Strange Fire. Strange fire is what Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, offered before the Lord moments before they died. Leviticus 10:1-3, Numbers 3:4, and Numbers 26:61 give us but a brief description of them being killed because of offering strange fire before the Lord in their censors. They were to be high priests, yet had profaned the altar by offering unauthorized fire; they offered the gift upon their own terms rather than upon the Lord’s, and it cost them their life.
King Saul does a similar thing in 1 Samuel 13:9-14 and though he wasn’t consumed as both of Aaron’s sons, this event inevitably led to his downfall, forfeiture of his office as Israel’s king, and death in battle. 2 Samuel 6:5-7 records of Uzzah being struck down in God’s anger towards him for merely touching the Ark of the Covenant.
We see men being struck down simply for looking into the Ark (1 Samuel 6:19). And lest we forget, Ananias and Sapphira, as recorded in Acts 5:1-11, were struck down for lying to the Holy Spirit. These are but a few examples from the scriptures, but I think you get the point.
Conrad Mbewe gave a summation of what is passing as Christianity in Africa at the Strange Fire conference. Revivals and mass healing events are scheduled every weekend; preachers hold incredibly long meetings of prayer and deliverance for those coming to them, never giving them the Word to address any real world issues; charlatans take peoples money, promising deliverance from whatever ails them.
In short, he says there is little difference between the “man of God” and a witch doctor. Thousands of people are going to these healing events never to be healed. Thousands are forsaking basic medical treatment for something that could easily be rectified because the “man of God” tells them that they need to go in faith and be healed. These same people are dying from common illnesses.
John MacArthur presented a final plea at the end of the conference to examine the teachings that have come within the movement and some of the damage it has caused. In regard to many of the outcry’s he seen since the beginning of the conference, MacArthur addresses each of them individually and responds with his own concerns. See Tim Challie’s Recap.
Yet through the discourse of the final day, the concerns that they brought to the table were absolutely legitimate. It is not good if the Word of God is not held as the absolute authority in any Christian’s life, whether Cessationist or Continuationist.
It is not good for there to be false prophets, claiming to have divinely inspired revelatory messages. It is not for charlatans to come into towns, housing massive events that deal with the physical maladies alone – yet neglect to care for the soul. It is not good for men and women to put their hope in a man who claims to heal rather than in God, who legitimately can heal. It is not good to dismiss Christ’s call for every Christian to suffer, nor to downplay the serious affects of sin, nor to claim prosperity or health. It is especially not good if Christ is not preached.
There were two main camps in this movement addressed: those who were blatantly heretical – and those who love the Lord. Be careful with what I just wrote. I am not calling all Charismatics/ Pentecostals heretics and Cessationists the godly ones. There are heretics on both sides of the argument. There are men, who like Thomas Jefferson, who would easily cut and paste the Bible with no qualms. What I am writing is that on both sides of the argument, I firmly believe there are many who love the Lord with all their heart.
Yet what I am also saying is that there are some really weak points within people’s theology on the Holy Spirit – and that too can come from both sides. The point in all of this is that when we come to the text, we need to be mindful of allowing ourselves to be incredibly self-critical. The text speaks for itself on this and every issue we have between each other over doctrine. However, we come to the scriptures with all sorts of presuppositions, cultural eyes, and frankly, heretical beliefs – if we come to it at all.
Coming back to Strange Fire though. It is serious business. How we view the Spirit dramatically affects every other aspect of our walk with Christ. It affects corporate worship, individual worship, how we read scripture, how we preach, how we share the gospel, how we raise our children, how we fight sin, how we think of the entire Trinity, how we treat our spouses, what guidelines churches set up for those wishing to serve in ministry, and much, much more.
The original post I made spoke about division. It spoke about the line being drawn in the sand here. And, there will be division over biblical truth. Always. Yet, perhaps we can also have some amazing work by the Spirit of God here to bring the church together, cohesively in doctrine and purpose, so that Christ is brought due glory. Perhaps people will not so quickly turn away from the hard conversation, but steer into it with full intent of getting an earful of what they don’t want so that they might learn. Or, the church can further divide. One thing is clear: both sides can’t be right.