(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today:
mark this: Luke 13:23
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
This is a difficult but fair question.
I don’t think that this “someone” was looking for percentages or demographic charts or statistical probabilities. I think his concerns were much more personal. Who gets in? Who does not? What are the criteria? Do I have a chance?
Franklyn & I have a running joke about the most exclusive church we’ve yet to find. You may have heard of certain sects or cults or denominations that claim to be the sole recipients of salvation, but a church of 50 people in Oklahoma takes the cake. Their website reads:
If you are involved with the kind of Christianity that views Protestantism, or Catholicism, or the Orthodox church, or the “church of Christ,” or Billy Graham, or Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen, or James Dobson, or Pat Robertson, or John MacArthur, or Tony Evans, or Greg Laurie, or Charles Stanley, or Chuck Smith, or Fred Price, or J. Vernon McGee, or Charles Blake, or Chuck Swindoll, or Gene Scott, or Harold Camping (Family Radio), or John Piper, or T. D. Jakes, or David Jeremiah, or Charles Spurgeon, or Dave Hunt, or Marvin J. Rosenthal, or David W. Cloud, or Perry F Rockwood, or Neil Anderson, or Robert Schuller, or Jack Hayford, or Benny Hinn, or Miles McPherson, or Ray Comfort, or Jim Cobrae, or Ron Luce, or Chuck Colson, or C. S. Lewis, or Hank Hanegraaff, or Paul Chappell, or any of the like (or any of the likes on “Christian” TV or radio) as godly, you are not saved.
That’s very sad, but what is even sadder is found in their FAQ page:
Q- Are you the only true church/believers?
A- …We have not yet, as of this date, found another church that is in the truth and we have been to many.
For them “only a few are going to be saved” and they are the “only.” In all the 2000 years or so since Christ came, I guess He died only for a few dozen people in Oklahoma.
But this riduculous example brings up a bigger question: “How do we come to grips with the fact that Jesus Christ repeatedly makes claims of exclusivity?” Contrary to popular opinion, not all dogs go to heaven. Otherwise, why would Jesus warn any of us about the narrow way, about people being thrown out, about weeping and gnashing of teeth?
Jesus Christ is, at the same time, the most inclusive and the most exclusive being in all existence.
In the Gospels, we are amazed at His love and acceptance of all people, especially the most marginalized of His day. Yet, no one speaks more concerning Hell in the entire Bible. He just a few chapters ago said, “He who is not with me is against me (1).” But even earlier He said, “He who is not against us is for us (2).” How do we come to terms with this apparent contradiction?
What it boils down to is the exact same thing that Jesus said in His conversation with Nicodemus. Here also we have the greatest openness and inclusiveness:
“Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” and “Whoever believes in him is not condemned.”
But at the same time He issues words of unequivocal exclusion:
“Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (3).”
It all comes down to the very instrument that was used to cruelly kill Jesus.
The cross, itself a collision and contradiction, becomes to each person the ultimate point of decision. What side of the cross makes all the difference. To some it becomes the very ladder to Heaven (4), to others, a gallows. The question then becomes not “Will only a few be saved?” but rather “On which side of the cross do you stand?
(1) Luke 11:23
(2) Mark 9:40 (see also Luke 9:50)
(3) John 3:16 & 3:18
(4) John 1:51