Beware of False Prophets/Teachers
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false
teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even
denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction…forsaking
the right way they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the
son of Boer, who loved the wages of unrighteousness" (2 Peter 2:1, 15).
Shrouded Principles Predicted
Destructive heresies – “The primary meaning of the word heresy is choice; so that a heresy is, strictly, the choice of an opinion contrary to that usually received; thence transferred to the body of those who profess such opinions, and therefore a sect” (Vincent). There were not only holy men of God among the Jews, who prophesied by divine inspiration, but there were also false prophets, whose prophecies were from their own imagination, and who led astray many. In contrast to the true teachers, whom Peter exhorts his readers to give heed to (cha. 3:2 – “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets”), they were also alerted to be watchful for the false teachers. They maneuvered secretly – not at first openly and directly, but by the way, bringing in error by the side of the true doctrine. It was Matthew Henry who said: “In all ages of the church the devil sends some to deceive, false prophets in the Old Testament, and seducing teachers in the New.”
Symbolism of Wrong Beliefs
The New Testament speaks in three different contexts about Balaam. Peter talks about the ‘way of Balaam,’ Jude (v. 11) talks about the ‘error of Balaam’ and Revelation (2:14) talks about the ‘doctrine of Balaam.’
The ‘way of Balaam’ is the counsel of Balaam. He counselled the Moabites to give their most beautiful young women to the Israelitish youths, that they might be enticed by them to commit idolatry. (See Num. 22:5ff. and 23: 1ff.). It is also to trade one’s ministry gift. A Christian who does this begins to put himself into the ‘show’
The ‘error of Balaam’ is seeing only the standard of natural morality and never discerning God’s ways. In other words, for the sake of gain, people corrupt the Word of God and refine away its meaning and let it down so as to suit the passions of the profligate. Self-confidence without doubt is a slippery slope. As night follows day, each time the converted person follows his or her own common sense morally, rather than the truths of the Word of God, he falls into this error. Forgetfulness of the Scripture must be guarded against (Prov. 3:1); God’s ways are incomprehensible (Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-34); yet He is trustworthy. As we place trust in the Lord and acknowledge Him in all our ways, we find that God makes our paths straight. This means God removes the obstacles, making a smooth path or way of life, or perhaps better, bringing one to the appointed goal (Prov. 3:5-6, John F. Walvoord, exposition).
The ‘doctrine of Balaam’ refers to the compromising patterns in behavior by God’s people:
I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some whom hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality (Rev. 2:13-14).
Seduction of Evil Associations
Balaam taught Balak to corrupt the people by enticing them to marry the women of Moab. In modern terms, the doctrine of Balaam is any teaching that tries to strike a compromise between corrupt worldliness and the Christian profession. This second chapter of Revelation contains the message sent to the church at Pergamum, one of the seven letters sent to the seven congregations. This church in Pergamum (or Pergamos) represents the state church, beginning with Constantine and continuing to the end. Because of their profession of Christianity, it exposed this church to the bitterest persecution; they held fast the name of Christian, which they had received from Jesus Christ, and did not deny His faith; for when brought to their trial they openly professed themselves disciples and followers of their Lord and Master. It is not clear who Antipas was. We only know that he was a Christian, and probably bore some office in the church, and became illustrious by his martyrdom in the cause of Christ.
I have a few things against you. First, they were commended on their good deeds; what was wrong in them is touched with a gentle, but effectual hand. The followers of Balaam, the Nicolaitans, and the Gnostics were probably all the same kind of people, but the Nicolaitans taught the most impure doctrines and followed the most impure practices (v. 6). Although they were professing Christians who, like Balaam of old, tried to introduce into the Church a false freedom i.e., licentiousness, this was a reaction in the opposite direction from Judaism, the first danger to the Church combated in the council of Jerusalem, and by Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians. These symbolical Nicolaitanes, or followers of Balaam, abused Paul’s doctrine of the grace of God into a plea for lasciviousness, (2 Pet. 2:15-16, 19; Jude 4, 11 both describe the same sort of seducers as followers of Balaam). For a further study on the doctrine of Balaam, see Num. 24; 25; and 31.
After the Holy Spirit has separated you from this world’s depravity, Satan is after you. He wants to entice you away from Christ back to the perversions of the sinful life. It behooves us to remember the account of Balaam, and stay focused on the Master.
O God, let me never forget that a compromising Christian can spread a deadly disease quicker than any other kind in your church. Remind me always that Your Word is the regulator for my life.