Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.
I. WHEN SPIRITUAL GIFTS ARE USED FOR UNSPIRITUAL PURPOSES THEY LOSE THEIR SPIRITUAL VALUE. In the Book of Numbers Balaam appears as a prophet inspired by God. In the Book of Joshua he is only named as a common soothsayer. All spiritual gifts, of insight, of power, of sympathy, are worthy only so long as they are well used. As they become degraded by evil uses they lose their Divine character and become mere talents of cleverness and ability.
II. THE ABUSE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS FOR PERSONAL GAIN IS A SIN WHICH CANNOT GO UNPUNISHED. Balaam had sold his prophetic powers for money, consenting to use them on the side of evil and falsehood. Now his sin has found him out. He who receives great gifts incurs great responsibility. No spiritual power is bestowed for merely selfish uses. The greater the talents we abuse, the greater will be the judgment we shall invoke.
III. THE POSSESSION OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS IS NO GROUND FOR THE ASSURANCE OF PERSONAL SALVATION. Balaam had great gifts, yet he suffered the fate of the heathen. Our privileges are no proof of a Divine favour which will overlook our sins. Salvation comes not from the gifts of the Spirit, but from the grace of God in Christ. The least gifted has as good ground for salvation as the most highly endowed. Pulpit power, the "gift of prayer," theological insight, and religious susceptibilities may all be found in a Christless life, and if so they will be of no avail as grounds of merit in the day of judgment.
IV. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH ONLY INCREASES THE GUILT OF THOSE WHO WILL NOT FOLLOW IT. Balaam knew the true God and the way of right. But not living according to his knowledge, his guilt was aggravated, and his doom certain. It is worse than useless to know Christian truth unless we obey it (James 1:22-24). The faith in Christ which secures to us salvation is net the bare intellectual belief in the doctrines of redemption (James 2:19), but submissive trust and loyal obedience to Christ as both Lord and Saviour (Mark 2:14). - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.