“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Teaching of Balaam – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 12-17)
What is meant by the doctrine of Balaam (v14a)? It was cunning counsel that led Israel to fornicate, both sexually and spiritually. “Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD” (Numbers 31:16). Balak sought to induce Balaam to curse Israel. But the Lord forbids Balaam to speak anything but what he himself gives him to speak. However, Balaam insists on going, because he likes what’s on offer, that’s his thing, money. He goes from one high place to another, but in vain, he cannot curse Israel because God has blessed them. So Balak tells Balaam he can’t have his reward then. But the crafty money-loving Balaam is not done, not yet. He takes Balak aside and tells him of another way. Balaam, of course, is eventually slain, by the Moabites. It was however through his crafty counsel that Israel was led into a coalition with the Moabites. Israel, in turn, were led to fornicate sexually and spiritually with the Moabites. The resultant wrath God came upon Israel. Hence, the doctrine or counsel of Balaam was that for gain, for profit, for personal aggrandisement. This is the motive behind some of the teachers in the church in Pergamum, they hold to the same principles as Balaam. It could be as a result of the economic depression that they were tempted and led into this sin. Their solution to the issue, compromise? Now with regards stumbling (v14), one may stumble and rise again, recover. But that’s not what is meant here. Balaam set a snare for Israel, a death-trap. A plague came out from the Lord that spread like wild-fire, not even Moses acted quickly enough. Thousands perished as a result of the doctrine of Balaam.
The antithesis, the spiritual separation decreed by God himself was destroyed by Israel’s coalition with Moab. One sin led to another. So too in Pergamum. The more they look to the surrounding pagan culture and become welded to it, the more sinful it becomes. A socialising, secularising church. Of course, much self-justification would have to be employed for this to develop. We have to win them for Christ. We’re supposed to love them. Both of these things are true but not by means of compromise. But more sinister is the real motive back of this, the same as that of Balaam’s. Also going deeper still is Satan’s agenda, to wipe out a faithful church, how? By infiltrating and corrupting it. But this is not all, the teaching of the Nicolaitans (v15). All this has come about as a result of poor or a failure to discipline. There are various reasons for this happening in the church. There is little fruit in pursuing the opposers of the truth, why bother? Well, if the fruit of repentance is not forthcoming, they are to be put out of the church. Another is that they tend to gain a following, which is normally what they are after. So the church thinks if we deal with them or put them out the church, others will leave to. Just let well alone, keep the peace. One more, if someone is involved in something gross, hateful to all, the church would be pretty much unanimous, deal with it, get them out. But when it comes to doctrine? Well, it’s just a matter of opinion, isn’t it? The pastor thinks one way and the heretic he thinks otherwise, and so the evil worker is left to seduce other members of the church of God. Therefore, says Christ, repent (v16)!
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)