Which Way to Heaven?
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. (7:13–14)
Here is the appeal to which Jesus has been moving through the whole sermon. He gives the call to decide now about becoming a citizen of God’s kingdom and inheriting eternal life, or remaining a citizen of this fallen world and receiving damnation. The way to life is on God’s terms alone; the way to damnation is on any terms a person wants, because every way but God’s leads to the same fate.
Jesus has been giving God’s standards throughout the sermon, standards that are holy and perfect and that are diametrically opposed to the self-righteous, self-sufficient, and hypocritical standards of man—typified by those of the scribes and Pharisees. He has shown what His kingdom is like and what its people are like—and are not like. Now He presents the choice of entering the kingdom or not. Here the Lord focuses on the inevitable decision that every person must make, the crossroads where he must decide on the gate he will enter and the way he will go.
Our lives are filled with decisions—what to wear, what to eat, where to go, what to do, what to say, what to buy, whom to marry, what career to follow, and on and on. Many decisions are trivial and insignificant, and some are essential and life-changing. The most critical of all is our decision about Jesus Christ and His kingdom. That is the ultimate choice that determines our eternal destiny. It is that decision that Jesus here calls men to make.
In perfect harmony with His absolute sovereignty, God has always allowed men to choose Him or not, and He has always pleaded with them to decide for Him or face the consequences of a choice against Him. Since mankind turned their backs on Him in the Fall, God has bent every effort and spared no cost in wooing His creatures back to Himself. He has provided and shown the way, leaving nothing to man but the choice. God made His choice by providing the way of redemption. The choice is now man’s.
While Israel was in the wilderness the Lord instructed Moses to tell the people, “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, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him” (Deut. 30:19–20).
After Israel came into the Promised Land, Joshua confronted the people again with a choice: of continuing to serve the Egyptian and Canaanite gods they had adopted or of turning to the Lord who had delivered them from Egypt and given them the land promised to Abraham. “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve,” Joshua pleaded (Josh. 24:13–15).
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” (1 Kings 18:21). The Lord commanded Jeremiah to set the choice again before His people: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death’ ” (Jer. 21:8).
In John 6:66–69, Jesus called for a choice: “As a result of this 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.’ ”
That is the call that God has been making to men since they turned away from Him, and it is the supreme appeal of His Word.
In his poem The Ways, The British poet John Oxenham wrote,
To every man there openeth
A Way, and Ways, and a Way,
And the High Soul climbs 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.
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.
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.
The choice is between the one and the many—the one right and the many wrongs, the one true way and the many false ways. As John Stott points out, in Matthew 7:13–14 “Jesus cuts across our easy-going syncretism” (Christian Counter-Culture [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1978], p. 193). There are not many roads to heaven, but one. There are not many good religions, but only one. Man cannot come to God in any of the ways that man himself devises, but only in the one way that God Himself has provided.
The contrast Jesus makes is not between religion and irreligion, or between the higher religions and the lower ones. Nor is it a contrast between nice and upright people and vile and degraded ones. It is a contrast between divine righteousness and human righteousness, all of which is unrighteousness. It is a contrast between divine revelation and human religion, between divine truth and human falsehood, between trusting in God and trusting in self. It is the contrast between God’s grace and man’s works.
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. Within man’s system are thousands of religious forms and names, but they are all built on the achievements of man and the inspiration of Satan. Christianity, on the other hand, is the religion of divine accomplishment, and it stands alone.
Even the law given through Moses, though divine, was not a means of salvation but rather a means of showing man’s need for salvation. “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight,” Paul explains; “for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The law came to show us our sinfulness and guilt before God, and to show us that we are incapable in ourselves of keeping God’s perfect law.
But when self-righteous, ego-centered man saw that he was sinful by the law’s standard, he simply set the law aside and devised standards of his own. He invented new religions that accommodated his shortcomings and that were humanly achievable. By meeting his own attainable standards, man therefore considered himself righteous. That is what the rabbis and scribes had done in regard to their traditions. They lowered God’s standards, raised their own estimates of themselves, and felt they had achieved a righteous standing with God (Rom. 10:3). And that is exactly the type of self-ascribed righteousness that Jesus declares will never bring a person into the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20).
From here through the rest of the sermon (vv. 13–27) Jesus repeatedly points out two things: the necessity of choosing whether to follow God or not, and the fact that the choices are two and only two. There are two gates, the narrow and the wide; two ways, the narrow and the broad; two destinations, life and destruction; two groups, the few and the many; two kinds of trees, the good and the bad, which produce two kinds of fruit, the good and the bad; two kinds of people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, the sincere and the false; two kinds of builders, the wise and the foolish; two foundations, the rock and the sand; and two houses, the secure and the insecure. In all preaching there must be the demand for a verdict. Jesus makes the choice crystal clear.
In verses 13–14 Jesus deals with the first four of those contrasts: the two gates, the two ways, the two destinations, and the two groups.
The Two Gates
Enter is in the aorist imperative tense, and therefore demands a definite and specific action. The command is not to admire or to ponder the gate but to enter it. Many people admire the principles of the Sermon on the Mount but never follow those principles. Many people respect and praise Jesus Christ but never receive Him as Lord and Savior. Because they never receive the King and never enter the kingdom, they are as much separated from the King and as much outside His kingdom as is the rankest atheist or most unethical pagan.
Jesus’ command is not simply to enter some gate but to enter the narrow gate. Every person enters one gate or the other; that is unavoidable. Jesus pleads for men to enter the right gate, God’s gate, the only gate that leads to life and to heaven.
Jesus has repeatedly shown the narrowness of God’s internal standard of righteousness, in contrast to the broad and external standards of Jewish tradition. The path to that narrow way of kingdom living is through the narrow gate of the King Himself. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).
When we preach, teach, and witness that Christ is the only way to God, we are not proclaiming our own view of right religion but God’s revelation of truth. We do not proclaim the narrow way simply because we are already in it, or because it happens to suit our temperament, or because we are bigoted and exclusive. We proclaim the narrow way because it is God’s way and God’s only way for men to find salvation and eternal life. We proclaim a narrow gospel because Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved” (John 10:9). We proclaim a narrow gospel because “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), and because “there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). We proclaim a narrow gospel because that is the only gospel God has given and therefore the only gospel there is.
The person who enters the narrow gate must enter alone. We can bring no one else and nothing else with us. Some commentators suggest that a turnstile represents the idea implicit in narrow gate. A turnstile allows only one person through at a time, with no baggage. People do not come into the kingdom in groups, but singly. The Jews had the mistaken notion that they were all in God’s kingdom together by racial salvation, signified by circumcision.
Furthermore, God’s gate is so narrow that we must go through it naked. It is the gate of self-denial, through which one cannot carry the baggage of sin and self-will. When we sing, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling,” we are testifying to the way of the gospel. The way of Christ is the way of the cross, and the way of the cross is the way of self-denial. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:24–25).
Jesus confronted the rich young ruler who sought eternal life and presented a test of his willingness to submit to His lordship: “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22). As his response proved, that man’s desire to rule his own life and to hold on to his earthly wealth prevented his entering the kingdom, because “when he had heard these things, he became very sad; for he was extremely rich” (v. 23). He also gave evidence of self-righteousness and self-deceit in denying his true state of sin (v. 21), because if he had in his heart truly kept all the commandments as he claimed, he would surely have kept the greatest commandment—which is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and might (Deut. 6:5; cf. Matt. 22:37). Thus he would have followed Christ with total commitment. The issue with that young man was very simply a matter of lordship. Jesus confronted him on the matter of life control. One who comes to salvation yields control to Christ whether that means he gives up all or is allowed to keep all and receive more. Salvation turns sovereignty over to Christ.
To love God with everything we have is to jettison self—self-confidence, self-achievement, self-righteousness, and self-satisfaction. “Unless you are converted and become like children,” Jesus said, “you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). The mark of a child is dependency, utter dependency for everything he has. Saving faith is not merely an act of the mind; it counts the cost (Luke 14:28); it is also a stripping of the self and crying, as did the tax-gatherer in the Temple, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Easy believism is not scriptural believism. The narrow gate means that those who enter do so stripped of all they possess, rather than adding Jesus to their accumulated treasures. Salvation is the exchange of all that we are for all that He is (see Matt. 13:44–46). And as He did for Job, the Lord will give back much more.
The narrow gate demands repentance. Many Jews believed that simply being a Jew, a physical descendant of Abraham, was sufficient for entrance into heaven. Many people today believe that being in a church qualifies them for heaven. Some even believe that simply being a human being qualifies them, because God is too good and kind to exclude anyone. God does offer the way to all, and His greatest longing is that everyone enter, because He does not desire “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Paul preached “repentance toward God” (Acts 20:21) as Jesus had preached it (Mark 1:14–15). John the Baptist readied a people for the Lord by repentance (Luke 3:1–6). The way of repentance, of turning from our own way and our own righteousness to God’s, is the only way to enter His kingdom and therefore the only way to keep from perishing.
Charles Spurgeon said, “You and your sins must separate or you and your God will never come together. No one sin may you keep; they must all be given up, they must be brought out like Canaanite kings from the cave and be hanged up in the sun.”
The repentant life will be a changed life. The primary message of John’s first epistle is that the truly redeemed life will manifest itself in a transformed life, in which confession of sin (1:8–10), obedience to God’s will (2:4–6), love of God’s other children (2:9–11; 3:16–17), and practice of righteousness (3:4–10) are normal and habitual. “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8). Anything less is damning demon-faith (James 2:19) that is orthodox but fruitless.
Those who preach a gospel of self-indulgence preach an utterly different gospel than Jesus preached. The gate of pride, of self-righteousness, and self-satisfaction is the wide gate of the world, not the narrow gate of God.
Most people spend their lives rushing around with the crowds, doing what everyone else does and believing what everyone else believes. But as far as salvation is concerned, there is no security in numbers. If every person in a group is saved it is because each of them individually comes into the kingdom by his own decision, energized by the Holy Spirit, to trust Christ.
The two gates lead to two ways. The gate that is wide leads to the way that is broad; and the narrow gate, which is small, leads to the way that is narrow. The narrow way is the way of the godly, and the broad way is the way of the ungodly—and those are the only two ways in which men can travel. The godly person delights “in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season,” whereas the ungodly “are like chaff which the wind drives away” (Ps. 1:2–4).
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 profess 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” (Eph. 2:2). It is the tragic way “which seems right to a man,” but whose “end is the way of death” (Prov. 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.
The way that is narrow, however, is the hard way, the demanding way, the way of self-denial and the cross. Stenos (narrow) comes from a root that means “to groan,” as from being under pressure, and is used figuratively to represent a restriction or constriction. It is the word from which we get stenography, writing that is abbreviated or compressed.
The fact that few are those who find God’s way implies that it is to be sought diligently. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). No one has ever stumbled into the kingdom or wandered through the narrow gate by accident. When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” He replied, “Strive to enter the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:23–24). The term agōnizomai (“strive”) indicates that entering the door to God’s kingdom takes conscious, purposeful, and intense effort. That is the term from which we get agonize, and is the same word Paul uses to describe an athlete who agonizes (“competes”) to win a race (1 Cor. 9:25) and the Christian who “fights the good fight of faith” (literally, “struggles the good struggle,” 1 Tim. 6:12). The requirements for kingdom citizenship are great, demanding, clearly defined, and allow for no deviation or departure. Luke 16:16 says, “Everyone is forcing his way into [the kingdom],” implying conflict and effort (cf. Acts 14:22).
The kingdom is for those who come to the King in poverty of spirit, mourning over their sin, and hungering and thirsting for His righteousness to replace their own (Matt. 5:3–4, 6). It is for those who want the kingdom at any cost, who will sell all they have to buy that great treasure and that great pearl (Matt. 13:44–46). It is not for those want a cheap and easy way to assure heaven, while continuing to live their own selfish and worldly lives on earth. Jesus only saves those for whom He becomes Lord. Sadly, most people think that heaven can be obtained on much easier terms than those prescribed by Christ.
William Hendriksen comments,
The Kingdom then is not for weaklings, waverers, and compromisers.… It is not for Balaam, the rich young ruler, Pilate and Demas.… It is not won by means of deferred prayers, unfulfilled promises, broken resolutions and hesitant testimonies. It is for strong and sturdy men, like Joseph, Nathan, Elijah, Daniel, Mordecai and Peter … Stephen … and Paul. And let us not forget such valiant women as Ruth, Deborah, Esther and Lydia. (Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973], p. 490)
As Paul expresses it in Romans 7:14–25, it should be the desire of our hearts as Christians to fulfill every command and requirement of our Lord, even though we know that we will fail. But we also know that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). And the gracious God who saved us because we could not fulfill His law in our own power knows that, even after salvation, we still cannot fulfill His law in our own power. The great difference is that in Christ we not only have a Savior but a burden bearer. He helps us carry all our burdens, including the burden of obedience. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me,” Jesus says, “for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matt. 11:29–30).
God’s way of salvation is remarkably simple, but it is not easy. We can give nothing or give up nothing that will earn us entrance into the kingdom, but if we long to hold on to forbidden things it can keep us out of the kingdom. That is another reason why few are those who find it.
We can pay nothing for salvation, yet coming to Jesus Christ costs everything we have. “If anyone comes to Me,” Jesus says, “and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross [a willingness even to die if necessary] and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). The Lord goes on to show the seriousness of deciding to follow Christ. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?… Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” (vv. 28, 31).
The person who says yes to Christ must say no to the things of the world, because to be in Christ is to rely on His power rather than our own and to be willing to forsake our own way for His. It can cost persecution, ridicule, and tribulation. In His last instructions to His disciples, Jesus several times reminded them of the price they would pay for following Him: “Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:19–20); “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue” (John 16:2); “Therefore you too now have sorrow” (16:22); and “In the world you have tribulation” (16:33).
When we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ we declare war on the devil, and he declares war on us. The one whom we formerly served now becomes our great enemy, and the ideas and ways we once held dear now become our great temptations and pitfalls.
With the warnings about suffering the Lord also gives promises that our hearts will rejoice (John 16:22b) and that we are to take courage because He has overcome the world (16:33b). But He promises to enable us to prevail over those times of suffering, not to escape them.
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.
Apōleia (destruction) does not refer to extinction or annihilation, but to total ruin and loss (cf. Matt. 3:12; 18:8; 25:41, 46; 2 Thess. 1:9; Jude 6–7). It is not the complete loss of being, but the complete loss of well-being. It is the destination of all religions except the way of Jesus Christ, and it is the destiny of all those who follow any way but His. It is the destination and destiny of perdition, hell, and everlasting torment. “The way of the wicked will perish” (Ps. 1:6).
But God’s way, the way that is narrow, leads to eternal life, to everlasting heavenly fellowship with God, His angels, and His people. Everlasting life is a quality of life, the life of God in the soul of man (see Ps. 17:15). “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2–3).
Going into the two gates, traveling down the two ways, and heading for the two destinations we find two groups of people. Those who go in through the wide gate and travel the way that is broad toward the destination of destruction are many. The many will include pagans and nominal Christians, atheists and religionists, theists and humanists, Jews and Gentiles—every person from whatever age, background, persuasion, and circumstance who has not come to saving obedience to Jesus Christ.
In the day of judgment many will claim to be followers of Christ, but “many will seek to enter and will not be able,” Jesus warns. “Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers” (Luke 13:24–27). “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?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:22–23). Those particular ones who are excluded will not be atheists or rank pagans, but nominal Christians who professed to know and trust Christ but who refused to come to Him on His terms—through His gate and by His way.
The group that goes through the narrow gate and travels the narrow way and is destined for life is few in number. When Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock” (Luke 12:32), the word He used for “little” was mikros, from which we get our prefix micro, meaning something small. “Many are called, but few are chosen,” He says in another place (Matt. 22:14).
Believers are not few in number because the gate is too narrow or too small to accommodate more. There is no limit to the number who could go through that gate, if they go through in God’s way, in repentance for their sins and in trust in Jesus Christ to save them. Nor is the number few because heavenly space is limited. God’s grace is boundless, and heaven’s dwellings are limitless. Nor is the number few because God desires that most people perish. He earnestly desires “for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
A letter written to a Melbourne, Australia, daily newspaper expresses clearly the attitude of a person on the broad road to destruction.
After hearing Dr. Billy Graham on the air, viewing him on television and reading reports and letters concerning him and his mission, I am heartily sick of the type of religion that insists my soul (and everyone else’s) needs saving—whatever that means. I have never felt that I was lost. Nor do I feel that I daily wallow in the mire of sin, although repetitive preaching insists that I do.
Give me a practical religion that teaches gentleness and tolerance, that acknowledges no barriers of color or creed, that remembers the aged and teaches children of goodness and not sin.
If in order to save my soul I must accept such a philosophy as I have recently heard preached, I prefer to remain forever damned.
Every person who will come to Jesus Christ can come to Jesus Christ. “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out,” Jesus assures us. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:37, 40).
The Need for Decision
The Golden Rule is the concluding verse of the major part of the Sermon on the Mount, for all the verses that follow it are but a long, although significant, postscript. Like Matthew 5:48, the verse that concludes the first chapter of the Sermon, the Golden Rule aptly summarizes all that has gone before it and then lifts the eyes of the reader to Jesus Christ who is the only possible source of such goodness. From this point on Jesus turns to a series of warnings designed to keep his listeners from falling by the wayside through unbelief, apathy, deceit, hypocrisy, or discouragement.
That does not mean, of course, that the verses that follow are unimportant. Because, although they are largely in the nature of a postscript, for some persons—perhaps yourself—they could be the most important verses of all. For instance, we may imagine a man who has agreed with the bulk of this teaching but who thinks he can put it into practice merely by exerting a little more effort while continuing in the same general direction in which he is going. To such a man these verses are a reminder that the Christian life must begin with an about-face and that it cannot be carried on without a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus. Another man finds himself thinking that religion is a good thing, and he determines to go on listening to other teachers. Jesus warns that there are many false prophets who have gone out into the world, and that religion from these sources will not save him. In the same way he warns against settling for an outward profession of Christianity without experiencing a change of heart, and he cautions that the only valid religious life must be built upon himself as the only firm and, therefore, adequate foundation. Obviously, these warnings apply to many who are grappling with the claims of the gospel in the twentieth century.
We must see, however, that these concluding thoughts also had a particular poignancy for those who listened to this Sermon for the first time, those who heard the Sermon in Galilee presumably during the earliest months of Jesus’ ministry.
We must remember here that Jesus was speaking of ultimate things to those who as yet had no knowledge of his coming death and resurrection. Those events, on which salvation through faith depended, were yet years away, while in between there would be days in which the polarity of the Galilean ministry would give way to insults, trials, scorn, and danger. What was to happen to his hearers during the intervening years? Was the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount to become for them only a beautiful dream buried somewhere in their memories of the past? Was it to be enshrined as something very lovely but totally impractical? Or, on the contrary, would it challenge them to keep on? Certainly, Jesus was calling for the latter. He was telling his hearers, “Keep on. Do not fall by the wayside. If you do keep on, one day you will see the gate clearly, and you will pass through to life everlasting.”
The Narrow Way
If all this is true—that is, if these verses (Matt. 7:13–27) are primarily a warning to those of Christ’s time to keep on until his death and resurrection brought his ministry to completion—then it is also clear how we must understand the first of these four warnings.
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” (Matt. 7:13–14). What does this mean? In this context the verses can mean only that there is a broad way of life leading to a broad gate which in turn leads to destruction, upon which all men naturally are traveling. And there is a narrow way leading to a narrow gate, which is Jesus Christ and which leads to eternal life, upon which some of his hearers may be about to be traveling. Therefore, Jesus is saying, “Keep on the narrow way until you pass through me to salvation.”
We must understand this idea clearly if we are to avoid the most common and most dangerous misinterpretation of these verses. If we are to assume that Christ’s hearers are Christians at this point (which, of course, they could not be but which many persons have easily assumed), then this verse is really a warning to keep on working at the Christian life in order that one does not lose his salvation eventually. In this case, of course, the verse would contradict the doctrine of eternal security of the believer which is everywhere apparent in Scripture. Unfortunately, some Bible teachers have taught that this is true, and others have implied it by stressing in this context that the Christian life is a narrow life and that only he who perseveres to the end shall be saved.
The warning does not mean that. On the contrary, it means that if you are an unbeliever who has been exposed to the gospel, you must not stop short of salvation by imagining that you can simply continue along the same path you are following. If you are not on the way to Christ, you are on the way from him. Thus, you will either come finally to a perfect salvation by the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ or to the lake of fire without him. That is the heart of Christ’s warning.
“I Am the Way”
Another truth also lies at the heart of his warning, the truth that salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ only. What is the gate? What is the way that leads to life? The answer is: the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). These verses throw only proper light upon our text. For they show that Jesus was speaking of faith in himself when he told the Galileans, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The way to heaven is as narrow as Jesus.
When I was in college I was taught that one of the things a student should never do when writing a paper was to make a value judgment. Since my college days I have come to doubt the wisdom and correctness of that axiom. But I accepted it then. For I was taught that you could describe the subject matter, you could contrast it with something else, you could dissect it; but you could not say that the thing itself was either good or bad—inherently worse or better than something else.
The same idea that was present in the classroom then, today pervades our entire American culture. The result is that for most people nothing is to be received as absolute truth, and nothing is inherently better than anything else. Right here Christianity takes issue. Christianity is unique in claiming to have absolute truth, since it presents Jesus Christ as the sole way to God. Jesus’ words about himself, as in the texts I have mentioned, are unqualified; and this means that if Jesus is right, as he is, then there are no other ways to God for men to follow.
Let me make this point clearly. First, it means that no man will be able to come to God through nature. That is a popular thought among many people who are dissatisfied with the Christian churches. But the idea that God can be found in nature is an illusion and leads to idolatry.
Several years ago, after I had spoken on this subject in my church, a woman came up to me and told me of her experiences working with Campus Crusade for Christ in California. She said that she had worked on the beaches with surfers. In many cases she was told by the surfers that they worshiped God in nature. She soon learned to ask, however, “What is God?” And often she was told, “My surfboard is my God,” or something similar to it. Well, the statement may be honest. But the view is pure paganism, and it is nothing but a delusion to think that this attitude has anything to do with the worship of God Almighty, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. A man is deluding himself if he thinks that he is worshiping God in nature as he plays golf on Sunday mornings or goes for a drive in the country. If you are doing this, you are not worshiping God in nature. You are either not worshiping at all (which is probably most often the case) or you are worshiping nature, and nature is not God. That belief is pantheism.
Let me ask this: Do you know what the revelation of God in nature is for? The Bible says that it is to condemn men for failing to recognize God. Romans 1:20 says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all men, for “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” No man has ever come to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ through nature.
In the same way, men cannot find God in mere pious thoughts or religion. That is, they will not find God in the mere performance of certain religious duties, whether this is the following of the fourfold or sevenfold path to Nirvana, whether it is a life of meditation, whether it is the religion of “speed,” LSD, or heroin, or even whether it is the ceremonial aspects of Christianity. God has written a No over all human efforts to be religious in order that he might write a Yes over all who abandon religion and turn to him in Christ. Religion is the seeking after a god in your own image. Christianity is God’s seeking you and moving to redeem you by the death of his Son, the Lord Jesus.
Neither can men find God through morality, either by attempting to live up to God’s standard or by attempting to live up to their own. Men fell short of all standards. The first three chapters of Romans are written to show that no man will find God in any way but through Christ, and the man with high moral standards is included along with the rest. Paul describes three different types of persons—the pagan man, the moral man, the religious man—but he concludes with a word of condemnation against all human goodness. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10–12). Our natural ways will not lead us to the Father.
And yet, there is a way. The way is Jesus. You and I have sinned, in little ways or in big ways (it does not matter which), and sin keeps us from God. Unless sin is removed we shall never get into God’s heaven. In fact, God will not even let us get close to it. On the other hand, even if we ourselves bear a just punishment for sin, we cannot get to heaven either. For the punishment of sin is to be separated from God. What is the solution? The solution is that God provided Jesus Christ as a substitute for us, that he died, not for his own sin (because he did not have any), but for your sin and mine. God will not punish the same sin twice. Consequently, if you will believe that Jesus died for you, if you will acknowledge him as your substitute, then God will remove your sin forever, and it will be correct to say that you have passed over the narrow way through the narrow gate into salvation.
Do not make the mistake of counting upon your moral record as a way of coming to God. It is your record that gets you into trouble in the first place. Your record will condemn you, no matter how good you think you are or how good you appear in other men’s eyes. Count on the fact that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin, that he did what no other person could do. Accept the fact that he by his death provided the way for simple, sinful people like you and me to enter heaven.
Thou art the Way: to Thee alone
From sin and death we flee;
And he who would the Father seek
Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee.
Thou art the Truth: Thy Word alone
True wisdom can impart;
Thou only canst inform the mind,
And purify the heart.
Thou art the life: the rending tomb
Proclaims Thy conquering arm,
And those who put their trust in Thee
Nor death nor hell shall harm.
Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life:
Grant us that Way to know,
That Truth to keep, that Life to win,
Whose joys eternal flow.
A Need for Decision
We need to see one more great truth from this passage. Jesus said, “Enter in at the narrow gate,” or, as the parallel saying in Luke’s Gospel puts it, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). Clearly it is not enough merely to listen to preaching about this gate or to study its architecture. It is not enough to praise it. It is not enough to stand by it. It must be entered. That means that everyone who comes under the preaching of the gospel must make a personal decision to enter into Christ.
The idea that a decision is necessary in order to become a Christian is strange to many people today chiefly because they imagine that they already are Christians. Some think they have inherited Christianity from their parents, who may or may not actually have been believers. Some think they are Christians simply because they have been born in a so-called Christian country. Others consider themselves Christians because they are not Jews, Mohammedans, or “pagans.” But none of these assumptions is adequate. No one is automatically a Christian. You cannot be neutral, for Jesus teaches that you are either on the broad way or on the narrow way. You cannot just drift into Christianity. The true gate is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard. If you are to become a believer, you must make a decision. No one else can settle the matter for you.
That always has been the case. Moses told the people of his day: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.… Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deut. 30:15, 19). Joshua spoke to the people, saying, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). Jeremiah wrote on behalf of Jehovah: “Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death’ ” (Jer. 21:8). Peter declared, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). That is what God calls you to do.
What is the state of your heart? Perhaps you are one who has responded to many of these studies on the Sermon on the Mount, saying, “Yes, all those things are true.” But they have never become true for you personally. If so, Jesus is warning you against that stance, for he is saying that that is not good enough. He is saying that there must come a point in your life at which he becomes your Savior. John Stott, minister of All Souls Church in London, is one who knows this, for he writes, “I remember how puzzled, even indignant, I was when it was first suggested to me that I needed to appropriate Christ and His salvation for myself. Thank God, I came to see that, though an acknowledgement that I need a Savior was good, and a belief that Christ was the Savior of the world was better, best of all was a personal acceptance of Him as my Savior.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” But he must be the way for you. He said, “I am the door.” But you must enter it.
The Narrow Way (7:14)
The conjunction ‘for’ joins the argument of 7:13b to the opening command; this second argument makes the connection by using the very language of the command: ‘How narrow [stenē] is the gate [hē pylē]’ (7:14a) (cf. ‘the narrow gate [tēs stenēs pylēs]’ [7:13a]). As in 7:13b, Jesus’ imagery is drawn from real life. This narrow gate was apparently ‘a small, doorlike gate set within or beside the large city gate in order that known citizens might be allowed into the closed city at night and in times of danger.’ And on mountainous terrain, as opposed to flat country, confined is the road one must travel. Both the adjective stenē and the adjectival participle tethlimmenē (‘confined,’ from the verb thlibō, ‘press’) appear in the predicate position, like their counterparts in 7:13b and for the same purpose. Indeed, the whole structure of 7:14 very closely parallels that of 13b.
Entering through the narrow gate onto the constricted path illustrates the positive response to the exposition of 5:17–7:12. Persons embark on this journey knowing how demanding these laws are, and how radical is the obedience Jesus requires of his followers—knowing, in other words, how narrow are the spaces they occupy. As with the ‘many’ of Matthew 7:13b, the response of the ‘few’ to Jesus’ law reveals their attitude to his euangelion. The gospel too requires entry through a narrow gate: trusting (despite all appearances to the contrary) that God’s kingdom has drawn near; submitting to his rule (rather than to my own); and repenting of sin. But the gospel itself is pure promise and pure grace: believing that promise, experiencing that grace, and loving the Messiah who announces and embodies them both, motivates persons to obey his commands. Having chosen this narrow path of fidelity to the law, one discovers precisely here, within the law’s strictures, his true liberty and his surest protection from manifold evil. Moreover, the Lawgiver himself accompanies those who travel this road, offering them his own example of fidelity to his teaching, and enabling them to keep his commands.
While the broad road leads to destruction, this confined (tethlimmenē) road beset with difficulty (thlipsis) leads ‘to life’ (eis tēn zōēn). This is the joyous discovery for those who persevere: hoi heuriskontes (‘who find’) autēn (‘it,’ namely ‘life’). The Father promises (i) that he will give the kingdom to those who ask him for it (Matt. 7:7a) and who obey his will (6:10); (ii) that those who seek the kingdom, together with the holiness essential for it (6:33) will surely find it (7:7b; heuriskō, the verb of 7:14); and (iii) that he will open the door of his house to faithful believers who knock and ask for entry (7:7c) both now (at the kingdom’s inaugural) and then (at its consummation).
While many (polloi) take the broad path to destruction, there are few (oligoi) who find life. So a question arises, the very one later put to Jesus: ‘Lord, will those who are saved be few [oligoi]?’ (Luke 13:23, esv). Very reminiscent of Matthew 7:13 is his reply (7:24): ‘Strive to enter [eiselthein] through the narrow door [dia tēs stenēs thyras]; for [hoti] many [polloi], I tell you, will seek to enter [eiselthein] but will not be able.’ Although Jesus speaks of the ‘many,’ he does not directly answer the question: theoretically, there could be as many to enter through that door as not. Here, as in 7:13, the burden of the text lies in the opening command: let every listener squarely face the most crucial question of all—the way of his salvation—and allow nothing, including curiosity about the relative number of the saved, to divert his attention from it. Still, the straightforward declarations of 7:13b–14 remain; and they are most naturally interpreted to embrace the entire history of mankind (not just Jesus’ generation), and to mean that the persons who perish will outnumber those who enter into life. Yet the fact also remains that during that history a huge number of people will enter through that narrow gate, so that in the end the redeemed will prove to be a ‘great multitude [ochlos polys] that no one could number’ (Rev. 7:9).
7:13–14 / In one sense the Golden Rule represents the high point of the sermon. The four paragraphs that follow contrast the two ways (vv. 13–14), the two kinds of fruit (vv. 15–20), the two kinds of followers (vv. 21–23), and the two kinds of builders (vv. 24–27). In each case there is a sharp distinction drawn between true discipleship and mere religious activity. Jesus brings his sermon to a close with a clear call for action.
The idea of two ways is found throughout secular literature. Hesiod (the ancient Greek poet) warns that the way of wickedness is “smooth and near to hand,” whereas the path to virtue is “long and steep and rough to begin with” (Work and Days). Jeremiah represents Jewish thought when he records God’s message, “See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death” (21:8; see also Deut. 30:19; Didache 1.1).
Matthew’s use of the figure is a bit ambiguous in that it combines both gates and roads. Does one enter through a gate onto a road (v. 13), or does a road lead ultimately to a gate (v. 14)? Most writers hold that Matthew has conflated two sayings, one referring to a door or gate (cf. Luke 13:24) and the other to two ways. However that may be, the essential idea is relatively clear. One way is broad and easy. It is the way of self-centeredness, and the majority travel that road. The other way is narrow and hard to find. Only a few travel the road of personal commitment and discipline. One road leads to destruction and the other to eternal life. The saying is primarily eschatological, although it speaks as well of life here and now. It describes two ways to live: two ways that separate and lead to two distinct destinies. The choice is clear: follow the crowd with its characteristic bent toward taking the path of least resistance, or join the few who accept the limiting demands of loyalty. The easy way will turn out hard (it ends in destruction), whereas the hard way will lead to eternal joy (life).
13, 14. Enter by the narrow gate; for wide (is) the gate and broad the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For narrow (is) the gate and constricted the way that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
It should be noted that Jesus has already, by way of implication, pictured entrance into his kingdom as being both inviting and difficult, that is, as attended by circumstances both favorable and unfavorable. Favorable, for those who enter are signally blessed. They are the possessors of the kingdom they have entered, are comforted, inherit the earth, shall be fully satisfied, etc. Unfavorable, in the sense that they will be persecuted, insulted, and slandered; and that they are burdened with heavy obligations; for example, they must practice a righteousness that excels that of the scribes and Pharisees; must love even their enemies and pray for their persecutors; must not be hypercritical but must nevertheless be discriminating, etc. Such things are “unfavorable” in the sense that they clash with men’s natural tendencies.
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. 24:14–28; see especially verses 14–16; 19)? Cf. Acts 14:22.
The passage speaks of a. two gates and two ways, b. two kinds of travelers, and c. two destinations.
First, then, the two gates and the two ways. It is clear from the description that these—gate and way—should be combined: narrow gate and constricted way, wide gate and broad or roomy way. Which is first, the way or the gate? Does a person enter the gate in order to be admitted to the way, or does he follow the way in order to reach and go through the gate? If it be true that Jesus, in mentioning the gate, was thinking of what happens when a person dies or at the second coming, then obviously the way precedes the gate. This presentation has become rather popular; for example, on the basis of Scripture we speak of entering Jerusalem the Golden through its pearly gates (cf. Rev. 21:21; 22:14). In this connection one might also refer to Luke 13:23–30, where entrance through the narrow “door” brings one into “the kingdom of God” in its final or eschatological phase.
On the other hand, however, Matt. 7:13, 14 in each case mentions first the gate, then the way. The question is legitimate, therefore, “Which is first, the way or the gate?
Among the commentators who have struggled with this question—some apparently have not, for they ignore it—the following positions have been taken:
- “Possibly Christ’s precept was simply, ‘enter through the narrow gate,’ all the rest being gloss.”
Objection: The available manuscript evidence does not warrant such a radical excision.
- “Each of the two ways leads up to and passes through a gate.” According to this view the way is first. So R. V. G. Tasker. So also J. Jeremias, who appeals to Luke 13:23 f., which he regards as a parallel, and which, as he sees it, “makes it plain that the image of the gates has an eschatological character.” He, accordingly, views the sequence a. gate and b. way as “a popular hysteron-proteron” (later-earlier), that is, a figure of speech in which the real order is reversed, like “thunder and lightning.”
Objection. The context, and to a certain extent even the wording, of Luke 13:23 f., is so different from what is found in Matt. 7:13, 14 that it is questionable whether the problem can be solved by this appeal. Moreover, calling the figure used by Jesus in the Matthew passage a hysteron-proteron is begging the question.
- Gate and way mean substantially the same thing, namely, the obedience demanded by Christ. Viewed as a unit this obedience can be called a gate; considered in its multiplicity, a way. Therefore one should not even ask, “Which is first, the gate or the way?”
Comment. Inasfar as this solution stresses the very close relation between “gate” and “way” I agree with it, for the text is clear on this. Nevertheless, the text says “gate and way,” not “gate or way,” and this not once but twice. Unless this is hendiadys (gateway?), it would seem best to distinguish, however slightly, between the two.
- “The gate is first. It is followed by the way.… In these verses Jesus is not thinking of death but of the choice that must be made right now, and exhorts us to choose, since only by making a conscious choice does one arrive on the right way.”
Comment. If a selection should have to be made between theories 1, 2, and 3, I would, without hesitancy, select 3. Nevertheless, I personally prefer the very closely related 4 as being the most natural. The gate is mentioned first, then the way. Also, is it not true that in nearly every case a “gate” admits to a “way,” be it a highway or a byway, a street, avenue, boulevard, or path? A gate admitting to nothing is rare indeed. On the other hand, a “way” or “road” does not necessarily lead to a gate. The order “gate” followed by “way” is therefore very natural and makes good sense, especially in view of what is probably the intended meaning: right initial choice (conversion) followed by sanctification; or else, wrong initial choice followed by gradual hardening.
The one gate is called “narrow.” It has, not unjustly I believe, been compared to a turnstile that admits one person at a time. In the New Testament the word narrow, with reference to a gate, occurs only in Matt. 7:13, 14. In Luke 13:24 the same adjective is used with reference to an eschatological “door.” Cf. Matt. 25:10.
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.
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 remains 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 Rom. 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); 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.”
The contrast is clearly between “the way of life” and “the way of death.” The first way was constructed according to the specifications of the Supreme Architect (Heb. 11:10). The building directions are found in his holy law. The other “way” was built by the devil. His followers travel on it.
Secondly, the two kinds of travelers. Those who have chosen the wide gate and the spacious way are called “many”; those who have entered the narrow gate and are traveling on the constricted way are called “few.” This corresponds with Matt. 22:14, “Many are called, few chosen,” and with such “remnant” passages as Rom. 9:27; 11:5; etc. Nevertheless, the entire company of the chosen ones are spoken of as an innumerable host (Rev. 7:9).
From what has been said on the preceding pages the erroneous conclusion must not be drawn that the tremendous crowds streaming through the wide gate and now traveling on Broadway are free and happy; while, on the other hand, those individuals who have found the narrow gate and are now proceeding on the constricted way are to be pitied. Actually this “freedom” and “happiness” of the majority is of a very superficial nature. “Everyone who is living in sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). He is as truly chained as is the prisoner with the iron band around his leg, the band that is fastened to a chain which is cemented into the wall of a dungeon. Every sin he commits draws tighter that chain, until at last it crushes him completely. Since the wicked have no inner peace (Isa. 48:22), how can they be truly happy?
On the other hand, “Great peace have they that love thy law” (Ps. 119:165; cf. Isa. 26:3; 43:2). Though, as has been pointed out, entering by the narrow gate and walking on the constricted way implies self-denial, difficulty and struggle, pain and hardship, this is especially true because the sinful nature has not yet been completely conquered. For “the new man” (the regenerated nature) there is joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8; cf. Rom. 7:22; Phil. 2:17; 3:1; 4:4; etc.). The “few” who have entered through the narrow gate are “afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing” (2 Cor. 4:8 f.), “sorrowful yet always rejoicing, poor yet making many rich, having nothing yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10). And in addition to the treasures which they possess even now, they know that riches greater by far await them, for “Our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an everlasting weight of glory, far beyond all measure and proportion” (2 Cor. 4:17; cf. Rom. 8:18).
Thirdly, the two destinations. Those who have entered through the wide gate and are now walking upon Broadway are headed for destruction, that is, not for annihilation but for everlasting perdition (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 3:12; 18:8; 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43; Luke 3:17; 2 Thess. 1:9; Jude 6, 7; Rev. 14:9–11; 19:3; 20:10). On the contrary, “The way of the cross leads home.” It is the way of self-denial that “leads to life” in its full, eschatological sense: a. fellowship with God in Christ, first in heaven, subsequently in the new heaven and earth; plus b. all the blessings resulting from such fellowship. For a fuller description examine such passages as Ps. 16:11; 17:15; 23:6; 73:23–26; John 14:2, 3; 17:3, 24; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18; 4:6; Phil. 4:7, 9; 1 Peter 1:4, 8, 9; Rev. 7:15–17; 15:2–4; 20:4, 6; 21:1–7; etc.
A twofold reason is given for the exhortation “Enter by the narrow gate.” A “twofold” reason rather than two separate reasons, for basic to the entire argument of verses 13 and 14 is this unifying thought: men should choose the gate and the way that lead to life, that is, the narrow gate and constricted way, not the gate and the way that end in destruction, that is, not the wide gate and broad way. Constantly bearing this in mind note the two subordinate arguments: a. It is natural to prefer what is wide and broad, easy of access, to what is narrow and constricted; and b. It is also natural to follow the crowd rather than the few. Beware!
The exhortation is an earnest plea, a very tender invitation issuing from the most loving heart of all. It is substantially the same as that found in 4:17, “Be converted, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It will be repeated in the words of 11:28–30, of John 7:37; and of 2 Cor. 5:20, to mention but a few passages. It was anticipated or foreshadowed in Isa. 1:18; 55:1, 6, 7; Ezek. 33:11; Hos. 11:8; etc., and is climaxed in Rev. 22:17b. And the wooing heart from which it proceeds was laid bare in Matt. 23:37, on the cross, really throughout Christ’s earthly sojourn, and even before (2 Cor. 8:9; cf. John 1:14). That heart is beating still!
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 449–458). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Boice, J. M. (2002). The Sermon on the Mount: an expositional commentary (pp. 247–252). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Chamblin, J. K. (2010). Matthew: A Mentor Commentary (pp. 472–474). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.
 Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (p. 67). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 366–371). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.