By Gerald E. Evans
Christianity, in its purity, is the same now that it was almost 1900 years ago. That which God approved then he will approve now; and just what he condemned then he will condemn now. So, if we would be approved of God we must stand where we know God approves and avoid all else. All who accept the Bible as the final rule of con-duct recognize that.
In Revelation 2:12-14 the Lord commended the church at Pergamos for some things and censured them for others. They were commended for holding fast his name, and for not denying the faith once delivered to the saints, and all this “where Satan’s throne is.” That is no small commendation! Those who take such a stand give courage and strength to all who know Christ’s appreciation for such a stand. But more, it involves showing honor to Christ. To hold his system of faith in all its essential elements will secure the divine blessing.
But where error exists, Truth demands censure of the error. Some in the church at Pergamos held to the doctrine of Balaam and also to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The Lord emphatically declared of such teaching, “Which thing I hate” (vv. 14-15). Recognizing the Lord’s strong disapproval, it should be obvious that we need to deter-mine the underlying cause of men embracing such doctrine. The effect is obvious in verse 14: idolatry and immorality! The basic doctrine of Balaam just could be a sin all too common among Christians: elders, deacons, preachers and other saints!
Balaam was an Old Testament character, the history of whom is found in Numbers 22-25, dating approximately B.C. 1452. He was a prophet of God after the old order, the order prevailing before Moses received the Law given exclusively to Israel. Even though he was a descendant of Abraham, he was not under the covenant of Jacob. The Israelites were his kin by the flesh but not in the religious sense.
Verse 18 was a noble statement, “I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.” But the fact was that he went at once to obtain God’s permission to do what he had already said “though shalt not do.” This is like so many (even among God’s people) today. They are not content with the results of doing God’s plain will, but keep chasing Scripture, knowing that sooner or later they will find what fits the idol in their heart (Ezek. 14:1-4). I was told just yesterday on a Dial-a-Bible-Message response that Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 teach the use of instrumental music in the church! Like old Balaam, who claimed he “couldn’t go beyond God’s word, to do less or more,” this person sure was eager to get God to change his word, wasn’t he?
Can we be blinded to the cause behind the doctrine of Balaam, an unwillingness to accept God’s Word on a matter without question, and thus could we be condoning the doctrine of Balaam? Like the unconverted sinner, unwilling to bow in humility to the will of the Lord that they might be saved, too many brethren today seek a
Scripture that will make them acceptable to God like they are. They go to the word of the Lord to see what the Lord would say “more,” and find an answer to suit them. The same practice brought error amongst God’s people in every apostasy on record, and still works today. Some brethren simply are not satisfied with “what the will of the Lord is” if it goes counter to individual desire or some vested interest. No matter the hardship and pain obedience may afflict even upon the innocent, the Lord’s will changes not to accommodate the situation or the times. Sin is what causes the affliction.
Of what did the “doctrine of Salaam” consist? At least we know this much: “. . . who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Rev.2:14). When anyone teaches that the divorced fornicator is loosed to marry again with impunity, in spite of the fact that Christ taught plainly in more than one Scripture that such would be adultery (sexual immorality), do we have “the doctrine of Balaam” and even possibly the doctrine of the Nicolaitans being taught among us today? We certainly know from the Lord’s letter to the church at Pergamos his attitude toward such doctrine. No amount of searching for “more” in Old or New Testaments will alter the declaration of Jesus, “But I say!” (Matt. 19:9) Nevertheless the search and arguments and debating and disrespect for “what has been written” continues, and “the Lord (has answered and) will answer according to the multitude of his idols in his heart” (Ezek. 14:3-6). Until all God’s people are “speaking as the oracles of God” and are content therewith, I believe “the doctrine of Balaam” will not only hinder the peace of God’s people but also will result in the loss of numberless, precious souls.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 9, p. 3-4
May 20, 1993