Balaam was a diviner (one who uses omens to determine God's will) and a soothsayer (possessing certain powers not of God), the practices of which were condemned in Deut. 18. Yet by all appearances, Balaam was a man of God -- a genuine prophet: Balaam's "God-talk" attested to his being a prophet (Num. 22:8,13,34,38; 23:12,28; 24:13); God was speaking to him and through him (Num. 22:9,12,20,32-35; 23:4,5,16,18-24); Balaam appeared to worship God in spirit and truth (Num. 22:31); and he blessed the people of God (Num. 23:5,7-10,18-24; 24:2-9,15-19).
There are other instances in the Bible where God appears to pagan peoples and reveals Himself: Ambimalech in a dream (Gen. 20:6,7); Pharaoh (Gen. 41:25); Nebuchadnezzar before his conversion (Dan. 2,4); Pilate's wife through suffering in a dream (Matt. 27:19); Saul (1 Sam. 19:23,24); and to Caiphas (Jn. 11:51,52).
Therefore, just because an individual seems to have great powers or a large following or that God is "using" him, doesn't mean that the person is a genuine "prophet," let alone a believer in Jesus Christ. The person could be a pagan, a false prophet, a spiritual fraud, who God is using for His purposes. Spiritual frauds are quite capable of quoting the Word of God, of sounding pious and true, yet can be totally wicked. God speaking through a false prophet does not signal a believer, any more than Balaam's donkey was a believer because God spoke through him (Num. 23:21-30). In fact, the deception of a false prophet appearing to be from God was so prevalent in Old Testament times that God established another screen for true prophets (in addition to accurate predictions) -- "Do they lead you to worship other gods?" (Deut. 13:1-5).
The bottom line is that we must examine a teacher's fruit of doctrine. If his doctrine is impure, avoid him (Rom. 16:17; 2 Jn. 10,11). Even though his "God-talk" may proliferate, we must examine the fruit of his doctrine -- "diviners" and "soothsayers" cannot be the children of God.
Yet, we have a professing Church today that tolerates Balaams -- "They say some good things. They use the Bible." Yes, but their doctrine gives them away. They are false prophets, corrupting and destroying the Church from the inside!
The issue is not whether there is some good in their teachings. The issue is their erroneous doctrinal teachings from which the Bible commands us to separate. So, look out for those who reject spiritual separation. In these days of ecumenism, there are scores of frauds about us who make no distinction between what is right or wrong, whose energies are devoted to man-made unity while they de-emphasize doctrine, whose purposes are to appeal to the hearts of the masses while neglecting the truth of God. Inclusivism because of areas of agreement can never take precedence over our obligation to separate because of error.
Believers need to use the weapons of truth which God has given us, so that we identify and deal with every Balaamite fraud in the spiritual arena in which we live. Note his characteristics. He can be seen everywhere around us on the landscape of Christendom. Mark such evil entities and avoid them. Learn the lesson Israel learned the hard way from her unfortunate exposure to Balaam and his unscrupulous methods.
* Excerpted and/or adapted from a 1988 sermon by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor, Indian Hills Community Church, Lincoln, NE; and from an article by Dave Kazen in the 4/96 Uplook: "Spiritual Fraud," pp. 4-5.