Without controversy, one can declare that God does not change (Mal. 3:6). But what many may not realize is that the same is true of God’s spiritual principles. Among these is the exclusive nature of God’s “positive” commands—that is, “When God says, ‘Do THIS,’ it means, ‘Don’t do THAT.’” Let us briefly consider the clearest possible example of this spiritual truth.
Leviticus 10 opens with the account of the divine execution of two men who were in charge of the incense-burning portion of OT worship (1a), which, naturally, required fire. But the fire they offered on this occasion is said to have been “strange” (1b | ASV) to God, or “unauthorized” (ESV) by God. That kind of statement naturally leads the reader to ask this question: “Why was this fire ‘unauthorized’? What was it that made this fire ‘strange’ in God’s sight?” According to the Holy Spirit, the reason it was “unauthorized” is because it was “fire that [God] had never prescribed for them” (ISV)—fire “which he had not commanded them [to make]” (1c).
This terminology is extremely significant—for it was NOT that God had said, “You shall NOT make that kind of fire,” and that these two men made that kind of fire anyway; rather, God had simply said, “You shall make THIS kind of fire,” and, therefore, to make any other kind of fire was sin. Unfortunately for these two men, they did just that: they made “Fire B” when God had prescribed “Fire A,” and He repaid their fire with a fire of His own (2). Not one Israelite would have failed to “get the point”—you and I had better “get it,” as well! He didn’t have to specifically condemn or prohibit every single particular thing of which He disapproves. All He has to say is: “Do THIS,” and everything which the mind of man could possibly imagine besides “THIS” is direct rebellion against the word of God.
The spiritual principle that resulted in the death of Nadab & Abihu has not changed. When it comes to the manner in which we worship God: if it is not in the word, it better not be in our worship—for, if we want our worship to be acceptable to God, we “must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).