The Orthodoxy of the Church, Chap 4, Section 2 of 4


“But I have a few things against you, that you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat idol sacrifices and to commit fornication” (v. 14). Balaam was a Gentile; we do not know why God also called him a prophet. As in the case of Saul, the Spirit of God moved him but did not enter into him. Because the people of Israel were continually victorious, Balak was afraid and called for Balaam. He said to him, “You are a prophet. Please curse the people of Israel.” Balaam coveted the money offered to him and was desirous to go, and though God hindered him at first, He later permitted him. But Balaam could find no way to curse the people of Israel. Since he had accepted Balak’s money and had done nothing in return, he felt uncomfortable. Therefore, he conceived a scheme in which the Moabite women would draw near to the people of Israel. The people of Israel took these Moabite women and were united with them. These Gentile women also brought their idols with them, causing the people of Israel not only to commit fornication but also to worship idols. God was angry and slew 24,000 Israelites, but Moab was preserved. In Numbers 25, we see that the Moabite women were united with the Israelites, but it is not until chapter thirty-one that we discover the scheme was designed by Balaam.

God shows us what Pergamos is: The meaning of Pergamos is marriage to the world. Originally, the world opposed the church; now the world and the church are married. I have said many times that the meaning of the “church” (ekklesia) is the called-out ones; not united, not placed in the world, but separated, called out—this is the church. The method of Balaam is to destroy the separation between the church and the world, and the result is idol worship.

Here we must pay special attention to two things—fornication and idol worship. It is very strange that these two are put together. In 1 Corinthians these two matters are also mentioned together. In the flesh these are the two things which God hates, and in spiritual things these are also the two things which God hates. Hear what James 4:4 says about this: “Do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” To be united with the world is what God hates. Mammon also stands in opposition to God. “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). Men either serve one or the other. Here we see a most important matter: Mammon stands against God. Many idols exist only because of mammon. Today no Christian would kill people or worship idols, but if we covet money and trust in the power of mammon, it is equivalent to idol worship. Mammon is the principle of idols, and God desires to separate men from mammon. Fornication is connected with idol worship, and coveting money is connected with union with the world. I like to place the opposite sides in the Bible before you. If you can see the negative side, then you can see the positive side. The Bible always puts Satan in opposition to Christ, the flesh in opposition to the Holy Spirit, and the world and mammon in opposition to God the Father. The world is opposed to the Father. According to 1 John 2:15, “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.” Mammon stands against God. Whenever man serves mammon, he cannot serve God.

The work of Balaam is to unite the world with the church. The need for Constantine to exalt us is the teaching of Balaam. Nothing is more difficult than keeping the work of Balaam from getting in. Today the children of God all want to be great, to have more, and to pay no attention to holiness and cleanliness. Thus, they yield to sins, they yield to the teaching of Balaam, and they allow the Lord’s name to be denied.

The Lord specifically mentions Balaam in this epistle. Balaam was the first to make money from his gifts. There are several passages in the New Testament which speak of Balaam. Second Peter 2:15 says that Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Jude 11 indicates that Balaam was one who was greedy for reward. Let us consider this. Do you think it would be possible for the church at Corinth to invite Paul and yet first discuss the matter of reward? Do you think the church in Jerusalem signed a contract with Peter for a certain amount of compensation every year? We absolutely cannot conceive of such things happening. Originally, those who worked for God depended upon God for their living; they asked nothing from man and they would not accept money from the Gentiles (3 John 7). But during the time of Constantine, all those who served God received salaries from the state treasury. It was a little after A.D. 300 when this practice began. When everyone received a salary, the method of Balaam came in. Balaam’s method has no place in God’s plans. If you asked the apostles how much salary they received each month, would this not be a joke? But today this condition has become commonplace. If we can trust in God, then we go to work; if we cannot trust in God, then we do not go to work. We must pay special attention to this matter before the Lord.

© Living Stream Ministry, 2021, used by permission