The Doctrine of Balaam
Revelation 2:14-15
But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam…

We are very much in the habit of supposing that when a character has been explained and denounced in Scripture, we may thenceforth regard it both as very rare and very easily detected. We are thus naturally led into a sort of security about our own resemblance to the very persons against whose sins we need to be most on our guard.

1. There is no character in Scripture concerning which it is more necessary to be careful against making these mistakes than that of Balaam, because he was not only very bad, but really very much better than many who consider themselves to be in no danger of resembling him. The fact is that Balaam had about him many good points. There was just one thing which he lacked. What that one thing was we shall see as we proceed. I should say, indeed, that Balaam, if he were among us, would be considered the pattern of a religious character; because he really proposed to himself a very high standard, and followed it rigidly, and to his own cost. How many persons are as scrupulous as Balaam was? How many persons similarly circumstanced would have hesitated about going with the messengers the first time? He was far beyond the mere sayer of religious words. He was in a certain way — and that no very common way — conscientious: he was conscientious to his cost: and, more than this, his view of God's requirements in man was perfectly unexceptionable, and such as to show no ordinary Divine illumination. For these reasons Balaam himself might be described, up to a certain point, as "holding fast by God's name," and not denying his faith. Therefore it is not so strange that he should be the sort of character against which strictly conscientious persons should be warned, and his the "doctrine" which they might be inclined to embrace.

2. Now what is that view of religion that may be considered the "doctrine of Balaam"? As illustrated by his character, it would seem to be this, that what we have to do is to serve God without loving Him; to seek our own will and our own ends, and yet to contrive to keep out of punishment at His hands; not to desire our will to be moulded to God's will, and to be subservient to it readily and in all things; but to desire our will to be done, as far as ever it can be, within the strict letter of God's commandments. This is the main feature in the "doctrine of Balaam." Strict duty, without any love; resolute observance of a disagreeable rule, not earnest obedience to a loved parent: determination to escape punishment — no desire to please God. Now this is very much the sort of "religion" into which many honourable, upright men have a tendency to sink. To those who have no sense of religious obligation — no dread of the future — no regard for God's law — Balaam furnishes no lesson at all. They and he have no points in common. You cannot warn them against being like him, because he is so much below what he ought to be. Now, the particular act of Balaam alluded to in the text is quite in harmony with such a character as I have described. He "taught Balak," says St. John, "to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication." Balaam would not curse, because he was told in so many words not to curse; but he brought about a like end, by worse means — all in order that his own selfish desires might be gratified: as it would seem they were,

(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

WEB: But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

The Convictions of Balaam
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