Enter by the Narrow Gate
Have you ever heard a statement of fact and your first reaction was, “Nah!” Well, try a couple of these on for size: A strawberry is not a berry. A banana is a berry. There is enough water in Lake Superior to cover all of North and South America in one foot of liquid. An octopus has three hearts.These facts may be disputed by our human sensibilities. And you know what? This happens in the spiritual.
Take Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t those parts of the bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts I do understand.”
These words of Jesus – “enter by the narrow gate” – are jarring, for they assault our natural sensibilities. And yet, they are truth and we have to deal with them.
To borrow from Francis Schaeffer, as believers in light of these words of Jesus, “How then shall we live?”
Share the gospel. Do the work of evangelism. Be a witness. Share the truth in love.
The Greek word pulé (poo-lay) means gate. In antiquity “gates” in antiquity generally represented authority & power. In fact, many ancient cities were gated. Perhaps you’ve seen or physically toured the Old City of Jerusalem – the “City of God” (Psalm 48:1-3). It is a walled city with several gates.
Jesus’ audience in His day would have been familiar with gates, and particularly with those which were part of the city of Jerusalem. Gates permitted or prevented the entry of people and animals. In times of war, enemy forces often concentrated their attacks on these gate openings, typically the weakest part of the city wall. The gates were strategic and usually built in such a way that they were flanked by, or actually part of, one or more adjoining defensive chambers or towers. If the gate was breached, reinforcements could be dropped into the gateway from these rooms, and bottle up the invaders.
Jerusalem’s Old City has had numerous gates over the thousands of years of Bible history. In times of peace, the gates were used for judgments and business transactions. Leaders sat in the gates. Gates were important locations, as evidenced by over than 300 references in the Bible.
So when the Lord makes this challenging statement in Matthew 7:13-14, the gate He refers to is actually Himself!
Additionally, the exclusive claims of Christ regarding salvation and entering into a proper relationship with God, through faith in Him, were not limited simply to one sermon on a hilltop in Galilee.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
The statement “I am the door,” found in John 10:7, is the third of seven “I am” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s Gospel. These “I am” proclamations point to His unique, divine identity and purpose. In this “I am” statement, Jesus again colorfully pointed out for us the exclusive nature of salvation by saying that He is “the door,” not “a door.” Furthermore, Jesus is not only our Shepherd who leads us into the “sheepfold,” but He is the only door by which we may enter and be saved (John 10:9). Jesus is the only means we have of receiving eternal life (John 3:16). There is no other way.
So, 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. For example, on planet earth in 2023, we have 8 Billion inhabitants, and of those, only 2 Billion identify with or believe in Jesus on any level! 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, or by being ‘good’. 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).
To add, Peter, speaking to the Jewish religious leadership in Acts 4:12, stated, “Salvation is found in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
An all too common objection to this truth claim of the Christian faith is,
“It’s narrow-minded to think Jesus is the only way to God.”
Note, exclusivity is not exclusively attributable to the Christian faith! In fact, every worldview, religion, and philosophy is by definition exclusive and excludes other truth claims.That’s what makes a truth claim a truth claim. Yes, Jesus claimed He was the only way to God (John 14:6). Such a claim is either totally true or totally false. The reality is the exclusivity argument doesn’t hold much water.
In contrast, the beauty of the gospel is the inclusiveness of its message: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). If Christianity is true, then we must accept all of Jesus’ teachings. He doesn’t give us the option to pick and choose.
When engaging people in a discussion surrounding exclusivity, we can ask if they believe in heaven, paradise, or nirvana. If they do, an appropriate follow-up question goes something like, “Well, tell me how you think we get their and why do you believe that?” Remember, defending one’s worldview, or giving an apologia, is not exclusive the Christian faith either. In other words, the one you are speaking with must be held to the same standard, defending what they believe and why they believe it.
Yes, narrow is the gate. Heaven is real. Hell is real. And everyone has a choice. This reality answers the why of evangelism. Therefore we should be compelled to share the gospel with people, giving them the opportunity to respond, even if that response is rejection.
As we go forth in our Christian witness, may we keep in mind both the exclusive nature of the gospel message and the inclusive nature of the gospel invitation, “for God so loved the world…” Amen.
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). – Jesus