What the Bible says about
License to Sin
(From Forerunner Commentary)
One can almost hear Balaam saying to himself, "Great! God gave me permission! I can go! Load the gold!"
How Balaam replies to the embassy of Balak is one of the main themes of this whole account. In verse 18, he says, "I cannot go beyond the Word of the LORD my God to do less or more." And then in verse 20, God tells him quite specifically, "Only the word which I speak to you, that you shall do."
God is on to him, giving Balaam enough rope to hang himself with - and he just sticks his head right into the noose. The noose is the "if" statement: "If the men call on you, then you may go." The Bible, however, gives no indication whatsoever that the men came to call on him. It says only that Balaam awoke, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.
What did Balaam do here? We might call it bending the rules. God gave him conditional permission to do something. And what did Balaam consider it to be? Absolute permission. It is almost as if he failed to hear God say, "If the men come to call on you." All he heard was, "Then you can go."
How many people do that? In our modern way, we have turned it around: "Well, the Bible doesn't say that you can't do this." Others put it as, "There is no 'Thus saith the Lord' about this" - though there may be dozens of verses that say that one should not do it because of this, that, or something else. Or, there may be a whole story about someone who does something, illustrating a principle of a way we should not go. Nevertheless, because Scripture does not specifically say, "You shall not do this," then many people think it is okay to do it.
Consider smoking. No place in the Bible says that a person shall not smoke cigarettes. It does not say anywhere that one should not breathe in the smoke of any kind of flammable substance. However, there are huge principles - love toward God, neighbor, and self; not defiling the temple of God's Spirit; slow suicide - that people totally ignore. This is similar to what Balaam did.
His thinking process may have gone something like this: "God didn't say that I could not go. He gave me a condition, but I'm sure it will be all right this time if I go. If He was willing to give me permission in this case, it must be okay." So, he went. He did not believe God.
Consider I Peter 2 in terms of what Balaam did. What Peter had been telling his readers to do was submit - submit to government; submit to the king; to governors; to anyone in authority - for the Lord's sake, because that is what God wants us to do. He wants us to learn to submit to authority, especially to God's.
For this is the will of God, that by doing good [submitting to government] you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men - as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. (I Peter 2:15-16)
God gave Balaam conditional permission. He made him free to do a certain thing, which was to go with the men, but He put a condition on it: "If they come to you." Well, Balaam used his freedom, his liberty, as a cloak for vice. Balaam's vice was money; he wanted riches. He was going to get his riches by cursing Israel - another vice! Cursing people is not a good thing - certainly, it does not show love for them.
As Christians, we have been given grace, freedom, and God-given gifts to do good. He warns us, "Do not use this freedom to do evil. I have given you, not freedom from the law, but freedom within the law - to do good and not evil."
Yet, how many have used the liberty given to us by Christ as license to sin? "God will forgive us! That's what God does best! So, if we do it just this once, it will be okay!" That is what Balaam did. He received permission from God in one small area, under a certain circumstance, and Balaam interpreted it as freedom to do generally as he pleased.
Does that not sound like mainstream Protestantism? This is why within Protestantism there is an overriding emphasis on grace. Truly, grace is a wonderful thing. God has given us so many freedoms, but there are also law, responsibility, and submission to the will of God, things Balaam totally left out of the picture. He ignored the conditions God placed on his liberty. All he wanted was the freedom. And his taking license came back to bite him severely in the end.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)
Every piece of information that we need regarding what was occurring in Judah is not supplied in Jeremiah 5, but the basic lie was religious. It was Baalism, to use a general term. It began when the priesthood deceived itself into allowing a bit of falseness to creep into their preaching, and they convinced themselves that a little bit would not hurt at all. It would be all right. What they did over time was to gradually severe their mooring to God's law and the restraints contained in it.
The implication in verses 30-31 is that even those who say that they are looking for truth really are not. When a society gets this corrupt, they have no idea what truth is anymore, and God says they had come to the point that people loved to be lied to.
A few years ago the whole nation watched the Senate hearings concerning Oliver North and Iran Contra. It was interesting, in terms of this sermon, because Oliver North admitted that, in the national interest, he lied to a Congressional committee. That was his justification: It was in the national interest to lie. Oliver North came out of those hearings a hero. The people loved it because of his persona. He "looks" so nice, so clean. He was so dynamic and sharp. Yet, he was a liar! And the people loved it.
This is actually not unusual because we have reached the state in American culture where lying is taken for granted in the political arena, in the relationships that we have with other nations. It is part of the game. Everybody knows that everyone else is lying in their national interest. Nobody trusts anyone else.
President Eisenhower lied to the whole nation when Gary Powers was shot down in a spy plane over Russia (the U2 incident). So, in a report to America, he lied. Did President Nixon lie to us? Of course he did. And who knows how many other lies are said for the sake of politicians' careers!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 1)
The mystery of lawlessness was already working (II Thessalonians 2:7). The false church appropriated the true church's central figure—its savior, Jesus Christ—but rejected the law of God and turned His grace into license (Jude 4; see Titus 1:16). By rejecting the law of God and inserting pagan beliefs, they really also rejected the central figure, Christ, as well, which is very interesting to consider. A dichotomy is produced. They accept the name of Christ, the central figure, the great hero, then turn right around and reject His law. It is double-mindedness, and yet people fall for it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)
Jude calls these false ministers "dreamers," but this really is a poor translation. It should properly be: "Likewise also these, as a result of dreaming, defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries." Their new beliefs that they teach to the church are based on dreams, on visions, on foolish imaginations of their hearts, and—who knows?—trips on LSD. The basis for their false teachings is from anywhere but from God.
The apostle is pinpointing specific Gnostic beliefs: debauchery, total freedom from authority, and even insulting angels (the literal understanding of "speaking evil of dignitaries." Dignitaries is literally "glorious ones").
Gnostics believed that a person was free to do whatever he wanted, debauch himself to any extent, and God would forgive it, for He is gracious.
They believed that no one had authority over them, that they were free from law, and that they were free from government because they were spiritual. No one, then, could tell them what to do. They had progressed beyond all need for physical law of any type of authority, court, or physical government.
Lastly, they were so self-willed that they would even reject the authority of angels, believing that they were higher than the angels, forgetting or ignoring that Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7 say that God has left man for a little while lower than the angels. The Gnostics had already exalted themselves above the angels, so they had no fear of speaking evil of them. This put them in an exalted position, and the ideas that lesser humans have to adhere to are below them and thus comtemptible. Being beyond all law and government, they can do whatever they want, and no one can stop them.
It's no coincidence that one of the hallmarks of apostasy today is a total rejection of government. It is the number one problem in the church. No one wants to be governed. Such modern Gnostics say such pious things as, "Only God governs me," which is a false teaching. They have placed themselves above their station, which is exactly what Korah did, as Jude goes on to mention. Since government tends to point out and punish evil doing, these apostates thing that, if they get rid of government and law, they will be free to do whatever they please without any oversight.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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