Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
On the surface, this is quite an easy passage to understand. Jesus is saying that not many people will become Christians, isn’t he? And the 2 gates are the choices that people make between going to heaven or hell, following Christ or not?
This is what I have always thought and many commentaries will speak along these lines. But after studying the passage a bit more and linking it to a parallel passage in Luke 13:23-24 which says;
And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
I don’t think it is talking about being saved or not because the concept of ‘striving’ is antithetical to the rest of the bible when it talks about salvation. We don’t get saved through our own effort and hard work. It is the free gift of grace from a merciful God.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The second reason I don’t think this passage is talking about Salvation is because of Jesus’ audience. They are mostly his disciples, believers. He is setting out the way to live for a Christian. As I have said on a number of occasions, if this passage was directed to the unconverted, it would be cruel because it is impossible, humanly speaking, to live up to. Some of His listeners were scribes, Pharisee’s and religious leaders, but it is obvious which parts He is directing at them. Every now and again He has a little ‘side-swipe’!
I don’t believe the narrow gate leads to heaven and the wide gate to Hell. I believe the narrow gate is for those who truly want to follow Jesus. For those prepared to deny themselves, to take up their crosses daily and to really make Jesus Lord above all others.
I believe that Jesus is talking about our inheritance. To truly receive the inheritance that God has for us, we will almost certainly have to face suffering and hardship, trials and temptations;
strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)
The broad way is the easy road and actually, far too many are happy to walk it. It is those people who have even made commitments to Christ but they seem to be happy to remain unchanged. The sorts of people who turn up to church on a Sunday, but their life really doesn’t look much different to anyone else’s for the rest of the week. I don’t necessarily think that these people are unsaved (although we will heed a warning in verse 22 in a few weeks!) It’s just that if they are saved, they are very similar to the ‘worldly’ Christians the Apostle Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 3;
If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15)
It all sounds a bit precarious to me.
The Greek word in today’s passage for destruction is ‘apoleian’ which can be translated ‘ruined’ or ‘wasted’ a good description of a life that has been given a chance to honour God but has instead chosen the easy life.
It would seem that this choice of the easy way or hard way can follow us through life, whenever we might be tempted to take the easy option.
So what does walking the narrow life look like? I have already given a flavour, but I believe it is a life that has chosen to overcome; the world the flesh and the devil. It has denied its own comfort and chosen to daily take up the cross. To go against the flow and to not just do what everyone else does. It is to lead a life of conviction, to live a life of forgiveness, of sexual purity, of humility and rejecting any thoughts of rights or entitlement. It is to embrace persecution.
This may all sound very negative, but the rewards for those who choose the narrow gate far exceed any temporary comfort;
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
The book of Revelation reveals the inheritance and rewards for all those who have chosen the narrow gate. It describes what those sorts of people are like;
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:11)
This life is so short and eternity is so long. Let’s choose our temporary discomfort to attain this eternal reward.