fire.”

What is “unauthorized fire,” or, as it is rendered in other translations, “profane fire” or “strange fire”? We use the word profane to refer to that which is less than holy, but the word profane comes from the Latin profanus, which literally means “outside the temple.” So, in a literal sense, Moses, as the author of Leviticus, is saying that the fire that Nadab and Abihu introduced to the altar had not been purified or consecrated. For that, God took their lives.

On the surface, it seems that this was cruel and unusual punishment. These young priests clearly violated some prescription that God had set forth for the offering of incense in the holy place, but it may have been no more than a prank or a mischievous innovation. Was it really necessary for God to rebuke their action so decisively?

To understand this incident more fully, we have to go back to the book of Exodus. Just before God gave His Ten Commandments, He told Moses that He soon would come to him in a thick cloud so that the people might hear Him speaking and believe (19:9). To prepare for that stupendous vision, God commanded the people to consecrate themselves (v. 10). He also set strict borders around Mount Sinai, saying that whoever touched the mountain would die (v. 12). When God came, “there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled” (v. 16). God called Moses to ascend the mountain, but before revealing His law, God sent Moses back down the mountain to repeat and expand the warning. He said:

Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them  perish. Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord  break out against them. (vv. 21–22)

So, at the very formation of the nation of Israel, God laid down the fundamental laws of consecration for the priests. He warned them that if they were not consecrated or if they violated their consecration, He would “break out” against them. Nadab and Abihu violated the holy law of the priesthood. When they did so, God killed them, reminding Israel of the sanctity of His presence. That is why Moses reminded Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” When he heard this, Aaron “held his peace.” Even amid his grief, he knew his sons had committed a grave offense against Israel’s holy God.

One aspect of the modern church that most saddens and concerns me is that believers are no longer encouraged to have a healthy fear of God. We seem to assume that the fear of the Lord is something that belonged to the Old Testament period and is not to be a part of the life of the Christian. But fear of God involves not simply a trembling before His wrath, but a sense of reverence and awe because of His glorious holiness.

Even though we are living on the finished side of the cross, the fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10a). God is still a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deut. 4:24). When we come into His presence, we are to come as children, as those who have been reconciled, but there is to be a godly fear inspired by respect for the One with whom we are dealing.

How Should Christians Respond to Other Religions?

Recent decades have provided Christians with an increasing evaluation of and interaction with various world religions. The growth of immigration from non-Christian nations combined with a greater global awareness through travel and communication have confronted Christians with the reality of diversity in faith and practice. Protestant Christians have responded in different ways to this reality. Often, these responses are grouped in three broad categories. However, with the rise of postmodernism a fourth category has appeared. I will endeavour to explain and evaluate these four approaches below, concluding with the approach I believe best adheres with biblical Christianity.

Universalism.

The first approach to world religions may be classified as universalism. Universalism proposes that all religions are more or less equal, with no one religion able to claim supremacy. Two common illustrations are used when explaining this approach, but provide slightly different nuances. The first is to picture salvation or truth as a mountain top and various religions as paths up the mountain. At points along the way these paths may appear different, but when followed to the end they lead to the same place. Thus, all religions ultimately teach the same thing. If adherents merely took the time to interact with one another they would discover how much they actually agreed. This perspective would eschew proselytising, opting instead for simple dialogue.

Another picture is of a group of blind men approaching an elephant, with each man grabbing a different part of the animal and concluding partially true statements about it. However, none of them fully understands the elephant. In this illustration, no one religion has a claim to all truth. Instead, one must recognize that all religions have part of the truth, so the best approach is to incorporate beliefs from different religions.

Though this approach is popular among more liberal Protestants, attempts to defend it biblically are scarce. This scarcity is not surprising since there is little to no biblical support for universalism. Throughout the Old Testament, the God of the Jews is set in opposition to the gods of the surrounding peoples. The first commandment in the Decalogue places Yahweh as the supreme God. The nation is called to abandon other gods for the true God. In the New Testament, Jesus points to himself as “the way,” claiming that “no one comes to the Father except by [him].” Paul refers to the worship of idols as the worship of demons and applauds the Thessalonians for turning from idols to serve the true and living God. Nor are believers called to look to other religions to gain a better understanding of God. Jesus claimed that those who knew him knew God and that those who rejected him rejected God.

Universalism also creates logical difficulties. A thorough study of the different religions reveals that they do not all teach the same thing but often proclaim explicitly contradictory truths. Some religions are monotheistic, while others are polytheistic or pantheistic. Some believe that life is cyclical, while others hold to a linear view of history. Clearly all religions are not teaching the same thing. Arguing that all religions only have part of the truth does not ultimately solve this dilemma, for the only way to know that each religion has part of the truth is to have access to all of the truth. Those who hold universalism may have a laudable goal of reducing conflict by emphasising unity, but they do injustice to the Bible and to other religions.

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Relativism

With the rise of postmodernism a modification of universalism has emerged that could be classified as relativism. Whereas universalism claims that all religions lead to the truth or contain part of the truth, relativism says that all religions have their own truths. In essence, a relativist would say that religions are not different paths up one mountain but different mountains altogether. This approach recognises the clear differences between religions, but states that these different truths are not ultimately contradictory because they are true in themselves. There is no universal truth by which to judge the truths of the various religions. Again, the relativist sees no need for proselytising, since no religion could be judged as better than another.

The relativist approach runs into the same biblical problem as the universalist approach. Christ not only claimed to be “the way” but also “the truth.” He called his followers to go throughout the world making disciples, which entails conversion to the truth. God is never portrayed as one choice among many but as the only God.

Ultimately, a relativistic approach to religions crumbles under the same difficulty as relativism in general—it is a self-defeating philosophy. Relativism proceeds on the idea that ultimate or universal truth is non-existent, but the claim that there is no universal truth is itself a universal truth. Further, relativism is incapable of condemning any action or attitude, since there is no standard by which to judge. In relativism, acts of terrorism and acts of charity are equally valid ways to demonstrate one’s commitment to religion. However, most people easily recognise these acts are not equally valid because of their universal sense of right and wrong. Though some may argue for a relativistic approach to religion, they never fully embrace it because of these difficulties.

Inclusivism

A third approach to religion is inclusivism. In inclusivism, one’s own religion is the supreme religion, but other religions have truths that will ultimately lead to the truth found in the supreme religion. From a Christian perspective, that means that one can only be saved in Christ, but the Bible is not the only revelation of Christ. On the more liberal end of this perspective, proponents argue that sincere worshippers in other religions may be saved if they follow their religion and never have a chance to hear of Christ and Christianity. They believe the Q’ran has truths in it inspired by the Holy Spirit, so a devout Muslim who never hears of Christ may be saved by following these inspired truths in the Q’ran. On the more conservative end of this approach, proponents believe that someone may become a Christian by believing the gospel of Christ but continue to worship in their original religion. Thus, a Muslim may put faith in Christ but continue to practice as a Muslim because of the inspired truths in the Q’ran. An inclusivist would practice proselytising but may not consider it an urgent matter.

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Inclusivism does take seriously the biblical teaching that salvation is in Christ alone. It also recognises the biblical teaching that some revelation of God has gone out to all people, i.e., general revelation. However, it fails to incorporate the Bible’s teaching on how an individual is saved through Christ. There are no biblical examples of a person being saved without knowledge of Christ. Rather, Paul states that people cannot believe in someone of whom they have never heard. Jesus’ command to go and make disciples would be less significant if salvation were possible apart from the proclamation of the Gospel. Inclusivism actually makes general revelation salvific in nature when the Bible never indicates that general revelation is able to lead to salvation. Romans 1 and Romans 2 both point to general revelation as important for the condemnation of all people, since people universally suppress the truth God has revealed about himself and his moral law, leaving unbelievers with no excuse.

On the more conservative end, proponents fail to incorporate the biblical teaching of conversion. Though they rightly recognise that salvation comes through faith in Christ, they minimise the transformative effects of that salvation. Salvation includes regeneration, which enables believers to turn from their sinful ways and turn to serve Christ alone. One of the evidences of regeneration is a rejection of false religion to embrace biblical Christianity. The proponents also distort the teaching of inspiration. The Bible claims inspiration for itself but does not extend that inspiration outside of itself. Any truth in other religions can be traced to general revelation and common grace rather than inspiration.

Exclusivism

The final approach to world religions is exclusivism. This approach teaches that there is only one true religion and only one way of salvation. For a Christian, Christ is the only way of salvation and the Bible is the only source of saving revelation today. Other religions are sourced in man’s rebellion against God and/or demonic influence. Though other religions may have some truths in them, they are not saving truths. Exclusivism encourages proselytising since it is the only hope for adherents of other religions to be saved.

This approach best lines up with the teachings of Scripture and of the beliefs held by the majority of Christians in church history. A potential danger in this approach is that one may develop an arrogant attitude that assumes possession of the truth entails superiority. However, a true understanding of salvation in Christianity minimises this danger. Since the Bible teaches that salvation is a work of God graciously given to unworthy sinners, those who have been saved have no grounds for boasting. They do not have the truth because they have greater intelligence, morality, or wealth. Rather, they have the truth because they received grace and mercy and should desire to see others experience that same grace and mercy.

Were Adam and Eve Jewish?

Commentary By Pastor Don Roy Hemingway.
I have to admit, this one was a bit of a curve ball for me. You see, I instantly knew the answer, especially since I am Jewish, it seemed the answer was obvious, but just to be sure and exercising my usual caution with any question, I decided to do the research. Below is what I found, with a couple of bits by way of clarification, which I feel are pertinent to include and has foundation in Holy Scripture.

Romans 2 King James Version (KJV)

25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

The rabbi answers this and other questions about the creation of man.
Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple, 16/10/17 08:05
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Q. B’reshit 5:2 says that “Male and female He created them… and called their name Adam”. What does this mean?

A. One rabbi said this meant that He made Adam bi-sexual (a hermaphrodite).

Another rabbi read the verse as saying that He made Adam double-faced, male on one side and female on the other, and split him into two separate beings (B’reshit Rabbah 8:1).

The first view reflects the idea that man being made “in the image of God” had no distinct sexual identity. God was the source of love, both fatherly and motherly love intertwined.

The second view suggests that there are two separate male and female identities; man symbolising power and conquest whilst woman is associated with growth and development.

In the first view, man and woman are essentially one. The human being, like God, is a fusion of “din” (justice) and “rachamim” (compassion).

In the second view the two genders are essentially different. But each one needs the other.

United in marriage, man and woman combine to become a balanced partnership.

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WERE ADAM & EVE JEWISH?

When I was a professional youth worker I went up and down the British Isles organising Jewish programs. I gave talks to youth clubs in countless places and also frequently addressed adult groups and even senior citizens’ clubs.

At one such club in the East End of London, appropriately named the Zekeinim Club, I gave occasional talks on Sunday afternoons.

On one occasion, regardless of the official title of my address, one of the Yiddish-speaking audience asked me in question time, “Adam and Eve – they was Jewish, yes?”

I probably disappointed the questioner by having to say “No”. Religion had not yet come into being. Nor were there any religious commandments, though of course the beginning of B’reshit told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.

When the structure of Divine commandments was complete, this became mitzvah number 1 and it still is, but at that point it could not be said to be addressed to the Jewish people because there was no Jewish people.

Yet there is actually a point in the question I was asked. It is not so much that Adam and Eve were Jewish, but that Judaism interprets their career in a distinctive way.

Where Christianity builds a whole superstructure on their sin and, at least in circles that still teach this theology, propounded a doctrine of original sin whereby Adam and Eve’s descendants are deemed eternally tainted unless they rise above the taint by means of belief.

What Judaism did was to stick more closely to the text. It noted that God told the first couple that if they disobeyed Him they would surely die (Gen. 2:17); the effect of their sin was that death was brought into the world.

It is true that there are views here and there in rabbinic sources that speak of a load of guilt sitting on Adam and Eve’s descendants, but such views are not standard or normative.

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NO DISTINCTIONS

Q. Why do Jews only care about their fellow Jews?

A. They don’t. You are quite wrong. Jews have always worked for the well-being of mankind as a whole.

Job says, “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the cause of him that I did not know” (Job 29:15-17).

Not a word here about the blind, lame, poor or disadvantaged being Jewish.

Are The Ten Commandments Still Relevant Today?

Are the Ten Commandments still in effect today? Are they still relevant to the believer in this day?

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The Ten Commandments

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to bring to the nation of Israel, they are not the “ten suggestions” or “ten rules to live by” but commandments from God. But were these commandments only given to the nation of Israel or were they for all of mankind? Jesus referred to the commandments when a rich man came up to Jesus and asked him how he might receive eternal life. The man came up to Jesus and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother” (Mark 10:17b-19). The young man, sounding self-righteous said “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:20-22). The fact that Jesus says the man should know the commandments, and then mentions some of them, shows that they were still valid at that time, but what about today, some 2,000 years later?

Are The Ten Commandments Still Relevant Today

The Pattern of the Believers

It’s interesting that believers are often associated with those who keep the Ten Commandments. This doesn’t mean that they are saved by them because we are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Eph 2:8-9) but it does mean that those who are saved should live lives that are pleasing to God and the way to please God is to obey His Word and surely the Ten Commandments are God’s Word too. The Bible speaks about Satan, as the dragon, and the Apostle John records, “the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea” rev .12:17. and there is also “a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev 14:12).

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The End of the Age

It would seem ridiculous to believe that the Ten Commandments are no longer valid or relevant today when the Book of Revelation talks about the time of Christ’s arrival where He finds the saints keeping the commandments of God (as best as they can) but also hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ. John writes that “this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it” (2 John 1:6) so “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4) and it is “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” (1 John 5:2). I find it hard to believe John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, would get this wrong. Believers will live out the commandments and obey them but not to be saved but because they are saved.

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Which Commandments are Irrelevant?

If you go through the list of the Ten Commandments, you can see how grievous to God it would be to break them but also, if we break them, they will break us. Can we really believe that “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13) is no longer relevant? Of course not! That would seem ridiculous. Is it still unlawful to steal (Ex 20:15)? Just ask any law enforcement officer. Bearing false witness or lying is sin too because this is a timeless commandment too (Ex 20:16) and in a court of law, lying can send you to jail for perjury. Today, adultery seems common place but so is the flu and that doesn’t make it right. Just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do and in fact, the right thing to do is often very unpopular. If you had a friend who was committing adultery, would you turn and look the other way or would you tell them that they are becoming one with a prostitute (1 Cor 6:`16) and the final destination of all sexually immoral people is the lake of fire (Rev 21:8) unless they repent?

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Conclusion

What is love? John writes “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3) and Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:16) and Jesus says “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). You can’t say you love God and not do what He asks you to do. That’s not love but disobedience. Love equals obedience. We obey, not because we are loved, but because we love Him and do things that are pleasing in God’s sight and so the Ten Commandments are still relevant today. These were not nailed to the cross by Christ but those ordinances of washings and animal sacrifices have been made obsolete by Jesus’ perfectly atoning death on our behalf. You say you love Jesus? Prove it!