Beware of Balaam

“O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.” (Micah 6:5)

Three New Testament writers have left us sober warnings concerning Balaam. Peter warned against “the way of Balaam”; Jude against “the error of Balaam”; and John against “the doctrine of Balaam” (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14). God evidently considers these warnings necessary and appropriate for Christians even today. Yet Balaam, in his day, was a genuine prophet (note 2 Peter 2:16), possessed great knowledge concerning God, and even received direct revelations from God. What, therefore, were his way, his error, and his doctrine?

“The way of Balaam” was a readiness to prostitute his high spiritual gifts and privileges for “the wages of unrighteousness” (v. 15); being willing to preach something contrary to God’s Word for personal gain.

“The error of Balaam” was evidently his willingness to compromise his own standards of morality and truth in order “greedily” to accommodate those of his pagan patrons (Jude 1:11). Finally, “the doctrine of Balaam,” which even in John’s day was already infiltrating the church, was to use his own teaching authority to persuade God’s people that it was all right for them also to compromise their standards, even “to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:14) with their idol-worshiping enemies.

The notoriously corrupt state of much that is counterfeiting true Christian ministry today is clear evidence that those warnings against “Balaam-ism” are still urgently needed. No wonder Micah (the faithful prophet) urged God’s people to “remember” Balaam and his tragic end (Numbers 31:8). HMM

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