“Lord, are there few who are saved?”
– Luke 13:23
The one who asked this question is unknown to us, yet what a perceptive inquiry. This man began to gain keen insight into Jesus’ teaching. The “ear to hear” came through a genuine heart to receive words of truth. There was a prompting of spirit, allowing him to go to the Messiah boldly and investigate further beyond finite understanding. Conditions were set for an answer, not just to be given, but to be fully heard.
The question alone was provocative, yet Jesus’ answer was even more thought-provoking. In His response, the Lord turned attention to the individual. Although multitudes followed the Savior, there were only a few He referred to as “little flock.” Throughout Biblical history, we see only remnants saved. During the flood in Noah’s day, only eight souls made it out alive. During the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was Lot, his wife, and his daughters left standing. Though salvation is for all, and many will seek it, not many will enter into the kingdom (Luke 13:24). Not because it is not offered, but because it is not received. It cannot be accepted unless you are willing to deny yourself (Luke 9:23)
Jesus’ response was not direct, and He never provided a percentage. The question should not be about how many, but rather who. It was this man’s heart that the King instructed when He said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). To strive is to agonize, yet not in a sense we so often think. Selfish ambition has no place with Christ. Physical exertion is agonizing, yet that is the striving most often applauded by the world. The agonizing struggle in view here is the denial of self. Humility before Christ is part of the cost of discipleship. This is what “many” are unwilling to pay even though that is the rate required (Luke 9:24).
All too often, discipleship is not clearly explained. Someone once wrote, “self-denial is the true message of the gospel.” Faith in Christ costs, and true repentance comes with confession of sin through humility towards Him. It is not about how many are saved; the question is, will you be counted in this group? Salvation is given freely, will you receive it? May He increase, and may we decrease!
“…sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification. Sound protestant and evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life.”
– J. C. Ryle