Are Believers Always a Remnant?
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. - Romans 11:1-2, ESV
Do you ever feel like you're the only one? Do you ever look around you and think, "Am I the only one who gets it? Why does everyone else seem to be so lost?" Of course, sometimes we can just be thinking this out of arrogance and sometimes we're wrong and everyone else around us is right. When it comes to Jesus, though, Martin Luther was right when he said, "Christians are always a minority in the midst of non-Christians." Interestingly, he said this in the 1520's, when most people in Europe would have identified themselves as Christians. But they weren't!
In Paul's day, Jewish Christians felt like they were in an extreme minority. Among the church, Gentile Christians quickly came to outnumber Jewish Christians, even though the first 5,000 - 10,000 or more believers were all Jewish. Then, among their own nationality, the majority of Jewish people rejected Jesus as Messiah, even though He had come to the House of Israel as the fulfillment of their Scriptures and hopes. For Paul himself, the burden he felt for his fellow Jewish people was overwhelmingly painful.
I'm sure Paul identified with the prophet Elijah, when he stood on the slope of Mount Sinai, the holy mountain, and complained to the Lord, "I am the only one!!" But Elijah was wrong. God had 7,000 Israelites who had not bowed the knee to Baal. This is a significant number, as 7 is the number of divine completion. I wonder, too, if it was close to the number of Jewish believers in the early church.
Some critics had used the small number of Jewish Christians as evidence that either Jesus was not the Messiah or else that God had rejected the Jewish people. Nothing else seemed reasonable. If God was truly sovereign over salvation, then either Jesus was the Messiah and God had rejected Israel from being His people or else Jesus wasn't the Messiah, and the Jews were right in rejecting Him. But this kind of logic is not God's way of thinking or working.
God has always been faithful to keep His promises and to save His own, but His own have always been a remnant. The word remnant is powerful, because it speaks not only of a minority, but also of an easily overlooked and discarded minority, the left-overs, the set-asides. That's us, in the eyes of the world. Thankfully, the world's discarded remnant is God's beloved bride, God's treasured possession! The remnant rejected by the world is chosen and saved by God's grace.
Those whom God chooses by His grace, He also keeps by that same grace!