Phinehas: Standing for the Truth Amid Evil in the Church
We sing in our Psalter, “The Lord approved the righteous act Of him whom sin abhorred, And honored him forevermore With just and great reward.” The “him” of whom the Psalter speaks is a young man by the name of Phinehas, a most important saint in the unfolding of God’s covenant. In this brief profile of the godly man Phinehas, we would like to call your attention to who Phinehas was, what he stood for, and why he is an example to us.
Who was Phinehas? Of priestly descent, Phinehas was a grandson of Aaron (Ex. 6:25). As a ruler of the tabernacle (1 Chr. 9:20), Phinehas was devoted to keeping the purity of worship and consecrating the people to Jehovah. In this connection, we observe the “righteous act” of Phinehas when he stood for the truth as the children of Israel apostatized from the Lord, as this story is told in Numbers 25:1–7.
We read that while “Israel abode in Shittim … [they] began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (v. 1). Idolatrous fellowship was the chief sin of the people, wherein they did join themselves to Baal-peor. The rotten fruit of this sin was that “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel” (v. 3). God then commanded Moses that “all the heads of the people” be hanged and that all who were joined unto Baal-peor be slain (vv. 4–5).
Amidst this awful situation, Zimri, a leader in the tribe of Simeon, boldly defied God before Moses and the people by illicitly consorting with Cozbi, who was a Midianitish woman. A belligerent trampling underfoot of God’s law had taken place. Who would stand for the truth? Beholding the sins of the people, the children of God weeping before the tabernacle, and the overthrow of the law of God, Phinehas rose up. Filled with love and holy zeal for God’s house, the godly man Phinehas thrust both Zimri and Cozbi through with a javelin (v. 7–8). And thus, the plague was stayed.
What specifically did Phinehas stand for? Was Phinehas simply a radical who enjoyed a good fight? God forbid. Phinehas stood for the truth of God’s covenant. Positively, he stood for the mighty God of the covenant who brings his people out of the bondage of sin and causes them to enjoy the fellowship of his friendship. Negatively, wherever the truth of that covenant is denied or opposed, there must be a radical and sharp condemnation of anything that offends. Be not deceived, it is not they of the world that chiefly deny God’s truth; but in the church, the carnal seed always defy God’s covenant. For it was a fellow kinsman, even an Israelite, that Phinehas killed with a javelin. And he did not hesitate to do so.
Young people, do you stand for God’s truth when it is denied, in the classroom, out with your friends, or perhaps even in your own home? Surely it is easy to identify moral sins, which we might all easily condemn, but what about doctrinal sin? Do not forget that the sin of Baal-peor was not simply a moral transgression, but a spiritual and religious departure (see Rev. 2:14). In love for the neighbor, we must rebuke the free-willer, the divorced and remarried, the worldly, the federal visionist, the conditional covenanter, and the like. These sins do not belong in God’s covenant! And they who have the spirit of Phinehas, which was that of Christ, will not be afraid or ashamed to wield the javelin of God’s word.
Phinehas was a godly man who stood for the truth amid evil in the church. Like Phinehas, we will stand for the truth of God’s covenant. Even if we must stand alone, as Phinehas did, we place our confidence in the truth that “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone” (Deut. 33:28). In opposition to those who war against God’s covenant, we have a “covenant of peace” (Num. 25:12) which assures us of victory in Christ. May the prayer of the psalmist ever be on our lips: “Save us, O Lord, our gracious God, From alien lands reclaim, That we may triumph in Thy praise And bless Thy holy Name.”
Elijah Roberts is a member of Southwest PRC in Wyoming, MI and serves as contributing writer correspondent on the Beacon Lights staff.
Originally published March 2020, Vol 79 No 3
 Psalter 291, stanza 4.
 For an awesome sermon on this history, listen to “In the Matter of Baal-peor” by the venerable Reverend Marinus Schipper. http://www.prca.org/resources/sermons/audio/message/in-the-matter-of-baal-peor
Also read George M. Ophoff’s Standard Bearer articles, https://standardbearer.rfpa.org/articles/israel%E2%80%99s-sins?keyword=phinehas and https://standardbearer.rfpa.org/articles/avenging-march-against-midianites?keyword=phinehas
 This is not an isolated event in Scripture. See Psalm 106:28–31; Hosea 9:10; Micah 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14. The import of these passages indicates that the sin of Baal-peor is the principle sin at work when the church departs from Jehovah.
 Psalter 291, stanza 11.