Category: Narrow Gate/Narrow Path


  In Matthew 7:13–14, Jesus said, “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.” This passage causes some to question the goodness of God. After all, if He really wants to save everyone, why didn’t He make it easier to be saved? Why doesn’t He simply let everyone into heaven?

When we read the word narrow, we tend to associate it with prejudicial selection. It sounds as though God has rated us all on some scale of acceptability and only allows a select few to enter His presence. However, a few verses earlier, Jesus had told the same audience, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus made it clear: the path to eternal life is open to everyone who asks.

However, the gate to heaven is “narrow” in the sense of having a particular requirement for entrance—faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is found only in the Person of Jesus Christ; He is the only way (John 14:6). The “wide” gate is non-exclusive; it allows for human effort and all other of the world’s religions.

Jesus says that narrow gate leads to a “hard” road, one that will take us through hardships and difficult decisions. Following Jesus requires crucifying our flesh (Galatians 2:20; 5:24; Romans 6:2), living by faith (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 10:38), enduring trials with Christlike patience (James 1:2–3, 12; 1 Peter 1:6), and living a lifestyle separate from the world (James 1:27; Romans 12:1–2). When faced with the choice between a narrow, bumpy road and a wide, paved highway, most of us choose the easier road. Human nature gravitates toward comfort and pleasure. When faced with the reality of denying themselves to follow Jesus, most people turn away (John 6:66). Jesus never sugar-coated the truth, and the truth is that not many people are willing to pay the price to follow Him.

God offers salvation to everyone who accepts it (John 1:12; 3:16-18; Romans 10:9; 1 John 2:2). But it is on His terms. We must come the way He has provided. We cannot create our own paths or come to a holy God based on our own efforts. Compared to His righteousness, we are all filthy (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10). God cannot simply excuse or overlook our sin. He is merciful, but He is also just. Justice requires that sin be paid for. At great cost to Himself, He paid that price (Isaiah 53:5; 1 John 3:1, 16; Psalm 51:7). Without the blood of Jesus covering our sin, we stand guilty before the God we rejected (Romans 1:20).

The way to God was completely closed, and sin was the roadblock (Romans 5:12). No one deserves a second chance. We all deserve to stay on the “wide road that leads to destruction.” But God loved us enough to provide the path to eternal life anyway (Romans 5:6–8). However, He also knows that in our self-centered, sin-saturated world there are not many who will desire Him enough to come to Him on His terms (John 6:44, 65; Romans 3:11; Jeremiah 29:13). Satan has paved the highway to hell with fleshly temptations, worldly attractions, and moral compromises. Most people allow their passions and desires to dictate the course of their lives. They choose temporary, earthly pleasure over the self-sacrifice required in following Jesus (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 10:37). The narrow gate is ignored. Most people would rather create their own religions and design their own gods. So it was with sorrow, not discrimination, that Jesus declared that the road to eternal life is “narrow, and only a few find it.”

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The narrow gate, also called the narrow door, is referred to by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:23-24. He compares the narrow gate to the “broad road” which leads to destruction (hell) and says that “many” will be on that road. By contrast, Jesus says that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” What exactly is meant by this? Just how many are the many and how few are the few?

First, we need to understand that Jesus is the Door through which all must enter eternal life. There is no other way because He alone is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). The way to eternal life is restricted to just one avenue—Christ. In this sense, the way is narrow because it is the only way, and relatively few people will go through the narrow gate. (*a message to Muslims and those of other faiths) “Many more will attempt to find an alternative route to God. They will try to get there through manmade rules and regulations, through false religion, or through self-effort. These who are “many” will follow the broad road that leads to eternal destruction, while the sheep hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him along the narrow way to eternal life” (John 10:7-11).

While there will be relatively few who go through the narrow gate, compared to the many on the broad road, there will still be multitudes who will follow the Good Shepherd. The Apostle John saw this multitude in his vision in the book of Revelation: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

Entering the narrow gate is not easy. Jesus made this clear when He instructed His followers to “strive” to do so. The Greek word translated “strive” is agonizomai, from which we get the English word “agonize.” The implication here is that those who seek to enter the narrow gate must do so by struggle and strain, like a running athlete straining toward the finish line, all muscles taut and giving his all in the effort. But we must be clear here. No amount of effort saves us; salvation is by the grace of God through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). No one will ever earn heaven by striving for it. But entering the narrow gate is still difficult because of the opposition of human pride, our natural love of sin, and the opposition of Satan and the world in his control, all of which battle against us in the pursuit of eternity.

The exhortation to strive to enter is a command to repent and enter the gate and not to just stand and look at it, think about it, complain that it’s too small or too difficult or unjustly narrow. We are not to ask why others are not entering; we are not to make excuses or delay. We are not to be concerned with the number who will or will not enter. We are to plow ahead and enter! Then we are to exhort others to strive to enter before it’s too late.