Random Blog Clay Feet: November 22, 2007
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Only the Remnant

What, if any, is the problem with believing that God is arbitrary?

Some of us object to the idea that God “uses” some people to be the “bad guy” and seemingly forces them to fill the role of being the counterpart to make Him look good. But do we have the same problem when it comes to the next part where it appears that He arbitrarily accepts people to be His children who were not considered the “favored ones” by His “chosen people” on earth?


The Bible explicitly states repeatedly that only a remnant will be saved. This idea of a remnant is very appealing to many small groups of people who wish to style themselves as the remnant and arrange any number of proof texts to support that claim, some more convincingly than others. How can we know if our claims of being the true remnant are any more valid than the next group? How can we be so certain that we are not victims of our own intense desire to the favored ones of God while deceiving ourselves into believing that very thing in the process?

Self-deception is so insidious because it is so imperceptible. When a I am self-deceived I will have an extremely hard time coming to realize it because all my lines of reasoning and thinking is geared toward defending my position. So if most of the information coming into my mind is employed in defending my claim that my select group is the remnant and all conflicting data is filtered out or rationalized away, it becomes nearly impossible for me to ever admit that maybe I am not all that I claim to be.

I believe that this is where the real problem becomes exposed, where I am not learning to live from my heart but am only living an intellectual religion, thriving on ever-increasing knowledge about God and the Bible but failing to engage my heart and emotions and passionately seeking for a deeper intimacy in a dynamic love affair with Jesus.

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28, 29 NAS95)

Not as if we were able by ourselves to do anything for which we might take the credit; but our power comes from God; Who has made us able to be servants of a new agreement; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter gives death, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 BBE)

It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63 NRSV)

The concept of remnant is in contrast to the idea of strength by numbers. As humans we naturally gravitate toward the idea that when an increasing number of us agree about something or some system of belief then we must be right. Even when we claim to not go agree with that mentality it still infects our thinking anyway. We feel more and more confident as our church swells in numbers while at the same time criticizing other churches that grow faster than ours. We want to believe that we are right, that God is on our side and that our beliefs are correct in contrast to everyone else who disagrees with us.

God reveals that only a small number of people will make up the group that will be “the chosen”, receive salvation and live in harmony with His requirements. But it seems that the majority of religious people believe that they are included in that number and this thinking often causes them to look upon those outside their select group with some degree of contempt. How can we feel so smug that our spin on Scripture is the right one and that our claim to being the chosen remnant is the one that is described in the Bible? What is the real basis for our assurance that we need not question our identity as the remnant? Are we willing to challenge our assumptions and examine our motives and take another closer look at what the Bible is really saying about this “remnant”?

I believe that one thing we need to do is to be careful to look at the context in which references to the remnant are placed in the Bible. It is far too easy to lift select verses and fit them together to produce convincing “proofs” that we fit the description and that everyone should agree with us. I am not saying that every claim of being the true remnant is false, but truth is not afraid of intense examination and healthy, critical evaluation. Truth is consistent and only becomes more appealing and settled when looked at from many angles under close scrutiny. I would like to see why Paul used this reference to “the remnant” in the context of my study of this chapter and the context of the whole book of Romans. It may reveal some important insights that I need to understand in relation to my desire to be a part of the true “remnant that will be saved.”

First of all I notice that he talks about the remnant in direct contrast to numbers like the sand of the sea. This is in reference to the thinking of Israelites and whatever that reasoning involved in this respect.

I also notice that the context touches strongly on the religious prejudice of Israelites and their exclusive mentality as being the only chosen ones of God. In relation to that the repeated emphasis throughout this whole book is the need to understand and live the life of faith in relation to God in contrast with a religious life of focus on the Law and performance and rules.

The following verse brings up a very interesting reference to Sodom and Gomorrah that I am learning may be a source of misunderstanding by most people. I have been learning quite recently that the assumptions we have about Sodom and Gomorrah may completely miss the truth about the true sin of those people and therefore miss the application that needs to be learned for ourselves. Quite possibly our false assumptions about the real problems exhibited in those cities has become a blind spot so that we miss the real message God desires us to understand when we are warned about not repeating their sins.

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