The Error, Way, & Doctrine of Balaam
By Bennie Cryer
April 2010 Issue of the Old Paths Advocate
Jude 11, “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward and perished in the gainsaying of Core”. 2 Peter 2:15, “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness”; Revelation 2:14, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication”. The Holy Spirit chose Balaam to use as an example of what a man of God should not be. The narrative about this prophet after the patriarchal order is found in Numbers 22-25 and 31:8, 16. He was a Midianite. He belongs among those who had a knowledge of God but were not descendants of Jacob. Abimelech of Gerar, Melchisedec, Job, and Jethro are some of the examples that show God dealt with others that did not have Jacob as one of their ancestors. Balaam belongs in this group though his knowledge and respect for Jehovah seems faint when compared to some of the others. The Holy Spirit seems to have wanted churches in New Testament times and churches in this 21st century to learn important lessons from the brief glimpses we have of this Midianite prophet.
THE ERROR OF BALAAM
Error means a wandering off or a forsaking of the right path. The Greeks used this word to describe a planet in the heavens that did not seem to have a set orbit. This word seems to indicate that Balaam was once on the right path and wandered away from it. In 2 Peter 2:10, the Holy Spirit uses these words that accurately describes Balaam and his actions: Presumptuous are they, selfwilled. In a shameless and irreverent way Balaam presumed God would let him have his own way even though he knew it was against the will of God. how well did he know the will of God? God had said unto him, “Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed”. Numbers 22:12. How could he have misunderstood that commandment? Balak, King of the Moabites, had sent messengers to Balaam two times to offer him a reward for cursing the children of Israel. They knew that whoever Balaam cursed they were cursed and whoever he blessed they were blessed. Balaam had invited them to stay with him overnight, so he could talk to God about the matter. In verse 18-19 Balaam told them, “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more”. Verse 18 tells us he understood God’s instructions to him about the matter. Verse 19 shows how self willed he was and how he assumed God would change his mind and let him go curse Israel. God telling him one time was not enough for Balaam. he wanted to see what more God would say to him. he is like some today who wander away from the path of righteousness and do not even recognize they are walking in a path away from God’s way.
THE DOCTRINE OF BALAAM
The context for this point is found in Revelations 2:12-16. Balaam entertained the Moabite ambassadors because He wanted to see if God would change his mind and say “more” than He had before. The truth is Balaam desired to do more than God had said. Balaamites from the 1st century to this 21st century have brought in innovation after innovation because they were not content with what God has said in His word. Like Balaam they wanted more and sometimes less than what the Holy Spirit revealed. Baptism is a case in point, Acts 2:38 teaches the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins clearly: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”. Those who teach salvation by faith only do not like this verse because they believe in the doctrine of salvation by faith only. Balaam understood he could not go beyond the word of Jehovah to do more or less. A few of our own brethren including preachers are following the denominational Balaamites in bringing in new practices and beliefs into their ministries. Dissatisfied with God’s plan of salvation and God’s plan for worship services these few are trying to bring in one new thing after another. When they are questioned about it they try to justify them in the name of tradition or maybe stop their practice but not their belief. Like Balaam they sometimes confess beating their donkey but do not confess their dissatisfaction with God’s will because they feel their own will is more important. That is the doctrine and way of Balaam. Not all of it but enough to taint them so far as God is concerned and the brotherhood. Some also advocate leaving them alone and try to compare them with Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea. The Lord is the one that removes the candlestick, not us, they say. They fail to teach us how we are to know when He removes the candlestick. It seems to me that the word of God is still the measuring stick we are to use in determining this. There is one thing this measuring stick reveals. The Lord was not going to let their light burn very long. This is confirmed by the Lord’s warning to them in Revelation 2:16, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth”. In His salutation to them he introduced Himself to them in verse 12 in this way: “These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges”. The sword is likened to the word of God in Hebrews 4:12. In other words, Christ was going to discipline them with His word. This was to be done, not by Christ personally but through his faithful preachers and church members. 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. It is a strange thing that these advocates do not compare the churches that are going astray to the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia to whom the Lord gave unqualified approval. These two churches seem to be the correct paradigm, not the ones in error. But, alas, it seems some brethren overlook the fact that the Lord wrote to the ones in error to correct them not approve them and leave them in their error. How long was the Lord going to put up with their errors? Forever? I think not. The bible student should think the same thing unless he is following the doctrine of Balaam.
THE WAY OF BALAAM
The way of righteousness is the same as it was in the first century. God approves the same thing today as He did back then. Furthermore,He condemns the same things today as He did during the early history of the church. Balaam knew that the only way he could get God to curse Israel was to get them to sin. He did this by getting Balak to cause Israel to commit fornication with His people and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Those who walk in the way of Balaam today encourage God’s people to commit spiritual fornication by teaching them to practice religious things God has not authorized. Every denominational false doctrine and every innovation that has crept into the Lord’s church came in as a result of someone walking in the way of Balaam. Unlike Balaam, those who are loyal and faithful to God only require God to speak one time and they will hear. One command and they will obey. They will not go back and see whether God has changed His mind. They love the truth even when it does not harmonize with their own will. Finally, and tragically, Balaam walked in the Lord’s way for a while, but he did not stay the course. Alexander Campbell helped in the restoration of so many New Testament practices, but in his later years he digressed from things he had helped to restore. In my own life time I have seen preachers, young and old, fight the good fight of faith and then later on they turned their back on the thus saith the Lord principle. Even today preachers and brethren are turning away from the things they once mightily stood for. This practice is the way of Balaam. Balaam cried out one time, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his”! Look at the death he died in Numbers 31: 8,16. Brethren, let us all take heed to the warning about walking in the way of Balaam lest our end be like his.