Once as Jesus was journeying through some villages and towns of Judea, the home of the Jews, his disciples asked him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” (Luke 13:23). Perhaps the disciples were astonished and discouraged by the fickleness of the crowds who came out to see their Master. Large throngs of people were constantly turning out to see Jesus work miracles and preach about the kingdom of God. Yet they would often leave Just as quickly, especially after listening to difficult teachings that they were not willing to accept. It is likely the disciples were wondering if anyone would follow Jesus to the end. Jesus’ response was direct and personal. Listen to His answer to their very important question:
And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:24-30)
These words of Jesus connect with what Paul is saying at the end of Romans 9. Paul reflects on the fact that most of the Jews to whom Jesus came first did not enter the kingdom of God. While Israel was a large nation of millions, only a small part, or “a remnant,” were willing to believe in and follow Him as Lord (Romans 9:27). The Lord had chosen a few, or a tiny “seed,” of the Israelites to accept the testimony about Jesus, thus preventing the entire nation from being spiritually destroyed as Sodom and Gomorrah had been physically destroyed by fire from heaven (Romans 9:29). Added to this remnant of faithful Israelites would be untold millions of converts from the Gentile or non-Jewish world who would also come to a saving faith in Christ. These Gentile Christians had not been part of the people of God, but now, through trusting in Jesus, they had been adopted into God’s family (Romans 9:25-26).
We might ask, “Shouldn’t a lot more of the Jewish people have been saved?” The Jews had so many spiritual advantages compared to the Gentiles. The Jews had the Law and the Prophets, the covenants and the knowledge of God. Why did so many Jews reject Christ while so many pagan Gentiles were willing to accept Him? Well, why are so many people today in the historically Christian world willing to be religious (celebrate holidays like Christmas, go to church sometimes, give a little money in the offering plate, and pray over a meal) but not be saved, while the Christian faith is spreading like wildfire in parts of Asia and Africa? Because, Paul writes, such unconverted casual churchgoers like the comfort of the law, which they believe lets them be in charge of their own salvation. For the religious unsaved, Jesus is a “stumbling stone” and a “rock of offense” rather than the foundational cornerstone that He demands to be. Such people do not want to give up control of their lives to Christ, so they don’t and they will eventually perish in their sins if they don’t repent (Romans 9:32-33). Because they want to be saved by obeying the law and no one is capable of perfectly obeying the law as God requires, the religious who won’t turn to Jesus by faith fall tragically and eternally short of salvation (Romans 9:31). But to those who know that they are sinful and need a Savior, the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is sweet news. No matter how rich or empty their religious background, those who simply come to Jesus in full faith and trust receive total forgiveness of their sins and inherit all of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 9:30). For this remnant of believers from among the lost religious and pagan world, Jesus is their only hope and trust, and the Scripture promises that for that faith, they will “not be put to shame” or disappointed (Romans 9:33). The guarantee of heaven awaits them, while the certainty of God’s presence is with them here and now on earth. May you be part of that faithful few and help gather more souls to the banner of Christ.
The Text (Romans 9:25-33)
25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.
28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Questions to Think About
- Why are some churchgoers comfortable with being religious but not willing to commit their lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior?
- Do you have any Jewish friends, relatives, neighbors, or teammates? Have you ever asked them what they know or believe about Jesus? Their responses may surprise you. Many Jews in Jesus’ time were very religious and decidedly against believing in Him as their Messiah. However, many modern Americans with Jewish heritage are more secular and may not know much about Jesus or their own faith, especially the Old Testament that they should accept as God’s Word. Learning and then sharing some of the many prophetic OT verses and passages that Jesus fulfilled could be a good conversation starter for witnessing to a nominal Jewish person.
- How does knowing that you will not be disappointed or ashamed for trusting Christ with your life and soul encourage you right now?