THREE EVIL WAYS TO TRAVEL
- Read Jude 11.
- The way of Cain, the error of Balaam, and the gainsaying of Core (Korah).
- The character and nature of sin described.
- Persistent, progressive, prolific.
- Deceptive, devious, and destructive.
- Magnetic, malignant, and multifarious.
- Inviting, enervating, and interminable
- Sin is personified in the scriptures:
- It is dealt with as through it were a human being, having human characteristics.
- “Do not let sin reign [be king] in your mortal bodies” (Romans 6:12).
- An angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).
- Masquerading as apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 11:13).
- As a roaring lion (I Peter 5:8).
- The deceptive nature of sin seen often (Job 1:6, Genesis 3:1).
- The way of Cain:
- Brief history of him from the scriptures.
- Disregarded misconduct. What he did and how he acted.
- Cain's character.
- Was of the wicked one.
- Murdered his brother.
- Did all of this willingly. Planned it.
- God's judgment pronounced on all who go in his way.
- The sin of his sacrifice:
- Not rejected because of kind.
- Rejected because of quality and quantity. “Rightly brought it but not rightly divided it.”
- What was behind it all was unbelief.
- He was disobedient.
- He was guilty of theft.
- Other sins of Cain.
- Slaughtered his brother.
- Guilty of falsehood.
- He was angry.
- Disowned responsibility to his brother.
- It is in line of my Christian duty to bear the burdens of others.
- The way of Balaam:
- Knowledge of this prophet is limited.
- We know where he lived.
- Seemed to be under the Patriarchal Regime that had evidently continued. Although the Law of Moses had been added because of transgression of the Israelites.
- Moab was terrified and sent for some help
- His offer was somewhat limited and was rejected.
- The second offer was more attractive and more difficult to turn down.
- There is no question that the prophet understood what the will of God was for him.
- But the attraction of money and position is very strong and may succumb to its appeal.
- Balaam wanted to go back and see what the Lord had to say, more in the hope that he would find something to justify his decision to do what pleased himself.
- Times have not changed; men still go back to see what more the Lord has to say so they can feel an ease in their consciences and continue on their course of disobedience.
- Determined to go in their own way, men plunge ahead in spite of doubt or plain directives to the contrary.
- The way of Korah:
- A subject of authority:
- Absolute authority belongs to God alone.
- Delegated authority—such as was given to the apostles.
- Assumed authority—the kind of authority by men that does not belong to them.
- Korah's gainsaying:
- He denied and contradicted God's constituted authority.
- He was jealous and attempted to set up his own arrangement.
- Moses takes the problem to God:
- Only God can settle these matters.
- The settlement is often severe and fearful when men have disregarded His plain directive.
- The most important question is, “What has God said?”
THREE EVIL WAYS TO TRAVEL
“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11). In the story of these three Old Testament characters, God gives us a definition of sin and what it does. The lesson is actually God's definition of sin by telling us about some events in the lives of these three Old Testament characters: Cain, Balaam, and Korah (Core). The stories, as we go back and read them, should serve as a caution to us not to follow in the way these wicked men walked.
God's Definition of Sin
Someone has said, “Wickedness has many faces, righteousness but one.” Thinking about this statement brought to mind several words that describe and define the character of sin. Sin is persistent, progressive, and prolific. It is also deceptive, devious, and destructive.
A further portrayal of its nature is that it is magnetic, malignant, and multifarious. While it changes its stance and does not always perform what it promises, it may be said that on occasions it is inviting, enervating, and interminable.
God, who is so concerned about us, tells us what sin is in all of its ramifications. He apprises us of its various guises, of its deception, its persistence, and of its devastation and ruin wrought upon the human race.
Sin is personified throughout the Scriptures—that is, there is attributed to it a personal nature, character, or quality as though it were a human being. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:12). For instance, here are some ways inspiration describes the character and works of sin:
1. It is like a King. Sin is a king that rules over people. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:12). The word for reign in this verse derives from a root word which means king or royal power. Paul is saying that sin, like a king, may control, dominate, lead your life, and rule in your heart if you allow it.
We know that it cannot do so, unless we permit it, for God instructs us: “Do not let [allow]. ...” We have that choice, that power. From the very beginning God gave to man the power of volition. He will not rob him of that inherent trait.
2. It is like an Angel of Light. Sin is pictured as “light” and as “righteousness.” “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness” (II Corinthians 11:14–15).
He had just said, “For such [men] are false prophets, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” (II Corinthians 11:13). Some men may look like apostles of truth—someone in whom you would place utmost confidence and trust—but they are deceitful workers and servants of sin. They may look like angels of light—have the appearance of truth, integrity, and purity—but they are representatives of Satan.
It is common for them to make a false or superficial appearance designed to give a favorable impression. “They are false prophets,” Paul informs us.
3. It is like a roaring lion. Satan is pictured as walking about like a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Hungry, sly, powerful, and persistent, he stays on the job night and day. His power must not be underestimated. The Christian must constantly be on watch with his guard up. It is essential that he walk circumspectly, conscious of the dangers that lurk everywhere he goes.
It was interesting to me and a little surprising to find the word lion one hundred and fifty times in the Bible. A great many lessons can be derived from the study. Certain features of the beast are depicted and certain characteristics emphasized so that we may be warned of the dangers confronting us. The Bible speaks of the roaring lion a number of times, as in our text, to indicate his boldness. “He will roar like a lion” (Hosea 11:10).
This teaching may be to underscore the trait of secrecy and deceit. “He has left His lair like the lion” (Jeremiah 25:38). But here Peter seems to punctuate his strength and his ability to destroy. Boldly he walks about seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).
May this illustration help alert us to the devious nature of sin. The deceptive nature of sin and Satan is seen in his appearing with the sons of God as they came to present themselves before the Lord (Job 1:6). In this way, he is neither as fearful nor as offensive as he would be if he showed his true ilk. However he is pictured in the word of God, you can be sure that he is a liar and a hypocrite.
We are told that he appeared to Eve as a serpent, “more cunning than any beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1). Whatever the facade, you can know that he is never genuine. He may have a thousand faces, but none truly represents his real character.
The context of Matthew 4:1–11 indicates that Satan appeared to Jesus in the form of a man. This is why I said that sin is multifarious. His appearance and approach are numerous and varied and, don't forget, deceptive! Whatever the appearance, approach, and presentation of sin, God informs us of him and warns us against him. This he has done in the brief verse of Jude 11.
The Way of Cain
The inspired author of Jude does not specify the points in which the Christians addressed had imitated Cain and the others, so it is necessary for us to turn back and observe. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have gotten a man from the Lord.’
“Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?
“And if you do not do will, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.‘ Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘where is Abel your brother?’ And he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?’ And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.’
“And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.’
“And the Lord said to him, ‘Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (Genesis 4:1–15).
The Book says that he “was of the wicked one.” He was “out of Satan.” The devil had taken control of his life. His works were evil. “Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous” (I John 3:12). You must know that Cain had chosen his way willingly and he was devoted to it (Jude 11). We are warned that the terrible judgment of God will be pronounced upon all who “proceed, pursue after, become followers of or partisans” of Cain.
The Sin of His Sacrifice
In this account, there are two kinds of sacrifices offered to God—animal and vegetable. Both, as to kind, were, I believe without doubt, acceptable to God. Later, under the law, the first fruits of all their labors were to be offered to God. “... the first fruits of your labor which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering, which is at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field” (Exodus 23:16). There is no indication that Cain's offering was rejected because of kind.
Then why was Cain's sacrifice rejected? The answer to this question is rather simple, but a little involved. Cain was implicated in a number of sins in the offering of his sacrifice.
It was rejected by God first of all because of unbelief. The writer of Hebrews declares: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4). The serious Bible student knows that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). These two young men had been taught about the proper and acceptable sacrifice that was to be made in worship to God. Abel believed what he had been taught and made his offering accordingly.
Cain disbelieved. God was displeased because Cain's sacrifice was not offered in faith—that is, according to the instruction God had given him. It needs to be repeated until people understand it. Faith is not something that God gives us, but what we do with the teaching and instruction He has provided.
We know, of course, that during the process of revealing His will in the first century that miraculous spiritual gifts were imparted to certain ones in the early church. The miraculous gift of faith was one of them. Through the centuries of God's dealings with man, He has expected us to listen to what He has to say and believe it—and then act upon it!
God rejected Cain's sacrifice because he was disobedient. You cannot really distinguish between the kind of faith God requires of us to be acceptable to Him and obedience. Obedience comes from the word hear and, in this instance as most others, it requires that we hear understandingly, receptively, and retentively. You must understand what you are being taught. You must receive it and you must continue to retain and practice it. That is a very good definition of Bible faith!
The LXX (Septuagint translation of the Old Testament which Jesus and the apostles frequently quoted from) renders this verse: “Hast thou not sinned if thou has brought it rightly, but not rightly dividing it” (Genesis 4:7)? He had brought it straightly, rightly and correctly, but he had not properly “divided it through.”
It Was Theft
So, while Cain was guilty of disobedience, he was also guilty of theft. He withheld from God what belonged to Him. He kept for himself what belonged to another. “You have not rightly divided it.” The term, diaireo, is found about thirty–seven times in the Old Testament, and it means “to divide, divide out, distribute.” What Cain had done was to short–change God—that is, he cheated Him and practiced fraud upon Him. He could not mislead or fool God, but he kept back some of the sacrifice that belonged to God.
The Hebrew writer says that Abel offered “a more excellent sacrifice.” This word indicates better in quality and more in quantity. While Abel offered the “firstlings of the flock” and “the fat thereof,” it was not so with Cain. Scholars in the Hebrew language say that Abel offered the “best.” In fact, he took the best and, out of the best, he chose the best and gave that to the Lord.
Cain's sin is the sin of many in the church today. Undelivered time and talent, unbestowed life, inadequate service, and the love and attachment to material things (Malachi 3:8). The sin of Cain was also the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–10).
To neglect or refuse or hold back that which belongs to God; to fail to give as we have prospered is the sin of Cain in our lives today. Cain's sacrifice was not sufficient in quality or quantity. His was a failure to give as much as he was taught to give and as much as actually belonged to God. This spirit holds back the church of our generation from spreading the gospel to every nook and cranny of the earth.
It is either hypocrisy or self–delusion to speak of a faith that will dare anything for the Lord, even one's own life, and then give miserly and stingily of one's income for the gospel. There are those who live like a prince and give like a pauper.
Other Sins of Cain
The more literal reading of this verse says that Cain “slaughtered” his brother Abel. He “butchered him” “Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother” (I John 3:12).
The spirit that led Cain to reject God's requirements in sacrifice also led him to cast aside moral restraint. Disregard for divine ordinance and taking the life of one's fellow being spring from the save evil spirit of rebellion.
To study the case a little more closely and answer the question “why did Cain slay his brother?” we need to see that Cain was envious. His works were wicked while Abel's works were righteous. Out of that envy grew anger and hate. Satan's children hate God's children because righteous works condemn their own works of wickedness. “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you” (I John 3:13).
He was discontent at the sight of another's excellence with a large degree of hatred and the desire to possess equal advantage. So, Cain was hostile and that hostility grew out of anger, fear, a sense of injury, miserable failure on his part, and a feeling of inferiority.
It's Called Lying
But Cain was also guilty of falsehood. “I know not” he told God with reference to the whereabouts of his brother Abel. In all of this is seen the progress of sin. Sin begets sin. Sin detected in one's life prompts lying to justify or cover some other sin. His hands were reeking with the blood of his brother. The image of his mangled body must have been before his eyes. In his ears was the ringing of Abel's dying groans and unavailing plea that his life be spared. The whole horrid scene of fratricide must have been fresh in his memory. Yet, he said, “I know not.”
We have mentioned his anger. “He was wroth.” “Why are you angry?” Cain's anger was a keen, hot, smoldering, and retaliatory displeasure excited by a perception of injury to his pride. Men harbor feelings of resentment and antagonism when they themselves are in the wrong. Instead of changing and mending their lives and service when they are rejected because of sin, they give way to hostile feelings of jealousy and rage.
Another important aspect of Cain's misbehavior is that he disowned any responsibility toward his brother. “Am I my brother's keeper?” If we have listened to God as He has
spoken to us in His word, we know we have an obligation to one another. “For none of us lives to himself ...” (Romans 14:7). The Christian is required to be sympathetic. We “members should have care one for another. And, if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; and if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (I Corinthians 12:25–26).
It is in line with my Christian duty to bear the burdens of others. “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). God has given me the assigned task to restore a brother who is taken unexpectedly or by surprise in sin. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). The very character of Christianity makes it imperative that we seek the good and advantage of the other person (I Corinthians 10:24).
How common for us to seek our own welfare and pleasure and neglect the good of others. To minister to others was the Lord's life's work. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Without doubt, this should serve as an example for us. Our priority in life should be to serve others first.
“Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord,” but he had long before gone out in his heart from the Lord's presence!
The Way of Balaam
To have an adequate and satisfactory understanding of this lesson, you are advised to read the whole of Numbers 22, 23, and 31. Read also Deuteronomy 23; Joshua 13 and 24; Nehemiah 13; Micah 6; Jude 11; and Revelation 2.
We do not know very much about the prophet Balaam, but we are told from which part of the country he came. He lived in the city of Pethor, in Mesopotamia (meaning “between the rivers”), south of Carchemish, and on the banks of the Euphrates.
It would seem that the patriarchal regime had continued among these people, for he was not associated with the Mosaic Law which had been added because of transgressions (Galatians 3:19).
At least there is no indication in the Biblical record that Balaam was under the Mosaic Law or that he knew anything about it. The Mosaic dispensation had begun and Balaam seems to be a prophet of God under the patriarchal dispensation.
Balak, king of Moab, was terrified at the crushing defeat of the Amorites and the triumphs of Israel. He sent for Balaam to curse the Israelites. He offered Balaam rewards of divination if he would come and burden these people with some kind of affliction. He believed the prophet had the power to pronounce oppression upon this invincible enemy and slow down or, perhaps, stop their conquest. The king said, “I know that he whom you bless is blessed” (Numbers 22:6).
Balaam's first response to the representatives of Balak seemed upright and honorable. “Lodge here tonight,and I will bring back word to you, as the Lord speaks to me” (Numbers 22:7). You could hardly ask for a better reaction or reply than this which the prophet gave. On the surface, it indicated a deep respect for the word of God and told them that he would be guided by God's answer to him. The sad feature about it is that when put to the test, he did not keep his word.
God's Will Easily Understood
God's answer to Balaam in reply was clear and unambiguous: “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” Balaam acted in harmony with God's revelation to him. “Go back to your land, for the Lord has refused to give me permission to go with you.”
God's instruction was plain, direct, and positive. There was no mistaking it. The answer does not altogether clearly indicate the prophet's feelings in the matter. It sounds a little like he is saying, “This is God's conclusion, not necessarily mine!” It may be that Balaam congratulated himself on his loyalty to the Lord.
We are not authorized to call it a great victory over evil for the rewards of divination were probably only moderate and provided no great inducement to undertake such a journey. We are apt to exaggerate the virtue of refusing a temptation that is really not very great in the first place.
The Temptation Becomes Stronger
King Balak's next proposal was somewhat stronger and more attractive. He seemed to have understood this man. Balaam had not received a sufficiently loud call! He was a higher priced man than the Moabite had supposed him to be. “I will certainly honor you greatly,” the king promises.
The story is told that George Bernard Shaw once propositioned a British lady to have an affair with him. He offered her at the first a million pounds of sterling. She accepted. Then, he began to reduce the amount of money he was willing to pay for such an encounter—finally offering her something like one hundred pounds sterling. Indignant, she asked: “What do you think I am, a harlot?” “We have established what you are, lady,” Shaw replied. “We are now haggling over the price!”
So it is in the case before us and from which we may learn some very timely lessons. We dare not cry victory because, in the first skirmish, the enemy retired from the battlefield. There is hotter fighting ahead. “Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of sliver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.’ ” You would have thought that Balaam's reply would have been markedly different—something like this: “Get out of my house, insulting, base–minded messengers of Balak.” Instead, he told them to tarry through the night at his home “that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”
Why tarry the night? Had not the Lord already said to him in plain and understandable terms, “You shall not go with them!” What more was needed? Is not truth truth? Is not duty duty? Is not enough enough? How do you speak in more unequivocal terms than the lord had spoke to the prophet? Are there excuses which are acceptable to God for not doing what he commanded? Should we seek some extenuating circumstances that would permit us to do what we wish to do?
It is here that Balaam's motive reveals itself in dallying with the messengers instead of dismissing them. His motive is also seen in seeking God's response a second time, when the first answer left no room for doubt. Stubbornly bent upon getting Divine sanction for an unlawful course, men generally succeed. We hear the voice we want to hear.
What More Does God Say?
Many of us go back to see what more the Lord has to say. The clink of Balak's gold and sliver filled Balaam's ears, and he went back to see what more the Lord had to say. Many people of our day, in order to justify themselves on a course they are determined to take, will torture and pervert a passage into the very opposite of its obvious meaning. They make it say what they want it to say! The man who is set on the accumulation of material things above everything else in life goes to see what the Lord has to say, and he finds it. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth ...” (Matthew 6:19). “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ...” (Matthew 6:33).
Like Balaam, this man is not satisfied with what the Lord has said, and so he goes back to see what more the Lord has to say. Sure enough, he finds it! “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8). So, he now feels justified in withholding any help or contribution to the Lord's kingdom and makes the application of his financial assistance solely and exclusively to his immediate or even to his extended family. Furthermore, he justified the holding and hoarding of wealth without sharing it with the Lord at all.
Easy to Justify Self in the Practice of Sin
The man who is a habitual drinker of alcoholic beverages “goes to see what the Lord has to say” on the subject. He has no problem in finding many passages that deal with his question. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own” (I Corinthians 6:19)? Your body belongs to God and your are forbidden to defile it. Drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:10). But, walking in the same
path as Balaam and reasoning as he did centuries ago, men will endeavor to both rationalize their problem and justify their action, so they “go back to see what more the Lord has to say.” The drinker can find it—that is, find what vindicates him and defends his logic, although I do not believe it can be classified as logic at all! He points to Matthew 15:11 and the words of Jesus: “Not what going into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” He reasons, “If I can just drink it and keep it down, I will be all right!”
Exonerate False Teaching
It is this kind of rationale that many use in their religious life—in deciding what to do and become as Christians. One asks, “What must I do to become a Christian?” The answer should be: “Go and see what the Lord has to say about it.” It is not difficult to discover this simple truth. It is repeated by principle and example many times in the New Testament. Jesus said, as he charged the apostles with His commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes [the gospel] and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned ” (Mark 16:15–16).
When people asked on Pentecost what to do to be saved, Peter replied: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). It is not possible to speak more plainly upon a subject. There is no room for doubt or misunderstanding. No accountable person would have any difficulty with these plain answers as to what qualifies one to be a Christian.
But, displeased with the Lord's answer due to preconceived ideas, prejudice, doctrinal bias, or religious traditionalism, the person “goes back to see what more the Lord has to say” on the subject. Almost without any lapse of time, he surely finds what he is looking for: “I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). He shouts exuberantly, “See, I have found it. All one needs to do,” he says, “is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is then and there saved eternally. There is no need for him to be baptized because faith only will save him.”
This he affirms and to this he clings tenaciously for the rest of his life and shares it with those whom he meets along the way.
If he only knew what New Testament faith is, the difficulty would be removed. His sin that will damn his soul is in taking only one or two passages of Scripture, lifting them out of context, and refusing to consider or accept anything else the Lord has said about the subject of eternal salvation. This is a dangerous perversion of the word of God; but you may be sure that millions of people over the earth still practice the doctrine of Balaam. They are people who are very religious and have every appearance of being genuine. Endeavoring to make the Lord say more so that it will justify what I already believe is a very dangerous doctrine.
What Church Should I Join?
The question has been asked countless times: What church should I join or be identified with? The only safe answer is to go see what the Lord has to say about it.
A hundred times or more in the New Testament one can read about the church. Many times more than that he can learn what God wants him to know about the church under the many word pictures or figures of speech that inspiration paints so beautifully and appropriately—His church as a family, a body, a vineyard, a temple, a kingdom, a school, a city, an army, and many others.
So the person making the inquiry goes to see what the Lord has to say. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). “The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16). “There is one body ...” (Ephesians 4:4–5).
But this individual seeking the truth (or is he?) and reading God's word on the subject feels, in consideration of the denominational teaching he has received and the background in which he grew up, that this is a very narrow view for anyone to take. “Surely,” he thinks, “there must be room for each man's interpretation and, if he is honest,” he further surmises, “it will not matter too much what he believes.” Having a broad mind, he thinks men ought to thank God for so many churches (some 20,000 churches in Christendom), so he may join the one of his choice that is best suited to his personality and needs.
Anxious to defend and uphold a personal position and prove it to be blameless, he goes back to see what more the Lord has to say. Within minutes he has perfectly satisfied himself upon this question. He reads the words of Jesus from the New Testament, “For he who is not against us is on our side” (Mark 9:40). “Since no Christian denomination is against the Lord, and all worship the same God, this is reason enough for the existence of the many religious bodies in the world.”
He even finds another passage which assuages his conscience if his conscience needs to be pacified: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). Gleefully, he has found what he seeks. “You see, Christ is the vine, and all these churches are branches in that vine.” It doesn't seem to matter to him that he has completely misapplied what Jesus said. It just sounds good to him and in keeping with what he wishes Jesus had said! Others ask, “Did not John the apostle write to the seven churches of Asia?”
These arguments are so unscriptural and far fetched, they do not really deserve the time and attention and space it takes to expose and refute them. Consider this one point with reference to the seven churches. They were represented, John says in Revelation, by seven golden candlesticks. Surely one is not so obtuse as to fail to see that they were all alike as to kind, for they were “golden candlesticks.”
If these had been different denominations to which John referred, one candlestick would have been iron, another pewter, another silver, etc., but they were all golden! What settles this matter with one who is honest is the fact that Jesus and the apostles always deplored division and the New Testament knows only one way.
Determined to Go
The Lord tried to deter Balaam from going with the representative of King Balak. He first told him, “You shall not go with them.” Secondly, He sent an angel to stand in his way, but in his determination for earthly glitter and reward, the prophet was blind to it all. Rebellion, human obstinacy, and self–will are always blind. Jehovah said to him, “Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before me.”
Balaam replied, “Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back” (Numbers 22:34). How could he say if when he knew full well that it displeased the Lord. Beware, my friend, of the subjunctive mode, if!
Plunge Ahead in Spite of Doubts
If one is set in walking in his own way and is determined to gain this worlds good “by hook or by crook” in his disloyalty, the word if can cast him into doubts and suppositions that will rob him of the power to see and hear the truth. As Balaam did not even see the angel of the Lord, the messenger He sent to turn him back, so we can become blind in our resolute insistence to travel in the way that seems right to us, even though the end thereof is death. Blind spots in our spiritual eyes are common if we rationalize in an effort to explain away a false position and endeavor to prove our own doctrinal stand.
Why All of This Foolhardiness?
The answer to the question above is that Balaam did it for the sake of gain (Jude 11). He loved the wages of unrighteousness. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
I am more impressed every day that I live that the chief concern of the world is to pursue money and what money will buy. It is the root of many kinds of evil. What men fail to see is that those who pursue it will drown themselves in perdition.
The writer of Revelation states that Balaam taught Israel to practice idolatry and commit adultery (Revelation 2:14). This is a brief bit of history and we are not privy to the details of it. How he accomplished this among the Israelites we do not know and it would be speculation for us to assume. However, we may conclude that it is no surprise that he was guilty of such heinous sins, being as he was dead set on worldly gain irrespective of the consequences.
The Results of This Kind of Life
After Balaam's rebellious conduct and a life of greed, when he came down near the end of his way, he pleaded, “Let me die the
death of the righteous, and let my end be like his” (Numbers 23:10). How typical! Men of the world and men in the church who are worldly wish to pursue the course of life they feel will give them present pleasure and satisfy the longings of the flesh, but when it is almost over, they want to be counted as the righteous and die in full hope of everlasting felicity.
I do not know how Balaam died, but unless there was a true turning back in his life, he probably died as the dog dies; food for the vultures and a feast for the jackals! Without the proper relationship with Jesus Christ, one may expect to die as the dog dies—without hope.
The Way of Korah
Please read Numbers 16:1–35 and Jude 11. This is a lesson on the subject of authority. There are three kinds of authority about which we read in the Bible: (1) absolute, (2) delegated, and (3) assumed.
Absolute authority means that authority is inherent in the person and resides in him by nature. It is an inseparable part of him. God alone has that kind of authority. In a sense, it is totalitarian (we do not think of this as a very nice word)—that is, the power and authority are centralized. God has absolute control.
There is a sense in which Jesus has absolute authority. He made the worlds and everything in them (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). He was on equality with God (Philippians 2:6). He and the Father are one (John 17:21). He is of the same character as God (Hebrews 1:3). All of the power and deity reside in Jesus (Romans 1:20).
There is delegated authority. This means: “to commit to another. To depute, commission, assign, appoint.” In his coming to this earth to show men how to live and then die to redeem them, His authority comes under the heading of delegated power. He Himself often said that He came not to do His own will, but the will of the One who sent Him.
This delegated authority is seen in one of the last statements He made on earth: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). All things have been put under His feet and He is the head over all things (Ephesians 1:22). The measure of His power, though delegated, was unlimited.
In reading the New Testament, one must come to the conclusion that Jesus had commanding, governing, controlling, and ruling power. He had mastership, headship, and lordship and was given the preeminence or the supremacy in everything.
This authority is established without question or doubt as far as Christians are concerned. “He taught them as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29). “I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things” (Matthew 21:24). “For with authority He commanded” (Mark 1:27). “Has given Him authority to execute judgment” (John 5:27). One day He will put down authority (I Corinthians 15:24). Jesus had authority to delegate authority as evidenced in His commission to the apostles.
Then there is assumed authority. There never has been a time when some men did not take to themselves authority that did not belong to them. That was the case of Korah and 250 men who were with him. They had adversely influenced the entire congregation of Israel against Moses and Aaron, God's constituted representatives for His people.
They accused Moses of doing the very things of which they were guilty. Moses said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi” (Numbers 16:7). He told them that they were seeking to become priests and had gathered themselves against the Lord (Number 16:10–11).
When they were commanded to present themselves before the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle, they refused, saying: “We will not come up” (Numbers 16:12).
So it was a case of rebellion. They would not obey God. Jesus told a story in Luke 19:14, 27, in which He illustrated this lesson. The subjects of the ruler in a spirit of rebellion said, “We will not have this man rule over us.”
Religious Leaders Assume Authority Today
Religious leaders all over the world today assume authority that was not delegated to them by God. It is purely presumptuous. It may have been given to them by the people they represent, or by a group of earth's wise men, so called, who likewise assume authority which is not theirs and they elect or appoint whom they want to represent them.
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram assumed that they had the congregation of Israel behind them and they felt this granted them the right to revolt against God's constituted authority. These men were malcontents, revolutionist, and insurgents if we classify them in today's language, but they were lawless, insubordinate traitors in language that people in that day understood. God handled the situation and brought the matter to an abrupt end when he caused the earth to swallow up the 250 men who appertained to Korah and shortly thereafter struck with plague, 14,700 Israelites which resulted in their demise.
The word gainsaying simply means “to say against, deny, contradict, oppose.” Korah was opposed to constituted authority, but, as has been pointed out, it was rebellion against God (Numbers 16:11).
A rejection of God's word today, a refusal to accept the message of the apostles whom God delegated authority to proclaim, and the doing of what men have decided in religion comes in the same category of rebellion as these evil men in Moses' day. It is despising the Lord (Numbers 16:30).
Let us briefly analyze the sin of Korah. He was jealous. Although he was of the tribe of Levi, he was not of the priestly family. He was not made a prince among his family when the assignments were made to his house, the Kohathites. The chief of the family was Elizaphan (Numbers 3:30). His family had charge of looking after the holy things of the Tabernacle (Number 4:1–16). Not satisfied with this honorable place in the arrangement of God, Korah tried for the chief place in his own arrangement. Let us note also the tactics of Korah. He stirred up a number of men to go with him (Numbers 16:1).
They were famous men, princes, and there were 250 of them (Numbers 16:2). He played for major support of his cause against Moses: “You take too much upon yourself, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them” (Numbers 16:3).
He impugned the leadership of which God was the author and he assailed Moses and Aaron. At one time they had been glad to follow Moses (Exodus 14:22). They concurred in their desire to have Moses speak with God (Exodus 20:19). They assumed the people were righteous and God was in their midst. Korah made a great display of being interested in Israel's cause.
Moses Takes It To God
Moses was concerned that God would destroy them all so he took the matter to God in prayer—as all problems should be taken there. A test was set up to show what the will of God was and, as you will remember the story, the rebellious were destroyed.
Jude warned that men may be guilty of the gainsaying of Korah today. In the religious world of our time, men are dissatisfied with God's arrangement. They seek to change it, pervert it, pollute it, and substitute for it, and all this action spells rebellion against God.
When men teach that salvation is by faith only, or by having a feeling that says: “I take Jesus as my personal savior,” and that there is no further response on the part of the sinner, then they are guilty of Korah's sin, for it is a rejection of God and His word which clearly pronounces “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
When men substitute sprinkling for baptism, this is rebellion (Romans 6:4). It is rather common to hear someone say, “I believe in Christianity, but I do not believe in churchanity.” He is saying, “I want Christ but I do not want the church.” Such people have become disillusioned and disgusted with the modern day churches, and one can scarcely blame them, but this portrayal of Christianity by denominationalism does not negate the teaching of the New Testament upon the subject of Christ's church.
You cannot separate Christ and His church, for it is His body. By the teaching of the Holy Spirit we have all been baptized into the one body, the church (I Corinthians 12:13). That which puts one into Christ also puts him into the body of Christ.
The real question that should have a place constantly in our thinking is: “What has God said?” Another questions equally important is: “Am I willing to listen and do what He has taught me in His word?” No more important topic will ever engage your thinking.