If Balaam lived among today’s evangelicals, he would be considered a great man. His public sayings would be widely known, and his “ministry” would have great impact (Numbers 22:6). In his day, Balaam was also known for his “prayer power.” That is, when he spoke to the Lord, Balaam usually got an answer (Numbers 22:8, 18, etc.). He certainly would have been at home among many of today’s televangelists.

But Balaam had an appetite for monetary success and a desire for secular recognition (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11). He willfully embraced error in spite of the Lord’s warnings and with clear knowledge beforehand that he was doing wrong (Numbers 22–24). In so doing, he foreshadowed the likes of the foolish teachings of Harold Camping, the damnable writings of Rob Bell, the oily compromise of Peter Enns, and the open betrayal of Scripture by “evangelical” academics like Bruce Waltke and the fellows of BioLogos.

How do “good” people become “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18)?

Basic Biblical Guidelines

Of the many passages in the Bible that contain information or warnings about false teaching, there are four key New Testament passages that will help answer that question. In 2 Peter 2:1-3, the apostle Peter lists five characteristics of the leaders of false teaching:

  • They will come from “Christian” churches or backgrounds.
  • They will deny the Lord Jesus in some way.
  • They will become very popular.
  • They will cause shame to the ideals of Scripture.
  • They will use human greed and hidden meanings to deceive.

These character checks might be satisfactory in and of themselves, since they would quickly identify some of the more notorious “cult” leaders of the last 200 years. Jim Jones, famous for leading the Guyana mass suicide, was a Baptist preacher in California for many years. Joseph Smith, who has never been known for being “biblical,” founded what has become the largest “Christian” cult movement in the world, the Mormons. Charles T. Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, became disenchanted with orthodox Christianity and began issuing prophetic predictions in light of special signs and mysteries he found in the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Not only did he make highly publicized and false predictions of the second coming of Christ and the end of the age, but his successors continued to do so for several decades….

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