6 Now come, I beg of you, curse this people for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.

7 And the elders of Moab and of Midian departed with the rewards of foretelling in their hands; and they came to Balaam and told him the words of Balak.

8 And he said to them, Lodge here tonight and I will bring you word as the Lord may speak to me. And the princes of Moab abode with Balaam [that night].

9 And God came to Balaam, and said, What men are these with you?

10 And Balaam said to God, Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying,

11 Behold, the people who came out of Egypt cover the face of the earth; come now, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.

12 And God said to Balaam, You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.

13 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, Go back to your own land, for the Lord refuses to permit me to go with you.

14 So the princes of Moab rose up and went to Balak, and said, Balaam refuses to come with us.

15 Then Balak again sent princes, more of them and more honorable than the first ones.
16 And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus says Balak son of Zippor, I beg of you, let nothing hinder you from coming to me.

17 For I will promote you to very great honor and I will do whatever you tell me; so come, I beg of you, curse this people for me.

18 And Balaam answered the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.

19 Now therefore, I pray you, tarry here again tonight that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.

20 And God came to Balaam at night, and said to him, If the men come to call you, rise up and go with them, but still only what I tell you may you do.

21 And Balaam rose up in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.

22 And God's anger was kindled because he went, and the Angel of the Lord stood in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his donkey, and his two servants were with him.

23 And the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way and His sword drawn in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey to turn her into the way.

24 But the Angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall on this side and a wall on that side.

25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she thrust herself against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against it, and he struck her again.

26 And the Angel of the Lord went further and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right hand or to the left.

27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam, and Balaam's anger was kindled and he struck the donkey with his staff.

28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, What have I done to you that you should strike me these three times?

29 And Balaam said to the donkey, Because you have ridiculed and provoked me! I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!

30 And the donkey said to Balaam, Am not I your donkey, upon which you have ridden all your life long until this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you? And he said, No.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His sword drawn in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell on his face.

32 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, Why have you struck your donkey these three times? See, I came out to stand against and resist you, for your behavior is willfully obstinate and contrary before Me.

33 And the ass saw Me and turned from Me these three times. If she had not turned from Me, surely I would have slain you and saved her alive.

34 Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. But now, if my going displeases You, I will return.

35 The Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, Go with the men, but you shall speak only what I tell you. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab on the border formed by the Arnon [River], at the farthest end of the boundary.

37 Balak said to Balaam, Did I not [earnestly] send to you to ask you [to come] to me? Why did you not come? Am not I able to promote you to honor?

38 And Balaam said to Balak, Indeed I have come to you, but do I now have any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that shall I speak.

39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth.

40 And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent [portions] to Balaam and to the princes who were with him.

41 And on the following day Balak took Balaam and brought him up into the high places of Bamoth-baal; from there he saw the nearest of the Israelites. AMP

Yet Balaam was so determined to achieve his evil purpose that he paid women from Moab and Midian to entice and seduce the men of Israel into sexual immorality. Because these women were worshipers of idols, they also seduced the Israelites into following their false gods. Thousands of Israelites suffered and died because of Balaam's error and Israel's sin.

So Jesus, in Revelation 2:14, warned the Christians in Pergamum not to be seduced by the same error. Peter issued the same warning when he wrote about those "with eyes full of adultery" who "seduce the unstable," who "have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam."

The error of Balaam continues to threaten the church in our own day: it is the practice of pornography, adultery, fornication, and cohabitation (living together as husband and wife without the sanction of marriage). Many individual Christians, individual churches, and even some entire denominations openly tolerate or endorse such behavior, and the result is the same today as it was in Balaam's day: emotional, psychological, spiritual, and even physical damage to many lives. Those who engage in such behavior are invariably led away from God and closer to their own destruction.

Another error Jesus warns against is "the teaching of the Nicolaitans." In chapter 3, as we examined the Lord's letter to the Ephesian church, we saw that He affirmed the Ephesians for hating the practices of the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans, remember, were probably a sect that combined aspects of the Christian faith with loose sexual practices. There is also historical evidence that the Nicolaitans claimed to have a special relationship with God and special revelations from God. In other words, they claimed to be spiritually superior to other people and presumed to take the place of the Hebrew priesthood.

The name Nicolaitans means "conquerors of the people," and there is evidence in church history that the Nicolaitan cult did indeed "conquer" many Christians and even entire churches, leading them into error and destruction. Their doctrines appealed to both physical lust and sinful spiritual pride.

The teachings of the Nicolaitans can still be found today in churches where an "imperial pastor" is put on a pedestal and given a kind of spiritual supremacy over the laypeople. Such pastors claim to have a more intimate relationship with God. Such churches seem to view themselves as a theater filled with spectators, all watching the performance of their pastor.

But the Christian life is not a spectator sport. Rather, we are all expected to be players on the field, part of the game plan. A church can be likened to a football team. When we gather together on Sunday for worship, we are "in the huddle." We are there to learn the game strategy and to become
motivated for the struggle of the game. Monday through Saturday, on the playing field of everyday life, we all do our part for the team, and for our ultimate Coach, the Lord Jesus. No one is on the sidelines or in the stands. We are all in the game.

How, then, should a church deal with such threats as the error of Balaam or the teaching of the Nicolaitans, whether in the present day or in the day of John the apostle? Jesus' reply was, in effect, you deal with error with a sharp, two-edged sword! "Repent," He said. "Otherwise, I will soon come