2 Peter 2:15-16, “15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”
In 1 Peter, Peter encouraged his readers to long for the pure milk of the Word of God so they may grow up into salvation (1 Peter 2:2). Genuine Christians are to seek after sound doctrine that they may grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. As they do they become mature and more steady in their faith. This is even more necessary as when we read in 2 Peter that false teachers enjoy enticing unsteady souls (2 Peter 2:14). If God’s people are not steady, they will be easily led astray which is why they must study the Word of God faithfully so they may distinguish between truth and error.
2 Peter 2:14 in addition to telling us that false teachers are motivated by greed disregard the power of evil and sexual immorality. In our own day sexual immorality is running rampant even as most television preachers promote a version of Christianity that teaches the prosperity gospel. 2 Peter 2:15-16 helps readers understand the theme of greed further by teaching them that false teachers of Peter’s day were like “Balaam, the son of Beor” (2 Peter 2:15–16). Here Peter is pointing out the encounter between Balaam and ancient Israel found in Numbers 22-24. The king of Moab out of fear for his kingdom hired Balaam to curse the nation of Israel lest Israel overrun his country (Numbers 22:1-6). Peter explains that Balaam “loved gain from wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:15). Numbers 22:7 says that Balaam is given fees for divination a practice forbidden by the Lord (Deut. 18:9-14).
Balaam affirms his desire to obey God and decides to go with the king’s men when the Lord commands him to do so (Numbers 22:8-21 which may make readers question his greed. The Lord’s anger towards Balaam even when he obeys (Numbers 22:22) shows readers that Balaam’s motivations were not godly. Like Balaam, false teachers may express a desire to obey the Lord and like Balaam speak some theological truths on occasion (Numbers 23:19). With that said, the clear presence of greed will always be a warning to God’s people that such teachers are not sent by the Lord.
The saying a broken clock is correct twice a day is right. False teachers are dangerous because they rarely speak no truth at all. This is why we need discernment. The truth spoken on occasion does not make such teachers approved by God, for sinners can know and teach right things because they bear the image of the Lord who is Truth. Please consider as you are taught by teachers their motivations and the words they speak.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to his wife, Sarah. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021), The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022), and Contentment: The Journey of a Lifetime (Theology for Life, 2024). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.