Scripture and the Church

God Deals In Remnants: Are We Willing To Be One?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
3,000 converts on the Day of Pentecost represented less than three-tenths of one percent of the devoutly religious people present in Jerusalem.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part four of a series. Read part three.

3,000 converts on the Day of Pentecost represented less than three-tenths of one percent of the devoutly religious people present in Jerusalem.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs - we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?" Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel..."

...And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (Acts 2:1-16, 40-41)

Explosive Growth - But Still a Remnant

The account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 believers in Acts chapter two, followed by the account of Peter's great sermon, and the response of some of his hearers, is the account of sudden and explosive growth of the church. But we must understand that even after this great event, the church is still a remnant.

Yes, the 120 had now suddenly become 3,000, and would soon be 5,000 (Acts 4:4). But archaeologists and historians tell us that hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps a million or more, came to Jerusalem each year for the Feast of Pentecost. Many of them came for Passover but stayed through Pentecost fifty days later, because they came from a great distance.

In this particular year, many of those people had witnessed the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ firsthand during Passover. But few of them were believers. Even when 3,000 were added to the church on the Day of Pentecost, it was still a small remnant in terms of the vast number of religiously observant Jews who had been in Jerusalem for the feasts.

If there were, as many historians estimate, a million or more Jews in Jerusalem at this time, then 3,000 converts to Christ representedless than three-tenths of one percent of the total number of the devoutly religious people present.

Present-Day Denial of Remnant Status

If we really understand the Biblical definition of what it means to be a Christian - to truly be born from above by the power of the Spirit of God - then we must understand that Christ's true church is a similarly microscopic percentage in our day.

Many in today's church are in denial about this fact. I recall being in an Evangelical church service in 1976 in which a guest speaker rejoiced in the "fact" that "in this year of the 200th anniversary of our nation, both of our candidates for president (Ford and Carter) are born-again Christians."

Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Both men - just as many who have come along since then - courted the so-called Evangelical vote by spouting "born-again" rhetoric. But Carter was a liberal Southern Baptist who subsequently left even that denomination to be part of an even more liberal, faith-plus-works group. Ford was a faith-plus-works Episcopalian. Both men were pro-abortion.

But such is the confusion among postmodern Evangelicals that many are uncomfortable with, and embarrassed by, the Bible's teaching of remnant status. And so, they constantly seek to enlarge the tent by inventing their own definitions of "born again". They especially desire to create a definition that will include the "mighty and noble" - of whom Scripture tells us there are few in the true kingdom (1 Corinthians 1:26).

We must, with a clear-eyed view of the one true Gospel, dismiss all of today's postmodern, inclusivist "born-again" rhetoric. We must understand what Jesus Himself declared - that the genuine way is still narrow, and few find it (Matthew 7).

No Reason For An Inferiority - Or Superiority - Complex

But remnant status is no reason for Christ's church to have either an inferiority or superiority complex.

Notice, once again, what Acts chapter one tells us the remnant was doing in the upper room. They were doing what Jesus had told them to do - stay in Jerusalem, and wait, and pray, until the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you receive power from Him to do the work I have called you to do.

A prepared remnant - humble, praying, supplicating, waiting upon the Lord for His resources and not trusting to their own devices - is a remnant that receives power from God.

True believers must be such a remnant today.

God does mighty work through prepared remnants. We see this throughout the pages of Scripture.

Mighty Things Through Prepared Remnants

In the book of Judges, we read that God pared Gideon's army from 32,000 men down to 300 before He used them to defeat the Midianites. He said, in effect, "Gideon, you've got too many men. I'm going to whittle you down to just a few, so that when you win the victory you will know that you didn't do it by your own power. You will know that I was the One who gave these people into your hands." And so it was.

We read in 1 Samuel 14:6 of Jonathan and his armor-bearer. Jonathan said to him, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few." God gave them a great victory over the Philistines that day.

In Romans chapter 11, the Apostle Paul speaks of the prophet Elijah. He writes this: "Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 'Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life'? But what does the divine response say to him? 'I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:2-5).

God deals in remnants. That is His way. And God does mighty things through remnants. 300 against Midian. Two against the Philistine army. 7,000 among the millions in Israel. 120 on Pentecost. A handful of Puritans coming to the shores of North America 400 years ago.

And in our time, faithful men and women in many parts of the world who have left apostate churches meet in tents, homes, schools, libraries, firehouses, storefronts, the buildings of liberal churches, and even less likely places. In countries like Zimbabwe in Africa, men and women who have left the bondage of false religions often meet under the shade of a tree in an otherwise forbidding landscape to worship the one true and living God and hear His Word preached.

Men and women around the world meet in unlikely places, sometimes coming incredible distances on foot just to be together. God's remnant is truly an unlikely assembly. But His people come together because they understand that it is not numbers, or a building, or other trappings that are of true importance - but the truth as it is found only in Christ and His Word. They understand that it is "not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).

God deals in remnants. Are we willing to be one?

Next: What Does It Mean to Be a Prepared Remnant?


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