Coming up next on Redoing Your Mind. In Luke chapter 13, someone asked Jesus if only a few will be saved. His answer ruffled some feathers then, and it does so today as well. Our pluralistic society doesn't like to hear that there's only one way to God, and they certainly don't like to hear that if they believe differently, they're wrong. But the Bible is clear. There is only one way, a narrow way.
Here's R.C. Sproul preaching from the Gospel of Luke chapter 13. Luke introduces this discourse by telling us that Jesus was continuing His journey to Jerusalem, but in somewhat of a leisurely pace, going through each village and town along the way and taking the opportunity of preaching the kingdom of God and of healing those who were afflicted in those areas. But on one occasion we are told that someone comes up to Jesus and asks this question, Lord, are there few who are saved? Have you ever asked that question? Did you ever wonder what proportion of fallen humanity in the final analysis would make it to heaven? Is it the majority of humankind that God saves, or is it but a remnant? What's the percentage of your friends and neighbors who will go to heaven, and what percentage will spend eternity in hell?
Have you ever asked that question seriously? I think that very few people really do think about that in any degree because we live in such a pluralistic culture that the assumption is that almost, if not all people who die, almost everyone who dies on this earth will go to heaven, that God is so kind, so tenderhearted, so merciful that surely His eternal plan is to save the vast majority of mankind. Well, I for one certainly hope that that's the case, but at the same time I have precious little reason to believe that. It seems to me that the Scripture is overwhelming in its teaching to the contrary, namely that the vast majority of people who have ever lived on the face of the earth are either now or will soon be in hell forever.
Can you even begin to bear such a thought? Just this week there was a leading teacher in the Southern Baptist Convention who rebuked talk show radio host for teaching in such a way as to make people who hear them hate Christianity. He made the comment that if all I know of Christianity is what I hear on Christian radio, I would hate Christianity too, forgetting of course that by nature the world hates Christianity.
They don't need any help from radio teachers to adopt that particular standpoint. Paul makes it clear in the very first chapter of his letter to the Romans that the entire world, every man, woman, and child on this planet is by nature exposed to the wrath of God because every man, woman, and child in this world is in a natural state of rebellion and hostility to Almighty God. Why in the world would a righteous judge and a holy God be concerned to save any of us? We know on one occasion in the Old Testament where God destroyed the world with a flood because everybody was doing what was right in their own sight, and however many human beings were populating the earth in that hour, only a handful were saved, but Noah and his family. Why should we think for a minute that God would save a majority of us? As I've told you before, for me the most vexing theological question I find difficulty answering is why He would save anybody and why He would save me when I've been involved in cosmic treason against Him since the day that I took my first breath.
But what I think on this question in the final analysis doesn't matter a bit. What Jesus teaches, however, matters profoundly. So, let's look this morning at how He answers this question, Lord, are there few who are saved? Hear His answer, He said to them, strive to enter the narrow gate, the word that is translated here, strive, is the Greek word from which we get the English word agony. That is, He's not saying have a casual interest of entering in through the narrow gate, but if necessary, pummel yourself until you're bleeding.
Exert yourself with the full measure of whatever strength you have to make sure that you get through the narrow gate. Whatever agony it takes, be willing to go through it because He says, for many will seek to enter and will not be able. Now, there's a parallel here to what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel in the seventh chapter. I'll remind you of it briefly, where on that occasion Jesus says, enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction. And there are many who go in by it because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
There in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts two things, the size of the gate and the number of those who enter. Two gates, a narrow one and a wide one, a broad one. He says, enter the narrow gate because broad is the way and wide is the gate that goes where? Where does the broad gate go?
Jesus said, it goes to destruction, and many are those who enter that way. But narrow is the gate and straight is the way that leads to life, and few, few are those who find it. Narrow, broad, few, many. Now, you live in a culture that tells you every single day that the most important virtue you have is to be broad-minded. And the most politically incorrect thing is to be narrow-minded, to have narrow views.
What? There's only one way to God? Jesus is the only way to…how narrow is that? No, we're to embrace pluralism and relativism.
No one has an exclusive claim to truth. That's way too narrow-minded. I hear language in the church all the time where I hear people describe themselves as being broad evangelicals.
Do you hear that? I'm a broad evangelical. A broad evangelical is an oxymoron. If you're evangelical, if you really believe the gospel, then you've chosen the narrow path. And you've said, this way and none other. One Christ, no more.
Jesus is the monogenes, the only begotten of the Father. All the rest, thieves and robbers. But there are thieves and robbers at every gate that is wide, beckoning and inviting and seducing and controlling and asking you, come through my gate. It's plenty wide for all of us. It doesn't matter what you do.
It doesn't matter what you believe. This gate's big enough for everybody, so you all come. Well, bad enough that Jesus teaches us that the gate is narrow and that there are few who find it, but it gets worse. You might want to leave.
I mean, you've heard some bad news so far. It's going to get worse because now He talks about what happens when the door is shut. At least that narrow gate allows access into the kingdom of God. There is a door to heaven, but there comes a time when even the narrow gate and that door is shut. Beloved, once that door is shut, there's nothing I can do, and there's nothing you can do to get it open. Jesus said, 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. He will answer and say to you, I don't know you.
Where are you from? Doesn't this remind you of the final words of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew? Many will come to me on that day saying, Lord, Lord, didn't we do this in Your name?
Didn't we do that in Your name? And I will say to you, please leave. I don't know you, you workers of lawlessness. He knew that much about them. When He said He didn't know them, it doesn't mean that He was unaware of them. It means He didn't know them savingly. So He repeats it here. People will say, Lord, Lord, feigning an intimate knowledge of Christ. He will answer and say, I don't know you.
Where are you from? And then you'll begin to say, but Lord, we ate and drank in your presence. You taught in our streets. Don't you remember? I was there when you came to our village. You healed a paralyzed man. I was there. I stood there and watched you. But He will say, I tell you, I don't know you.
Where are you from? Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity. And then when you see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out, what will there be? Listen to how He describes it, weeping and gnashing of teeth. You die, and you wake up in hell.
What's your response? There are totally two responses of people who are in hell, and I believe there are degrees of hell just as there are degrees of heaven. But I wouldn't want to be in the least tormenting portion of hell for five seconds. The people in hell are engaged either in one of two things. They're either sobbing uncontrollably forever, or they're gnashing their teeth.
And what does that mean? When people become enraged at other people, they don't just grit their teeth, they gnash their teeth against them. That's a metaphor that describes unmitigated fury. You wake up in hell, and you shake your fist at heaven. You see Abraham, you see Isaac, you see the prophets. You see your next-door neighbor entering into eternal felicity, but you're left out. You're too mad to cry. That's not fair, God. Why would you put me here?
I was a good person. They will come from the east, the west, from the north and the south, and they'll sit down in the kingdom of God. And those who are first now, some who are first now, will be last there, and some who are last now will be first there. I remember in seminary, my professor, talking with us about the doctrine of hell that tormented us all, said that Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven. And He mused and speculated at this point. He said, I wonder why it is that almost everything that we know about hell in the New Testament comes from Jesus.
And His best guess was this. He said, we probably couldn't bear it from anybody else's lips but His. But the reality is most of us can't bear it from His lips and don't believe Him when He teaches us about it. But what if Jesus was right?
Then it's time for agony. It's time to do everything you can do to get yourself in the presence of the means of grace and to latch a hold of the saving Christ. Luke interrupts this particular narrative by saying on that very day, the same day that Jesus gave this horrific address, some of the Pharisees came to Him and said, you're very narrow-minded, you know. Why can't God have many ways of salvation?
No, that's not what they said. Every time we see the Pharisees coming to Jesus, they're trying to trap Him or trick Him or arrest Him or find a way to get Him executed. Now they come to warn Him.
They come and say, you need to get out of here. He's still in Galilee, you know, where Herod Antipas is the tetrarch, the one who murdered John the Baptist, and the Pharisees said, Jesus, we're only trying to give you a little tip for your own safety. You better leave and go to Judea, because Herod wants to kill you. Do you trust these Pharisees coming to Jesus with, when they want Him out of Galilee, they want Him in Judea where they have jurisdiction? They can't wait to get their hands on Him in Jerusalem. So they're saying, you better leave here and go down to Jerusalem, because Herod's going to get you.
Well, I think there was some truth in what they said. I'm not sure Herod wanted to kill Him. He had enough to deal with having killed John the Baptist. I'm thinking he maybe put these Pharisees up to it, say, you better warn this Jesus to get out of my territory, because He's making me nervous.
Maybe, I don't know. But listen to Jesus' response to this. I love it. He said to them, go and tell that fox.
Politically incorrect speech. Go and tell that fox, Herod. Tell him, behold, I cast out demons and performed cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless, I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem. Don't worry, Herod.
I'm going. I may have a couple more days here in Galilee, but I'm on my way to Jerusalem, because that's where the prophets must go to die. And now, having mentioned Jerusalem, he utters this famous lament over the city. The second time in this passage that we've seen the repetition of a name.
We've been over this before, and I've told you when you take a name and you repeat it, you're saying that you have a personal affection for it. And these people who come to Jesus when the door is shut say, Lord, Lord, pretending affection. But here is true affection, where Jesus looks at the city and says Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets, the one who stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not. You were not willing.
Let me pause there for a second. Jesus is weeping over the city. How often I would have hugged you to myself, brought you safely under my wings, but you wouldn't. You weren't willing. You say, see, Jesus isn't a Calvinist. Jesus believed that the reason why these people wouldn't come to Him is because they weren't willing to. They exercised their free will to say no to Jesus' invitation.
We looked at this on a Wednesday night when we were studying Ephesians recently, and I mentioned this passage. I asked the question, why wouldn't they come? Well, the answer is they wouldn't come because they couldn't come. Jesus had said in John's gospel, no man can come to Me unless it's given to him.
God has to enable you to come to Christ because you can't come to Christ without divine intervention. So they would not because they could not. But why is it that they could not? Well, they could not because they would not. Now, isn't that a vicious circle?
I only travel in the best circles. They would not because they could not, and they could not because they would not. What do I mean? Well, what is free will? Free will is the ability to choose what you want without coercion. And I've said it to you many times, not only you are free to choose what you want, not only may you choose what you want, you must choose what you want because the very essence of free choice is choosing what you want most at a given moment. And the problem with the people of Jerusalem is not that they didn't have a free will, it's that because they didn't want Jesus. And if you don't want Him, not only you won't choose Him, but you can't choose Him because if you're free, you can't choose what you don't want. So they could not because they would not.
And they would not because they could not because they didn't have the power to act against their own free will. I have a friend who's a theologian, not a good one, good friend, bad theologian, who says in the final analysis, God saves as many people as He possibly can. And I say to him, if that's the case, then you must be a universalist because God has the authority and the power to save every last sinner on this planet. But He's not a universalist because He says God cannot save somebody that doesn't want to be saved. God's a gentleman. He can't impose His will on an unwilling sinner and intervene and change the disposition of that sinner's heart. What cosmic law is it that forbids the Creator from recreating the creature for the creature's eternal salvation? What kind of a doctrine of God is that?
No, beloved. God can save all, and He can certainly save most people. But in His perfect righteousness and wisdom, He has decided from all eternity to save but a few, which is His sovereign right, and it is for His glory. My only question for you this morning is this, are you numbered among that few?
That's R.C. Sproul preaching from the Gospel of Luke. We're glad you've joined us for the Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind. During his time as co-pastor of St. Andrew's Chapel, Dr. Sproul preached through entire books of the Bible, and those sermons were the basis of expositional commentaries that we have published here at Ligonier Ministries. We're offering his commentary on Luke in a digital format.
It's nearly 600 pages, and in it he provides careful explanation of each passage. If you teach Sunday school at your church or lead a Bible study in your home, this is a helpful resource to have. And if you'd like to receive the digital version, just contact us today with a gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Here at the end of the program, let me remind you that our goal here at Ligonier Ministries is to come alongside the local church, in fact, to undergird the local church with the resources that we provide. We would never desire that this program replace the fellowship that you enjoy with your church family. Our hope and prayer is that you benefit from Dr. Sproul's teaching, but we also hope and pray that you're benefiting from God's means of grace in the proclamation of the Word and in the sacraments at your local church. Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. On behalf of all of my colleagues here, may the Lord bless you in the coming week.
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