Enter the Narrow Gate
John Oxenham wrote,
"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."
(Quoted by William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, p. 282)
Jesus taught something similar to this when He said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life and few are those who find it" (Mt. 7:13,14). Inasmuch as every soul of man must face the choice of which road he is going to take as he goes through this life, let us examine these verses for a few minutes together.
This passage mentions two different gates, the narrow gate and the broad gate. The King James Version refers to the narrow gate as the strait gate. The word strait is not synonymous with straight which means "not crooked." Rather, it means "narrow, compressed." This describes a gate which has a small opening. The strait gate requires that man make changes and alterations in order to enter it. Man cannot enter this gate as he naturally is. Jesus is teaching that Christianity is not a come-as-you-are party; rather, Christianity requires that man alter his life in order that he can enter the strait or narrow gate. To enter the narrow gate, a man must lay aside the old-man of sin (Col. 3:5-10); he must cease to be self-willed (Mt. 16:24); the sinful things of this world must all be discarded (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Inasmuch as the gate is narrow and compressed, the man must alter his life in order that he can pass through the gate. Think of a man carrying a large cargo trying to enter a small gate with a low overhead. In order to pass through the gate, the man must remove some of his cargo. Similarly, in order to enter the narrow gate, man must lay aside his cargo of sin.
The broad gate, on the other hand, is sufficiently large for man to enter without laying aside his cargo of sin. Because it is so large, any kind of sin can enter its portals. A man can pass through this gate without making so much as a change in his life. It is a gate of convenience. Sin, self-righteousness, false notions, vice and follies of all sorts can easily pass through this gate. Man must make no changes in his life to pass through the wide gate.
Let it also be observed that every man has made his choice to enter one gate or the other. No man is on neutral ground. Perhaps there is someone who thinks that he is not walking through the wide gate although he has never chosen to pass through the narrow gate. My friend, you chose the wide gate when you decided to go along with the crowd in the telling of filthy stories rather than be ostracized by taking your stand for righteousness. You chose the wide gate when you decided to tell a lie when telling the truth would have caused you pain. Already you are walking down the broad way if you are not in the narrow way.
Whereas the gates contrasted the entrances, the ways contrast the differences in walks of life. The narrow gate leads to a narrow way. This reminds us of just how narrow truth really is. A person is either in the way of truth or he is in error. The path in which a man walks is hedged in by the law of God. God has forbidden the way of the flesh, specifically forbidding adultery, fornication, lasciviousness, etc. and demanding that the Christian be a man of love, joy, peace, etc. (Gal. 5:19-25). He has given the narrow way for man in his worship of God. He has described the nature and kind of worship which He desires and man is expected to walk in that narrow way. Hence, the narrow way is the way of the man who walks by faith (i.e. walking within the revelation of God) and not by sight (i.e. his physical senses or his reason).
The broad gate, however, leads to a broad way. The broad way allows man to do anything he so desires. The man who walks in the broad way can pursue wealth, chase women, forsake the Lord, use profanity, dabble in Oriental religions, and believe any human philosophy. The broad way makes no restrictions on man, except that he stay out of the narrow way.
Even as there are two gates and two ways, there are also two groups which are traveling the different ways. The group which enters the narrow gate and walks in the narrow way is composed of few. Only a few men will ultimately be. saved. I recognize that this is contrary to popular opinion. Popular opinion states that God's mercy will triumph over His judgment in order to save the man who is walking in the broad way. Yet, God's revelation plainly states that only a few will be saved (Lk. 13:23-24). God cannot be true to His word and save those who are traveling the broad way. Hence, only a few will be saved.
The broad way is traveled by many. Just as water travels the course which offers the least resistance, so also most people travel the way which allows them to do as they please. The hordes of mankind will always choose to do evil over good because it is so much easier. Hesiod, the Greek poet, wrote, "Wickedness can be had in abundance easily; smooth is the road, and very nigh she dwells; but in front of virtue the gods immortal have put sweat." Human nature is such that man prefers the easy road to the sweat. Consequently, the greater proportion of humanity has chosen to walk through the wide gate and down the broad way.
The two different gates which lead to the two different ways and which are traveled by two different groups lead to two different places. The narrow gate which leads to the narrow way and which is traveled by few leads to life. Life is understood to refer to the eternal life which God has prepared for His saints in heaven. (Notice that life is not a present possession. The man does not receive life upon entering the gate but at the end of the narrow road.) Eternal life is available to those who want to put forth the effort to obtain it; God has made it accessible to man.
The wide gate which leads to the broad way and which is traveled by many eventually leads to destruction. The eternal punishment of Hell awaits those who have decided to walk the broad way. Though the broad way is much easier to travel, the destination to which it leads makes one desire not to walk that way. The undisciplined, immoral life results in eternal destruction.
A Universal Invitation
The call to "enter" the narrow gate implies that whosoever desires to walk on the narrow way may enter. The blessings of the gospel are available to the one who wishes to participate in them (Rev. 22:17). God's blessings are given without respect of persons. Christ's blood was shed for the whole world so that salvation could be offered to all men (Tit. 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:3-4).
The call to "enter" also implies that man must do something to get to the life which God has prepared for him. To participate in God's blessings, man must act. God has already done all that He will do to save us. Man must respond to His gospel to receive His grace. Every man must enter, i.e. make some conscious choice to walk in God's way, in order to be saved in the end.
William Barclay said, "There is always a certain dramatic quality about life; for, as it has been said, `all life concentrates on man at the crossroads.' In every action of life man is confronted with a choice; and he can never evade the choice, because he can never stand still" (The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, p. 282). How true this is! My friend, you are going to make a choice of the road which you are going to travel in life. The choice which you make is going ,to determine whether you spend eternity in heaven or in hell. Which will you choose?
Moses said, "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity . . . So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants" (Dent. 30:15,20). Similarly, Jeremiah wrote, "Behold, I have set before you the way of life and the way of death" (21:8). Now, which will you choose? "Choose you this day whom you will serve" (Josh. 24:15).
Truth Magazine XXI: 41, pp. 643-645