Rev. Anthony Martlew, L. Th., U.K.
'FEW THERE BE'
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
AS strange as it may appear, in some ways this text is a comfort to those who love the Lord. This statement needs some clarification. How can the fact that only a relative few in each generation accept the Lord as Saviour be a comfort? Should it not fill us with despair? In order to unlock this mystery we must understand that these chapters in Matthew form that great discourse of Jesus which we call the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus was, in fact, giving a resume or general overview of the way that people would live out their lives until His return. The statement that only a few would accept Him in each generation was a prophetic statement based upon His knowledge of the future. We may therefore draw comfort from the fact that people's behaviour, inasmuch as only a very few would know Him, is confirmation that His words were so accurate.
It is a strange thing, but it is a proven fact that when people go through times of adversity, they are generally closer to the Lord than when there is an abundance of material wealth. We may cast our minds back a few centuries when the nation was divided into the 'have' and 'have nots.' In spite of abject poverty, there was a spiritual awareness among the people. It was within this background that the Reformation was born. It is of interest to note that its beginnings were not spawned by the rnasses, but by a few chosen men of God who knew the Scriptures, and could see the gross errors of Roman dogma.
Incidentally, the people were only interested in the movement inasmuch as they were made aware that Rome was milking the nation of her material wealth. It took a considerable time before the humblest citizen began to understand that Rome was in serious doctrinal error. Once this was understood, the movement grew, and thousands of men, women, and children were valiant for the truth, and were prepared to lay down their lives for the Lord they loved.
How many today would be prepared to give their lives for the truth of the written word? At this time, there is little evidence that people are in the least concerned that their spiritual freedom, which was secured at such a terrible cost, is about to be snatched from them. The time is at hand when we will once again be plunged into the dark ages. The population is in a state of spiritual sleep.
We would do well to heed the words of Paul in Romans 13:11-12.
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
These words are a great challenge to the Northern House of Israel in the 21st century. Some two thousand years ago, that warning went out, the night is far spent, the day is at hand. Paul was greatly troubled that the Christian converts were in a stateof spiritual sleep. Nothing changes, how so? For example, when the Prayer Book was snatched away from the congregations some years ago, hardly a word of protest was heard. In fact, the general attitude was 'I suppose we must get used to it.' The present production called 'Common Worship' is couched in schoolboy English, and contains subtle undertones leading the sleeping congregations back into Romish dogma. The 39 articles of religion no longer appear, so that the people no longer have access to reformed Protestant doctrine. If the laity had been awake, it could never have happened!
If Paul was concerned in his day, how much more should we be! It wasn't just sleeping Christians which concerned him, but also those who had a hidden agenda to destroy the embryo church:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
This is Jesus' great warning to a sleeping church both for his day and for this time of the end. This text confirms that the church always has its quota of trouble- makers, those who appear to be doing good works, but are in fact causing destruction. Eventually their evil works can be detected; by their fruits ye shall know them. At the end of the day they will hear those terrible words, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity: This condemnation stands not only for lay members of the churches, but also to the pastors who mislead their flock. Because the laity is asleep they are unable to discern that they are being fed by false prophets in sheep's clothing.
We hear almost every day of ministers who no longer believe the Scriptures. Paul had a sharp rebuke to those erring pastors who lacked biblical knowledge.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Today, Christians have lowered their shields and taken off their garments of protection, and laid themselves open to every false doctrine that comes their way. But even worse, they are no longer able to use their weapon of attack.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Nationally today, we have abrogated Holy Scripture, and laid ourselves wide open to satanic attack. Unless we humble ourselves before Almighty God, and confess our sins and repent, our time of chastisement will continue. The onus of responsibility of awakening the sleeping nation rests upon Christians who accept and believe God's written Word. Such a task has never been easy. The prophets of Israel in the past were given a mighty task. They were scorned and derided, tortured and killed because of the message they gave, Today, the nation will not listen any more than in those days of old. Nevertheless, this is our task; this is what the Lord has given us to do. We fight ignorance, arrogance and apathy, an unholy trinity if ever there was!
We must not forget the text which opened this study that the world's way is the wide way, and God's way is the narrow way. (Matthew 7:13-14). If all the world religions and human thought was acceptable to God, He would not have said few there be that find it. Throughout history there has always been a faithful remnant, and that remnant is precious in God's sight. Just how precious is revealed in Malachi 3:16-17.
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
How wonderful and tender are these words. They close the Old Testament era, and transport us into the ages to come. When those who fear the Lord meet together and discuss His Holy Name and His Word, their words are recorded in a book. Not only are their words being recorded, but in that day of the Lord's
return, they will become the Lord's jewels. Can we even begin to envisage such a future as this?
Remember again those telling words few there be. This should help us to understand that we are hardly likely to bring thousands of lost souls to the Lord. But this must not discourage us from our Christian ministry. Even if at the end of the day we have brought just one to the Lord, we have saved them from certain death.
Today, we face a paradox. We are surrounded by those who have deep spiritual needs, but at the same time they are impervious to the things of the spirit. They will look in all directions, other than the only one which could fulfil those needs, football, pop music, drugs, sex, riches, whatever it may be. This surely to those of us who understand these things, is the ultimate proof of I Peter 5:8.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
We live in a time of tremendous spiritual warfare. Satan knows full well that he has only a short while to achieve his purpose. It is now all out war, not only upon individual souls, but .also upon the Northern House of Israel. As far as he is concerned, everything is at stake, for he knows full well that this is his final opportunity to frustrate God's plan and purpose.
That plan is to set up and establish His Kingdom here on earth, that Kingdom which we pray for every time we say the Lord's Prayer, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
That day will surely come, and nothing can prevent it. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.
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