In chapter 11 of the Book of Romans, Paul makes reference to the “remnant” of Israel. Quoting Scripture, he draws attention to the prophet Elijah and how he appealed to God against Israel. Elijah says in I Kings 19: 10 “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” In answer, God says in I Kings 19: 18 “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
The remnant is a reference to the Jews who will be saved and ready when our Lord returns. “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.” (Romans)
Paul then makes the following statement in Romans 11: 5: ” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” The “present time” is A.D. 57, hundreds of years after Elijah. But Paul’s point is clear: The “remnant” — those who God “reserves” and who He recognises as His — are those who believe Him by faith. It is because they believe and obey His ways by faith that they are regarded as chosen by grace.
I am inclined to think that the same applies to the present day and not just to the Israelites, but to the followers of Christ as well. We may all believe in Jesus Christ — just as the Israelites believe in Yahweh God. But not all of us live our lives according to the ways of Christ — just as many Isrealites did not and do not follow the Law God had given to them. As Paul argues in Romans, it was only the Israelites who believe in God by faith and in the promise of the Saviour (Jesus Christ) who are saved by His grace. (For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14).
The remnant is saved because they are the Jews who continue in an unadulterated worship of God. The rest — distracted by other gods — will be lost. (I must stress here that Paul, however, adds that, in the end, all Israel will be saved (Romans 11: 26, 27) — only because of God’s mercy (Romans 11:31).)
My point is that just as the Jews can lose their privileged position, so can we, Christians, lose our secure standing in Christ. As Paul argues in Romans that salvation comes by faith through His grace, it is only when we continue to live our lives by faith is our position in Christ secure.
That is the challenge in modern society. We are confronted on all sides by attractions that could pull us away from faithful commitment to Christ. To remain faithful we need to learn to obey His ways out of love for Him and by faith. As we do this, we find we can go on and live to the fullest.
Those who fall away are usually those who do not know how to live by faith. Many are falling away because they do not see that faithful witness in their lives. In the absence of the latter, their lives would seem hollow and empty and the next best thing to do is to give up what did not work for them. This is especially true of Christians who come from a tradition of their faith.
Young churches, therefore, need to be prepared to face this eventuality as they mature and more than one generation of Christians are raised. If we are not alerted to this possibility and take steps now to address this issue, more will leave in the future. It is our Lord’s wish that none should perish.
We need to focus on building a personal testimony that is a vibrant life of faith. That, I believe, would encourage many to keep the faith.