“They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Boer, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet” (2 Peter 2:15-16).
One of the most fascinating stories in the Old Testament is the story of Balaam and his donkey, who balked at going forward in spite of the fact that Balaam beat him three times. The donkey, of course, saw an angel with a drawn sword in the way ahead.
As Peter is trying to impress on those to whom he writes the importance of following the “right way”—that is, the way of God—he uses Balaam as an example of one who defied God’s way so that he could do what he wanted to.
Peter emphasizes that the false teachers among these people are just like Balaam: they are unrighteous—he has already described them as depraved, self-serving, evil men whose only desire is to please the flesh. His point is that they are not to listen to these false teachers because they will lead them to the same condemnation that Balaam received.
The same principle applies to us today. We are not to listen to false teachers who twist God’s word to suit their own agenda or who promote modern ideas to win people to themselves. Rather, we need to listen to Balaam’s donkey—that is, we pay attention to the warnings that can alert us to departures from God’s word.
“For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright” (Psalm 11:7).
In most of the passages where the word “righteousness” is used in the Old Testament, it refers to the right actions of an individual in his relationship with God. In the New Testament generally, it means the same: conformity to the Divine will but with the thought of a deepened and more spiritual relationship.
This passage has two references: the first has to do with the character of God and the second has to do with our right action toward God; and, of course, we learn about both from His word.
Because of His own righteousness, God has made righteous living a possibility to us through His Son Jesus Christ. He, of course, expects us to perform right actions in our coming to Jesus and in our daily living after we have come to Him. Then His countenance can “behold” our upright behavior.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Apparently some of the Corinthians were allowing themselves to be misled by associating with false teachers who did not believe in the resurrection. Paul says these men will have a negative impact on Christians and lead them away from the truth.
Even though the context is this specific issue about the resurrection, it is a principle that is taught in both the Old and New Testaments. For example, Solomon said, “…the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).
It is foolish for any person in any age of time to believe he can have as his primary and most intimate companions those who are steeped in sinful, ungodly, or rebellious behavior and come out without spiritual harm.
Both scriptures and sociological studies show that we are influenced by those with whom we spend the most time. So Paul’s teaching is sound: let us follow it as we choose our companions.
Thought for the Week.08-07-16. Be an Example
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Sounder advice has never been given than what Paul gives to the young preacher here. Timothy was young, but he was sent out to preach the gospel; and Paul, as his spiritual father, wants him to be successful in his endeavors.
The advice to this young preacher is that he never lives his life in such a way as to give anyone a legitimate reason for not listening to him—that is, especially just because he is young.
Young people sometimes make bad judgments and do things they later regret. And these actions give people reason for questioning whether they should pay attention to their teaching. Paul doesn’t want that to happen to Timothy.
“Be an example” is good advice not only for young preachers but actually for all preachers—and for all Christians. To have the greatest influence among our peers, we must let every aspect of our lives emulate what a Christian is to be. Then we can have our greatest influence.