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Why Are So Few People Saved?

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 13:22–30

The matter of eternal salvation is not an issue God has presented for us to debate. His Word presents it as truth to be personally, humbly accepted through genuine, sincere faith in Christ. Salvation is available to all, but it is urgent that all receive it now.


The average person on the street today believes salvation can be custom made—just be sincerely religious, and it will all work out. I have often heard the rather famous quote of Gandhi, who once said that all religions are fundamentally the same. But that is not what the Bible says at all. Jesus clearly said, “No one comes to the Father [that is, reaches heaven] except through me” (John 14:6).

And consider this: If Jesus is just one of many ways to God, why was He not intelligent enough to stay in heaven? Why did He need to come and die for our sins and go through all that agony of rejection and crucifixion? Let me tell you, the popular view that you can make up your own way to heaven will always be appealing because you get to play God and create your own path in life.

In this Wisdom Journey, we are back in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 13, where Jesus is asked a really interesting question about salvation. And I want to pull from this text what I will call five truths about eternal life.

Here’s the first truth: Salvation demands a heart of humility. And that, my friend, is a big problem with people today.

Verse 22 says:

He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” 

Now you notice this question assumes there are not going to be that many saved. I believe this person is really asking the question, “Lord, is there room for me?” That is the most important question anyone will ever ask: Am I on my way to live with God in heaven?

Instead of dealing with the number of people saved, however, the Lord answers in verse 24, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” The word “strive” does not mean you have to work your way in; the Greek word here refers to being focused on where you are going. It is actually an athletic term; today we would use it to say, “Keep your eye on the ball.”[1] Jesus says here, “Keep your eye on the narrow door.”

The narrowness of the door not speak so much about its size as it does its singularity. Beloved, the gospel is narrow. That is because all truth is narrow. It is like my first-grade math test. There is only one answer to 2 + 2. It isn’t 5 or 3. Math is narrow. So is that runway your pilot needs to land on. So is that prescription from the doctor’s office—it is that one and not any other, or you are in trouble.

Jesus said in John 10:9, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” Are you humble enough to come His way—on His terms?

Here is the second truth about salvation: There is a time limit on the invitation.

Jesus goes on to say in verse 24, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Well, why not? Verse 25 tells us:  

“When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’”

Now Jesus is using a common illustration from His generation. In those days, the city gates would be closed for the night. People returning to the city after dark had to find lodging outside the city walls, regardless of their standing or social status. And the same was true of a household closing its doors at night.[2]

Jesus is saying there is a time limit on the offer of salvation. The time to respond is now—today. Hebrews 4:7 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Listen, my friend, what makes you think you can reject Jesus today but you’re going to want Him twenty years from now? No, your heart is just going to be twenty years more hardened than it is today.

Noah preached to people for more than a century! Every year their hearts just grew harder; in fact, no one believed a flood was coming. And when God shut the door of the ark and the rain began to fall, I am sure everybody wanted in—but it was too late.

If you’re alive, there is still time; but there is no guarantee you will be alive this same time tomorrow.

Here is the third truth about salvation: Being familiar with the things of God does not make you a member of the family of God.

Jesus says in verse 26, “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’” They’re arguing, “We knew you, and listened to you when you came to our village.”

But being exposed to the truth of Christ does not mean you have accepted the truth about Christ. As one writer has pointed out, if knowing all about Jesus guaranteed somebody a place in heaven, Judas would be on the front row.[3] Hearing the gospel is not the same thing as believing the gospel and giving your life to Christ.

Here’s the fourth truth about salvation: Ignoring God’s invitation will have eternal consequences. Jesus will one day say to those who have rejected Him the words He cites in verse 27: “‘I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’”

Those who reject Him, Jesus says in verse 28, will be “cast out” into hell, which is described here as a place where there “will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Weeping is a sign of sadness, and gnashing of teeth is an expression of hatred (Psalm 35:16).[4] Beloved, everyone in hell will be sad they are there; but at the same time, they will be filled with hatred toward God.

Here is the good news: If you are still alive, there is still time to avoid the judgment of God and eternal suffering in hell.

With that, here is the final truth about salvation—number 5: You can accept His invitation, no matter who you are or what you have done. Jesus delivers a global invitation here in verses 29-30:

“And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”                                                                                               

Those who enter through the door of salvation, Jesus says, are arriving from all four points of the compass—north, south, east, and west. The Bible tells us that the inhabitants of heaven are from every tongue, tribe, and nation—they are from all around the world.[5]

So, these are the clear truths about salvation! First, salvation demands a heart of humility. We come His way and on His terms.

Second, there’s a time limit on the offer of salvation. And time is running out!

Third, being familiar with the things of God does not mean you belong to the family of God. And, fourth, ignoring God’s invitation will have eternal consequences.

But, here is the good news: fifth, you can accept His invitation, and it does not matter who you are or what you have done.

Let me invite you right now to ask Jesus to forgive your sin and reserve a place for you in heaven one day. The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13). That includes you!

[1] Warren Wiersbe, Be Compassionate (Victor Books, 1988), 154.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), 359.

[3] R. Kent Hughes, Luke: Volume 2 (Crossway, 1998), 99.

[4] Clinton E. Arnold, ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, volume 1 (Zondervan, 2002), 438.

[5] Dale Ralph Davis, Luke 1–13: The Year of the Lord’s Favor (Christian Focus, 2021), 247.

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