Genesis 6:9-11 ESV These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. (10) And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (11) Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.
We have been taught all our lives (or at least all the time we were in the sphere of visible Christianity) that most everyone who claims to be a Christian, who declares that they have been born again, who is a church member…is a Christian. We are not to doubt this, and in fact we were told that it is a sin to doubt it.
And so, here you are coming to church on Sunday, walking into the place, and seeing all these people…75, 100, 200, 300, or maybe even a thousand or more. There is the singing and the instruments. The prayers. The communion table. The sermon which surely is declaring God’s truth. And there are the baptisms of people who have just been saved. You were taught that a real church is a growing church, and that if the numbers were not increasing, you weren’t faithfully doing God’s work. And oh, how busy it all was. Busy, busy, busy for the Lord. Programs. Committees. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night. What a great church!
Well, let me shatter this artificial and unbiblical world.
The Bible does not assume that even the majority of people who claim to be Christians…are. In fact, the Bible presents the real church as the remnant. The leftovers. The remains. Even as far back as Noah, there were only very few people in the whole world who truly knew the Lord. And you can follow that theme right on through the entire Bible. Yes, in the new creation there will be innumerable redeemed souls – but if you take a snapshot of the church in any point of time in this world, what you will see (if you are wise) is a remnant. A few. Sometimes a VERY few.
Jeremiah 5:1-2 ESV Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her. (2) Though they say, “As the LORD lives,” yet they swear falsely.
Micah 7:1-2 ESV Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned: there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires. (2) The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net.
Philippians 3:18 ESV For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Probably one of the clearest places in the New Testament that shows us that the real church is a remnant, a few in the midst of many who claim, is the letters to the churches in Revelation. For instance:
Revelation 2:24 ESV But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.
Revelation 3:4 ESV Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
And then here it is, summed up by the Apostle Paul, showing us that from Genesis to Revelation the true people of God have always been a remnant:
Romans 11:3-5 ESV “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” (4) But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (5) So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
So too at the present time. This isn’t just an Old Testament doctrine. It carries right on through the New Testament. The true church is a remnant, and if we cling to some idea that most everyone who claims to be a Christian is, or that it is to be assumed that a local church is surely filled with people who, with a few rare exceptions, really know Christ…then we are going to be in big, big trouble.
I have quoted the following words from G.K. Beale’s commentary on Revelation before, but I read them again this week and I want to repeat them here for all of us as a reminder AND as an encouragement. This doctrine of the remnant is a HUGE encouragement to the real believer. It opens our eyes. It explains to us why abusers are given refuge in churches and why their victims are cast out. Listen to what Beale says: [The New International Greek Testament Commentary, Eerdman’s publishing] –
…the church in any generation is typically not a healthy, witnessing church. Nevertheless, there is always a small part of the church which faithfully maintains its witness like Smyran and Philadelphia. This sober assessment of the church’s overall condition matches what is said in 2 Tim 1:15…-
2 Timothy 1:15-16 ESV You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (16) May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,
Ministers of the gospel must be aware of such realistic evaluations of the church, so that their calling is not destroyed when the triumphalist expectations of modern Christendom are not fulfilled.
And I will add to that – real believers must be aware…so that their calling is not destroyed and they fall into a pit of despair when they find themselves treated wickedly by “Christians.”
With rare, rare exception, you were never taught these things. I can tell you that they were NEVER taught or even mentioned in my years in seminary. Never. In fact, they were squelched and suppressed.
Beale concludes this section with this:
Therefore, the focus of the book [of Revelation] is exhortation to the church community to witness for Christ in the midst of a compromising, idolatrous church and world.
I want to tell you plainly – now listen carefully – you were not treated wickedly and oppressed by the real people of God – the remnant. The people who sided with your abuser and remain his allies today, the people who pushed and pushed you to “forgive and forget,” or to “keep on suffering for Jesus,” or who put you out of the church either formally or informally, overtly or covertly, are not the people of Christ. That is not His church.
And the fact that so many of you have looked and looked and searched and searched for the real body of Christ…with little or no success…underscores the truth of the doctrine of the remnant.
Hebrews 11:37-40 ESV They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— (38) of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (39) And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, (40) since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
All of this is the reason we started our online church outreach, and why we continue to invite the real people of Christ to be members of it with us. It is a tool whereby we can find each other! And it works. Every week I talk to many of you via email or texting. We work to include you in our church announcements and to include you on our prayer request list and to keep you informed about what is happening in our lives. It is why we livestream the Wednesday Bible study, the Sunday morning class, and the Sunday worship service (though we battle glitches of technology sometimes). It isn’t just some gimmick to be edgy. It is a practical application of the Bible truth that the people of God desire to fellowship with one another, encourage one another, and seek out one another.
And there you have it. The doctrine of the remnant. Be encouraged by it, and be wise.
This is such a comfort and encouragement, Jeff! Thank you!!
They won’t teach you this at the compromised seminaries because it’s about making numbers, the money and the illusion that the “church” is striving, therefore “blessed” by God. Hence they have to twist Scripture, preach acceptance, love, forgiveness, etc. on their terms to include everybody and keep the numbers.
“8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Mat 15.
Blind leading blind to keep Satan’s scheme going. Anyone recovering their spiritual sight (thanks to Christ’s eyesalve) and questioning the system will be vilified, portrayed as unloving and causing strifes.
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Rev 12.:17
That last verse in Revelation you posted sums up why I believe so many bad things have happened to me. Yet false Christians (like Jobs friends) have told me things like : “you must have unforgiveness in your heart for so many bad things to keep happening” or “you’re not speaking positive enough, words have power” and so on. Even though the word says “many are the afflictions of the righteous” and “through much tribulation we must enter the Kingdom of Heaven” and “yea all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”. To me it’s the normal Christian life and I’m immediately suspect of someone who claims to be a Christian, but has had a smooth, largely painless, easy life.
Notlongnow, Job’s friends are still around for sure, and jumping to the same conclusions that you must have done something bad for your life to be in turmoil. Arrogant ones passing judgments like the priest and the Levite because of their blindness of such Scriptures you quoted. It’s easier than trying to understand and help.
Yes, when you’re born again in Christ, and keep faithful to Him no matter what, you become the Devil’s target. Church folks aren’t taught the art of spiritual war and the issue at stake. 🙁
Many cling to a fake gospel of positivity, which invalidates sufferings and emotions.I recently read an insightful article about that.
Thank you for this post. So much abuse from “professing Christians” … everyone claims to be a Christian!
Many talk tough about the circumstances I am living in, however, not one of them will confront my abuser(s) or have the willingness to admit that they are also abusing me.
I’m sure you’ve heard this quite often. Thank you for caring; for reading and listening.
And the churches who have victimized me for my desire to serve. They guilt their congregations into “serving the Lord” through joining those committees, giving extra donations, “using your gifts”….
I end up burnt out, and having to “serve” with social “believers”
This is a great reminder why the true Christian often walks alone. Very alone, of human companionship of like mind and spirit. I found out of all that was written here by some very hard knocks and traumatizing instances from so called “other believers”, who I found out a bit too late had darkened hearts void of any compassion, love or understanding. Forget about loyalty or standing up for truth and justice. Some of the biggest cowards I have met wear the label of “Christian”. One must keep their eyes fixed on Jesus and share his reproach. Hebrews 13:13 – So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. The true remnant of believers will soon be with the Lord when that final trumpet blows!! Hallelujah!!!!
I agree. I have found outright unbelievers to be more loving, helpful and real than most professing Christians. Being a false Christian adds a whole new dimension as they are self righteous, judgmental in all the wrong ways and arrogantly pious. They are also filled with all sorts of nonsensical false doctrines and beliefs which results in cold and kooky behaviour.
So how do we tell the difference between a true unbeliever and a believer who is maybe just mistaken about something? I’m seeing people in the church start to wake up to the topic of abuse. I myself a few years ago would have said divorce is only for adultery or desertion. I regret that now, and I believe I was wrong. But I think there are others in the church who just need time and teaching like I did. So how do we differentiate between the two groups?
R – I have thought about this same issue. It is a good question. The real telling factor of whether someone is born again is not just how they treat abuse victims – although that is a very revealing test – but whether they truly love others and in particular whether they love Christ’s true sheep. If you look closely, the counterfeit fails repeatedly. They put on a saintly mask but in reality they have embraced the typical Pharisaism that is so common.
When the fake sees injustice, he does not hunger and thirst for righteousness. He does not show real mercy. He is not willing to pay the price required to bring about real peace. He is not poor in spirit. He is not the Good Samaritan willing to care for the oppressed.
A real Christian can certainly be, for a time, ignorant of the tactics of evildoers. But he will not remain in that ignorance. The Holy Spirit will teach him. And like you and me, he will repent of and be sorrowful about things he once told the oppressed.
Thank you for this encouraging reminder. This is such an important truth to remember. A W Pink had a lot of experience with this. He was rejected from so many churches, and came to the conclusion they almost were all apostate. One thing he said has always stuck in my mind, he said something along the lines of that unless you stay as close to the Lord and His truth as you can, a believer could about lose his mind from the constant and repetitive rejection of false believers. He himself had a breakdown at one point. I know I have come close to losing my mind when I think of all the countless professing Christians I have been attacked by in one way or another, or had to seperate from. He also said it is better to stay home and read Gods word than to attend one of the false churches.
Currently I have no one to fellowship with apart from the Lord (who is ultimately all I need, but I know He really wanted believers to help, love each other and worship/serve Him together) . I tried 2 churches this year which turned out to be horrendous experiences. I honestly don’t expect to ever find an actual church to attend in the country I live in anymore even though I’ve searched for 30
years since I was born again. I know the Lord Jesus is with me always.