Romans 9:27–29 (ESV)
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
There’s no getting around it; this passage says something troubling. God’s design of salvation is for only a small remnant to be saved. Here are the quotes from Isaiah that Paul references:
If the LORD of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we should have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah. — Isaiah 1:9 (ESV)
For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth. — Isaiah 10:22–23 (ESV)
This seems to contradict the great commission. Are we to go to great lengths to take the gospel to everyone, only to see only a small remnant actually come to Christ?
Yes, there’s no denying it. That’s frustrating and seems inefficient, but that just means efficiency isn’t the point. But how does this glorify God?
Well, lots of things are glorious because they have a low success rate. In bowling, a 300 game is rare. In golf, a hole in one is rare. Frankly, God saving anyone is glorious, and the way He did it is even more glorious. If He chooses to save everyone, or just a few, it’s His call.
I’m just happy to be part of that plan and grateful that He published an instruction book, since how it all fits together is above my pay grade.
The big takeaway here is to not be discouraged when we fail to get someone to accept the gospel. That’s normal and we may need to just move on. The biblical concept of shaking the dust off our feet probably doesn’t apply anymore, but we shouldn’t obsess over a failure in this area.
But if this involves someone you love, it’s different. There are plenty of examples where longsuffering patience has been rewarded, but the key word there is patience. Being in a rush can be counterproductive. Remember, God controls the timetable. He also controls who’s on the team.
Your desire is for them to be saved, not to be the one who leads them to Christ.
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