The Narrow and Wide Gates
"Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it.
How can you recognize whether you are entering through the narrow gate or are on the broad way?
One of the most startling teachings of Jesus is His teaching about the two gates. It is startling because few have really understood its true meaning. People that attend any kind of church usually believe that the wide gate is reserved for the godless and those who are not interested in serving God. Let's look at what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14 about these two gates.
Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
The Strait Gate: Look at the strait gate and narrow way. What do we know about this gate?
First, Jesus says that it is the gate that leads to life. This obviously means that it is the gate that leads men to heaven.
Second, Jesus says that it is a "strait" gate. The word "strait" means difficult. Jesus tells us that entering heaven will not be easy. This is a surprise to most people, because they have been taught that the way to heaven is easy. They've been taught, “All you have to do to be saved is believe in Jesus." There is a great difference between what men teach today and what Jesus taught then.
Third, Jesus tells us that there are not many people going in through this strait gate and narrow way. He says, "Few there be that find it." This too, is a surprise to many folks, because they believe that most people will be saved because most people believe in God.
Jesus has told us three things about the strait gate: 1. It is the gate that leads to heaven. 2. It is difficult to enter. 3. There will not be many people who go in the strait gate.
So far, we have no trouble understanding what Jesus has said. While it may not agree with what most have been taught and believe, it is clear and easy to understand.
Let us imagine, for a moment, that there is a sign over the strait gate. What would it say? Obviously, it would say, "To Heaven." It would mean that because those entering in know the truth and have heaven as their destination. Remember though, Jesus says that there are only a few that will find it and go in? Why is that? Do we have an answer for that question? Who are those who find and enter the narrow way? Give some serious thought to that question while we consider what Jesus taught us about the wide gate.
The Wide Gate: Consider the wide gate now. Jesus tells us some things about it, also.
First, it is a "wide" gate. It is a gate that is easily seen. Perhaps it is attractive. It surely draws people to it.
Second, Jesus tells us this gate is the entrance to a broad way. Some translations say it is the "easy way." In other words, it is not hard to neither enter this gate nor walk the road it covers.
Third, Jesus tells us that it is a gate that leads to destruction or Hell. Those who go in that gate are bound for destruction.
Fourth, Jesus told us there are going to be "many" who go in this gate. Remember, there are going to be only a few who go in the narrow gate to Heaven, but many will go in the gate to Hell. Many! Why is that? Do they want to go to eternal punishment? Is that what people desire? This is a question that also bears serious consideration.
Let us again summarize the points that Jesus has made about the wide gate and the broad way: 1. It is a wide gate. 2. It is easy way to go. 3. It is the gate that leads to Hell. 4. There will be many people who go in the wide gate.
Most people consider this to be the way of the world, the way of those who do not try to serve Jesus. Generally, it is taught that sinners and those who do not love God and the "un-churched" are the ones going in this gate. We are told they are living an "easy" life; hence we are to understand that they are going down the broad way. Why would anyone ever go in this gate? Surely we would not choose to go in this gate.
Let's use our imagination again, and ask ourselves: "What does the sign over the wide gate and broad say?" What do you think? Most people, when asked this question say that the sign over the wide gate would say "To Hell." It is true, that Hell is where those who go in that gate will end, but is that what the sign would say?
No! That sign over the broad gate says "To Heaven!"
It is a lying sign. It is a sign that gives false directions. Think about it a moment. People going through the wide gate and broad way actually believe that they are going to end up in heaven. Prove it to yourself... Read what Jesus says in the next verse.
Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
"Beware of false prophets...." False Prophets! These people who are going in the wide gate and broad way believe they are going to heaven! They are following men who claim to be men of God. They are following men who say that they will tell them the way to go to heaven! Never-the-less, they are following false prophets! Do you know what the really sad part of this is? Many are sincere in their beliefs. They do not want to follow a false prophet. In fact, even some of the false prophets may be sincere.
Notice, however, in Matthew 7:22, what they will say to Jesus on the Day of Judgment.
Matthew 7: 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?
Look what their claims mean! 1. They called Jesus their Lord! 2. They prophesied (taught the word of God) in Jesus authority. 3. They claimed to have cast out demons in Jesus' authority. 4. They did many wonderful works by Jesus' authority!
Those are pretty good credentials, and today, if we meet someone who makes these claims, we would probably be impressed! Most people would consider them to be saved.
After all, look at what they are doing! They call Jesus their Lord, they preach and teach, they cast out demons, and they do many other works that man considers to be great works.
But look at Jesus' evaluation of them. Jesus says to the false prophets and those who are following them:
Matthew 7:23 "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity."
These religious people with such great credentials are to depart from the presence of Jesus and God. They are to go to Hell. Why is that? Why would Jesus tell people who call Him their Lord, who preach, who claim to cast out demons, and who do great works for humanity, that He never knew them?
In spite of their claims, they are not Christians and are not going to be in heaven. Look back to verse 21. It tells you why!
Matthew 7:21 Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.
What is Jesus point? Simple. In spite of popular belief, saying you are a Christian, even believing, is not all that God requires of us. Jesus says we must do the will of God.
We must not just believe in God, but we must also believe God! We must believe God enough to do His will.
That is the problem with the teaching of many who are false prophets and teachers today. They are telling people that all one must do is believe in Jesus in order to be saved. They say we are saved by "faith only." This is a false teaching. God has never said it, but men teach it. In fact, we have seen that Jesus has said just the opposite.
Jesus clearly and carefully warns man about going in the wide gate. He proclaims the wide gate delivers men to Hell. The other gate is the one that takes men to Heaven.
Which gate are you entering? The decision, the choice is yours. Are you going to believe men, or Jesus? Don't be misled by false teachers who are leading people into the wide gate and down the easy road. Remember Jesus words:
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.
Where will you end up? It depends on the road you take! Jesus sets before every man the two ways of life, and two ways only, which make it vital that each individual make the right choice. Jesus clearly did not believe in the deadly deceptive heretical doctrine known as universalism (references).
Where you wind up depends on which road you take! Just as this is true in the physical realm, it is also true in the spiritual realm. Where you wind up in eternity will be determined by the road you take here on earth. It is impossible to take the wrong road and go to Heaven, and it is impossible to take the Heavenly road and go to Hell.
What you do while in this world will determine forever, where you spend your forever. This life has been described as nothing more than a brief pause between two very long eternities. Now, that shouldn't take any of us by surprise. After all, we are surrounded by death from the day we born into the world. Loved ones pass away, friends leave this world, and deep inside, we know that it will happen to us someday as well. The fact that you will not live forever is a common theme throughout the Bible. Notice some of these notable passages, James 4:14; Job 9:25; Job 14:1; Psa. 78:39; Ps. 90:10; Is 40:7-8.
Since we are going to leave this world someday soon, and when we do, we will continue to live either in Heaven or Hell forever, it is essential that you know where you will end up. Where Will You End Up?
Jesus here commits the awful modern "sin" of "narrow mindedness." To Jesus, there is no doubt that there is a right road and a wrong road. If Christians are accused of being "narrow minded" they should be following Jesus’ example of telling the hard truth, but telling it in love. (Matthew 7)
Conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:13-27).
"The righteousness of the kingdom," so amply described, both in principle and in detail, would be seen to involve self-sacrifice at every step. Multitudes would never face this. But it must be faced; else the consequences will be fatal. This would divide all within the sound of these truths into two classes: the many, who will follow the path of ease and self-indulgence-end where it might; and the few, who, bent on eternal safety above everything else, take the way that leads to it--at whatever cost. This gives occasion to the two opening verses of this application.
The difficulty of the first right step in religion, involving, as it does, a triumph over all our natural inclinations. Hence the still stronger expression in Luke (Lu 13:24), "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." for wide is the gate, easily entered. And broad is the way--easily trodden. that leadeth to destruction, and, thus lured "many there be which go in there at."
Enter (1525) (eiserchomai from eis = into + erchomai = come, go, enter) means to go or come into and so to enter into. The aorist imperative conveys the sense of urgency, calling for immediate and effective action! Don't delay! Enter now! Don't procrastinate is the idea. Don't admire the principles of the Sermon on the Mount but refuse to follow those principles (which is ultimately only possible by becoming a new creation in Christ by grace through faith!). Beware of putting off "doing business" with Jesus, making absolutely sure you know Him intimately and not just that you know about Him. Prolonged procrastination might end in perdition!
Enter by the narrow gate, The KJV reads "Enter ye in at the strait gate", Strait is from the Latin strictum meaning narrow and is used literally of a narrow pass between portions of land (straits of Gibraltar, of Magellan, of Dover) and figuratively conveys the sense of difficult, distressful. Strait conveys the idea that the gate is narrow or cramped or affords little room, there is no "wiggle room" when it comes to entering the Kingdom of heaven for there is but One Door, the Lord Jesus Christ. See His own testimony in Jn 10:9, cp Acts 4:12, 10:42, 43, Jn 3:18, 36, 8:24, 1Jn 5:11, 12
Study also Jesus' Seven “I am" declarations; Bread, Jn 6:35, 41, 48, 51; Light, Jn 8:12; Door, Jn 10:9; Good Shepherd, Jn 10:14; Resurrection and Life; Jn 11:25, Way, Jn 14:6; Vine, Jn 15:1, 5).
Narrow (4728) (stenos - derivation uncertain, one source says from histemi = to stand, Vine says from root sten, as in stenazo = to groan) pictures obstacles standing close to each other. The meaning is restricted, less than standard width, limited in size, a small breadth or width in comparison to length. Limited in extent, amount or scope as a narrow gorge between high rocks. Stenos comes from a root that means “to groan,” as from being under pressure, and is used figuratively to represent a restriction or constriction.
Vine comments that the gate which provides the entrance to eternal life (is) narrow because it runs counter to natural inclinations, and “the way” is similarly characterized;
And so as used by Jesus stenos pictures the strict requirements relating to the entrance to eternal life, specifically God's perfect standard of righteousness (Mt 5:20) in contrast to the self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (and every other false religious system that ultimately is based on man's best efforts which always fall eternally short of the work of God's Son on the Cross.) This gate is constraining and beset with difficulty, but it ends in life with God. On the other hand the wide gate leading to the broad, easy way ends where it began, in eternal separation from God.
Jesus is saying that choosing Him is neither the popular nor the easy way!
In Mt 7:14 this adjective stenos modifies the way, so that both the gate and the way are narrow.
The only other NT use of stenos is Luke 13:24 "Strive (agonizomai in the present imperative = a call for continues striving! Signifies a continual great struggle against conflict) to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you (plural, so Jesus is addressing this not just to the one who ask the question in Lk 13:23 but to the entire audience), will seek to enter and will not be able.
Notice that this passage is Jesus' answer to the interesting theological question from an unnamed person of whether there are only a few being saved (Lk 13:23). If this verse is read out of context it might suggest that sinners would be able to do something (some work) that would merit entrance through the narrow door and thus in a sense they could "work" their way to heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth that Jesus intended to convey! The Bible repeatedly states that salvation is only by amazing free grace through genuine personal faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Ep 2:8, 9). What Jesus is describing is the truth that that the way of salvation is "narrow" implying that it is "difficult".
The man had asked, “Will the saved be few?” Jesus turned it around to ask, “Will the saved be you?” Remember, Jesus was speaking to a crowd made up mostly of religious Jews. Entering the narrow gate is nonetheless difficult because of its cost in terms of human pride, because of the sinner’s natural love for sin, and because of the world’s and Satan’s opposition to the truth. (MacArthur, J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word or Logos)
The word translated strive means to agonize. This does not suggest works for salvation but the emphasis one should put on salvation. Our salvation must be the most important matter in our life...Many are not saved because they want to enter on their own terms instead of God’s terms, or they want to enter on the basis of good works, or they think they will enter because God is love and will not cast out anyone. Some think they can buy their way into heaven. “Many” who think they are going to heaven will not go to heaven when they die. (Butler, J. G. Analytical Bible Expositor: Luke. Clinton, IA: LBC Publications)
The word strive embraces in its general sense, not only great and continued effort, but such timely action, as to avoid being excluded in the way referred to in the following verse. The contrast lies principally in the idea of prompt and energetic effort on the one hand and a fatal procrastination on the other. This brings out with emphasis the now, with which all the offers of salvation are made to men in the Word of God. See Isa 1:18; Jer. 25:5; 35:15; Zech. 1:4; Lk 14:17; Ro. 13:11; 2Co. 6:2; Heb 4:7. It is most unquestionably true, that men are often beguiled to ruin, by mistaking a few vain and feeble efforts for the energetic action requisite to obtain salvation; but that is not here the prominent idea. Our Lord intends to warn men against delaying to enter the strait gate, until it is shut, and they are forever excluded. This will appear more clear from the following verse (Lk 13:25). (Owen, J. J. Commentary on Luke)
Brian Bell: The real question is not “are there few who are saved”, but “will you be among the saved?” Instead of entering the kingdom, some people only ask questions about it. But…“Salvation is not a theory to discuss; it is a miracle to experience.” In our soft age we are more concerned with statistics than about spiritual power. Strive, to agonize as an athlete; or to fight or struggle in war. No, not that were saved by our hard work; rather it warns us to avoid an “easy, complacent, and theoretical attitude” toward the eternal destiny of the soul. We are to fight, or be at war with, Who? - Not who, but what? Be at war with sin (esp. our own sin!) Strive to enter the narrow gate, because God’s way is narrow. (Luke 13)
Alexander Maclaren: We note, first, the all-important exhortation with which Christ seeks to sober a frivolous curiosity. In its primary application, the ‘strait gate’ may be taken to be the lowliness of the Messiah, and the consequent sharp contrast of His kingdom with Jewish high-flown and fleshly hopes. The passage to the promised royalty was not through a great portal worthy of a palace, but by a narrow, low-browed wicket, through which it took a man trouble to squeeze. For us, the narrow gate is the self-abandonment and self-accusation which are indispensable for entrance into salvation. ‘The door of faith’ is a narrow one; for it lets no self-righteousness, no worldly glories, no dignities, through. Like the Emperor at Canossa, we are kept outside till we strip ourselves of crowns and royal robes, and stand clothed only in the hair-shirt of penitence. Like Milton’s rebel angels entering their council chamber, we must make ourselves small to get in. We must creep on our knees, so low is the vault; we must leave everything outside, so narrow is it. We must go in one by one, as in the turnstiles at a place of entertainment. The door opens into a palace, but it is too strait for anyone who trusts to himself. There must be effort in order to enter by it. For everything in our old self-confident, self-centered nature is up in arms against the conditions of entrance. We are not saved by effort, but we shall not believe without effort. The main struggle of our whole lives should be to cultivate self-humbling trust in Jesus Christ, and to ‘fight the good fight of faith.’ (Read the entire sermon - The Strait Gate)
Norval Geldenhuys (foreword by F F Bruce): As very often happened, the Savior does not give a direct reply to the speculative question, but points out to those present the practical side of the matter: they are not to waste their time and strength in arguments as to how many will be saved, but everyone must strive hard and make sure that he himself is saved, for whether the saved are to be many or few one thing is certain, the gate leading to life is strait, and only those who strive with might and main, and whole-heartedly to enter, will be saved. When once the gate is shut and the time of grace has expired, many will attempt to enter, but then they will not be able to do so, for it will then be forever too late. (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke: The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament. Eerdmans Publishing Co)
H A Ironside: It is not that we are to be saved by our own efforts, for by these we would never be saved at all; but we must be in earnest when the door to life stands open, and we are invited to enter in; we must be sure that we heed the gracious invitation and do not pass carelessly by, lest we find at last that we have lost our opportunity...We may well take these warning words to our hearts today for they are intended for us as truly as for the people of Israel of old. The door into the kingdom of God still stands open, but it is a narrow door. None can pass through that door with their sins upon them. But as Christ Himself is the Door (Jn 10:9), we may find in Him deliverance from our sins, and thus enter into the way of life. The narrow way is that of subjection to Christ; a way that involves denial of self (cp Mk 8:35) and recognition of our responsibility to live for Him whose grace alone can save us.
I plead with you to give heed to the words of our Lord, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” Do not let anything keep you from making sure of your eternal salvation. But be like the man in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, who, when he heard of the impending destruction of the city in which he lived and learned that life was to be found only through entering the wicket (small) gate, refused to be turned aside by any of his own townspeople, and putting his fingers in his ears, ran from them crying, “Life! Life! Eternal Life!” and so made his way toward the shining light pointed out to him by Evangelist (see Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan -Part 1, Stage 1 - scroll down to subheading entitled "Evangelist directs him."). (Addresses on the Gospel of Luke. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers)
Stenos - 16x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) - Nu 22:26; 1Sa 23:14, 19, 29; 24:22; 2Sa 24:14; 2Ki 6:1; 1Chr 21:13 (Figurative use - "I am in great distress"); Job 18:11; 24:11; Pr 23:27; Isa 8:22; 30:20; 49:20; Jer 30:7; Zech 10:11. Several of the OT uses are used to translate "stronghold".
Numbers 22:26 The Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow (Hebrew = tsar = narrow, tight; Lxx = stenos) place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 25 When the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall, so he struck her again.
2 Samuel 24:14 Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress (Hebrew = tsarar = to suffer distress; Lxx = stenos). Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man."
Jeremiah 30:7 'Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob's distress (Heb = tsarah = trouble, distress, calamity, anguish, state of very unfavorable circumstance, with a focus on the emotional pain and distress of the situation Dt 31:17 Jer 4:31; Lxx = stenos) but he will be saved from it.
Jacob's Distress or Trouble describes a period of time, specifically the last 3.5 years of Daniel's Seventieth Week, which Jesus designated as Great Tribulation (Mt 24:21, cp Mk 13:19, Re 7:14-note). During this time the Antichrist ("Beast" of Rev 13, "Little Horn of Daniel 7") will be allowed by God and empowered by Satan (Rev 13:4-note, Rev 13:5-note where 42 months = 3.5 years) to have essentially "free reign" on the earth and will attempt to destroy the Jews in the greatest "holocaust" the world has ever seen. And yet in the midst of this horrible time to come, God makes the sure promise that He will save Jacob from it or out of it, which is a prophecy of the Messiah's return to deliver Israel (see Ro 11:25,26, 27-note cp Zech 13:8, 9).
McNeile alludes to the figurative sense of the narrow (strait) gate explaining that...The way that leads to life involves straits and afflictions
Constable explains that...The beginning of a life of discipleship (the gate) and the process of discipleship (the way) are both restrictive and both involve persecution. (Matthew)
Vincent records... A remarkable parallel to this passage occurs in the “Pinax” or “Tablet” of Cebes, a writer contemporary with Socrates. In this, human life, with its dangers and temptations, is symbolically represented as on a tablet. The passage is as follows: “Seest thou not, then, a little door, and a way before the door, which is not much crowded, but very few travel it? This is the way which leadeth into true culture.”
Spurgeon encourages us to...not be ashamed of being called Puritanical, precise, and particular: Enter ye in at the narrow gate.” It is a way of self-denial, it is a way of humility, it is a way which is distasteful to the natural pride of men; it is a precise way, it is a holy way, a strait way, and therefore men do not care for it. They are too big, too proud, to go along a narrow lane to heaven; yet this is the right way. There are many broad ways, as Bunyan says, that abut upon it; but you may know them by their being broad, and you may know them by their being crowded. The Christian man has to swim against the current; he has to do more than that, he has to go against himself, so strait is the road; but if you wish to go down to perdition, you have only to float with the stream, and you can have any quantity of company that you like.
Do not be ashamed of being called narrow. Do not be ashamed of being supposed to lead a life of great precision and exactness. There is nothing very grand about breadth, after all. One thing: the broadest men we have ever met with in the best sense have always kept to the narrow way, and the narrowest people are those who are so fond of the broad way.
J C Ryle comments that...our Lord gives us a general caution against the way of the many in religion. It is not enough to think as others think and do as others do. It must not satisfy us to follow the fashion, and swim with the stream of those among whom we live. He tells us that the way that leads to everlasting life is narrow, and few travel in it. He tells us that the way that leads to everlasting destruction is broad, and full of travelers. Many are those who enter in by it.
These are fearful truths! They ought to raise great searching of heart in the minds of all who hear them. "Which way am I going? By what road am I traveling?" In one or other of the two ways here described, every one of us may be found. May God give us an honest, self-inquiring spirit, and show us what we are!
We may well tremble and be afraid, if our religion is that of the multitude. If we can say no more than this, that "we go where others go, and worship where others worship, and hope we shall do as well as others at last," we are literally pronouncing our own condemnation. What is this but being in the broad way? What is this but being in the road whose end is destruction? Our religion at present is not saving religion.
We have no reason to be discouraged and cast down, if the religion we profess is not popular, and few agree with us. We must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in this passage: The gate is narrow.
Repentance and faith in Christ, and holiness of life, have never been fashionable.
Repentance is not considered by many today as a component of salvation. Let the Scriptures speak for themselves: John the Baptist called for repentance "validated" by fruit [Mt 3:2, 8, Lk 3:3, 8, Mk 1:4, Acts 19:4, cp Ac 13:24] Jesus began His ministry preaching repent [Mt 4:17, 11:20, 21, 12:41, Mk 1:15, cp Mk 6:12, Lk 5:32 , 5, 10:13, 11:32, 13:2,3, 5, 15:7, 8, 9, 10, 16:30, 24:47]. Peter preached repentance [Acts 2:38, 3:19, 5:31] as did Paul [Acts 20:21, 26:20, cp Acts 11:18, cp Ro 2:4] and as did John [Rev 2:21]. God desires for all to repent [Ac 17:30 2Pe 3:9] See onsite word study of the Greek word for repentance = metanoia. Other resources: Multiple articles on Repentance or well done article in Baker Evangelical Dictionary: Repentance.
The true flock of Christ has always been small. It must not move us to find that we are reckoned singular, and peculiar, and bigoted, and narrow-minded. This is "the narrow way." Surely it is better to enter into life eternal with a few, than to go to "destruction" with a great company (J. C. Ryle. Expository Thoughts)
Jesus concludes His sermon with four warnings arranged in several paired contrasts! Christianity is not a both / and but an either / or proposition. Jesus leaves no room for a middle ground or for being a "spiritual mugwump" (In early 1900's a term that came to mean a politician who either could not or would not make up his mind on some important issue, or who refused to take a stand when expected to do so - the fact is that to say "I can't decide" is a decision to not choose the Jesus' way!) (Mugwump article)
Matthew 7: Pairs of Two's
Jesus' hearers would have been familiar with the image of "two ways" because the language of "twos" was a common teaching method in Judaism (see examples below) as well as in Greco-Roman philosophy. This last section is a call by Jesus for a decision. He is not leaving room for any middle ground. And so we see Him contrasting...
Two gates, two ways, two groups, two destinations (Mt 7:13, 14)
Two trees, two fruits (Mt 7:15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
Two professions of Jesus (sincere and false), two destinies (Mt 7:21, 22, 23)
Two builders, two houses, two foundations (Mt 7:24, 25, 26, 27).
Robert Frost wrote a secular poem that gives an excellent "commentary" on Jesus' concluding words in the Sermon on the Mount...
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Matthew Henry...The account that is given of the bad way of sin, and the good way of holiness. There are but two ways, right and wrong, good and evil; the way to heaven, and the way to hell; in the one of which we are all of us walking: no middle place hereafter, no middle way now: the distinction of the children of men into saints and sinners, godly and ungodly, will swallow up all to eternity.
Here is, (1.) An account given us of the way of sin and sinners; both what is the best, and what is the worst of it.
[1.] That which allures multitudes into it, and keeps them in it; the gate is wide, and the way broad, and there are many travelers in that way.
First, "You will have abundance of liberty in that way; the gate is wide, and stands wide open to tempt those that go right on their way. You may go in at this gate with all your lusts about you; it gives no check to your appetites, to your passions: you may walk in the way of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; that gives room enough."
It is a broad way, for there is nothing to hedge in those that walk in it, but they wander endlessly; a broad way, for there are many paths in it; there is choice of sinful ways, contrary to each other, but all paths in this broad way.
Secondly, "You will have abundance of company in that way: many there be that go in at this gate, and walk in this way." If we follow the multitude, it will be to do evil: if we go with the crowd, it will be the wrong way (see 1Jn 3:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 24). It is natural for us to incline to go down the stream, and do as the most do; but it is too great a compliment, to be willing to be damned for company, and to go to hell with them, because they will not go to heaven with us: if many perish, we should be the more cautious.
[2.] That which should affright us all from it is that it leads to destruction. Death, eternal death, is at the end of it (and the way of sin tends to it), everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (2Th 1:9). Whether it be the high way of open profaneness, or the back way of close hypocrisy, if it be a way of sin, it will be our ruin, if we repent not.
(2.) Here is an account given us of the way of holiness.
[1.] What there is in it that frightens many from it; let us know the worst of it that we may sit down and count the cost. Christ deals faithfully with us, and tells us,
First, that the gate is strait. Conversion and regeneration are the gate (Jn 3:3, 5, 1Pe 1:23, Jas 1:18, Titus 3:5), by which we enter into this way, in which we begin a life of faith and serious godliness; out of a state of sin into a state of grace we must pass, by the new birth, John 3:3,5. This is a strait gate, hard to find, and hard to get through; like a passage between two rocks, 1Sa 14:4. There must be a new heart, and a new spirit (Ezek 18:31, 36:26), and old things must pass away (Dt 10:16, 30:6, Je 4:4, 9:26, Lev 26:41, Ro 2:28, 29-note Ezek 11:19,20-note, Ezek 44:7 Je 31:31, 32, 33, 34; 32:39, 40, Jn 3:3, 4, 5 2Co 5:17 Ga 6:15). The bent of the soul must be changed, corrupt habits and customs broken off; what we have been doing all our days must be undone again (cp 1Co 6:10, 11, Gal 5:19, 20, Ga 5:21-note, 1Jn 3:4, 8, 1Co 6:9, Ep 5:5,6). We must swim against the stream; much opposition must be struggled with, and broken through, from without, and from within. It is easier to set a man against all the world than against himself, and yet this must be in conversion. It is a strait gate, for we must stoop, or we cannot go in at it; we must become as little children (Mt 18:2, 3, 4); high thoughts must be brought down (Mt 23:12, cp Mt 5:3-note, Lk 1:51, 52, 14:11, 18:13, 14, Ps 138:6, Is 57:15, Nebuchadnezzar in Da 4:37 contrasted with Da 4:30, 31, 5:20, 21, 22, 23); nay, we must strip, must deny ourselves, put off the world, put off the old man; we must be willing to forsake all for our interest in Christ. The gate is strait to all, but to some straiter than others; as to the rich (cp Mt 19:24, Mk 10:25, Lk 18:25), to some that have been long prejudiced against religion. The gate is strait; blessed be God, it is not shut up, nor locked against us, nor kept with a flaming sword (Ge 3:24), as it will be shortly, Mt 25:10.
Secondly, that the way is narrow. We are not in heaven as soon as we have got through the strait gate, nor in Canaan as soon as we have got through the Red Sea; no, we must go through a wilderness, must travel a narrow way, hedged in by the divine law, which is exceedingly broad, and that makes the way narrow; self must be denied (Mk 8:34, 35, 36, 37, 38), the body kept under, corruptions mortified (Col 3:5-note, Ro 8:13), that are as a right eye and a right hand (cp Mt 5:28, 29, 30); daily temptations must be resisted (cp Ep 6:13-note, Jas 4:7, 1Pe 5:9); duties must be done that are against our inclination. We must endure hardness (2Ti 2:3, 4-note, cp Mt 10:22), must wrestle (Ep 6:12) and be in an agony (He 12:4), must watch in all things, and walk with care and circumspection. We must go through much tribulation. It is hodos tethlimmene, an afflicted way, a way hedged about with thorns; blessed be God, it is not hedged up. The bodies we carry about with us, and the corruptions remaining in us (Gal 5:16-note, Ga 5:17-note), make the way of our duty difficult; but, as the understanding and will grow more and more sound, it will open and enlarge, and grow more and more pleasant (cp 2Pe 3:18).
Thirdly, the gate being so strait and the way so narrow, it is not strange that there are but few that find it, and choose it. Many pass it by, through carelessness; they will not be at the pains to find it; they are well as they are, and see no need to change their way (cp Ac 26:28). Others look upon it, but shun it; they like not to be so limited and restrained. Those that are going to heaven are but few, compared to those that are going to hell; a remnant (see remnant especially as it relates to Jewish believers), a little flock (Lk 12:32), like the grape-gleanings of the vintage; as the eight that were saved in the ark, 1Pe 3:20.
"In the ways of vice men urge each other onward: how shall anyone be restored to the path of safety, when impelled forwards by the multitude, without any counteracting influence?" Seneca, Epist. 29 (bio).
This discourages many: they are loth to be singular, to be solitary; but instead of stumbling at this, say rather, if so few are going to heaven, there shall be one the more for me.
[2.] Let us see what there is in this way, which, notwithstanding this, should invite us all to it; it leads to life, to present comfort in the favor of God, which is the life of the soul; to eternal bliss, the hope of which, at the end of our way, should reconcile us to all the difficulties and inconveniences of the road. Life and godliness are put together (2Pe 1:3-note)
The gate is strait and the way narrow and uphill, but one hour in heaven will make amends for it.
Barnes writes that...Christ here compares the way to life to an entrance through a gate. The words straight, and strait, have very different meanings. The former means not crooked; the latter pent up, narrow, difficult to be entered. This is the word used here, and it means that the way to heaven is pent up, narrow, close, and not obviously entered. The way to death is open, broad, and thronged. The Savior here referred probably to ancient cities. They were surrounded with walls, and entered through gates. Some of those, connected with the great avenues to the city, were broad, and admitted a throng. Others, for more private purposes, were narrow, and few would be seen entering them. So says Christ, is the path to heaven. It is narrow. It is not the great highway that men tread. Few go there. Here and there one may be seen, traveling in solitude and singularity. The way to death, on the other hand, is broad. Multitudes are in it. It is the great highway in which men go. They fall into it easily, and without effort, and go without thought. If they wish to leave that, and go by a narrow gate to the city, it would require effort and thought. (And likely would incite considerable persecution from the fellow wayfarers on the broad way to hell!) So, says Christ, diligence is needed to enter into life. See Luke 13:24. None go of course. All must strive to obtain it; and so narrow, unfrequented, and solitary is it, that few find it.
Wiersbe observes that in regard to one's eternal destiny...the greatest danger is self-deception (cp He 3:13-note; Pr 28:26, Is 44:20, Obad 1:3, Ro 7:11; Ep 4:22; Jas 1:14). The scribes and Pharisees had fooled themselves into believing that they were righteous and others were sinful (cp Mt 5:20-note, Mt 23:29). It is possible for people to know the right language, believe intellectually the right doctrines, obey the right rules, and still not be saved.
Keep in mind that most Jews believed that Israel as a whole would be saved (a delusion Paul dealt with vigorously in Romans 2) and that the few who were lost would be exceptions to the general rule. Jesus' teaching radically destroys that delusion.
Gill has an interesting thought that...By the "strait gate" is meant Christ Himself; who elsewhere calls Himself "the door", (Jn 10:7, 8, 9) as He is into the church below, and into all the ordinances and privileges of it; as also to the Father, by Whom we have access unto Him, and are let into communion with Him, and a participation of all the blessings of grace; yea, He is the gate of heaven, through which we have boldness to enter into the holiest of all by faith and hope now (cp He 10:19, 20, 21, 22); as there will be hereafter an abundant entrance into the Kingdom and glory of God (2Pe 1:10,11-note), through His blood and righteousness (Ro 3:25-note).
This is called "strait"; because faith in Christ, a profession of it, and a life and conversation agreeable to it, are attended with many afflictions, temptations, reproaches, and persecutions.
"Entering" in at it is by faith (Ep 2:8, 9), and making a profession of it: hence it follows, that faith is not the gate itself, but the grace, by which men enter in at the right door, and walk on in Christ, as they begin with Him.
For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction; so that the one may be easily known from the other. There is no difficulty in finding out, or entering in at, or walking in the way of sin, which leads to eternal ruin. The gate of carnal lusts, and worldly pleasures, stands wide open, and many there be which go in thereat; even all men in a state of nature; the way of the ungodly is "broad" (cp Ps 1:4, 5, 6-note), smooth, easy, and every way agreeable to the flesh; it takes in a large compass of vices, and has in it abundance of company; but its end is destruction.
The Narrow Gate
Gate (4439) (pule) is a leaf or wing of a folding entrance and here describes a door or gate. Note that there are only 2 gates and every person will enter one or the other. To not choose to enter the narrow gate is in fact a choice to enter the wide gate and subsequent destruction. There are only 10 uses of phule in the NT - Mt. 7:13, 14; 16:18; Lk 7:12; Ac 3:10; 9:24; 12:10; 16:13; He 13:12.
Leon Morris comments that...may be used of a gate or door of many kinds. Thus it is the gate of the temple (Acts 3:10), of a city (Lk 7:12), or of a prison (Acts 12:10). It is also used of the gates of Hades (Mt 16:18). It seems to be used of a significant entrance, which may be why it is used here of the entrance into life.
In John Jesus taught...I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)
I am the (specific, exclusive) way, and the (specific, exclusive) truth, and the (specific, exclusive) life; (absolutely) no one comes to the Father, but through Me. (John 14:6)
Comment: In Greek the definite article "the" is important as it speaks of specificity...in other words, had Jesus been one of many ways, He would not have used the definite article "the" but would have identified Himself as "a" way, "a" truth, "a" life, one of many gates/ways. Jesus did not teach that there are many roads that lead to the Kingdom of Heaven but clearly taught "I am the only Way."
Many are skeptical, agnostic or even antagonistic regarding Jesus' teaching on the narrow gate and scoff at the idea of such rigid "exclusivity" regarding salvation. The Gospel message however is clearly very dogmatic, very exclusive and very narrow! Obviously while we as Christians are not to be narrow-minded per se, we must be "narrow-minded" regarding the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6), if we truly believe that salvation is found in no one else, and that there is no other name under heaven that has been given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). As offensive as such a truth may be to non-Christians, we must continually make it clear in our witness (our life, then our lips!), for without Christ they are destined to spend a Christ-less, graceless eternity in the lake of fire (Re 20:11, 12, 13, 14, 15-see notes, cp Mt 25:41, 2Th 1:9, Re 14:11-note, Re 19:20, 20:10 - see chart on Births, Deaths, and Resurrections).
Here are a few other NT passages that support this "narrow minded" view and to encourage you to defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints...
Matthew 5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Comment: This would have shocked many in the Jewish audience, who knew the Pharisees as the most religious people in the world. But as Jesus alluded to they may have had religion but in their hearts they rejected the "narrow gate" of Christ. He is also setting the "bar" of righteousness so high that no man can possibly hope to achieve God's standard which is perfection.
Matthew 7:21, 22 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. "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?'
Comment: This is a frightening verse, for it clearly teaches that "many" people (in context it first speaking of false teachers but it clearly has broader application) who profess Christ are self-deceived. It isn’t a matter of outward profession, but inward faith and obedience, that saves (Cp Titus 1:16 which clearly juxtaposes "profession" of words with production of unrighteous works, the latter speaking louder and more truthfully than their words!)
John 8:24 "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins."
John 10:9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Romans 3:10 (note) as it is written, "There is (absolutely) none righteous, not even one; 11 there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;12 all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."...23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified (declared righteous) as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus
Comment: Read that passage again and note the repetition ("key words") which make the interpretation blatantly clear.
1Corinthians 3:11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Comment: There is no other foundation for a holy, blessed, abundant, eternal life other than Christ.
1Timothy 2:5-6: For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time. (Only one Mediator. Only one ransom, the blood of Christ shed on the Cross.)
Hebrews 2:3 How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard
Hebert Lockyer records an example of a man who entered the small gate and tread the dangerous way of a disciple in his fascinating book entitled "Last Words of Saints and Sinners" writing that
John Bradford, Chaplain to Edward VI in 1552, was one of the most popular preachers of his day in England. With the accession of Queen Mary, Bradford was arrested for seditious utterances and heresy. Refusing to recant, (he was) condemned to be burnt at Smithfield, and he met his death tied to the same stake as a young man found guilty of the same supposed crime. As the flames covered their bodies, Bradford consoled the youth by saying
"Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Lockyer records another quote which is the antithesis of Bradford's blazing testimony for Christ....
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), famous American lawyer and prominent agnostic, lectured on Biblical inaccuracies and contradictions. His famed lecture The Mistakes of Moses led one defender of the Bible to say that he would like to hear Moses speak for five minutes on The Mistakes of Ingersoll. Standing by his graveside, his brother exclaimed
Life is a narrow vale between the narrow peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailings.
Comment: How tragically ironic to use some of the very same words used by Jesus (narrow, strive, eternity) but with such a different outcome!
John Milton makes mention of the small gate in Paradise Regained
"A deathlike sleep, a gentle wafting to immortal life.
Truth shall retire Bestruck with slanderous darts,
And works of faith rarely be found. And to the faithful, Death the gate of life."
For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction: hoti plateia e pule kai euruchoros e odos e apagousa (PAPFSN) eis ten apoleian, kai polloi eisin (3PPAI) oi eiserchomenoi (PMPMPN) di' autes; (Wide - Ge 6:5,12; Ps 14:2,3; Is 1:9; Ro 3:9-19; 2Co 4:4; Ep 2:2,3; 1Jn 5:19; Re 12:9; 13:8; 20:3) (Destruction Mt 25:41,46; Pr 7:27; 16:25; Ro 9:22; Php 3:19; 2Th 1:8,9; 1Pe 4:17,18; Re 20:15)
For (hoti) - Don't miss this "term of explanation" for it introduces Jesus' divine logic for issuing such a "narrow" and urgent command to enter. A correct understanding of and response to the two gates and two ways is an urgent matter!
Wide (platus) means broad, wide, having a distance larger than usual from side to side or having ample extent from side to side or between limits.
Gill has an interesting note that...Our Lord seems to allude to the private and public roads, whose measures are fixed by the Jewish canons; which say, that a private way was four cubits broad, a way from city to city eight cubits, a public way sixteen cubits, and the way to the cities of refuge thirty two cubits.'
Way (hodos) can refer to a literal road but clearly is used figuratively by Jesus to describe the course of one's conduct or behavior.
Psalm 1 sets two ways before the reader at the outset...
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Ps 1:6- in depth notes) (cp Dt 30:19, Je 21:8)
Spurgeon comments on Ps 1:6: Or, as the Hebrew hath it yet more fully, The Lord is knowing the way of the righteous. He is constantly looking on their way, and though it may be often in mist and darkness, yet the Lord knoweth it. If it be in the clouds and tempest of affliction, He understandeth it. He numbers the hairs of our head; He will not suffer any evil to befall us. "He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." (Job 23:10)
But the way of the ungodly shall perish. Not only shall they perish themselves, but their way shall perish too. The righteous carves his name upon the rock, but the wicked writes his remembrance in the sand. The righteous man ploughs the furrows of earth, and sows a harvest here, which shall never be fully reaped till he enters the enjoyments of eternity; but as for the wicked, he ploughs the sea, and though there may seem to be a shining trail behind his keel, yet the waves shall pass over it, and the place that knew him shall know him no more forever. The very "way" of the ungodly shall perish. If it exist in remembrance, it shall be in the remembrance of the bad; for the Lord will cause the name of the wicked to rot, to become a stench in the nostrils of the good, and to be only known to the wicked themselves by its putridity.
May the Lord cleanse our hearts and our ways, that we may escape the doom of the ungodly, and enjoy the blessedness of the righteous!
Spurgeon comments on the non-exclusivity of the broad way...The road is so wide that there may be many independent tracks in it, and the drunkard may find his way along it without ever ruffling the complacency of the hypocrite. The mere moralist may pick a clean path all the way, while the immoral wretch may wade up to his knees in mire throughout the whole road. Be-hold how sinners disagree and yet agree in this, that they are op-posed to God! It is a broad road
C. S. Lewis described this broad way that was leading him to destruction...I was soon (in the famous words) altering “I believe” to “one does feel.” And oh, the relief of it! … From the tyrannous noon of revelation I passed into the cool evening twilight of Higher Thought, where there was nothing to be obeyed, and nothing to be believed except what was either comforting or exciting.
John MacArthur comments that: 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 professing 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” (Ep 2:2). It is the tragic way “which seems right to a man,” but whose “end is the way of death” (Pr 14:12).A West Indian who had chosen Islam over Christianity said his reason was that Islam “is a noble, broad path. There is room for a man and his sins on it. The way of Christ is too narrow.” It seems that many preachers today do not see that issue as clearly as that unbelieving Muslim.
D A Carson has an interesting note writing that...The "wide" gate seems far more inviting. The "broad" road (not "easy," RSV) is spacious and accommodates the crowd and their baggage; the other road is "narrow", but two different words are used: stene ("narrow," Mt 7:13) and tethlimmene (Mt 7:14), the latter being cognate with thlipsis (word study) ("tribulation"), which almost always refers to persecution. So this text says that the way of discipleship is "narrow," restricting, because it is the way of persecution and opposition-a major theme in Matthew (Mt 5:10, 11, 12, 44, Mt 5:1, 44; Mt 10:16-39; Mt 11:11, 12; 24:4-13...). Compare Acts 14:22: "We must go through many hardships [...`through much persecution'] to enter the Kingdom of God."...
Democratic decisions do not determine truth and righteousness in the kingdom. That there are only two ways is the inevitable result of the fact that the one that leads to life is exclusively by revelation. But if truth in such matters must not be sought by appealing to majority opinion (Ex 23:2), neither can it be found by each person doing what is right in his own eyes (Pr 14:12; cf. Jdg 21:25). God must be true and every man a liar (Ro 3:4). (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan Publishing or computer version)
Kistemaker adds that...The “way” to which the narrow gate admits is “constricted,” or, as we might say today, “It is so confining.” The path on which the believer is traveling resembles a difficult pass between two cliffs. It is hemmed in from both sides. So also even in the case of the person who has already spiritually entered through the narrow gate, whatever still remain of the old nature rebels against laying aside evil propensities and habits. This old nature is not completely conquered until the moment of death. So, a bitter struggle develops. Read about it in Ro 7:14-25.
But total victory is assured, for the narrow gate has been found and entered, and the way of sinners has been exchanged for the way of the righteous (see Ps. 1:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6); that is, a conscious choice has been made, a good decision. Basic conversion, in turn, has become daily conversion or, if one prefers, sanctification. On the other hand, the “way” to which the wide gate admits is broad and roomy. One might call it Broadway. The signs along this wide avenue read, “Welcome to each of you and to all your friends, the more the merrier. Travel as you wish and as ‘fast’ as you wish. There are no restrictions.” However, “The way of the wicked shall perish.” (Ibid)
Thompson's Chain Reference: Pathway of Sin
General References to - Pr 2:15, 12:15, 13:15, 14:12, 15:9 Is 59:8 Mt 7:13
Walking in - Dt 29:19 Je 7:24 Ep 2:2 Php 3:18 1Pe 4:3 2Pe 2:10, 3:3 Jude 1:18
Leads (520) (apago from apo = from + ago = lead) means to lead away and was used in secular writings to describe prisoners being taken under armed guard to prison or to their execution! (cp "destruction") The present tense indicates that this leading is continuously in one direction: a one way ticket to hell!
Leads to destruction: This is not a road that ends in annihilation, to an eternal unconscious existence or to a second chance to re-consider, but is the way which leads to eternal death and destruction (cp Mt 25:34, 46; Jn 17:12; Ro 9:22: Php 1:28; Php 3:19; 1Ti 6:9; He 10:39; 2Pe 2:1, 2Pe 1:3; 2Pe 3:16; Rev 17:8, Rev 17:11)
John MacArthur has an interesting note writing that...Both the broad and the narrow ways point to the good life, to salvation, heaven, God, the kingdom, and blessing-but only the narrow way actually leads to those. There is nothing here to indicate that the broad way is marked “Hell.” The point our Lord is making is that it is marked “Heaven” but does not lead there. That is the great lie of all the false religions of human achievement. The two very different destinations of the two ways are made clear by the Lord (cf. Jer 21:8).
The broad … leads to destruction, whereas only the narrow … leads to life. Every religion except Christianity, the only religion of divine accomplishment, follows the same spiritual way and leads to the same spiritual end, to hell. There are many of those roads, and most of them are attractive, appealing, and crowded with travelers. But not a single one leads where it promises; and not a single one fails to lead where Jesus says it leads to destruction.
J C Ryle once wrote that...Hell is nothing but truth known too late!
Destruction (684) (apoleia [word study] from apo = marker of separation, away from + olethros = ruin, death but not annihilation) describes destruction, in this case the utter ruin or complete loss which is epitomized by eternal punishment.
The idea of apoleia is not that of annihilation but that which is ruined and is no longer usable for its intended purpose. Apoleia does not describe the complete loss of being, but the complete loss of well-being. It means utter and hopeless loss of all that gives worth to existence. Note that contrary to popular opinion apoleia does not refer to extinction or annihilation or an end of existence, but to total ruin so far as the purpose of existence is concerned.
The related root word apollumi is the term Jesus used to speak of those who are thrown into hell
And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy [apollumi] both soul and body in hell. (Mt 10:28)
As Jesus makes clear elsewhere, hell is not a place or state of nothingness or unconscious existence, as is the Hindu Nirvana. It is the place of everlasting torment, the place of eternal death, where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” forever (see Mt 13:42, 50).
All people are created by God for His glory, but when they refuse to come to Him "through the narrow gate" for salvation, they lose their opportunity for eternal redemption and ultimately the opportunity of becoming what God intended for them to be in Christ. At that time, they are fit only for condemnation and destruction.
Think of a man or a woman created in the image of God, living their entire life for self rather the Savior, and at the end of it all finding that it has been a complete waste (see this meaning of apoleia in Mt 26:8)! This tragic truth should stir our hearts as believers to be bold in the Spirit and filled with a sense of non-judgmental compassion and absolute urgency to share the Truth of the small gate and the narrow way with every individual we meet in this brief snapshot of eternity called life!
Apoleia -18x in NAS - Mt. 7:13; 26:8; Mk. 14:4; Jn. 17:12; Acts 8:20; Ro 9:22; Php 1:28; 3:19; 2Th 2:3; 1Ti 6:9; He 10:39; 2Pe 2:1, 3; 2Pe 3:7, 16; Rev 17:8, 11. NAS as destruction (13), destructive (1), perdition (1), perish (1), waste (1), wasted (1). Apoleia is found 74 times in the Septuagint (LXX) - Exod. 22:9; Lev. 6:3f; Num. 20:3; Deut. 4:26; 7:23; 8:19; 12:2; 22:3; 30:18; 32:35; 1 Chr. 21:17; Esther 7:4; 8:6, 12; Job 11:20; 20:5, 28; 21:30; 26:6; 27:7; 28:22; 30:12; 31:3; 41:22; Ps. 88:11; Prov. 1:26; 6:15, 32; 10:11, 24; 11:3, 6; 13:1, 15; 15:11; 16:26; 24:22; 27:20; 28:28; Isa. 14:23; 22:5; 33:2; 34:5, 12; 47:11; 54:16; 57:4; Jer. 12:11, 17; 18:17; 44:12; 46:21; 49:2, 29, 32; Ezek. 25:7; 26:16, 21; 27:36; 28:7, 19; 29:9f, 12; 31:11; 32:15; Dan. 2:5, 18; 3:29; 6:22; 8:25; Hos. 10:14; Obad. 1:12, 13;
Isaac Watts wrote the following hymn related to Jesus' words in Mt 7:13, 14. How many churches would even dare sing it today?
Broad is the road that leads to death, and thousands walk together there;
But wisdom shows a narrower path, with here and there a traveler.
“Deny thyself, and take thy cross,” Is the Redeemer’s great command;
Nature must count her gold but dross, if she would gain this heavenly land.
The fearful soul that tires and faints, and walks the ways of God no more,
Is but esteemed almost a saint, and makes his own destruction sure.
Lord, let not all my hopes be vain, Create my heart entirely new;
Which hypocrites could never attain, which false apostates never knew.
Destruction for the sinner does not result in annihilation or extinction. In other words as noted above, "destruction" is not the loss of being, but of well-being! The gospel promises everlasting life for him who believes. The failure to possess this life will involve the utter ruin of those that perish.
Jesus is not giving many paths. His command is "either...or"! There is a choice between two ways and only one leads to eternal life, while the other leads to eternal death. This picture of Two Ways as alluded to is not a new thought restricted to the NT, for this same truth is emphasized in several Old Testament passages...
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants. (Deut 30:19)
As Joshua neared the fulfillment of His job on earth, He presented Israel once again with the choice: “"And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
You shall also say to this people, 'Thus says the Lord, "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death (Jeremiah 21:8).
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6)
On Mount Carmel the prophet Elijah asked the people of Israel, How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him, but if Baal, follow him." But (Note this dramatic contrast surely reflecting their sin hardened hearts!) the people did not answer him a word. (1Kings 18:21)
John Oxenham wrote that...
“To every man there openeth, A way and ways and a way;
And the high soul treads the high way, and the low soul gropes the low;
And in between on the misty flats, the rest drift to and fro;
But to every man there openeth, a high way and a low;
And every man decideth, the way his soul shall go.”
Cebes, the disciple of Socrates was close to the truth but still managed only to describe the counterfeit writing...“Dost thou see a little door, and a way in front of the door, which is not much crowded, but the travelers are few? That is the way that leadeth to true instruction.”
After Jesus fed literal bread (Jn 6:1-14, note Jn 6:14) and then repeatedly explained to the multitudes following Him that He was the living Bread, calling for His hearers to make the choice to "eat of this bread" (Jn 6:51, cp Jn 6:32 33 34 35 36 40 41 44 45 46 47 48 49 50) that they might enter into eternal life (Jn 6:53 54 55 56 57 58), an offer which fell on faithless ears and hearts and thus was largely rejected (cp their grumbling, arguing - Jn 6:42 43 52) for many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (John 6:66-69)
John MacArthur emphasizes that...In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus presents still again that great choice of choices. This sermon therefore cannot be simply admired and praised for its ethics. Its truths will bless those who accept the King but will stand in judgment over those who refuse Him. The one who admires God’s way but does not accept it is under greater judgment, because he acknowledges that he knows the truth (Ed: See Mt 11:21 22 23 24).
Nor does this sermon apply only to the future age of the millennial kingdom. The truths Jesus teaches here are truths whose essence God teaches in the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament. They are truths for God’s people of every age, and the decision about the gate and the way has always been a "now" decision...
There have always been but two systems of religion in the world. One is God’s system of divine accomplishment, and the other is man’s system of human achievement. One is the religion of God’s grace, the other the religion of men’s works. One is the religion of faith, the other the religion of the flesh. One is the religion of the sincere heart and the internal, the other the religion of hypocrisy and the external. (MacArthur, J: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary Chicago: Moody Press)
Torrey's Topic: Eternal Death:
The necessary consequence of sin -Romans 6:16, 21; 8:13; James 1:15
The wages of sin -Romans 6:23
The portion of the wicked -Matthew 25:41, 46; Romans 1:32
The way to, described -Psalms 9:17; Matthew 7:13
Self-righteousness leads to -Proverbs 14:12
God alone can inflict -Matthew 10:28; James 4:12
Is described as:
Banishment from God 2 Thessalonians 1:9
Society with the devil etc -Matthew 25:41
A lake of fire -Revelation 19:20; 21:8
The worm that dies not -Mark 9:44
Outer darkness -Matthew 25:30
A mist of darkness forever -2 Peter 2:17
Indignation, wrath, etc -Romans 2:8, 9
Destruction -Romans 9:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:9
Perishing -2 Peter 2:12
The wrath to come -1 Thessalonians 1:10
The second death -Revelation 2:11
A resurrection to damnation -John 5:29
A resurrection to shame c -Daniel 12:2
Damnation of hell -Matthew 23:33
Everlasting punishment -Matthew 25:46
Shall be inflicted by Christ -Matthew 25:31, 41; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8
Christ, the only way of escape from -John 3:16; 8:51; Acts 4:12
Saints shall escape -Revelation 2:11; 20:6
Strive to preserve others from -James 5:20
Illustrated -Luke 16:23-26
And there are many who enter through it: kai polloi eisin (3PPAI) oi eiserchomenoi (PMPMPN) di' autes;
And there are many - What a sad statement.
Many (4183) (polus) is much of number, quantity or amount. The many will include nominal professing Christians, atheists, religionists, theists, humanists, Jews and Gentiles form every background, persuasion or circumstance who has not found and entered the small gate and come to saving faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Enter (eiserchomai from eis = into + erchomai = come > literally "come into") is in the present tense picturing an endless line of men and women continually plodding to perdition!
Wiersbe wisely observes that...The broad way is the easy way; it is the popular way. But we must not judge spiritual profession by statistics; the majority is not always right. The fact that “everybody does it” is no proof that what they are doing is right. Quite the contrary is true: God’s people have always been a remnant, a small minority in this world. The reason is not difficult to discover: The way of life is narrow, lonely, and costly. We can walk on the broad way and keep our “baggage” of sin and worldliness. But if we enter the narrow way, we must give up those things. Here, then, is the first test:
Did your profession of faith in Christ cost you anything? If not, then it was not a true profession. Many people who “trust” Jesus Christ never leave the broad road with its appetites and associations. They have an easy Christianity that makes no demands on them. Yet Jesus said that the narrow way was hard. We cannot walk on two roads, in two different directions, at the same time.
Marvin Vincent comments that...A remarkable parallel to this passage occurs in the “Pinax” or “Tablet” of Cebes, a writer contemporary with Socrates. In this, human life, with its dangers and temptations, is symbolically represented as on a tablet. The passage is as follows:
“Seest thou not, then, a little door, and a way before the door, which is not much crowded, but very few travel it? This is the way which leadeth into true culture.”
Arthur Pink has some relatively pithy comments on Mt 7:13-14 that you might care to read...The verses to which we have now come are closely connected with the previous sections of the Lord’s Sermon, in which He had described the character of those who were the subjects of His kingdom and had laid down the rules by which they must walk. Such teaching as He had given out was at direct variance with the popular views entertained by His hearers. The Jews supposed that they were all to be the subjects of the Messiah, simply from being the natural descendants of Abraham and because they bore in their flesh the mark of the covenant (circumcision).
But throughout this discourse the Lord Jesus had made it abundantly clear that something more essential than physical lineage and submission to ceremonial rites was required to make them spiritual heirs of the patriarch. There was a straiter gate which had to be entered than any privilege which natural birth gave admittance to, a narrower way to be traversed than that religious life mapped out by the scribes and the Pharisees. Only those are accounted the true children of Abraham who have his faith (Ro 4:16), who do his works (Jn 8:39), and who are vitally united to Christ (Gal 3:29).
If the teaching of Christ was radically different from that in which the Jews of His day had been brought up, it is in equally sharp contrast with most of the concepts which now prevail in Christendom. If the Jews were completely ignorant of the high and searching requirements of God’s holiness it cannot be said that our own generation is any better informed.
If they (the Jews) plumed themselves on being the children of Abraham, a large percentage of our people complacently assume that they are members of a “Christian nation.”
If they believed that the rite of circumcision secured for them the favor of God, multitudes in our churches imagine that the sprinkling of water on the brow of an infant obtains for it a passport to heaven.
And even in those circles which are better instructed, for the most part salvation is offered on much easier terms, far more acceptable to the natural man, than those prescribed by the incarnate Son of God.
The analogy may be extended still farther, for if it was the religious leaders of Israel who most strenuously opposed our Lord, it is those now making the loudest claims to orthodoxy that are the bitterest antagonists of the Truth. Let any man who “attends church” die, and no matter how worldly his life or how crooked his business dealings, do not his friends say with one consent “he is now at rest,” and is not the preacher expected to declare in his funeral sermon that the deceased is “better off”? If anyone should dare to dissent is he not at once condemned for being “harsh and uncharitable”? The tree, forsooth, is not to be known by its fruits but by the label some parsonic (parson) gardener has attached to it.
And why is it that there are scarcely any left among us who really believe that only the few will reach heaven? There can only be one answer: because it is now generally held that heaven can be obtained on much easier terms than those prescribed by Christ. The adulterous generation in which our lot is cast are quite sure that heaven can be reached without treading the only way which leads there, that the kingdom of God can be entered without passing through “much tribulation” (Acts 14:22), that we may be disciples of Christ without denying self, taking up our cross and following Him (Mt 16:24). They do not believe that if their right eve offends it must be plucked out and if their right hand offends it must be cut off (Mt 5:29,30). They do not believe that if they live after the flesh they shall die, and that only if through the Spirit they mortify the deeds of the body they shall live (Ro 8:13). They are fully persuaded that a man can serve two masters and succeed in “making the best of two worlds.” In short, they do not believe the gate is as “strait” nor the way as “narrow” as Christ declared it to be.
Spurgeon in his expositional commentary on Matthew writes...Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Be up and on your journey. Enter in at the gate at the head of the way, and do not stand hesitating. If it be the right road, you will find the entrance somewhat difficult, and exceedingly narrow; for it demands self-denial, and calls for strictness of obedience, and watchfulness of spirit. Nevertheless, “enter ye in at the strait gate.” Whatever its drawbacks of fewness of pilgrims, or straitness of entrance, yet choose it, and use it. True, there is another road, broad and much frequented; but it leadeth to destruction.
Men go to ruin along the turnpike-road, but the way to heaven is a bridle-path. There may come other days, when the many will crowd the narrow way; but, at this time, to be popular one must be broad, broad in doctrine, in morals, and in spirituals. But those on the strait road shall go straight to glory, and those on the broad road are all abroad. All is well that ends well: we can afford to be straitened in the right way rather than enlarged in the wrong way; because the first endeth in endless life, and the second hastens down to everlasting death.
Lord, deliver me from the temptation to be “broad”, and keep me in the narrow way though few find it! (Matthew 7)
Solomon wrote the same truth in two proverbs (Pr 14:12, 16:25) emphasizing that this is a vitally important truth...
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
What Poor, Despised Company - Composer Unknown
What poor, despised company, of travelers are these,
That walk in yonder narrow way, along that rugged maze?
Why, they are of a royal line, all children of a King:
Heirs of immortal crowns divine, and loud for joy they sing.
But some of them seem poor, distressed, and lacking daily bread:
Ah! They’re of wealth divine possessed, with hidden manna fed.
Why do they keep that narrow road, that rugged, thorny maze?
Because that way their Leader trod, they love and keep His ways.
Why do they shun the pleasing path, the worldly love so well?
Because it is the road to death, the open Toad to hell.
What! Is there then no other road, To Canaan’s happy ground?
Christ is the only way to God, No other can be found.
The Narrow Gate: The story is told of Professor T. H. Huxley, the father of agnosticism. As he came to the end of life, the nurse attending him said that as he lay dying, the great skeptic suddenly looked up at some sight invisible to mortal eyes, and staring a while, whispered at last, “So it is true.” And he died.
According to Svetlana Stalin, when her father, Joseph Stalin, was dying, he was lying with his eyes closed. At the very last moment, he suddenly opened his eyes and looked at the people in the room. It was a look of unutterable horror and anguish. Then he lifted his left hand, as though pointing to something, and dropped it and died. One wonders how many who are attracted to his socialistic views are told how he departed this life to the next?!
The Broad Road to Destruction - In 2001 George Barna reported that 51% of Americans believed that if a person was generally good, or did enough good things for others during their life, they would earn a place in heaven.
F B Meyer writes the following devotional entitled The broad and the narrow way...Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction Narrow is the way which leadeth unto life --Matt 7:13-14
At the beginning of life, each soul stands before these two paths. In each of us the love of life is strong, and in each is the desire to get as much as possible out of the years which may be given. Amiel expresses this strong passion for life when he says: "A passionate wish to live, to feel, to express, stirred the depth of my heart. I was overpowered by a host of aspirations. In such a mood one would fain devour the whole world, experience everything, see everything, learn everything, tame everything, and conquer everything."
In our early years each of us wakes up to the throb of strong natural impulses, and we are tempted to argue, if God has given me these strong desires, why should they not be gratified? Why should I not throw the reins on the necks of these fiery steeds, and let them bear me whither they may? To do this, is to go through the wide gate, and to take the broad road. It is the way of society, of the majority, the "many" go in there, It is pre-eminently the way of the world, and no one who goes by this way, allowing his course to be dictated by strong natural impulses, need fear that he will be counted strange or eccentric!
It must be admitted that, in its first stages, the broad way is generally easy and rather delightful. The boat launched on the flowing stream sweeps merrily and pleasantly along the gradient of the road slopes so as to make walking easy, the sun shines, and the path is filled with bright flowers. But to a life given up to self-indulgence, there is only one end, destruction.
There is a more excellent way, but it is too narrow to admit the trailing garments of passionate desire, too narrow for pride, self-indulgence, greed, and avarice, it is the Way of the Cross, but it leads to Life! We all want to see life, and the remarkable thing is that those who expect to get most out of it by self-indulgence miss everything; whilst those who seem to curtail their lives by following Christ, win everything. Few find and enter this path, is the lament of our Lord. Let us put our hand in His, that He may lead us into the path of life, "that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
PRAYER: Dear Lord, as Enoch walked with Thee of old, so would we walk each day, choosing the narrow path; order our steps in Thy way, and graciously walk with us. AMEN. (F. B. Meyer. Our Daily Walk)
O brother, life’s journey beginning, by Ira D Sankey
O brother, life’s journey beginning, with courage and firmness arise!
Look well to the course thou art choosing; be earnest, be watchful, and wise!
Remember—two paths are before thee, And both thy attention invite;
But one leadeth on to destruction, the other to joy and delight.
God help you to follow His banner, and serve Him wherever you go;
And when you are tempted, my brother, God gives you the grace to say “No!”
O brother, yield not to the tempter, No matter what others may do;
Stand firm in the strength of the Master, Be loyal, be faithful, and true!
Each trial will make you the stronger, If you, in the name of the Lord,
Fight manfully under your Leader, Obeying the voice of His Word.
O brother, the Savior is calling! Beware of the danger of sin;
Resist not the voice of the Spirit that whispers so gently within.
God calls you to enter His service— To live for Him here, day by day;
And share by and by in the glory that never shall vanish away.
Matthew 7:14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (NASB)
Greek: ti stene e pule kai tethlimmene (RPPFSN) e hodos e apagousa (PAPFSN) eis ten zoen, kai oligoi eisin (3PPAI) oi euriskontes (PAPMPN) auten.
Amplified: But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it. (Amplified Bible)
KJV: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
NLT: But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it. (NLT)
Phillips: The narrow gate and the hard road lead out into life and only a few are finding it." (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: Because narrow is the gate and compressed is the road, the one which leads away into the life, and few there are who are finding it.
Young's: how strait is the gate, and compressed the way that is leading to the life, and few are those finding it!
For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Mt 16:24, 25; Pr 4:26, 27; 8:20; Is 30:21; 35:8; 57:14; Je 6:16; Mk 8:34; Jn 15:18, 19, 20; 16:2, 33; Ac 14:22; 1Th 3:2, 3, 4, 5) (Mt 20:16; 22:14; 25:1-12; Lk 12:32; 13:23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30; Ro 9:27, 28, 29,32; 11:5,6; Ro 12:2; Ep 2:2,3; 1Pe 3:20,21)
Int'l Children's Bible renders this verse..."But the gate that opens the way to true life is very small. And the road to true life is very hard. Only a few people find that road"
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it; Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide; Back to the narrow way patiently win them; Tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died.-- Fanny Crosby
Jamieson writes...Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life. In other words, the whole course is as difficult as the first step; and (so it comes to pass that) few there be that find it. The recommendation of the broad way is the ease with which it is trodden and the abundance of company to be found in it.
It is sailing with a fair wind and a favorable tide. The natural inclinations are not crossed, and fears of the issue, if not easily hushed, are in the long run effectually subdued. The one disadvantage of this course is its end, it "leadeth to destruction."
The great Teacher says it, and says it as "One having authority." (Mt 7:29) To the supposed injustice or harshness of this He never once adverts. He leaves it to be inferred that such a course righteously, naturally, necessarily so ends. But whether men see this or not, here He lays down the law of the kingdom, and leaves it with us.
As to the other way, the disadvantage of it lies in its narrowness and solicitude. It’s very first step involves a revolution in all our purposes and plans for life, and a surrender of all that is dear to natural inclination, while all that follows is but a repetition of the first great act of self-sacrifice.
No wonder, then, that few find and few are found in it. But it has one advantage-; it "leadeth unto life."
Some critics take "the gate" here, not for the first, but the last step in religion; since gates seldom open into roads, but roads usually terminate in a gate, leading straight to a mansion. But as this would make our Lord's words to have a very inverted and unnatural form as they stand, it is better, with the majority of critics, to view them as we have done. But since such teaching would be as unpopular as the way itself, our Lord next forewarns His hearers that preachers of smooth things, the true heirs and representatives of the false prophets of old, would be rife enough in the new kingdom.
Kistemaker writes that...In order to enter by the narrow gate one must strip himself of many things, such as a consuming desire for earthly goods, the unforgiving spirit, selfishness, and especially self-righteousness. The narrow gate is therefore the gate of self-denial and obedience. On the other hand, “the wide gate” can be entered with bag and baggage. The old sinful nature, all it contains and all its accessories, can easily march right through. It is the gate of self-indulgence. So wide is that gate that an enormous, clamorous multitude can enter all at once, and there will be plenty room to spare. The “gate,” then, indicates the choice a person makes here in this life, whether good or bad.
Narrow (2346) (thlibo from thláo = crush, squash; see related word study, thlipsis) means literally to press hard upon, crowd close against, squeeze or crush. It is so used when speaking of pressing grapes so as to extract the juice. Mark applies the literal meaning of thlibo to describe Jesus asking for a boat to stand ready in case the multitudes would "crowd (or press upon - thlibo) Him" (Mark 3:9).
Lloyd-Jones compared the narrow gate to a turnstile that admits one person at a time.
Here are some uses from ancient secular Greek literature (adapted from BDAG), tight quarters; the city jammed full with a multitude; small living quarters; a tight place and full of bad snakes = a place jammed full with bad snakes the misery is twofold: tight quarters to begin with and being totally surrounded by snakes); distressed by someone’s scheming; distressed soul.
Vine says thlibo means to to suffer affliction, to be troubled, with reference to sufferings due to the pressure of circumstances, or the antagonism of persons. In the present use the verb in the perfect tense conveys the idea of that which is narrow or strait (cramped, a position of acute difficulty), hemmed in, like a mountain gorge. Vine adds thlibo when referring to the way is ‘rendered narrow’ by the Divine conditions, which make it impossible for any to enter who think the entrance depends upon self–merit, or who still incline towards sin, or desire to continue in evil.
TDNT writes that...1. thlibo means literally “to press,” “squash,” “hem in,” then “to be narrow.” thliÃpsis means “pressure” in the physical sense, e.g., medically of the pulse. 2. thlibo figuratively means “to afflict,” “harass” with the nuances a. “to discomfit,” b. “to oppress” or “vex.” Philosophically the group is used for life's afflictions.
B. thlibo, thlipsis in the LXX: 1. The theologically significant figurative use is common in the LXX for various Hebrew terms meaning a. “to distress,” b. “to treat with hostility,” c. “to afflict,” d. “to oppress,” and e. “to harass,” “be hostile to,” and even “destroy,” or, in the case of the noun, a. “trouble,” b. “distress,” c. “oppression,” “tribulation,” etc. 2. Both internal and external afflictions are in view, the former covering both distress and anxiety, the latter the afflictions of slaves or aliens, oppression by enemies, and such troubles as illness, desert wandering, and shipwreck. 3. Inner fear or anguish may be intended (cf. Gen.42:21'). 4. The terms acquire theological significance because the reference is usually to the distress of Israel (or the righteous), e.g., in Egypt (Ex 4:31), or exile (Dt. 4:29). Often such distress is seen as a divine visitation on the people, so that we read of a present or future day of affliction (Is 37:3 Hab 3:16). 5. Yet the righteous also suffer various afflictions (enemies, sickness, etc.) from which God delivers them (cf. Ps 9:9, 32:7). In later Judaism afflictions are said to bring about repentance, increase merit, or achieve expiation for the self or others. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)
Thlibo is used 10 times in the NT...
Matthew 7:14 "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
Mark 3:9 And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the multitude, in order that they might not crowd Him;
2Corinthians 1:6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;
2Corinthians 4:8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
2Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.
1Thessalonians 3:4 For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.
2Thessalonians 1:6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
2Thessalonians 1:7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,
1 Timothy 5:10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
Hebrews 11:37 (note) They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated
Thlibo is used some 76 times in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) - Ex 3:9; 22:21; 23:9; Lev. 19:33; 25:14, 17; 26:26; Deut. 23:16; 28:52, 53, 55, 57; Jos. 19:47; Jdg. 4:3; 6:9; 8:34; 10:8f, 12; 1 Sam. 10:18; 28:15; 30:6; 2 Sam. 13:2; 22:7; 1 Ki. 8:37; 2 Ki. 13:4; 2 Chr. 6:28; 28:22; 33:12; Ezr. 4:1; Neh. 4:11; 9:27; Job 20:22; 36:15; Ps. 3:1; 13:4; 18:6; 23:5; 27:2, 12; 31:9; 42:10; 44:7; 56:1; 60:12; 69:17, 19; 78:42; 81:14; 102:2; 106:11, 42, 44; 107:6, 13, 19, 28; 120:1; 143:12; Isa. 11:13; 18:7; 19:20; 28:14; 29:7; 49:26; 51:13; Jer. 30:20; Lam. 1:3, 5, 7, 10, 17, 20; 2:17; Ezek. 18:18; Mic. 5:9. For example...
Exodus 3:9 "And now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing (Heb = lachats = squeeze, press, oppress; Lxx = thlibo in the present tense = continually) them.
Judges 4:3 And the sons of Israel cried to the Lord; for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and He oppressed (Heb = lachats = squeeze, press, oppress; Lxx = thlibo) the sons of Israel severely for twenty years.
Guzik warns that...The true gate is both narrow and difficult. If your road has a gate that is easy and well traveled, you do well to watch out. (Matthew 7)
BDAG says that thlibo is used of a road, a narrow, confined road and therefore a source of trouble or difficulty to those using it (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature)
The Geneva Study Bible writes that...Presenting a rosy picture of the Christian life and minimizing that it is filled with trouble does not follow the lead of our Lord. (cp 2Ti 3:12-note, Php 1:29, 30)
In sum combining the various definitions, we see that the true way is not only narrow but also difficult. Jesus was saying that the narrow restricting way has connections with persecution, a major theme in Matthew’s Gospel (cf. Matthew 5:10-12, 44; 10:16-39; 11:11-12; 24:4-13; Acts 14:22) The upshot is that if the road you are on has a gate that is easy and well traveled, you do well to reconsider your journey through this life while you still have breath!
Kistemaker comments that...It is clear, therefore, that our Lord does not follow the method that is used by certain self-styled revivalists, who speak as if “getting saved” is one of the easiest things in the world. Jesus, on the contrary, pictures entrance into the kingdom as being, on the one hand, most desirable; yet, on the other, not at all easy. The entrance-gate is narrow. It must be “found.” And the road with which it is linked is “constricted.”
J. M. Gibson’s remark is to the point, “[Christ’s] appeal is made in such a way as shall commend it, not to the thoughtless, selfish crowd, but to those whose hearts have been drawn and whose consciences have been touched by his presentation of the blessedness they may expect and the righteousness expected of them.”
Is it not true that the really great evangelists, think of Whitefield, Spurgeon, and their worthy present day followers, stressed and are stressing this same truth? Was this not also the lesson that Joshua was trying to teach the Israelites (Josh. 24:14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28; see especially Josh 24:14, 15, 16; 19)? (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. Vol. 9: New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker or Logos)
The true way to God is narrow, difficult and demanding and has relatively few pilgrim travelers. In contrast the false way is broad, easy and permissive and has many lost souls traveling on it.
Steven Cole in his sermon entitled The Narrow Door has the following analysis of Jesus' admonition...Salvation requires our earnest effort, our urgent attention, and our careful self-examination. It requires our earnest effort because the door is narrow. It requires our urgent attention because the door is soon to be closed. It requires our careful self-examination because once it is closed; the door will be eternally-closed.
1. Salvation requires our earnest effort: the narrow door (Lk 13:24).
Our Lord did not say, “Good question! Let’s divide up into groups and discuss what each of you thinks about it.” To pool the group’s thoughts would only increase speculation. Jesus wasn’t interested in speculation about theology. He was concerned about the personal salvation of His hearers. So, rather than opening it up for discussion, Jesus gave a command that applied the question to His hearers’ hearts: “Strive to enter by the narrow door.”
A. Salvation requires our earnest effort because the door is narrow and exclusive, not wide and all-inclusive.
Strive comes from a Greek word used of athletic contests and of war. Obviously, it implies a great deal of effort. You don’t win wars or athletic contests by being passive. You never see an athlete receiving the gold medal, who says, “I had never worked out or run in a race until a few weeks ago. I thought it would be fun, so here I am.” Every athlete who wins strives to win. He invests great energy and effort into winning. It is not an accident if he wins. It is the result of deliberate and sustained effort. Not everyone receives the prize. Only a few are winners.
The fact that the door is narrow implies that it takes some deliberate thought and effort to go through it. There aren’t many doors into the same place, so that you can take your pick. There is one and only one door, which is Jesus Christ. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). The entrance is narrow and exclusive, not broad and all-inclusive.
There isn’t one great big door that’s easy to find and stroll through without thinking about it. There is one narrow door. You might not like the fact that it is narrow. You may think that it’s too exclusive. You may say, “I believe that God is loving and that He will accept everyone who tries to do his best. Perhaps all sincere people will get through the door.” But, the fact is, according to Jesus it is narrow, not wide. He made it narrow without checking with us for our ideas about how wide it should be. Whether you like it or not, Jesus claimed to be the only way to God. You can either enter through the narrow door, which is Christ alone, or you can invent a broad door that includes many ways to God, and thus contradict what Jesus Himself said.
Jesus is asking, “Are you striving to enter the narrow door? Are you making your salvation a matter of deliberate and sustained effort? Are you sure that you’re entering the narrow door as defined by Jesus and not a broad door of your own choosing?” You say, “Whoa! I thought that salvation is a free gift, received simply by grace through faith, not a matter of our effort. How does this harmonize with striving for it?”
Jesus isn’t talking about salvation by works or human effort. But He is talking about our attitude toward it. Those who are only mildly interested about salvation will not obtain it. Those who view salvation as an interesting topic for discussion are missing the point. Those who say, “I believe that all roads lead to God and all good people will go to heaven” are engaging in human speculation, but they are not submitting to Jesus’ divine revelation. They are putting their thoughts about being open-minded and tolerant above Jesus’ words that the door is narrow.
The salvation of your eternal soul should not be a casual subject that is good for an occasional stimulating theological discussion! It ought to consume your attention. It shouldn’t be a matter of mild interest that elicits a halfhearted response. You need to take great pains to make sure that you have entered the narrow door. Jesus doesn’t say, “Stroll through the big door sometime when you’re not doing anything else and check it out.” He says, “Strive to enter by the narrow door.”
Again, picture the Olympic athlete. He makes winning the gold medal the focus of his life. Everything he does is controlled by his goal of winning the gold. He won’t eat anything that is not good for him, because it might hinder his muscles from performing at their maximum on the day of the race. He doesn’t go to parties and stay up late the night before, because he wants to be rested and ready to give everything to the race. He will refrain from engaging in fun activities that his other friends enjoy, such as skiing or playing softball, because he doesn’t want to break his leg or tear his ligaments. He is disciplined to work out for hours, often when his body is screaming, “That’s enough!” because he wants to win.
That’s the kind of attitude that we should have toward our own salvation, according to Jesus. It shouldn’t be a nice thing to think about every once in a while when you don’t have anything better to do. It should be on your mind every day. It should govern everything you do. It should determine how you spend your time, your money, and your leisure hours. You must strive to enter because the door is narrow. It’s not a great big wide door that you can wander into without thinking about it. You must be earnest to make sure that Christ alone is your hope of salvation.
B. Salvation requires our earnest effort because many will seek to enter and will not be able to do so.
Jesus says that many will seek to enter and will not be able. The following verse indicates that they will not be able to enter because they missed the deadline. It is not that many strive to enter, but only some of those striving succeed. Rather, as the following verses show (Lk 13:25, 26, 27), some will wake up to the serious issues involved in their own salvation too late. They had assumed that all was well with them because they were decent, religious people. They knew Jesus in a casual way, but they had not taken the gospel to heart. They had never repented of their sins. But they didn’t consider these matters seriously until it was too late. The point is that if you follow the crowd you will not follow the Savior into eternal life. Jesus says that there are many (and He is talking about the religious crowd) who will not enter through the narrow door. If you follow them, you will be shut out when that door slams shut. And, it always takes effort, both mentally and morally, to go against the majority. You have to think about matters for yourself and decide, “I will not follow conventional wisdom. I will not go along with group pressure. I will follow the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So Jesus’ first point is that salvation requires our earnest effort. If you are only halfhearted about it or go with the crowd, you will miss it! You must strive to enter by the narrow door. Salvation requires our urgent attention: the soon-closed door (Lk 13:25, 26, 27).
Strait is the gate to all that come, by Karolina W. Sandell-Berg
Strait is the gate to all that come, and narrow is the way,
Which leads unto the heavenly home, Where yet is room for thee, Where yet is room for thee.
In Heav’n, where God His own shall take, There’s also room for thee.
In Jesus’ Name, for Jesus’ sake, the gates shall opened be, the gates shall opened be.
Where thousands stand arrayed in white, whom God His own declared,
There yet is room and life and light, by grace for thee prepared, by grace for thee prepared.
In Jesus’ heart there’s room, I know, And in His Heav’n of bliss.
He in His Gospel tells me so, Thanks be to God for this, Thanks be to God for this.
Now God be praised, that even I, May in that city dwell,
Where peace shall reign eternally, and all with me be well, and all with me be well.
Leads (520) (apago from apo = from + ago = lead) means to lead away.
Jesus, my all, to Heaven is gone, He Whom I fix my hopes upon;
His track I see and I’ll pursue, the narrow way, till Him I view.
Life (2222) (zoe) is the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate, physical life (Ro 8:38-note, 1Co 3:22, Php 1:20-note, Jas 4:14, etc).
More often in the NT (including the present context) zoe describes absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God the Giver of life and which is made available from Him to those who enter the small gate and the narrow way of Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul explains that for those who enter this narrow way "Christ...is our life" (Col 3:4-note) This quality of life speaks of fullness of life which alone belongs to God the Giver of life and is available to His children now (Ro 6:4-note, Ep 4:18) as well as in eternity future (Mk 10:30, Titus 1:2-note on Eternal Life) for those who have received the gift of life found in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6).
Truly meaningful life, life on the "highest plane", life that really is worthwhile is found only in "the promise of life in Christ Jesus" (2Ti 1:1) Who came so that we might have life and might have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). This life is "in Christ Jesus" and therefore is a life that is eternal, for He is eternal and our union with Him conveys eternality (right now...in this present evil age!). It is a life that is capable of enjoying the things of God down here, and a life that will be equally suitable to our heavenly home.
Jesus said: "this is eternal life that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." (Jn 17:3)
This new quality of life then is the present possession of the believer because of his or her relationship with the Lamb Who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29) and it is also our future hope when we will receive our glorified bodies (cp Ro 8:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23); 1Co 15:47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58) , have every tear wiped away (Re 7:17, Re 21:4) and be forever free from sin, sickness, sorrow, suffering, and death (1Co 15:55, Php 3:20, 21). This is life real and genuine, life active and vigorous, supernatural life in the sphere of and devoted to God in this present life and the one to come! Forever alive in Christ! Glory! Hallelujah!
Vine adds, "The special point here is not the promise of life, as proclaimed in the gospel, but life as ministered and enjoyed in the experience of the believer."
Few (3641) (oligos) in reference to numbers, means small or few. According to Christ Himself, most people will not be saved, in spite of the fact that He offers salvation as a free gift to all. Jesus clearly did not believe in the doctrine of universalism that is growing in popularity today, the belief that everyone will eventually end up in heaven.
Jesus made a similar allusion to the relatively small number who enters the small gate declaring..."Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)
In Luke 12, instead of oligos as in Mt 7:14, Jesus used "mikros” which signifies something very small.
The number who finds life is not "few" because God does not desire for people to be saved, for Peter records...
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing (Boulomai expresses deliberate exercise of one's will, the inward predisposition and bent from which active volition proceeds and is in the present tense) for any to perish (apollumi, Separation from God Himself = utter and hopeless ruin and loss of well-being and all that gives worth to existence so that instead of becoming what one might have been, he loses all hope of achieving) but for all to come (more literally "to make room for") to repentance (a change of mind that results in an action of the will. If the sinner honestly changes his mind about sin, he will turn from it. If he sincerely changes his mind about Jesus Christ, he will turn to Him, trust Him, and be saved). (2 Peter 3:9)
Paul adds that God...desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Ti 2:4)
Find (heurisko gives us our English eureka, an exclamation attributed to Archimedes on discovering a method for determining the purity of gold) means to learn the location of something. To find implies that it is to be sought and Luke emphasizes the same truth when...
"Someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Strive (present imperative of agonizomai) to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:23-24) (Agonizomai implies that entering the door to God’s kingdom takes conscious, purposeful, and intense effort)
There is a narrow way in the spiritual life; the way of faith in Christ. It leads to heaven. Trust Jesus today Take the narrow way!
And now there's yet another type of thoroughfare that's taking us to never-before traveled areas. It's called the "information superhighway," and it promises to be an avenue to discovery and knowledge. Via computer hookups, we can access vast libraries of new information. Asphalt and concrete roads lead us to physical destinations. Computer highways take us to places of the mind--information destinations that can enlighten, educate, and entertain us. All those roads. All those decisions. All those possibilities.
Yet no road, no highway, no computer network can compare with the only true superhighway, the narrow way.
In Matthew 7, Jesus told us about that way. It is entered through a narrow gate, its course is difficult, and it is not as crowded as the broad way that leads to destruction. Jesus was talking about the path that we take when we put our faith in Him. He was talking about the road to heaven. Are you on that highway? We have so many paths to take in life, but God's way is the only one that leads to eternal life.
Oh, choose now the path of salvation, and enter in at the strait gate!
Come now, while the Savior is calling; tomorrow may be too late!
The path that fools have trod is a well-beaten one.
The Narrow Way - by William Cowper
What thousands never knew the road! What thousands hate it when ‘tis known!
None but the chosen tribes of God, Will seek or choose it for their own.
A thousand ways in ruin end, by that my willing steps ascend, Pleased with a journey to the sky.
No more I ask or hope to find, Delight or happiness below;
Sorrow may well possess the mind that feeds where thorns and thistles grow.
The joy that fades is not for me, I seek immortal joys above;
There glory without end shall be the bright reward of faith and love.
Cleave to the world, ye sordid worms, Contented lick your native dust!
But God shall fight with all His storms, against the idol of your trust.
F B Meyer: Counterfeits, " Beware!” Mt 7:13-27: The world is full of counterfeits, and shams abound! Too often we paint and varnish paper to look like marble; we make paste jewels; we make the soles of boots of paper; and experts are deceived. There is great danger, therefore, of the same spirit creeping into the Church, and our Lord, who knew the heart of man, warns His disciples against the counterfeits of true religion.
1. This experience does not involve the denial of self: That religious experience is a counterfeit which does not involve the denial of self. We must distinguish between the denial of self and self-denial. There may be self-denial which, so far from being the denial of self, leads to self-congratulation and self-aggrandizement. The daughter of a fashionable home may elect to forego the gossip around the afternoon tea in her mother's drawing-room in order to visit an East-End slum, but in her heart of hearts she may be exulting in an afternoon's freedom from conventional custom; she may be congratulating herself on the admiration which her presence may excite amongst the poor; she may be desirous of building up a reputation, and of extracting pity for her self-denying labors. In all this there is a subtle ministering to self which is not easy to detect, but there is no symptom of the spirit of the Cross; the Strait Gate is not entered, the Narrow Way is not trodden. The religious spirit, which is of great price in God's sight, must cut deep into the tap-root of our self-life.
Every religion has recognized this. A non-Christian Hindu at Calcutta sustains that Hinduism demanded eight different steps in the elimination of the self-life, beginning with the love of woman and ending with the love of money. The Greeks recited the story of the Choice of Hercules, that when his young manhood was budding he was assailed by Venus and Minerva, the former promising that she would lead him by a short and easy path to the enjoyment of all delights; whilst the latter, as Leonardo depicts her, demure and staid, in her dress of grey, offers him the stern tasks of duty, calling him to forego the life of self-indulgence. In Hebrew apocryphal literature there is nothing more beautiful than the sketch in the book of Esdras of the city, "full of all manner of good things," standing in the midst of a wide plain, entered by a single narrow portal, which could only be reached by crossing a narrow causeway, so narrow that only one could walk alone, with a raging fire on the right hand and storm-swept water on the left. Every religion which has touched the heart of man has bidden him enter in by the "Strait Gate."
The Lord's picture is very graphic. Each fresh generation seems to stand in a large, open valley, full of hope and eager expectation, and each unit fully intending to make the best of the brief spell of human existence, which is all that is granted, and without the opportunity of returning for a second trial. There are two avenues by which that valley may be left; and our Lord proceeds to contrast the two gates, the character and breadth of the two ways, the number of travelers that frequent them, and their respective goals.
The most popular of these two gates is one that rears its lofty height in white marble, fair and glistening, whose ample space admits a never-ceasing procession of gay young forms, which fill the air with their songs and beat the earth with their dancing feet. Festoons of ivy and vine leaves are carved in the living stone, and gates that look like burnished gold stand wide. It opens on a gently sloping sward, enameled with flowers and crossed by devious tracks; now and again the path expands into open spaces and woodland glades; but as furlong follows furlong the grass becomes barer, the flowers fewer, the track itself is less defined, the crowds become broken up into smaller and smaller groups, and these dissolve into individuals, until finally each finds himself in a land of pits and precipices, where destruction threatens at every step, whilst darkness which may be felt casts midnight shadows. No voice answers to the voice that piteously cries for help; no hand is stretched out to catch the hand that reaches out for succor. How "wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in there at."
But in that valley there is another aperture, a Wicket Gate that might easily be missed unless looked for; this is so narrow that only one can enter at a time, divested of every encumbrance. The path, at the head of which this straight entrance stands, is at first steep and difficult, paved with flints which cut the tender feet. It climbs the bleak hillside, on the one hand the beetling cliffs, on the other the deep ravine, and only a ledge to walk on. It is trodden, not by crowds, but by individuals. The idea of Christiana and her children is truer in the realm of fancy than in fact. But the end is glorious, for that path breaks out at last upon the uplands, "where God Himself is Sun."
(1) The entrance to the life of discipleship demands an effort.
Not that we need work for acceptance or forgiveness; these are ours by the free grace of God. We are not to work for salvation, but from it. We do not work to be saved; but, being saved, we work. Still there is effort to relinquish, effort to be still and to await the strong hand of our Lord, lifting us up from the brink of despair. To lay aside every weight, to refuse the tendency to self-effort, to turn ones back resolutely on some darling sin, and one's face towards the New Jerusalem, to choose the path of separation and service, these call for effort, which our Lord compares to the passage of a strait gate. You cannot drive into it in a carriage, or carry through it your moneybags and your weights.
(2) The continuance in the path of discipleship demands continuous effort.
The world's religion is easy enough. "Do as you like" is its motto. "Be not righteous over much" is its law. You may go to church, undertake some branch of religious philanthropy, and observe certain fasts and festivals; only it must be at the dictate of your own whim and be for your own self-pleasing. The path of the disciple, on the other hand, is one of perpetual limitation and restraint. He does not his own will, but the will of Him that sent him. He anoints his bead, and washes his face, not appearing to men to fast; but all the time he is under the strict law of Christ, which, because it is the law of love, is the most inexorable law of all.
The upward path is lonely. Few there be that find it. In the days when Christianity has been most popular the real disciples have been fewest. Always "a little flock." Always "not many" are called. God called Abram when he was but one.
(3) But the end is absolutely, glorious, and more than compensates.
They that tread that path, saying "No" to self because they are always saying "Yes" to Christ, leave behind the valleys where .the miasma broods and climb to the upland levels of life. They do not need to wait for the end of their journey to realize God's full gift of life; but here and now, at each step and each moment, as they are faithful to death, God gives them a crown of life; as they are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, the life of Jesus becomes more and more manifest in their mortal body. Each step forward is into purer atmosphere and further vision. "It leadeth unto life."
4. This experience does not produce good fruit.
That religious experience is a counterfeit which does not produce good fruit. Our Lord applies this principle, first, to false guides. It was natural that, from speaking of the gate and way, He should go on to characterize the guides, who profess to be able to guide the pilgrim feet by the right track to the right goal. He says, in effect; Do not judge by appearances, for they are very deceptive. The wolf, which comes to raven, may don the fleece of a sheep; thorns may produce a little black berry, which, in the early spring, resembles the black grape; thistles of a certain description will have a blossom not altogether unlike the fig-tree.
"By their fruits ye shall know them.
Primarily this does not mean that the doctrine is the tree, but the man who teaches the doctrine; and you can detect his true nature, not by remarking his words and acts when he is conscious of being watched by many eyes, but by the silent and unconscious fruit of temper, disposition, behavior, in the privacy of the home or amid the obscurity of daily common places. A good tree bringeth forth good fruit; an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.
But it may be replied: Are there not many amongst us who refuse the doctrines of the New Testament, but whose lives and characters condemn many evangelical professors? Does not the presence of such persons in our midst disprove these words of our Lord, and prove that the life is no true test of doctrine? No; because the very atmosphere we breathe is saturated with Christian and evangelical influences. We all owe more to our mothers than we know. The good in the persons whose case we are considering proves that they come of a godly stock, or had, a devoted governess or nurse, or came under the influence of a Christian schoolmaster. As boys they may have been taken to hear the truth as it is in Jesus, proclaimed by lips forever sealed in death. To borrow the thought of another, the momentum that carries the train continues long after the driver has turned off the steam; the tidal wave moves onward long after it has left the attraction of the moon; the radiance of the dying day lingers on the horizon long after the sun has set.
On the whole, the worth and truth of the Gospel has been abundantly attested all down the ages by the myriads of noble characters it has produced, and which have been as salt to the world's corruption and as lights in its darkness.
It is a solemn question for every teacher amongst us, "Am I bearing good or evil fruit? What is the impression which I am producing on those around me? Am I a fruit-bearing branch in the True Vine? If not, whatever nay doctrine may be, I am running a serious risk of being cut down and cast into the fire." To save us from that fate, it is not enough to teach others the conditions of fruit-bearing, not enough to refrain from bearing evil fruit, not enough to be a neutral or negative quantity, the failure to bring forth good fruit will cause us to be condemned to the axe and the bonfire. Many of those who condemn others for their heterodoxy, and pride themselves on the straightness and strictness of their adherence to evangelical doctrine, but who in their criticism of others betray a terrible deficiency of Christian love, and in their domestic life give no signs of the sweetness and humility of Christ, will find some day that their fervid zeal for orthodoxy of creed, which has not been accompanied by orthodoxy of character and conduct, has not availed to secure them from the fate meted out to worthless fruit trees.
Our Lord applies the same principle, next, to false professors. He shows how far a man may go and be lost. He may have a considerable amount of reverence and respect for the Lord's name. He is depicted as addressing the Master as "Lord, Lord"; and as avowing, three time over, that the name of Christ has been the talisman and charm by the use of which all the miracles and mighty works have been accomplished. Three classes defile before us, only to be rejected at the judgment-seat of Christ, where those eyes which are as a flame of fire pierce the counterfeit disciple through and through. First come the prophets, not in the sense of fore-telling, but of forth-telling, the message of a salvation which they have never appropriated for themselves. Next come the exorcists, who have cast demons out of all others than themselves. Lastly come the wonder-workers. But each of these classes is turned away. Not only does the King not know them as they approach, but He professes unto them that He never did know them, and that their works have been works of iniquity.
Every work which is wrought in the spirit of vainglory and for the sake of securing a personal reward is accounted as nothing by the Master, yea, as worse than nothing; it is an affront to Him. Its doer flouts His mercy and long-suffering, and acts as though He had never shed His blood, never expiated his sins, never purchased his redemption. Do those who eulogize the sublime morality of this discourse, but refuse to admit the Divine claims of the speaker, read these closing words? If so, how do they understand them? Does the sanity which has characterized the Master's utterances hitherto forsake them now? Is He reliable as a Teacher and Guide only in dealing with the difficult problems of human life, and egotist or visionary when, without one word of explanation or apology, He assumes the right to sit upon the judgment-seat and utter the verdict of eternity on the quick and dead? If we accept the one set of utterances as the very essence of truth, why should we draw the line when He speaks as able to bid these false disciples to depart?
This is He with whom we have to do; and, pray we, make sure work for eternity. If we are wrong it is surely better to find out our mistake here and now rather than after the die is cast. We may speak with the tongues of men and angels, give all our goods to feed the poor, and our body to be burned in our steadfast witness to the truth, but if we are not inspired by a Divine love to God and man it will count for nothing; and when once the Master has shut-to the door, will be in vain for us to stand without and knock, saying, "Open to us." The door will not open. The darkness will not be riven by a shaft of ruddy light issuing from within. The stern rejection will not be succeeded by a loving recognition.
Do we fear lest such a fate should be ours? Then be of good cheer. Those that dread it most are safest from it. Those who are most self-confident have most reason for alarm. "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." There is no need to die before we can enter it; but here and now, as we with many fears and failures set ourselves to do God's will, we may enter the kingdom and become citizens of its metropolis, the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from God being radiant with His glory.
5. This experience does not secure faith and obedience.
That religious experience is counterfeit which does not secure contact between the soul and Christ with a faith leading to obedience.
In any of those Syrian valleys, which some may have visited, between Beirut and Damascus, it is possible to see wrought out the closing picture of His sermon. In the summer the soil is baked and hard with the intense heat, and any spot will serve equally well as the site of a house. No one can say whether his neighbor has built well or ill; and only the builder himself knows. But in the winter all is altered. The country is then exposed to sudden and heavy storms. The stiff breeze drives up the rain-clouds from the Mediterranean, which empty themselves in floods of rain, and suddenly the water-courses, which for months had been little better than heaps of stones, are filled with foaming floods from bank to brae, pouring down into the valleys and carrying all before them.
It goes ill, under such circumstances, with the man who has pitched his slightly-constructed house on the sand, taking no heed to dig down to the rock beneath, for the foundations are sapped by the rushing torrent, and the very sand is swept into new banks and beds. But the builder who has excavated to the living rock, and grappled it in the lowest courses of his construction, can look without dismay at the scene of devastation around, it comes not nigh to him; only with his eyes does he behold and see the doom of the unwary.
Such is the contrast between the man who hears and does not heed, and him who hears, ponders, and obeys. For, in the words of the apostle, "Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Ro 2:13).
What searching words are these! We have all heard, but have we done? Are we hearers that forget, or doers that work? Do we continue in the perfect law of liberty? Have we ever come into personal and living contact with that "Stone, that tried Stone, that precious Corner-stone," which God has laid before the worlds were made, for a sure foundation? To believe about Christ is not enough; we must believe in Him. We must come to Him as a Living Stone, and be made living stones (1Peter 2:4, 5, 6, 7, 8). Then, and in the impulses received from Him through the Holy Spirit, we shall proceed to build the structure of a godly and holy character, not with wood, hay, and stubble, but with gold, silver, and precious stones, and it shall grow unto a holy temple in the Lord (1Co 3:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
Is it to be wondered at that the people felt that the Master's words were fraught with a mysterious authority and power which were absent from the words of all other speakers? All men have borne witness to this same characteristic, which adds the greater condemnation to those who reject, but which communicates the pulse and thrill of the Divine Spirit to those who receive with meekness the engrafted word that is able to save the soul. (F. B. Meyer. The Directory of the Devout Life)
The strait and narrow ways - Mt 7:13, 14
An idea of can dour and philanthropy leads many to adopt sentiments directly repugnant to the Scriptures. They imagine that few, if any, perish; and that, though the bulk of mankind live in a total neglect of God, they find mercy at the last. But no pretence of candor should induce us so to contradict the plainest declarations of God. If there be any truth in the Scriptures, there are comparatively few who go to heaven. And we need to be awakened to a sense of our dang
The path of the ungodly is broad, and the entrance upon it wide. [There is no difficulty at all in entering upon an ungodly life; we need only, follow our natural bent and inclination. Nor will they who frequent the broad road at all interfere with each other. The gross sensualist, the proud Pharisee, and the specious hypocrite, may have ample scope for their respective pursuits. Sin may be indulged in ten thousand shapes; and “all may go astray, everyone in his own way.” (Is 53:6)]
The path of the godly is narrow, and the entrance upon it strait. [The way of God’s commandments is that to which the godly are confined: and the entrance upon it is by conversion. A man must have seen the evil and danger of his former ways: he must have come to Christ who is “the door;” (John 10:9) and, renouncing every other hope, he must cleave unto Christ with full purpose of heart. Having thus entered, he must go forward in an uniform course of dependence upon Christ, and devotedness to Him. This is indeed a strait and narrow way. A partial repentance, a divided trust, a reserved obedience, will not suffice: our contrition must be deep, our faith unfeigned, and our dedication of ourselves to God entire, or we shall only deceive our own souls.]
To enter upon this path is our bounden duty. [God never intended that men should follow the imagination of their own hearts. He calls us to himself, and invites us by every argument that can affect a rational being. Nor will he leave us to fail for want of strength. If we will exert ourselves in earnest and cry unto Him for help, nothing shall be impossible unto us. Difficult as the duty is, it has been performed by many in all ages. We therefore should exert ourselves without delay. We must not stand aloof, doubting and hesitating whether we shall enter upon this way or not; nor must we put off the time of entering upon it to some more convenient season. The command of God is clear and universal, “Enter ye in at the strait gate.”] We shall see the importance of this duty if we attend to,
II. The arguments with which it is enforced. No stronger arguments can be urged than those suggested in the text.
1. The broad way, however crowded, will infallibly lead us to destruction. [Every way of sin will destroy the soul: whether it be open and notorious, or secret and refined, it will surely bring upon us the wrath of God. Nor will the numbers of those who walk in any way at all affect the quality of their actions. Sin will be sin, though the whole world should countenance each other in the commission of it. The idolatrous compliance of the Babylonish nation was not the less sinful because it was sanctioned by numbers; nor was the nonconformity of the Hebrew Youths rendered less acceptable to God on account of the fewness of those who dared to follow the voice of conscience. Neither indeed will the end of any way be changed on account of the numbers who walk in it. The inhabitants of Sodom, and of the antediluvian world, were not exempted from punishment because they were many. They were overwhelmed, as examples of God’s vengeance to all future ages. (2Pe 2:5, 6) Should not this then make us cautious what path we follow? Should it not stimulate us to flee from the destruction to which we are hastening? O! “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” (Lk 13:24)]
2. The narrow path, however unfrequented, will surely lead us to glory. [God cannot but delight in holiness; and He will testify His approbation of it in the last day. Was Lot overlooked in Sodom, or Noah in the antediluvian world? So if there were but one faithful servant of God in the whole universe, he should in no wise lose his reward. Every step he took in the good way should be marked by God; and in due season he should arrive at his desired end. And, while tribulation and anguish should be assigned to the disobedient, his patient continuance in well-doing should be rewarded with glory and honor and immortality. (Ro 2:7, 8, 9) Should anyone then be afraid of singularity? Is it not better to be a persecuted Elijah worshipping the true God, than to be an applauded worshipper of Baal? Let the prospect of glory therefore encourage us to enter upon the narrow path; nor let us doubt but that the enjoyment of the end will amply compensate for the difficulties of the way.]
1. To those who are not yet entered in at the strait gate. [Perhaps we think that the multitudes by which we are countenanced, afford a reasonable hope that we shall not perish; but it is not possible for God to assert the contrary more strongly than He has done in the words before us, Will you then, in spite of this warning, hope that the saved shall be many, and the damned few? Or will we be contented to perish, seeing that we will have so many companions in misery? Alas! What comfort will it be to us to behold others as wretched as ourself? Will our torments assuage our anguish? O dares to be singular in the midst of a wicked world; and say with Joshua, “As for me, and my house, whatever others may do, we will serve the Lord. (Josh. 24:15)]
2. To those who are walking in the narrow way. [We, no doubt, are blamed for our singularity. But “it is a small matter to be judged of man’s judgment.” To be reproached for righteousness’ sake is no new thing. Nor have we any reason to repine if it be our lot. We have rather reason to rejoice and leap for joy. (Mt 5:10, 11, 12. 1Pe 4:12, 13, 14) Remember, however, that we are not to affect needless singularities, and call them religion. If we bring persecution upon ourselves by such means, we bear our own cross, and not the cross of Christ. That alone which will be pleasing to God is the following of His commandments. In that we cannot be too exact or resolute. But in indifferent matters it is desirable rather to manifest a meek and yielding disposition. (1Co 9:19, 20, 21, 22, 23) Yet compliance may easily be carried too far. And, on the whole, it is expedient always to lean to the safer side. We are in continual danger of being turned out of the good path. Nor can we ever be safe except while we are looking to God for His direction and help.]
The exhortation of the text is unto the main duty of Christianity and religion, to make sure of salvation; wherein heaven and salvation are represented to us as the end of a journey, and a palace to be entered into by a particular gate. The motives are enwrapped together, first, from the multitude that take the more easy way unto destruction; secondly, from the great difficulty there is in taking, finding, and keeping the way that leads to life; which is a cause, that both few seek it, and many take up with what is more easy.
We do not need to stand to speak of Christ’s wisdom, in speaking of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven in parables. It was His constant custom, and a blessed pattern it is; and happy are they that have, by His Spirit, a gift of making the things of God plain, by such similitude’s. It is a way that hath these advantages: 1. It makes things plain, when the similitudes are apt and pertinent, for it brings them down to people’s senses by sensible and obvious things. 2. It hath a very native influence of taking with the fancy and affections, as hath been successfully practiced by all the great orators and masters of persuasion. 3. It sticks in the memory, even as the sight of a man’s picture makes one remember Him better than the description of His person, or an account of His name. 4. It promotes heavenly-mindedness. The many parables in scripture from sowing, and fishing, and planting, and building, and walking, and running, and fighting, may, and ought to bring spiritual subjects to our thoughts, when we see or hear of such things. Two faults in this matter are carefully to be avoided. 1. Light and trifling similitude or resemblances that may reflect on the gravity of divine matters. 2. Too hard and strait pressing of them. They serve only for illustrating, and not for proving, and are not to be pressed beyond their scope and drift.
The other thing we shall speak of in general is this, that even Christ Himself is much and often speaking in His ministry, of the rousing and awakening subjects in religion; as the fewness of the saved, the difficulty of salvation, and the hardness of the labor required about our soul’s eternal welfare. And if Christ be much on this subject, then, His servants should take laws of Him, and imitate His practice, and hear such doctrine gladly, especially since, 1. Nothing is more profitable, than to prevent a cheat in your eternal state; and this is its design; and this cheat is usually carried on by such a principle as this, that salvation is common and easy. 2. Nothing is more suitable, since these heart-plagues and accursed principles are sown in the heart of every man by natural corruption, and watered by the devil’s temptations. And, 3. It is especially useful and seasonable in such a time of trying and stumbling, when we may see the shells of many a wrecked professor.
And to enforce this subject on your thoughts, as a preparative to the hearing of it, consider some things in Christ’s pressing it, which make it far more weighty.
1. He came down from heaven, in the purest and strongest love to fallen sinners, and gave unquestionable proofs of it. Surely, then, He would not lay unnecessary burdens on them. Many a burden that we could not bear, He bore on Himself, and leaves none in the room thereof but what is simply needful, (Matt. xi. 28, 29, 30).
2. He knew better than any, both the number of the saved, and the difficulty of salvation: He knew His own little flock, and all the hardships they were to endure, so that His testimony is yet more to be weighed.
3. Never was any in his name more full and large in offers general and unlimited of a right to him, and in promises of salvation by him, (Matt. xi. 28, 29; John vii. 37, and v. 40).
4. In His own ministry, He was generally sweet and alluring, according as is hinted in Matt. XI. 16, 20. He was not a severe John Baptist, but was a kind tender-hearted pastor.
5. He knew men’s hearts best. Ministers guess by their own experience and the word; but He hath an immediate view of men’s hearts, and therefore, His testimony, both concerning their duty, difficulty, and danger, is far more weighty.
6. He was the clear discoverer and mainly the author of the way to heaven. He had infinite mercy in preparing it, suitable wisdom to know it, and all authority to determine it, as the only way that all must take and follow.
7. We may speak also of His own experience in this matter; that though His case was singular, both as to His difficulties and assistance, yet even this is proposed to us, as a moving pattern for our imitation. (Heb. v. 7, and xii. 2, 3). If the heir of heaven, by birthright, did enter therein through much hardship, much more are we to lay our account with the like.
Let us therefore, from these things, be stirred up to hear what our Lord teacheth us in this plain exhortation; which for the more orderly handling of the matter, passing the order of the words, we shall reduce to these heads: 1. There are two different states that all mankind enter into after this life; the one is called life, the other destruction. 2. There are two different ways that lead thither. 3. It fares with men as to their eternal state, according to the way in which they walk in this life. 4. The difference of the ways is the cause of the difference of the numbers that walk in them. And then, after the handling of these, we shall come closer unto the exhortation given by our Lord, with its grounds.
Remark: 1. There are two different states of all mankind after this life, and no more. Many different states are there in this life as to our outward concernments of body, mind, or other interests; but the greatest of all is that which is the true emblem of this, even the state of men’s souls, in peace or enmity with God. This is commonly acknowledged, and the inference is plain in it, both in its predictions (Rom. ii. 5, 6, 7; 2 Thess. i. 8, 9), and in the account of the form of the judgment to come, (Matt. XXIV. 34, 41, 46). That there are but two is also evident, both from the scripture’s silence of any others, and the peremptoriness of the grounds of men’s being determined and sent to these, even as they are found in the first or second Adam. That they are different states, is commonly acknowledged, yea, the difference is vast, and greater than being and not being.
Use: This plain truth calls more for application unto consciences, than any great pains in informing the mind about it. This calls for,
1. Frequent and serious meditation of it. Men think often too much on any change in their condition, if it be but probable, whether sad or joyful; but this certain and great change hath little room in your thoughts. We sometimes want matter of meditation: here is that which may still be fresh, a great, certain, speedy, eternally-lasting change that is to pass upon us. Suppose a great prince is sending for us all, to carry us into a strange land, where some of us shall be miserable slaves, and others advanced to great state and dignity, if we may thus allude to the proud king’s commission. (See Isaiah XSSVI. 16, 17.)
2. Undervaluing and thinking little of our other present states. They are all but trifles in comparison of this. Present states are but small, future are uncertain. It is sadly strange, though very common, to see people living in this world as they were never to leave it, and minding a future state as if they will never be in it, so common is it to see gross unbelief veiled with fair and full professions of belief.
3. In thinking which of the two shall be ours. If there were many, or if the difference between the two were small, these meditations were the less needful: but now it is so necessary, that, indeed, it is inseparable from the real and serious belief of the truth. To help you in this,
Remark 2. There are two different ways wherein all men walk toward this different state, We shall not urge any difference between the way and the gate, since the words are parabolic, and the inquiry seems neither sober nor profitable. One way leads not unto both, or either. The ways are as far different in their kinds as the states are in their; the difference is that of contrariety and opposition. Not to speak of the difference named in the text, reserving it unto the particular notes, but of that which is proper and elsewhere in the word, ways are distinguished mainly thus, 1. From that which the walker leaves; 2. That which he aims at and approaches to, as is known in familiar talking of such things. Now, these ways differ in both exceedingly. He that walks in the way to life, leaves sin, the world, and its vanities, and draws near unto God, pursues after holiness and communion with God; the other walks, by a leaving of God more and more, for, being born with his back towards God, though he be often called on, he returns not, but goes on in pursuing after vanity and a happiness in somewhat besides God, (See Heb. X. 38, 39.) So that the ways differ exceedingly, not to speak of the different rule by which they walk and other differences handled from Romans VIII. 1, 4.
Only take it in a few plain words: 1. The godly man’s way is in a course of communion with God in Jesus Christ; the wicked’s way is in estrangement from Him: this they love and pursue, (1 John I. 3; Psalm lXXIII. 25, and XVI. 7, 8). 2. The one, in a study of conformity to Him in holiness; the other, to conformity unto the world in vanity, (Rom. XII. 2). 3. The one, in a way of faith and trusting God; the other, in unbelief, and resting all upon the force of sense and reason. Now, that these differ is no question, and that there are no other ways wherein men walk, but in one of these, is evident. What may be said of infants, and such as are without the church, is another question, which belongs not to our purpose.
Use: But here comes the most needful question: Which of these ways do we walk in? We cannot walk in both, no more than be in both states hereafter. To enforce this,
Remark. 3. It fares with men as to their endless state, according to the way they take and walk in now. This is already cleared in its grounds and proofs. (See Rom. II. 5, 6, 7.) It is not more unsuitable unto God’s goodness and faithfulness to send a holy believing soul into hell, than it is to His holiness, justice, and truth, to bring an unholy unbeliever to heaven. So that here, the gate is shut by dreadful bars against the presumption of the unholy man, and is shut in mercy against the fears of a holy tender believer. You may then hence know what shall be your future state, if you can find out your present way.
Remark 4: There is a great difference betwixt the numbers of the walkers in these different ways. There is a great train in the one, and but a few in the other, as is commonly testified in the word; yet is this to be understood only comparatively, for even the godly, considered by themselves, make up a vast multitude. (See Rev. VII 9.) And, that we may consider this first as a caution of the other, these things shew that they are a great number who enter into life:
1. The price that was laid down was surely for some considerable purchase, that though there be still an infinite disproportion between the infinite price and the purchase, yet, surely, it was laid down for the remission of the sins of many.
2. Of this sort have some been in all ages since righteous Abel; since men began to "call upon the name of the Lord," (Gen. IV. 26), wherein Adam himself hath been priest and prophet, to this day have there been always some walking in the way to life.
3. Consider what a great harvest was gathered in after that blessed heat and rain of the Holy Ghost on the apostles, so that even of the Jews (Acts XXI. 20) there are many thousands, and many more of the Gentiles.
4. Consider what a great cloud of witnesses for the truth, by sufferings, there has been in many ages and countries, even of sufferers unto death, of whom all charity commands to believe, that they entered into life, according to Christ’s promise made to sufferers for His name’s sake.
5. Consider how largely the gospel hath been spread by the mercy of the Lord’s blessing on His servants. See but of one man (Rom. XV. 19). Even in the apostles’ days, the church was greatly spread; and more, thereafter, throughout all the Roman Empire, a great part of Asia and Africa. And this sheweth there were great numbers, in that days of the spreading of the light of the gospel, use to be times of its power; and that the Lord still hath some to gather in, or ripen, where it is continued.
And particularly as to the place of the world we live in, if we consider, 1. The long time the gospel hath been amongst us; 2. The many rich gifts He hath bestowed on His servants; 3. The rare acts of providence in preserving, as well as in bringing in the gospel, amongst us; 4. The multitude of tolerably blameless professors; 5. The many godly parents that have a godly posterity, as a witness from heaven against the men who say that children are out of God’s covenant, and deny the duty of instructing them; we may safely conclude, that there is a considerable number in the land that shall enter into life, as there are many already entered therein.
Having thus cautioned this truth, we shall now confirm it in that only sense wherein it is true, and wherein here it is asserted: and it is observable, that it is commonly spoken by way of comparison, as here, either with them that perish, or of the sincere with hypocritical professors, (Matt. XXII, 14, and XX, 16). And though it be commonly acknowledged, yet because it is not duly pondered, we shall lay forth the truth of it before us from these considerations.
1. Consider what a vast multitude is deprived of the very means of the knowledge of the way to heaven, the Bible is in but a few languages. Many millions of sinners have never heard Christ’s name, and never had the messengers of peace proclaiming salvation to them in his name. A subject of very sad meditation is this. Many worshipping sun, moon, and. stars, and the devil himself in a visible and deformed shape, their case is hopeless, and so hath it been for many generations, and likely so to be, till the Lord wonderfully appear for their delivery from the snare of the devil.
2. Consider what a great number of those that have anything of the means of salvation, have them so mixed and corrupted, that there is little success, and little hope thereof. These corruptions are:
1. In doctrine; where, as Paul speaks, they corrupt the simplicity of Christ’s gospel by their human inventions; which has the Bible, but bound up from the people; Christ as Mediator preached, but saints joined therein with Him; justification by faith, but by conjoined works; hell and heaven taught, but purgatory added thereunto, Now, where such doctrines are taught, there is little hope of any sound conversion to be wrought thereby.
2. Corruptions in worship, which when great, render it altogether unacceptable. Prayer is offered unto God, but through idols; sacraments are lamentably corrupted, and mutilated, and clouded with men’s foolish inventions; and that of the Lord’s Supper turned into the most abominable and ridiculous idolatry in the world, to worship a bit of bread, and immediately to eat it, and yet, that, as the real substantial body of Jesus Christ. Now, what hope is there of any communion with God, or communication of grace from Christ, in such ways of worship? Besides, their public prayers and service in an unknown tongue, and thus, the common people are deprived of the hearing of the word read, which in such a case, is more valuable than all their preaching.
3. Corruptions in government and discipline, that they render their salvation yet more hopeless: As, 1. The whole frame of that Babel stands upon the pretended infallibility of their church, which is the very root of that wicked kingdom. And this being more carefully taught than any of the fundamentals of religion, and easily believed by a people nursed up in profaneness and ignorance, and in natural carelessness about their salvation, makes their case very dangerous. 2. Their wicked Hierarchy, or Satanarchy rather, is very dangerous to souls. 3. Their damnable devices of satisfaction for sins, and indulgences for sins to come, and thus they make merchandise of souls, in a more gross manner than is to be found in any religion in the world. This hath these pernicious consequences: 1. It looseth the reins unto profaneness; 2. And leads men into the natural sin of hypocrisy and feigned shows, of devised and imposed duty, instead of true and real holiness; 3. And leads away from Jesus Christ, and brings them to depend on self-justification. In a word, it is a religion framed by Satan and wicked men, to answer a carnal heart’s desires to the full, and is indeed a sorcery, and a most prevailing one, (Rev. XVIII. 23). And the judgment is: "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb," (Rev, XIV. 9, 10).
3. Consider that where the truth is in some good measure purely delivered as to the matter, there are but a few that are ministers of the New Testament indeed, full of the Holy Ghost, and bearing their Master’s image, and going at His call, and feeding in His name. And though conversion doth not necessarily follow on a minister’s godliness, and his lawful call, yet commonly there is little success where there is such a carnal ministry, as that place (Jerem. XXIII. 32) holds forth in some degree: "Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord." This is a blessed appointment of Jesus Christ, and of absolute necessity to the well-being of the church, and of constant continuance therein, (Ephes. IV. 12, 13, 14), and it is highly to be esteemed. But there is no reason, that the honor of the office should cover the faults of them that are clothed with it. Faults that cannot be hid, that are plagues in many ministers throughout the churches, are, 1. Undertaking the work, and setting themselves in the way of preparation unto it, without any call from God, or spiritual sanctifying impression which might conclude a call. 2. Studying of human learning for the increase of gifts, rather than studying true conformity to God in holiness, which is a great qualification. Hence is it seen, that the most learned, and men of greatest gifts, have least or no grace; though sometimes it be otherwise, to testify, that learning and grace are not inconsistent. 3. The much mixture of man in the dispensing of the gospel, (1 Cor. 1. 17, and ii. 4), so that preaching, by many is done as a proof of their parts and learning, rather than the pure and lowly mean whereby Christ hath resolved to save believers. 4. The little standing in God’s counsel, and acting with a dependence on Him, and the influences of the Holy Ghost, which is a cause of much sad work, (Jer. XXIII. 22).
Now, all these faults in ministers have these prejudices attending them as to the people: 1. Some from the evidence of these things have rejected the ministry, and spoken evil of it, a great sin, though it is sad that they should have such a temptation; and which is more pernicious to them, do join themselves to such in whom greater faults are to be found. 2. The Holy Ghost works not, or rarely, with their ministry, but in justice withdraws, when he is not employed nor depended on more than he may and ought to be by any godly man in any employment of the mind. 3. And even these workings are not missed by people; but as such ministers come in their own name, so the people hear them as such, and never inquire after more than what is man’s therein; and instead thereof, have their heads stuffed with notions, and knowledge sometimes increased, and affections tickled by some human devices and flashes of wit, which things are mighty pleasing to a carnal heart, both to give and take, both by precept and example. 4. And such carnal ministers usually lead the people, both by precept and example, into such a sort of practice of godliness as is found with themselves; for ordinarily, except where the fear of God overawes, or where a man is gross in his walking, no man will deliver such a frame of practical godliness to others which is cross to his present attainments or resolutions at least. But of this more fully, when we speak of ourselves and our own case.
4. Consider, besides all these things, and though all these were removed, how small a number of them that have the gospel purely preached, and by faithful ministers, do profess anything; do not so much as take on an honest-like name of Christians. Few will be found, if you search them out wisely; and that will be by searching after their professed obedience to law and gospel. 1. By the consideration of the law, many sorts of hearers are visibly cast out. To begin with the third commandment, all sweaters and forswearers, that commonly and fearlessly take His dreadful name in vain, are out of the way of professors: all Sabbath-breakers: all eminently unfaithful in their relationship, and in the duties thereof: bad husbands, wives, parents, children, masters, servants: all hearts misordered, and persons under the prevalent power of passion, malice, and envy: brawlers, chiders: all unclean beasts, that burn in their filthy lusts, though in the heart only: all thieves, extortionist, and such as get unjust gain: all noted liars, that make no conscience of their words, especially in backbiting and speaking evil of others: all covetous persons. 2. As to the gospel, they are not to be reckoned professors who give any visible token of contempt and despising of its ministry, and turn away their ear from hearing the word: who are openly negligent in performing the duties which are required of them, as family and secret worship in prayer, and reading God’s word: whose conversation is nowise influenced thereby as to any change, but who live just as if they were under heathenism.
5. Consider how many professors who are not guilty of any of these gross evils, yet have a tainted profession. In such spots as observers may perceive as evidences of their unsoundness. Many such things there are. A temptation suitable to their corruptedness coming is welcomed by many, as the thirty pieces by Judas: a trying time, when suffering for the profession cometh, and then are they burnt up by this sun.
6. Consider how many untainted professions are unsound before God. When trials are not great, unsound professors may rub them out: when temptations are not strong, common restraining grace may prevent their being carried away who yet may be heart-workers of iniquity, and may be dust in God’s balance, though all the world besides cannot see their lightness. This sad truth should not be improved into an uncharitable censoriousness of others, but to a jealousy over ourselves, and a belief of this grave truth, that few enter into life.
And the caution of the truth home unto ourselves, and shew us on what considerations it is evident that there are few comparatively that shall be saved in this land, and who walk in the way to life. And in this use such freedom as becomes an ambassador of Jesus Christ.
Consider: 1. How evidently the multitude walk in the way of profaneness, which leads to hell. Now, how many thousands of such there are, would be found no easy work to reckon, such all carry the brand-mark of the devil. This profaneness prevails generally in some places, and too much everywhere.
2. Consider how many souls are poisoned and murdered by their teachers. Not to speak of those who are in a far more hopeless case as to salvation than if they were shut up in cloisters anywhere; neither the gross errors and damnable heresies that many are fed with unto destruction; neither any party. But in general, whoever are fed with doctrines contrary to those foundations, and drink them in, must certainly perish: 1. To the doctrine of the Trinity of persons in the unity of the Godhead. 2. To the incarnation of the Son of God. 3. To the satisfaction paid to justice for sin. 4. To the justification of a sinner by a believing laying hold of this satisfaction. 5. To the authority of the written word, both in revealing truth to be believed, and prescribing duty for practice. But to speak rather of such teachers as have the greatest multitude committed to their charge, and the main allowance in the time for the discharge of their calling; and not out of reflection on them, nor out of partiality, but from a real compassion on the perishing multitude of this nation, and to stir us up unto the like sense, and, to pray for the Lord’s pitying us.
And of them, without any breach of charity it may be said, 1. As to their persons; 2. And then, their way of ministry.
1. As to their persons, which is very considerable for misleading the hearers. 1. The generality of them know not God, nor His Son Jesus Christ, in any saving experimental way: they walk not with Him, nor have His image on them. It is a greater matter to know God savingly, and to have real acquaintance with Him, than is commonly thought. Their common, carnal, and earthly mindedness, and walking after the flesh, doth sadly prove it.
2. They run unsent. How few have a real call from Jesus Christ, to dispense His word and gospel. Their way of entering by simony and unlawful means, and into the rooms of faithful believers; their evident caring for the fleece rather than the flock, doth sadly shew it.
3. They are generally insufficient and unable for the work they pretend to be about. The sufficiency of several is no cover for the lamentable insufficiency of the generality.
4. They are generally negligent in their calling. Though in these parts, on obvious accounts, there is some more diligence in preaching, yet there is little of this through the land. And as for the Nonconformists their neglect of this, their case varieth, for the generality of their hearers are an uncertain company that scarcely look on those they hear as their pastors.
2. As to their ministry, we may find, besides what is hinted, these things, which are very dangerous to souls. There are those errors commonly taught, 1. That people are regenerated in baptism. 2. That such as are obedient unto the church are all good Christians, and accordingly are spoken of, in life and after death; which is a marvelous hardening of the wicked. 3. Speaking evil of strictness, and preciseness, and spirituality, when they do so of them that study the same, who are generally neither lovers of them nor beloved by them. Now, who can tell the pernicious consequences of such doctrines, which, are to be read off the conversation of the generality of their hearers? 4. For worship, fopperies, and mocking of religious worship; and mingling many human devices, and symbols, and badges of conformity with, or inclination to, the Mother of Harlots, especially in their prayers and sacraments. All which shew that; it is no wonder that we conclude the generality inhabitants to be in the broad way to hell.
Consider, 3. How many that have escaped these evils, and is some way clothed with a profession of the faith of purer doctrine and practice, of purer worship, are yet sadly unsound at heart. The evidences given in the general may be here particularly applied for confirmation of this truth as applied unto us. Add a few more.
1. How many ignorant ones crowd in amongst professors, that are ever learning, and never come unto the knowledge of the truth. 2. How many perishing under secret lusts, as secret leaks in a fair-like vessel, which appear most in a storm. 3. How many carnal compliers with every wind of temptation, with every turn and change, men that count gain godliness, and hardly can be persuaded of the lawfulness of any course that may expose them unto suffering; and resolve still to save their stake, be the game played as it will.
In short, the characters of godliness in the word, agree unto a very small number; so that select and sum up from all, and you may see that the saved, in comparison of them that perish, are very few.
Use: Lay aside any deceitful principle about the multitude of the saved, and be no more confident upon the same; but exercise jealousy the more, and search more.
Remark.5: The difference of the numbers of them that obtain these two states, is because of the difference of the ways that lead thither. All that know of life and destruction, desire the better, and to escape the worse. But their hindrance is the difference of the ways. The way to destruction is open, broad, and easy; the other way to life is strait, difficult, and narrow. Of the particular properties of the two ways, we shall speak afterward, if the Lord will. Now only of this general: If the way to life were as sweet, and safe, and taking with flesh and blood, it would be filled with travelers: but it is not so, and as we shall hear, cannot be so. Let us then lay this to heart, that it is men’s unwillingness to meet with labor and difficulties, that discourages many; it is their being bewitched with the present ease of a sinful path. Admire, then, the folly of mankind who are thus taken with the circumstances of the way when the issue and lodging-place are so far different.
In opening this message, we should recognize we are moving from one concept in our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount to another. Most commentators agree that the separation at verse 13 represents a shift in proposition. We just finished a section concerning judgmentalism and judgment. There is probably no better summation than the one provided by Lloyd Jones: “His [Jesus’] object of this sermon, as we have seen, is to bring Christian people to realize first of all their nature, their character as a people, and then to show them how they are to manifest that nature and character in their daily life. Our Lord, the Son of God, has come from heaven to earth in order to found and establish a new kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. He comes into the midst of the kingdoms of this world, and His purpose is to call out a people unto Himself from the world and to form them into a kingdom. Therefore it is essential that He should make it quite plain and clear that this kingdom He has come to establish is entirely different from anything that the world has ever known, that it is to be the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Light, the Kingdom of Heaven. His people must realize that it is something unique and separate; so He gives them a description of it. We have been working through that description. We have looked at His general portrait of the Christian in the Beatitudes. We have listened to Him telling these people that, because they are that kind of person, the world will react to them in a particular way; it will probably dislike them and persecute them. Nevertheless they are not to segregate themselves from the world and become monks or hermits; they are to remain in society as salt and light. They are to keep society from putrefaction and from falling to pieces, and they are to be its light; that light, apart from which the world remains in a state of gross darkness.”
Now our Lord tells us to apply what we have learned. This is not just, “Have you heard me?” It is instead, “Now, get on with the Lord’s business.” We should ask ourselves if we, who call ourselves intellectual, or commonsensical or just plain moral people, supposed to just hear how scripture describes the people in the Kingdom of God. Or are we supposed to act upon what we hear? Are we supposed to do something? Are we just supposed to sit here in the pews and be in church to put our time in? Or are we called to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2)? Our hearts are supposed to exhibit “the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal 5:22). Christians exhibit these things because we are not “conformed to this world,” because “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Rom 12:2; Gal 5:24). We are Christ like because we are Christians. We are not Christians because we act Christ like.
Matthew 7:13-14 is our focus for today. We become mindful of the double-mindedness of man as we read this passage. It is one thing to say, “I’ll do it my way” and actually try to do that. It is wholly another to say, “I’ll do it my way….uh what are the rules again?” This second phrase is what man always defaults to. Interesting as it may seem, as we open to this passage we are again reminded that man always has rules to follow, even if he says he does not want to live by the rules. Further, man knows he must abide by the rules to get what he wants. He knows this and believes it is true of everything, except eternal life.
The Sermon on the Mount is not about the details, but about the big picture. Being poor in spirit is not talking about every minute decision and thought you have, it is about the overall attitude toward your spirit. Mourning is not about crying every day for your decrepit soul, or for that of others; it is about a general attitude concerning the lost soul and the salvation it needs. Being meek is not describing specific instances of gentleness, but a heart growing more and more gentle and loving as it grows in the Spirit of God in becoming a Kingdom saint. This same “big picture attitude” is true for hungering and thirsting after righteousness, being pure, being merciful, and being a peacemaker. You must see that these are practical principles and guidelines that mark the changes in the heart of a Kingdom saint, that a Kingdom saint gradually exhibits these things more and more in their lives. These are practical changes that drive new principles in our lives. Principles are the minutia with respect to a livelihood of one who has a poor spirit, is mournful, meek, craves righteousness, seeks to purify the heart and is a peacemaker. Though the legalist of the day would argue the details, the true Kingdom saint just wants to emulate the Beatitudes.
As one commentator recently stated, “Christ’s words in this sermon are designed to shake a nation, to disrupt established life patterns, to dislodge entrenched ideas, and to force people to choose between two ways of life.”
Those two ways are either submission to God or rebellion against Him. People live in society by society rules, or they do not live in society. We either submit to the laws of the land (society’s rules) or we are put in jail. We see many people in the world that think they can live life the way they want to. The attitude that “No one is going to tell me what to do” is as childish a statement as the four-year-old saying, “No!” to the parent. In both cases, once we find out there are really rules to follow to get what we desire, we usually submit to those rules. Not so with the things of God.
You would think that people who think they are smart enough to try to control every aspect of their personal destiny would figure this out. If you want groceries, you have to go to the grocery store and purchase them. To get what you want, you have to play by the rules. We do this every day in life. Even the unbeliever exercises this to a greater degree. Most people who want to drive a car to work normally go through all the steps to submit to the laws of the land. They apply for, and pass the tests to get a driver’s license. They purchase or borrow a vehicle. They drive the vehicle on the right side of the road, and obey most, if not all, of the traffic laws. Normally they will use roads, and not just drive helter-skelter over the countryside. You would not get far in a car driving through the desert and scrub brush. It is just better to follow the rules than wreck your car.
Yet, when it comes to eternal things, living in God’s kingdom, living in a world wholly different than this one, living in a world no human can control, only to God Himself does man steadfastly say, “I’ll get to Heaven in whatever fashion I desire.” The simple answer is, “No you won’t.” People are quite foolish in talking about God and the things of God when they do not know the scriptures, His plan for man or His plan for man’s redemption. Ignorance has never buttoned the lips of the foolish; it has always loosened them.
There is only one way to Heaven and it has very specific requirements. There is only one route and it has a very well established path. There is only one form or application, and it must be filled out exactly and to the letter. There is only one gate, and it is narrow.
I. Where is our entrance (Verse 13a)?
Christ is where you find the entrance. Christians enter at the narrow gate. The first word in this verse, “enter”, is an imperative. This command is issued as a directive to the Kingdom saints present before the Lord. Quite simply Jesus tells those who desire to be in Heaven with Him to enter via the narrow gate. “Enter ye in at the strait gate” is probably best translated “Enter by the narrow gate,” for the word translated “straight” more directly means “narrow.” It implies restricted or controlled access.
This passage into Heaven is immediately narrow. We cannot enter like a funnel into a wide area and then be herded into a narrower passage. We live a narrow life focused upon a specific path that leads to a unique and small gate. The path, right now, is narrow. Do not misconstrue the image as a funnel where people are put through turnstiles or something. The way begins narrow. The gate for entrance is narrow. Many are outside the gate trying to get in other ways by jumping over the fence. Many wait in the throng for their turn. Neither of these is acceptable. The gate itself is the entryway. You must get through the gate to enter.
There are problems with the world’s thoughts with respect to the entrance. Many believe that being a moral person in the world is not much different than or is even synonymous with being a Christian. It is all the difference in eternity. Morality does not get you through the gate. There is a qualification for entrance and it is not being a good person, following the golden rule (sermon here) or never breaking a law (which is impossible for any single person to do anyway, and everyone readily admits this fact).
Another aspect of worldly thinking concerning the gate is that Christianity is not a narrow life. The gate does not indicate the narrow and restricted life of the believer. There is no indication in life that it is supremely confined. Many would say the Christian life is full of liberty, living, freedom and excitement. The stronger brother can try different worldly things such as social drinking, listening to wicked music or watching movies with profanity and nakedness in them. The weaker brother cannot watch these things. Rubbish. It is the stronger that rejects these things for Christ. The stronger stays on the narrow path toward the narrow gate to enter therein. Both of these ideas fail to convey the narrow path is a dedication to Christ and to serve Him in all things. It has nothing to do with restricting activity. It is instead a focused dedication to serve God in all capacities.
There is no way to enter the gate except by believing in the gospel which is four fold:
Recognize and admit that you are a sinner. Everyone has done one thing in life that broke God’s law. There are two ways that every living individual is permanently disqualified from heaven. First, we are born disqualified; we are born as sin filled creatures. Second, one single sin disqualifies you, any sin. (Ps 51:5; Rom 6:23; Jas 2:10).
Because of our sins we are disqualified to enter Heaven. In order to be qualified for entrance into Heaven, an appropriate sacrifice and atonement as well as a satisfaction of God’s wrath (propitiation) must be made for your sins (Heb 9:22). That atonement, the price paid, the satisfaction of God’s wrath came through the redemption provided by Christ because He, as God, submitted to man’s torture on the cross and God’s judgment for our sins placed upon His account (Is 53:5; 1 Pet 2:24).
We must believe that, upon submitting to death for our salvation, Christ was buried and three days later arose again, resurrected to live again, no longer slave to the grave, but free of death’s sting (1 Cor 15:4; 1 Pet 1:3-11; 3:18). Christ, transformed into a resurrection body, ascended into Heaven, is now at the right hand of God (Lk 20:35-36; 1 Cor 15:52).
We need to accept Christ as our personal Savior in His full glory. This is the only ticket that admits us into the narrow gate. If we do not accept Christ for who He is, change for what He wants and seek the things of His Kingdom, we show no evidence that we possess an admissions ticket to get through the narrow gate.
Many believe that this view of God is too narrow, that God would never condemn people wholesale just because they made one mistake or they do not know of the redeemer. They would say that this view is too intolerant. That it would be cruel and unfair, according to the world, to deny people entrance just because they do not accept the Redeemer’s atonement. One good thing about this is that God does not report to the world and He is not accountable to the worldly. The worldly try to define a kingdom they have no right to be in, have no real concept of and certainly have no moral justification for their entry.
II. Is there another entrance? (Verse 13b)
No. There is no other entrance into Heaven. Yes, there is another gate, but that is an entrance into eternal torment, to destruction. There are only those two choices, the narrow gate or the wide gate, no others. People are either on the narrow path, or they are not. You will not find in the scriptures any discussion that indicates a place where one works off sins, a gate in-between the wide and the narrow gates. There are two places. One is a place of pure, unmitigated and utterly agonizing torment. The other is a place of wonderful comfort. Further, between them is a gulf that is fixed where none can pass from Abraham and Lazarus to the Rich Man, and none can pass from the Rich Man to Abraham and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-35).
A key word in this part of Matthew 7:13 is the word we find translated “broad.” It indicates a pleasant, agreeable, spacious, broad opening that will permit anyone and anything to pass through. There is no entrance exam. There is no ticket checking. You can do anything you want to walk through this gate. It is easy, you can do what you want; but there is a horrid consequence that awaits you.
We could call the people outside the wide gate “crowd” people. The world is full of the crowd people, blindly headed in one direction. Following the crowd has never been a good concept, and this is the case here. You do not need to go against the flow; the object is to not be in the crowd in the first place. As believers we not only shun the crowd (the people), we shun their attitudes, lifestyles, behaviors, thoughts, and everything about them. The broad gate includes all of these things in the world. It includes tolerance of deviant lifestyles such as homosexuality. The broad gate accepts people who murder the unborn. The broad gate permits people to use illegal drugs under the auspices of medicine. The broad way accepts all religions as equals. The broad way confuses the one true God of Christianity with the false demonic influence of Islam, Buddhism, Atheism and Humanism. The broad way says all Christians honor God in their own way. It says we can develop our own traditions to honor Him. The broad path says we can take the ideas of evolution and mix them with creation, or that we must harmonize the scriptures with science.
The narrow gate on the other hand only admits those who are dedicated to honoring God the way He desires and with what He has prescribed in the scriptures. Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 learned this lesson when they were consumed by fire. The broad way says we can worship God how we want, including strange fire, or in this day and age, strange music, traditions and weird super-spiritual gifts such as tongues and healings. The narrow gate only admits those who worship Him as He has directed in His word, with the utmost reverence and with nothing oriented toward this world or man’s sensationalism. Everything we do in worship is alien to the world because God is alien to the world. The broad gate leads to destruction.
The crowd goes through the wide gate to destruction because they enjoy what they do. They worship themselves, not God. The narrow gate on the other hand is a unique gate that recognizes those who are different, who worship God as God, who know that their worship is being given to an omnipotent being of unimaginable power. God has set forth His requirements for worship; it is not entertainment. We do not go to church to like what we hear and to enjoy a concert in our favorite music genre and watch a nice theatrical skit. Those who enter the wide gate worship that way and there are many who enter there.
Almost everyone says they want to get into Heaven. Many of them say they hope to get into Heaven; however, only those who have the admission ticket at the narrow gate will enter therein. The admission ticket is a forfeiture of your life for Christ in whatever form or fashion He determines you take. He only asks what He has given of Himself. The admission ticket for the narrow gate is complete dependence upon Christ for life on Earth and life eternal. Admission to the wide gate is simple. Just do nothing; live life in the world for yourself. You can do whatever you feel you desire; just enjoy whatever good or bad the world has to offer. Indiscriminant sex, drug use, Unitarian theology, just experience all the things this world has to offer and you enter the wide gate. You determine what is best; you seek God for nothing or pretend to seek Him. Worship how you want, the way you want whenever you feel you should. Listen to the music you want. Only go to church in places where you hear what you want to hear from the pulpit. None of these things seek God or the path through the narrow gate.
If you consider worship and offering things to the Lord something that you have to enjoy doing, you are sorely mistaken. Your whole life must change. Your whole heart must change. Every desire in you must change. What is in you naturally gets you through the wide gate. The soul changed with the life of Christ and the Spirit of God is your admission ticket through the narrow gate. Accept the simple, free gift of the atonement of Christ and take upon yourself all of His desires. The gift changes you. Leave the crowd at the wide gate; come to the narrow gate where few enter therein.
Jesus certainly wants all of us to enter via the narrow gate. It is His first statement: “Enter through the narrow gate.” Then we find an entire verse on the narrow gate. The greater encouragement for us is to focus on what is needed to enter the narrow gate. How do we go in that way and what is back there?
III. What does the narrow entrance lead to? (Verse 14a)
Life eternal is on the other side of the narrow gate. The narrow gate leads to a life with God instead of a death separated from God. Hearkening back to a discussion on death (sermon here) we recognize that death is a separation. We live every day on Earth in a dead state with respect to God. When we receive Christ as our Savior and the Holy Spirit indwells us, we are enlivened spiritually because God is in us. The narrow gate is the passage from life temporal to life eternal. Those on the narrow path that leads to the narrow gate live spiritually on Earth. Those on the narrow path pass through the narrow gate entering a kingdom that is spiritually alive.
The gate and path are straight and narrow for a number of reasons. First, one on the narrow path, living a life characterized by the Beatitudes, is a very narrowly focused person. They are not intolerant of anything except sin. All the positive attributes listed (poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart and a peacemaker) are ever growing in the life of the believer. Those behind the gate are others who embody and manifest these attributes. What is behind the gate is a kingdom whose inhabitants personify the Beatitudes and reify their existence.
One challenge the believer has is that they are still on this side of the gate while Christ is implementing the Beatitudes in their lives. We are warned: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matt 5:11). The world outside of that narrow gate still has the crowd attempting to mingle there and pull us off the narrow path. They will do anything to deny the requirements for the narrow path and entry to the gate because they do not want to submit. The crowd will also try to convince others that submission is not required. If this does not convince believers, the crowd will vilify them, accuse them, call them intolerant, ostracize or exclude and reject them in any way they can. The crowd will do all it can to convince believers that God does not exist or that “if He is loving, He would not condemn you for this or that little sin.” Satan too will introduce things into this mix that accuse, tempt or otherwise entice you to leave the narrow path. People, things, passions and desires are Satan’s favorite ploys. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus warns of these wide path people who are trying to mingle with those on the narrow path. Those who do not subscribe to the things at the entrance to the narrow gate will not be admitted but turned away with one comment: “I never knew you” (Matt 7:23). These people will not enter into comfort with Abraham, paradise with Jesus or God’s heavenly Kingdom.
Seek Christ where He may be found and you will enter the narrow gate to paradise. Seek the ways and things of God in your life and you will take the narrow path to comfort. Seek Christ to grow the characteristics of a Kingdom saint in you, and you will find yourself admitted into the Kingdom of God. Those are the activities of a believer.
Jesus goes further than to just say there are two gates: one leads to good things, one leads to bad, follow the narrow one, for the wide one leads to destruction. In the second part of verse 14 we find another piece of information that is interesting. Who will use the narrow entrance?
IV. Who will use the narrow entrance? (Verse 14b)
Not many. There are few who will find it. People who truly want Christ in their lives, seek to change for Him, look continually at their hearts and gradually develop more and more of the Beatitudes in their lives, will enter in the narrow gate. People who break with the things of the world and seek only the things of God; who seek to use the things of the world as tools to further the will of God in life and the lives of others; who change because of Christ, will find their way through the entrance at the narrow gate. People will enter the narrow gate that seek the word of God being preached and taught in churches, fellowship with others in church, and submit to the whole counsel of God in the scriptures. People will enter the narrow gate that regularly subject themselves to and submit under a local body of Christ and do not instead seek their own freedom from the assembly. The question is, are you making the break with the world? Is your life exemplifying a change in your demeanor that always grows in Christ? Is your life more Christ like? Do you desire to be here among these saints more than out there among the worldly?
We may step on some toes, but the facts have to be made clear. The scripture says “narrow is the way which leadeth to life and few there be that finding it.” There is a worldly trend in today’s society that says we do not have to belong to a church as a member because the scriptures do not have the word “member” in them. There are other arguments as well. They all amount to denying accountability to the saints in the assembly. These individuals do not desire accountability with anyone and will not submit to that accountability. That is a crowd oriented thought process. That is an attitude that leans toward the wide gate.
Those who will be readily accepted at the narrow gate understand that scripture requires we be accountable in many ways to one another. We are not supposed to lie to one another (Lev 19:11) or oppress one another (25:17). Christ commands that we love one another (Jn 13:34). We are to be kind and affectionate toward and to prefer one another (Rom 12:10). We are not supposed to judge one another (Rom 14:13). We are commanded to show hospitality one to another (Rom 15:7). We should admonish one another (Rom 15:14). We should serve, be forbearing and carrying one another’s burdens (Gal 5:13, 6:2; Eph 4:2). We are kind, tenderhearted and forgiving toward one another (Eph 4:32). Ultimately, we are to submit ourselves to one another in the fear of God (Eph 5:21). These are just a few one another directives we find in scripture. There is obviously a principle involved here regardless of the lack of a word we might want to see. The people who enter in the narrow gate look at the teachings in scripture and submit to those principles. An honest question is then, how can one who claims they seek the narrow gate and walk the narrow path really do so without being submitted to an assembly in membership for accountability?
Most of the time, especially in smaller settings such as this, God is bringing to this sheepfold mostly those who are on the narrow path already. This pulpit is not easy on the Christian spirit. The pulpit challenges the Christian to change every Sunday. We are convicted by the Lord to have a ministry that seeks the things in the Word of God that would guide us to change to become more Christ like, more like a Kingdom saint. Teaching the scriptures and how to implement them in our life is a sobering responsibility. Those who dedicate themselves to Christ will come regularly and subject themselves to the teaching of the word. You hunger and thirst for righteousness, praise God. Those who may not come may not seek those things but instead seek a broader path. However, that path leads to destruction. Popularity does not breed righteousness.
Conversely, are you just plodding along through life thinking you got it all planned out or that you’re at least “covered” because you said a prayer at one time, you claim Christ, or you have even been a devout believer all your life? Are you gathering about you the things of the world, taking upon your attitude the demeanor of the worldly and treating others with a worldly disdain for honesty, love, forgiveness, tenderheartedness and fellowship?
These are intense personal changes for some to make. We should note that they are no more challenging than the smoker that realizes in the Lord, that they must stop smoking because they are hurting the temple of God. Christian changes are deep, abiding, personal and life altering. That is what Christianity and transforming into a Kingdom saint is all about, changing us from the sin-filled rebellious creatures that we are to saints worthy of entrance through the narrow gate into God’s Kingdom.
Who will use the narrow entrance? Those who choose Christ and the things of Christ over the world and the things of the world. Who will enter God’s Kingdom? People who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. This acceptance is evinced by life changing events in a believer. Individuals turning wholesale from sin, sinful events, sin related happenings, sin-oriented activities and anything that does not therefore glorify God. People who hunger and thirst for righteousness and develop a pure heart in God. Those individuals will enter in the narrow gate.
Look at the wide gate through the prism of the Beatitudes. Wide is the gate to destruction for the haughty. Wide is the gate for the rich in spirit (as opposed to being “poor in spirit”) – those with strong wills. Wide is the gate for those who do not mourn, but instead celebrate their depravity. Wide is the gate for those who are haughty instead of meek. Those who are non-committal concerning righteousness instead of starving for it will find their way into the wide gate. The cruel find their way easily into the wide gate. Impurity marks all those who enter the wide gate as they delve into all the world’s devices to sample them. The heart of the worldly crowd is always divided between the things and devices of the world, and simply submitting to God. Which path are you on?
If it is too easy, you may be going down the wrong path. I do think God intends for us to face challenges to prove our faith and worth to him. I do think that Satan's path is easier and more tempting but we must be strong.
When you are not obeying God's commandments, when you do not live according to the Father's will for your life, when you start living what you think is right and wrong
If you stray from the word of God
The narrow gate is difficult to enter because one has to be Christ-like, 100% obedience to God. Whereas, the broad way belongs the worldy desires. Am praying to God to help me to enter through the narrow gate.
I can recognize whether I am entering through the narrow gate when the going in my life is not easy. When it requires that I be patient praying and trusting God's power for His best will. In contrast, I am entering through the broad way when I am merely doing things on my own free will and without God's direction and enablement.
You are entering through the narrow gate when the trials and storms in your life start. When the enemy starts to attack you and suffering starts. There will hardship but God will not let that happen for he will be with you. When all of there is breakthrough through all the trials then the road will be broad.
When we follow the commandments and teachings of God and His Son Jesus
When we read the words and follow them in our actions and overcome our fleshly desires. Once start living in disciple with words and obey them in all aspects of life then we start entering into the narrow gate...
WHEN YOULOVE AND OBEY JESUS RULES AND DO HIS WILL YOU'LL KNOW THAT YOU GOING TROUGH THE NARROW GATE. IF YOU LIVE A LIFE FULL OF SIN YOU ON THE BROAD WAY
We can recognize through which way we are entering the gates of heaven by the way we are living our day to day life. If we are obeying God's words and putting it to practice, we are passing through the narrow gate because, to obey and put into practice the words of God is the most difficult thing for a person born of flesh. Whereas living a life away from god and living in the pleasures of the world is the same as passing through the broad gate. Living a life pleasing to God is the most difficult thing for a person living a life of flesh; therefore that gate is termed as narrow. And living contrary to God's teachings is termed as broad.
Through the broad way, things might be a bit easy. We tend to be a bit comfortable and there is no spiritual growth.
Through the narrow gate, we tend to be hungry to know God more. We are not contented to just sit and be comfortably saved, but we have a need for souls and to grow more. To really have a relationship with Christ.
By obeying God and doing the best that you can. Following what the Bible teaches us. Most important, LOVE each other and treat others the way you would want to be treated, or as Jesus treated others.
By obeying the word of God. Walking in his ways, letting his light shine before men
I believe the directions to life are written in the Bible. We must pray, repent and read the Bible. We must continuously ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to always follow God's commandments and do His will.
Believing in Jesus (FAITH) IS THE GATE. FOLLOWING JESUS'S TEACHINGS IS THE WAY. IF WE ARE FOLLOWING THE WORLDS WAY OF DOING THINGS WE ARE IN OPPOSITION OF GOD'S WAY
Are we applying ... "Jesus is interested in the practical application of his teaching? It is not enough just to listen, appreciate him as a teacher and praise his teaching. What matters is that we put the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ into practice."
Being a Christian belling the living God Jesus is our savior we have to obey Him and Trust Him and we should avoid the wrong things that means sin and repent our sins then only we can enter it in the narrow gate.
Personally, I really cannot tell in which road I am travelling. I wish I knew!! All I try to do is to try and keep Gods commandments best as I could
When you are not doing the will of God, not obeying the commandments. You must repent your sins and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit will guide and lead you
I am born again child of Most High God through regeneration of the Holy Spirit by the salvation of Jesus Christ. My assurance of entering through the narrow gate or on the broad way is this, to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God. I am born of God through spiritual life, by repentance, trusting, serve Him and holiness.
for me when I am in doubt, I always pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me to the right way and I read the bible and ask God, amazingly He always answer. Bible is our map to the right road that leads to life. Thank you God for always being there to guide us and thank you for giving me life. I love you Jesus!
If one mix with the wrong people, always in trouble and not having love in your heart
By: Gregorio Magdaleno
Category: The Narrow and Wide Gates