The many-few principle is consistently taught throughout the scriptures in regards to salvation.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” In Luke 13:23-24: And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. The same concept of the narrow and wide gates are addressed by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life and there are few who find it.”
The most chilling example is found in Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
In all of these instances, the Bible teaches that there few true believers who will be saved and many people, including those who think they are Christians, who will not be saved and will go to eternal destruction. Dr. John MacArthur is quoted as saying “In the history of the church and in my experience, no one has been harder to reach for Christ than a false Christian.” I absolutely agree. I think it is especially prevalent in the Western world, specifically the United States, where there is little consequence to claiming Christ. I personally encounter this with individuals I know in real life and on social media where it is easy to claim Christianity in a general sense, but if one takes a closer look, there is an absence of the fruit of the Spirit to accompany such claims.
You see, one can have a really good intellectual understanding of how salvation works (by grace alone through faith), and yet not posses said salvation. With ones such as these, the verse from Matthew 15:8, echoing Isaiah 29:13, comes readily to mind: “‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; they teach as doctrine the precepts of men.'” Legalism is what is going on in this verse. Jesus was speaking of the religious Jews who wanted to retain their man-made religion and deny Christ. We see this even today, although it looks a bit different. It is still legalism, as these people are depending on their own righteousness for salvation. But unlike the first century Jews, they don’t deny Christ. They claim Him, but it is not the Christ the Bible teaches. Instead, it is a Christ of their own making. They know all of the Christian lingo, they intellectually understand the mechanisms of salvation, but their actions reveal that their hearts are far from Him. They follow a false Christianity that is almost impossible to distinguish from the world, because it is of the world; it is the broad road that Jesus speaks of.
Dr. MacArthur, in his New Testament Commentary on the book of Matthew says this of the broad road:
The way that is broad is the easy, attractive, inclusive, indulgent, permissive, and self-oriented way of the world. There are few rules, few restrictions, and few requirements. All you need do is profess Jesus, or at least be religious, and you are readily accepted in that large and diverse group. Sin is tolerated, truth is moderated, and humility is ignored. God’s Word is praised but not studied,, and His standards are admired but not followed. This way requires no spiritual maturity, no moral character, no commitment, and no sacrifice. It is the easy way of floating downstream, in “the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). It is the tragic way “which seems right to a man,” but whose “end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). (p. 454-455)
Do you know anyone like that? They profess Christ, but there is no obedience. They claim the Savior, but they tolerate, or even celebrate, sin. They like and respect Jesus, but they want to take a cafeteria-style approach to His teachings, selecting only those they find palatable to apply to themselves. Instead of picking up their cross to follow Him, they step around the cross and continue down the broad path, at peace with the world because they are of the world. Unless they repent and come to true faith in Jesus, they will be among those on that Great Day who hear the dreadful words “I never knew you.”
This is why the Bible instructs us to examine ourselves, to see that we are in the faith. Did some of the above sound familiar? Was there perhaps a twinge of conviction? Then fall upon the One who is mighty to save. Repent, and let this be the day of your salvation! Do you recognize those characteristics in people you know? This is why the Bible exhorts us to proclaim the gospel and to snatch those from the fire (Jude 1:23). If someone you know professes Christ, but there is no fruit of the Spirit to back this claim up, then love him/her by gently confronting him/her with the truth. I know it is uncomfortable, not fun, and awkward. But it is a command, not a suggestion. Perhaps the Lord will be merciful and grant them repentance and faith. If so, they will thank you one day, when you enjoy eternity together.
Soli Deo Gloria!