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The Remnant

At present, there are two words that I hear a lot amongst likeminded believers: remnant church.  Quite simply, a remnant is something that forms part of a larger portion, usually thought of in the negative sense.  In other words, remnants may be looked upon as scraps.  For instance, remnant food from a meal may be destined for the rubbish bin.  Remnant material from making garments may also be considered worthless and therefore discarded.  But to God, those He considers “remnants” are assigned a high value indeed, since He sets them aside to undertake His high and holy calling.  Likewise, the remnant church may be hated by the world and disliked by Laodicean-era churches, but God has a distinct purpose for them.

 

Naturally, the concept of a remnant does not only apply to the modern church.  The Scriptures speak much of God’s work through faithful remnants, usually referring to a small group that is able to withstand the persecutions and temptations of the world and remain truly faithful to the one and only God.  The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words makes this helpful comment: “The doctrine of the remnant underlines the Old Testament teaching of faith.  It is not mere physical birth that brought a personal relationship with God.  Those who were born within the covenant still needed to respond personally to God and to demonstrate an Abraham-like trust by their response to God’s Word.” 

 

Very early in the book of Isaiah, as God outlines the wickedness and rebellion of Judah, we read this in chapter 1, verse 9: Unless the LORD of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah.  Even in the midst of His judgement, God showed mercy to His people.  Some would survive the judgement and restoration would follow through His work in the remnant.  This is also a concept Paul referred to in Romans 9:27-29 when he points to a small remnant that would survive the Tribulation Period and enter into the Millennial Kingdom: Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.  For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.”  And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.” 

 

We also see the principle of a remnant play out in the life of Elijah.  After escaping from Jezebel, he has an exchange with God wherein he claims to be a remnant of one.  1 Kings 19:10 says: So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword.  I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”  Yet, God gently corrects him in verse 18 of the same chapter: Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him. 

 

Paul also draws on Elijah’s experience when, in Romans 11:2-5, he says: God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.  Or 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.  Eventually (and perhaps in our current time) it is in that remnant that God will fulfill all of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant and those which were built upon it, affirmed in Joel 2:32 who is also referencing a remnant of Jews through which God’s prophetic program will proceed: And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.  For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls.

 

So, what we see is that there was a remnant in the Old Testament, there will be a remnant at the end of the age and there is a remnant today.  Such a view is not defeatist, it is biblical.  Furthermore, it provides a proper foundation upon which we are able to view this present moment in history, particularly in relation to the church.  After all, there is a great deal parading under the guise of biblical Christianity that is certainly not biblical or of Christ.  As it was, is, and will be, only a remnant seeks to live out their faith in a biblical, holy and meaningful way. 

 

So, what is the remnant like?  We are not left to speculate.  Hebrews 11 paints a clear picture.  The remnant is like Abel who offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain; like Enoch who was raptured because he pleased God; like Noah who was saved from the flood; like Abraham who followed the Lord even though he knew not where he was going; like Moses who by faith “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible”;

 

Yes, Hebrews 11 is a marvelous passage which bolsters the faith of the weary remnant and assures them that God is at work.  But the sobering reality is that being part of a remnant involves faith, courage and endurance.  Verses 35 to 38 of Hebrews chapter 11 says: Women received their dead raised to life again.  Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.  Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword.  They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. 

 

Mankind’s estimates of these heroes of the faith was such a low one that they persecuted them, arrested them, tortured them and in some cases, killed them.  But what did God say?  He said that the world was not worthy of these people!  Of note is that the world doesn’t think we are worthy to be here either, but for a very different reason – they despise our faith and the God we are faithful to.  The Apostle Paul faced a similar sentiment when speaking about his ministry to the Gentiles in the presence of his Jewish brethren.  In Acts 22:22 we read: And they listened to him until this word [Gentiles], and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!”  And what was Paul’s response to those who asked how we are to live out our faith in such a hostile environment?  1 Corinthians 4:12-13: And we labor, working with our own hands.  Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat.  We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.

 

A remnant may be cheap and worthless by the world’s standards, but by God’s standards, it is worth a great deal.  After all, those who have a saving faith in Jesus Christ were purchased with the Saviour’s precious blood.  So, we must not attach any shame to being a remnant.  The world may claim we are weak and small, but through the Apostle Paul, we are reminded that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27).    

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