Encouragement From J.C. Ryle – Christ’s True Church is a Little Flock

The following words were written long ago by the English pastor J.C. Ryle. His books are well worth buying (Holiness; Practical Religion; Commentaries on the Gospels and more). You can access many of his writings online for free.

So, does Christ’s church consist of BIG things? BIG numbers? BIG buildings? BIG names? It would seem that many in our day would answer “most definitely! If you are small then you are doing something wrong.” Is that what God’s Word says? Of course not. Hear it from the Lord Jesus Himself-

Luk 12:32  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Let us mark, firstly, what a gracious word of consolation this passage contains for all true believers. The Lord Jesus well knew the hearts of His disciples. He knew how ready they were to be filled with fears of every description: fears because of the fewness of their number, fears because of the multitude of their enemies, fears because of the many difficulties in their way, fears because of their sense of weakness and unworthiness. He answers these many fears with a single golden sentence: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”

Believers are a little flock. They always have been, ever since the world began. Professing Christians have sometimes been very many. Baptized people at the present day are a great company. But true Christians are very few. It is foolish to be surprised at this. It is vain to expect it will be otherwise until the Lord comes again. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:14).

All true believers have a glorious kingdom awaiting them! Here upon earth they are often mocked, and ridiculed, and persecuted, and, like their Master, despised and rejected by men. But the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory (Romans 8:18; Colossians 3:4). Believers are tenderly loved by God the Father. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom. He does not receive them grudgingly, unwillingly, or coldly. He rejoices over them as members of His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. He regards them as His dear children in Christ. He sees no spot in them. Even now, when He looks down on them from heaven in the midst of their infirmities, He is well pleased. And hereafter, when presented before His glory, He will welcome them with exceeding joy (Jude v. 24).

Are we members of Christ’s little flock? Then surely we ought not to be afraid. Precious and magnificent promises are given to us (2 Peter 1:4). God is ours, and Christ is ours. Greater are those that are for us than all that are against us. The world, the flesh, and the devil are mighty enemies. But with Christ on our side, we have no cause to fear.

2 thoughts on “Encouragement From J.C. Ryle – Christ’s True Church is a Little Flock

  1. Dear Pastor Crippen,
    I have been reading your posts for some time now and have benefitted immensely from your sound and convicting biblical teachings. You are spot on every time about the cultural capitulation of the church. And you are correct here—then true church is indeed small. J.C. Ryle’s teachings, especially in “Old Paths”, have been tremendously illuminating for me, especially the chapter entitled “Few Saved”.

    I was brought from darkness into God’s marvelous light at age 47. Within one year of being saved by God’s grace, I came across two passages of Scripture which caused me more than a moment’s pause: 2 Corinthians 13:5 where Paul exhorts us to examine ourselves to see that we are in the faith, and Jesus’ writings in Matthew 7 about the broad way which leads to destruction and the narrow path to eternal life which few find. What Jesus says here is truth because He is the way, the truth, and the life. I wanted to be certain that I “passed the test” and Ryle as well as other giants of the faith have clarified for me what a true committed follower of Christ looks like. It does not look like what I have seen and continue to see in mega church’s whose “worship” services resemble entertainment and man centered activities as opposed to God centered real worship which concerns itself with God’s glory. And the message from such pulpits rarely resembles of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if it does, it is a distorted gospel which cannot save (cf. Galatians 1:6-9).

    In “Old Paths” Ryle is succinct: “I am convinced that the worlds needs no new gospel. The world needs nothing but bold, full, unflinching teaching of the ‘led paths’”. Ryle was compelled to address the issue of few saved for, in his own words, “If God had never spoken plainly in the Bible about the number of the saved, I might well be silent. But is it so?”

    The contemporary evangelical church suffers grievously from lack of discernment due to biblical illiteracy. That is why so many are self-deceived and not saved. It is the duty of church leadership to make certain of their calling and election (we know that this is a problem), and then address what is usually off limits—what constitutes a true saving faith. Thank you for your bold proclamation of gospel and biblical truths. You and your ministry remain in my prayers!

    In Christ,
    Jim Benecke MD FACS

    1. Thank you Jim for the encouragement and for reiterating the truth in Christ. After preaching here for over 30 years a “church” of some 150 now numbers 25 locally. Online we have been joined however by more true Christians who love God’s word and have found it very, very difficult to locate a real church in their area.

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