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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, April 14, 2002

"Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:23-24).

The record of Christ's earthly ministry is given to us in the four gospels. We are not told everything that He said or did, because if everything were recorded, "I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25). The instances and words that are recorded in the four gospels were selected by the Holy Spirit when He led the authors of the gospels to write the inspired text. The various acts and words were selected from the ministry of Christ for a reason. For instance, Luke tells us that his gospel was written "That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed" (Luke 1:4). The purpose of the gospels is primarily to give us what we need to know about Jesus and what He taught. Therefore the main reason for giving the gospels is to teach us about Christ, not just to give us an historical account.

This is important. And it is on this point that the Hollywood versions of the life of Christ fail. They present the life of Christ as history, the story of what Jesus said and did long ago. But that is not the purpose of the gospel writers. What Luke wrote here was given us so we could be "instructed" or "taught," as we are told in Luke 1:4. The gospel accounts were given by God, through the authors, to teach us things we need to know about Christ.

And we must not think that the Christ we learn about in the gospels is different now that He has gone back to Heaven. He is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8). At His ascension, the angels called him the "same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven" (Acts 1:11). So, Jesus today is the same as He was in the gospel which Luke wrote. He reacts the same way to us as He did then. He says the same things to us now that He said then.

That makes this account in the life of Christ very important to all of us who are here tonight. Christ was travelling through the villages on His way to Jerusalem. People gather to hear what He has to say. Out of the crowd in one of these villages, a man asks Him a question. And what Christ did (when the question was asked) is very important to us today, because He answers the same way as He did then.

The man asks Him, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" And Jesus refuses to answer him. The man asks a question, but he receives no answer from Christ. Instead, Christ turns to the crowd and speaks to them on a different point. And I believe that this shows us something tremendously important, something that you need to know.

I. First, the text shows us the wrong way to find salvation.

This sermon is adapted from one that was preached by the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones of Westminster Chapel in London. A tape recording of Dr. Lloyd-Jones' sermon was given to me by Dr. John Waldrip, and I listened to it with my family in the car a few days ago. I find that Dr. Lloyd-Jones' sermon had several points in it which were brought out also in Matthew Henry's commentary. So, using those sources, I present you this sermon today.

First, we learn the wrong way to seek salvation. The man asked Him, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" It seems like an innocent question. But Christ rejected it. He refused to answer the man. Why? Why would Christ reject his question and instead turn to the crowd and speak to them on another point?

Perhaps it was because the man's question was critical or faultfinding, "Are there few that be saved?" He asked Christ the question, perhaps, to ensnare Him, to trick Him. If Christ said that many were saved, they could find fault with Him for being too loose and for making salvation too cheap. If He said that only a few would be saved, they could find fault with Him for being too strict and too narrow.

Perhaps it was just a question given out of curiosity, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" "I'm curious about that. Tell me what you think about it." The man had probably been talking about this with his friends. They wondered how many would be saved, and they decided that this man should ask Christ about it to find out what He thought on the subject.

I think there may well have been a little of both those reasons in his question - a little criticism and a little curiosity. Isn't that exactly the way people ask this sort of question today? You have heard people ask questions like this, haven't you? "What do you Christians think? Do you think most people are going to Hell? Do you think God is so cruel that He will actually send most people to Hell and only save a few of them?" Haven't you heard questions like that?

I was at my gym in the jacuzzi the other day and a woman who is a Jehovah's Witness was there soaking herself in the hot water, and "soaking" the rest of us in her religious opinions. One of the men in the pool told her that I was a Baptist pastor. The Jehovah's Witness woman turned to me and asked me the same sort of questions this man asked of Christ. There was criticism and curiosity in her questions. "Do you think God will send most people to Hell? Do you think only a few will be saved?" she asked. I did not answer her. I did exactly what Christ did on this occasion. I turned away from her and said to the man who told her I was a pastor, "Jesus said, 'Ye must be born again'" (John 3:7). Then I left the warm jacuzzi and jumped into the swimming pool to swim a few laps. And then I went and dried myself and left the gym. I did not answer her curious question - and neither did Christ answer this man, as we see in the text.

There is "a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Young people, if you are Christians, don't answer every silly, curious question people ask you about salvation. Many of them don't deserve any answer at all. Jesus said,

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (Matthew 7:6).

A person who comes and asks questions out of curiosity alone should not receive an answer. When I find that people are in this state, when they come to speak with me in my office after I preach, I usually don't answer them, or only answer them briefly. I usually give them something to read and send them on their way. I have found over the years that it does not help people who are unawakened to give long answers if they are just curious, if they are not serious inquirers after salvation.

This is the wrong way to find salvation - just asking questions out of curiosity. Christ did not answer Herod. He did not answer Pilate. He did not answer many of the questions of the Pharisees. If you simply want to know what Christians believe out of curiosity, we shouldn't waste much time on you. We should give you a tract or booklet by Dr. John R. Rice, or some other author, on an awakening subject such as the coming Judgment, or Hell, and let you go.

Salvation is not found by those who are curious. Oriental people who visit our church are like that. They often say, "I am just coming to learn more." They are like this man, who wanted to learn what Christ had to say. But people who do that almost never get saved. Why? Because they are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (II Timothy 3:7).

Many young people who were raised in this church are like that. They come to see me in my office after the service to see what I can teach them about the subject of salvation. They are curious to know what my answer will be. They want to learn something new about salvation. But this is the wrong approach. And you will not receive an answer.

Christ did not answer this man's question because it was only theoretical, a question about doctrine. It was a question, also, about other people. "Lord, are there few that be saved?" How different this is from the jailor's question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). If you want to hear doctrines and theories, go to the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, or the Pentecostals. They will fill your mind with theories and answers and fables. But if you are concerned about your own salvation, then come with questions about your own lost state, and then listen to the answers that a Bible-believing Baptist preacher gives you. Seek your own salvation, not just the answer to some theoretical question. That is the wrong way to look for salvation.

Then, there is the Devil. Yes, the Devil is in this account, given in our text. "Where is the Devil?" you say. Where he always is, behind the scenes. "Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved?" The Devil is not present openly in the text, but you can see him coaching the man from behind the curtain.

When I was a young person, before I was converted, I acted in quite a number of plays. We always had a "prompter," behind the curtain, to whisper the lines if someone on stage forgot what to say. That's the way the Devil works. He blinds "the minds of them which believe not" (II Corinthians 4:4). He "prompts" his actors to say lines like "What is truth?", as Pilate did, and then not wait for the answer (cf. John 18:38). The Devil plucks the very words of the sermons you hear from your hearts, so that the sermons do not help you, and you are only left with curious questions that have nothing to do with the salvation of your soul (cf. Luke 8:12). If you follow the "promptings" of the Devil, you will ask many questions, but you will never be converted. It is not recorded that this questioning man ever got saved, although the Saviour stood right in front of him. And you will never be saved if you go on asking questions but are not serious about being converted.

It is not, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" that you should be asking. You should be asking, "What about me? What about my sins? How can I get rid of my sins? How can I get saved?"

II. Second, the text shows us the right way to find salvation.

"Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:23-24).

Christ rejected the man's question. Instead, He turned to the crowd and spoke to them. There is much to learn from this incident for us today.

First, why not listen to the sermon? The sermons you hear at this church deal with your salvation. Why not pay attention to them and think about the sermons when you go home? Why not take the bulletin with the outline of the sermon in it, and go over it at home during the week? Look up the Scriptures that are listed in the outline in the bulletin and think about what the pastor said. The very first thing you should do is listen to the sermons on salvation. Luke 13:22 tells us that Christ had been "teaching" in this man's village. Why did he come with a theoretical, theologically curious question, rather than thinking seriously about the sermons he had already heard Christ preach? Don't be fool enough to copy him. Think! Think about what you hear preached.

Second, we come to the words of Christ, which He gave to the crowd after He refused to answer the man's question,

"Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24).

The right way to find salvation is to listen to the sermons very seriously, and then to strive to enter in to salvation in Christ. You must strive to enter the strait gate, the narrow gate, which is Christ.

The man who came to Christ asked, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" No! No! That's all wrong! Do not think about how many others will be saved - but think about whether you will be saved! Ask yourself, "Am I saved?" "Will I ever be saved if I go on the way I am?"

Many people think they are already saved who know nothing experientially about it. You may think you know what it means to be saved, but you may be wrong. Your idea of what salvation is may not be right. You may think that you are saved already, because you have already decided that you know what it means to be saved. You may not be honest with yourself, so you think you are saved when you are really lost. If you go on like you are, with false ideas about your own salvation, you will spend eternity in the flames. When you die Jesus will say to you, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41). You must give up the false hope that you are already saved, or that you even know how to be saved. You must come to Jesus as a lost sinner, because, "They that are whole [well] need not a physician; but they that are sick" (Luke 5:31). If you think you are well, you will not seek Jesus. You will think you are O.K. while the cancer of sin eats out your heart and destroys you. Did you read in the newspaper last week about rats eating human corpses in the Los Angeles Morgue? That's what your sins will do. Sin will eat out your heart and send you to Hell, "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).

You must not think about how many others will be saved, or even who else is saved. Some people are always thinking, "That person isn't really saved. He has everyone fooled. He's not a real Christian." What if you are right? How will it help you? If every single member of this church were really lost, how would that help you? You will have to answer to God. You will be judged for your sins. You will be condemned for eternity. If others are false Christians it will not help you one bit when you die and stand before God, and are not saved yourself. You must "strive to enter in" (Luke 13:24).

And then, you must make your own salvation the most important goal in your life. Getting saved must be more important to you than anything else in your life. Those who wish to enter the narrow gate of salvation must undergo a total change in themselves, which is what happens when a person is born again and converted.

And then, those who wish to be converted and saved must "strive to enter." Lazy people will find themselves in Hell. I think this is one of the reasons that the Bible soundly condemns laziness. A lazy person is called a "sluggard" in the Bible, and is condemned for his laziness. The Bible says,

"The sluggard [the lazy person] will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing"

(Proverbs 20:4).

The person who is too lazy to search for salvation will beg, "Lord, Lord, open to us" (Matthew 25:11). But he will have nothing. Christ will say, "I know you not" (Matthew 25:12). The harvest is the Last Judgment, and the reapers are the angels. The lazy person "shall beg in harvest, and have nothing" (Proverbs 20:4). Why? Because he was too lazy to plow when he could have. He was too lazy to "strive to enter in." Again, the Bible says,

"The soul of the sluggard [the lazy person] desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent [determined, eager person] shall be made fat [i.e. shall be satisfied]" (Proverbs 13:4).

The lazy person may want to be saved, but they go away "with nothing." I have often heard people, particularly young people raised in church, say, "I want to be saved." But they are too lazy to get saved. "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing." You can actually desire to be saved and yet remain lost. The text says so, "For many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24b). They have a curiosity about salvation. They want the benefits of salvation. They "seek" to enter in to salvation. The word "seek" here is "zeteo" in Greek. It means "desire," "seek," "enquire for." Isn't that what the man was doing who asked Jesus that question? He desired to know information about salvation. He was seeking knowledge about salvation. He was enquiring, or asking questions, about salvation. Actually, he was quite interested in the subject of salvation. But this is not enough. You see, the man was far too lazy to go beyond mere interest and desire.

"I want to go to Heaven," someone says, "but I won't quit my job on Sunday." Well, then, I'm sorry to tell you that you "seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24). Salvation may be interesting to you - but it just isn't important enough for you to change jobs, or change anything else in your life. So, you "will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24). You are just too lazy to enter in to real salvation.

"The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent [determined, eager, Strong's] shall be made fat" (Proverbs 13:4).

If you think I am wrong, look at the character of the people in our church who have gotten saved. Then look at the character of the people who remain lost.

Take our deacon, Dr. Kreighton Chan, for example. He was a twenty-year-old student at UCLA. He was in his third year of undergraduate work in medicine. Someone brought him to the evangelistic meeting on Sunday night in Westwood. He heard me preach the gospel. He was taken, with several others who came forward, to the inquiry room. Those who came forward were all counselled together, as a group. Dr. Chan was told to trust Christ. He did, eagerly. The others who came forward that night desired to be saved, but were too laid back, too lazy, so they did not get saved. On the other hand, Dr. Chan was so eager to have his sins forgiven that he immediately strove to enter in - and he did enter into Christ - and he was saved - the very first time in his life that he heard the gospel preached. He heard the gospel one time and eagerly strove to enter Christ. He was saved, therefore, the very first time he heard the gospel.

And Dr. Chan's character remains the character of an eager, determined man. He doesn't just do what he has to do to "get by" in the church. He throws himself into the work. He brings back forty or fifty names and phone numbers from evangelism each Sunday afternoon. He is as eager to please God now as he was to find Christ back in 1979, when he was twenty years old.

The person who finds salvation "strives to enter in" (Luke 13:24). The word "strive" is "agonizomai" in the original Greek. It means "to strain." You must strain to enter in to salvation through Christ. If you are laid back, you will never find salvation.

Matthew Henry said,

It is a hard matter to get to heaven, and a point that will not be gained without a great deal of care and pains, of difficulty and diligence…We must strive with our own hearts, agonizesthe - "Be in an agony; strive as those that run for a prize; excite and exert ourselves to the utmost" (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1991, volume 5, p. 586).

That is not to say that this "striving" needs to last a long time. On the contrary, some of the best Christians strove very quickly and entered rapidly into salvation. The Apostle Paul was converted very shortly after his awakening on the road to Damascus. Dr. Chan was converted the very first time he heard the gospel preached. My own wife was saved after hearing me preach only one sermon - on John 3:16. A length of time and a learning process over many weeks and months, is not necessary.

But a strong determination and a strong desire to enter into Christ is necessary. You must doubt yourself. You must give up the world in despair as quickly as the Apostle rose, left his money table, and followed Christ. You must be convinced of your sins, and you must be convinced that you are a sinful, nay, an evil person. And then you must throw yourself - as hard as you can - on the Saviour, Jesus Christ. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He arose physically from the dead and is alive up in Heaven. Come to Him. Throw yourself on Him. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." Do it now! Come to Jesus! Believe on Jesus! Enter in! Enter in! Enter in to Jesus - now!


Scripture Read by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan Before the Sermon: Luke 13:22-24.
Solo Sung by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith Before the Sermon:

"Is My Name Written There?" (by Mary A. Kidder, 1820-1905).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:23-24).

(John 21:25; Luke 1:4; Hebrews 13:8; Acts 1:11)

I.   The wrong way to find salvation, John 3:7;
Ecclesiastes 3:7; Matthew 7:6; II Timothy 3:7;
Acts 16:30; II Corinthians 4:4; John 18:38; Luke 8:12.

II.  The right way to find salvation, Luke 13:23-24, 22;
Matthew 25:41; Luke 5:31; Mark 9:44, 46, 48;
Proverbs 20:4; Matthew 25:11-12; Proverbs 13:4;
Luke 13:24.