By Andy Alexander
The book of Numbers records part of the history of the Israelites as they journeyed from Egypt to Canaan. As they neared the land of Canaan, they, with God’s assistance, destroyed the nations that were in their way. After they had destroyed the Amorites the neighboring Moabites became very frightened (Num. 22:3).
Balak, the king of Moab, sent for Balaam and requested that he curse the Israelites so that they might be able to defeat them (Num. 22:6). God came to Balaam that night and said, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people; for they are blessed” (Num. 22:12). The word of God was clear, easy to understand, and Balaam got the message; he did not go with Balak’s leaders (Num. 22:13).
Balak’s men reported to him the reply of Balaam, but this did not satisfy Balak. He sent to Balaam again and offered him riches to curse the children of Israel and Balaarn went a second time to inquire of the Lord whether or not he should go (Num. 22:19). Now, Balaam knew God’s will but he wanted the riches and honor that Balak was offering. He was probably hoping that God had changed his mind and that he would want him to go and curse Israel. Whatever Balaam thought, he knew what God had said and that should have been the final answer for him.
There are many professed followers of God like Balaam. They know what God says, but they think that God will not mind if they do something differently. For example, many people are aware that immersion in water is baptism and they have no problem accepting one into their fellowship who has been immersed, but they see no harm in sprinkling or pouring as alternate forms of baptism. They know immersion is right, but they think sprinkling or pouring is just as good.
If we are going to follow the steps of our Savior then we must do exactly what God teaches us to do and leave off everything else (Matt. 7:21; Prov. 14:12). Those who substitute sprinkling or pouring for baptism may be sincere and have nothing but good intentions, but they are not pleasing God (2 Jn. 9).
The Scriptures clearly teach that a penitent believer must be baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). There are people who read these verses but they, like Balaam, keep going back to God for a different answer. Because of worldly pressures, family resistance, or some other reason, they just do not want to obey God. Preaching a different or perverted gospel may pacify these people, but it will not save them (Gal. 1:6-10). Preachers of righteousness must proclaim God’s word regardless of the consequences (Ezek. 3:17-21; 2 Cor. 4:7-14).
In the Lord’s body there are those who know the Lord’s will, but they go beyond what is written in order to be like the denominations around them. Denominations have their big worldwide programs, so some members of the church feel they must have them too. They know that churches in the New Testament cooperated by sending support directly to a preacher (2 Cor. 11:8-9). In this passage, several churches in Macedonia sent concurrently to the apostle Paul while he was preaching in Corinth. In this way they were cooperating in preaching the gospel in that area.
These brethren who want to be like the denominations want to turn Paul, an individual, into a sponsoring church or some other kind of organization which is foreign to the New Testament. These brethren follow the pattern that God gave concerning salvation; why do they not want to follow the New Testament pattern of church cooperation? It worked in the first century and it is being worked today by churches of Christ which are honoring God by following his word (Col. 1:23; Rom. 2:23).
Divorce and Remarriage
Some preachers understood at one time what God had said regarding divorce and remarriage, but they have succumbed to the pressure of the world to question God’s law. They have gone back to God, as Balaam did, for a different answer and sure enough they have found one. People change and people’s attitudes change, but God’s word does not change (1 Pet. 1:24-25).
We may cry, “I know what you said God, but surely you weren’t talking to alien sinners in Matthew 19:9 and surely you meant to put into 1 Corinthians 7:15 that deserted Christians are free to remarry” but God’s word still stands. Faithful preachers will not compromise the gospel in order to accommodate sinners who are unwilling to repent.
It is sad that some preachers among us have departed from the faith concerning divorce and remarriage, but even sadder is the fact that many preachers who claim to teach the truth on divorce and remarriage will not expose and rebuke those who have fallen away, so that they might repent of their error and be restored to the Lord (Rom. 16:17; Eph. 5:11; Tit. 1:9).
They may say, “I know what you said Lord concerning false teachers and those who do not bring the doctrine of Christ, but. . . ” There are no “but’s” about it to those who want to serve God and reach heaven!
“I know what you said about immodesty and shamefacedness God, but people are going to lust anyway.” This is the cry of some Christians who want to engage in mixed swimming and wear shorts in the summertime like those in the world. We know God specifically instructs us to dress modestly and in a discreet manner, but we still try to rationalize our way around this plain teaching (1 Tim. 2:9-10). While others may lust regardless of the clothes we wear, Christ strictly warns us not to be the cause of such lusting (Matt. 18:7-11). This excuse is just a poor rationalization for those who have not fully devoted themselves to the Lord.
Micaiah was a prophet of God who was reluctantly summoned by Ahab to prophesy concerning an upcoming battle (2 Kgs. 22:8-9). There was a great amount of pressure upon him to prophesy pleasing words to the king, but his reply to the soldier who was escorting him to the king was, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak” (2 Kgs. 22:14). Micaiah was jailed for speaking the truth on that day. Micaiah was a man of conviction.
There is pressure on preachers today to soften up and preach in such a way as to please those who hear rather than God who judges (2 Tim. 4:3-4). We must demand faithful gospel preaching that is true to God’s word and just as strict as God intends it to be. Let us heed the admonition of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 18, pp. 565-566
September 19, 1991