Each of us, at some point in life, stand at a parting of the ways. Truth be told, most of our choices don’t have eternal consequences. But some of them do. One, especially. Jesus spoke of it as a choice between two gates. A choosing of the strait gate and narrow way or the wide gate and broad way. One sentence out of the whole Sermon on the Mount. A choice that determines our eternal destiny.
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 there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew7:13&14 KJV).
Being of the curious sort, I looked up the meanings for the words wide, and broad. Surprisingly enough, wide means broad, and broad means spacious, and wide.
Then I looked up the meanings for the words strait, and narrow. Strait (not straight) as used in our Scripture reference in Matthew 7, from the Greek, means narrow from obstacles standing about. The cliché of being between a rock and a hard place comes to mind. In Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of strait is narrow, restricted, confined, difficult; a place of distress.
The word narrow, as used in this Matthew reference, from the Greek, means to suffer affliction, to be troubled; that which comes on believers from without.
Interesting and enlightening definitions, to say the least.
Here, by Jesus Himself, we are presented with two gates – two entrances to two ways – our choice. He instructs us to enter in at the strait gate. He encourages us with the fact that it leads to life. But it’s STRAIT – it’s narrow. Difficult. It has obstacles. Restrictions. Afflictions.
Those listening to Jesus on that hillside understood exactly what He was telling them through His use of words.
And Paul builds on Jesus’ thought…
We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
All that will live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
And the clearest explanation of STRAIT is in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10:
- But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
These come upon believers from without! From obstacles standing about. We must make our way through and past these obstacles as we continue on the narrow way that Jesus would have us take.
On another occasion of teaching, Jesus uses the analogy of a camel passing through a needle’s eye, and we’ve heard explanation of how that would be accomplished: All must be off-loaded and the camel must crouch down to crawl through the small gate.
“The strait gate and narrow way demand self-denial and humility,” states John MacArthur. We are told to lay aside every weight (Hebrews 12:1), and the sin which so easily besets us – “the easily-surrounding sin”: any obstacle we may run into. We are to put off the old man and sins of the flesh (Colossians 2:11; 3:8-10; Ephesians 4:22). We are to deny self, take the cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24).
The strait gate with the narrow way bears the sign LIFE.
Not surprisingly, so does the wide gate with the broad way! Satan does not announce and advertise the wide gate and broad way as leading to destruction! Only Jesus tells us that it leads to destruction. Satan deceives minds and souls into believing that all roads lead to God and heaven. Paul puts it succinctly: “… the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). “…false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13&14).
Again quoting John MacArthur: “No one on the broad way has to bow low or leave anything behind in order to travel this road. But there is a problem – and it is an eternal one.”
Many go the broad way, and it leads to destruction. Irrevocable spiritual and eternal ruin and loss. A.W. Tozer put it this way: “The man who dies out of Christ is said to be lost, and hardly a word in the English tongue expresses his condition with greater accuracy. He has squandered a rare fortune and at the last he stands for a fleeting moment and looks around, a mortal fool, a wastrel who has lost in one overwhelming and irrecoverable loss, his soul, his life, his peace, his dear and everlasting all.”
Making it to the end of any journey requires a determination to overcome fatigue, discouragement, and the temptation to take a side road, one has said.
There are no alternate routes to life eternal. No substitute paths. No “I think” religions. No other road. Certainly not the broad way. ONLY the strait gate and narrow way leads to eternal life. Jesus encouraged us: “In the world – while on the strait and narrow way – ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Oh, and the word few in Matthew 7:14 means this: not many, but some. I want to be in that number when the saints go marching in. Don’t you?
He that endures to the end shall be saved (from Matthew 24:13). Enter in at the strait gate…which leads unto life…. “For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly unto the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). “Don’t quit,” Max Lucado writes. “Be there when He whispers your name.”
1 Timothy 1:17