What Does It Mean That We Must Enter by the Narrow Gate?
“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).
During His ministry on earth, Jesus made some pretty shocking statements:
- Love your enemy
- If someone slaps you on the face, turn the other cheek
- In order to follow Me, you have to hate your mother and father
- Give 10% of all your financial increase to My house
- If your hand offends you, cut it off
- If you sin with your eye, gouge it out
- Do good to those who spitefully use you
- If you want to become great, become a servant
- If you want to save your life, you must lose it
Shocking, all of them, but none so much as His statement in Matthew 7. Here Jesus declared that salvation hinges on something very specific and supremely important: that we must “enter by the narrow gate.”
We live in a time when the politically correct thing to believe and to say is that all religious roads are valid, as long as a person is sincere in holding that belief. That is, it doesn’t matter how a person seeks to worship God, or how one seeks to become spiritually mature or enlightened, or whether it is even necessary to hold any belief at all – because God/Source/the Universe loves every one of us! But Jesus, shockingly, says just the opposite.
He states there are actually only two roads we can travel in this life: the broad road or the narrow road. The broad road is every other religious or spiritual belief outside of true Christianity; it is well-traveled, but leads to destruction. The narrow road is a genuine, personal relationship and trust in Christ Jesus; it’s the only road that leads to life!
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
But many today would object and say how narrow-minded, how intellectually arrogant, how exclusive! In reality, it’s no less narrow-minded and exclusive than the mantra “All Paths Lead to God.”
All three of the world’s largest religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) claim that “their path” is the “only path” that leads to the afterlife. And those three religions represent a majority of the world’s population.
Therefore, the assertion that “all spiritual paths lead to the same place” actually excludes most of the world’s population, because they don’t subscribe to that philosophy! All belief systems, whether they appear inclusive or not, are actually exclusive; at their very core, all claim superiority over other belief systems. So, it’s not actually narrow minded for Jesus to say there is one path that is better than all the others!
One could further argue that holding such a philosophy is intellectually dishonest, even silly.
Think of it: all roads lead to the same place? Are you sure? Isn’t that like saying, if you drive North out of New York City, you will arrive in Florida (located about 1,000 miles to the South). Every road doesn’t arrive at the same place in anything in life – whether travel, relationships, finances, career, anything!
But Jesus says, no there are only two roads – one is faith in Me as Savior and Lord, and the other is faith in anyone or anything else. One is the narrow road that leads to eternal life, the other is the broad road that leads to destruction.
Shocking, isn’t it.
Getting On the Right Path
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7: 21-23).
We must determine which spiritual path is the right path and walk it. First, recognize that according to the verse, there are three traits that that both “broad path people” and “narrow path people,” often share in common.
1. They Believe that Jesus Is Lord
Notice He says “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Clearly, they do believe Jesus Christ is Lord, but He declares He never knew them. They can’t enter into Heaven by simply recognizing the obvious.
2. They Are Passionate about That Belief
We could also say they are emotionally engaged in Christianity. We understand this by the way the verse is written. Whenever a speaker wanted to add a sense of intensity in the Semitic language, they would repeat the name. We often see this with God:
“Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied (Genesis 22:11).
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).
In this case, the emotion is coming from people who claim to be on the narrow-path, asserting themselves to be authentic Christians.
They are passionate about their belief that Jesus is Lord. In a modern sense, they raise their hands in church, they pray loudly and sometimes in King James English: Thou art God, Thou art good, and Thou art merciful!
3. They Are Active Volunteers
They work Sundays in the kid’s ministry, they usher, they sing on the worship team, they host a small group in their home. The text of Matthew 7 says these people even cast out devils and did miracles in His name. No doubt, they were extraordinarily active in serving God. But Jesus said, He never knew them.
And He told them to depart, because the path they were on was not the narrow path that leads to life.
At this point, most of us are probably wondering, so just where does that leave me? Am I on the narrow path or the broad path?
Can you now see why Jesus’ statement is so shocking? Most of us Christians believe these are the three indicators that would confirm we’ve been saved! The truth is, while the absence of these three things certainly indicates that you are not a Christian, the presence of them does not automatically demonstrate that you are!
The sign of a true, authentic Christian is not recognizing that Jesus is Lord—even the demons do that (Luke 4:34)! And it’s not being passionate in worship or prayer. It’s not even serving at the church! While all Christians should demonstrate those things, there are two key indicators that we are on the right path. But these indicators are probably not what you think.
You Have a Grasp of God’s Grace
The ones that Jesus never knew stood before Him, and pointed to what they had done as the reason why they should be let into heaven. They argued, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, done wonders in Your name?
Now modernize it – Lord, have we not served every week at church, given financially, and joined in local outreaches? Surely, based on those activities we deserve entrance into Heaven! Because of what we have done, because of “our ministry” and our good works, we deserve to enter into Heaven. We deserve eternal life because of what we have done for You!
They obviously had no grasp of God’s grace. We don’t merit Heaven because of what we have done. We are granted access to Heaven because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.
Even with our best efforts, our righteousness is as filthy rags. However, His righteousness, what He has done in our place (by living a sinless life, dying a substitutionary death and defeating death in the Resurrection) that righteousness is why we are granted Heaven!
Do we realize, had it not been for the life of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ, and the resurrection of Christ for us in full payment for our sin, that we would not merit heaven? Do we realize that it’s not by works of righteousness that we are saved? Do we realize that it’s by grace through faith and by grace alone that we are granted eternal life?
You Surrender to God’s Will
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
It is entirely possible to intellectually grasp that Jesus is Lord, be emotionally vested in that belief and actively participate in service to God, but view Him as a kind of genie in a bottle Who exists to do our will. In other words, we should determine whether we are we coming to Christ simply because we like what He promises that He can do for our lives. Are we coming to Him for all the benefits that we can get from Him?
Hello God, I’d like some power and a sense of meaning, please. Happiness, too. Oh, and I’ll take some healing for my bunions. Oh, and prosperity, can’t forget that! I’ll take everything You’ve got to fix my husband, while You’re at it! I’ll take Your wisdom for my kids, and I’ll take…
Hello, my name is Jimmy, and I’ll take all You gimme!
Yes, Father God wants to do those things for us, but that’s not what Christianity is truly all about. Christianity is all about transformation into the image of Christ. And that begins with a resignation and submission of our will to God’s will.
But that’s not easy, which is why Jesus says:
“…difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14).
It’s not easy to submit your will to God’s will. It’s not easy to surrender something you want for something God wants. It’s a struggle to crucify your own flesh, to fight against your own desires. It’s your own personal Garden of Gethsemane experience and we must all go through it (Matthew 26:36-46).
It’s that place where your will and God’s will collide in conflict. It’s where you come to grips with Who God is, and who you are not; where you realize God is not some genie in a bottle, and you are not His maker.
Submission to His will happens as you realize God is God, and you are His servant, His soldier, His agent, His ambassador, His hands, His feet, and His mouth, and your will must bow to His plan. It’s when you finally realize that in order to walk in the calling God has for you, there is a cross to bear.
True Christians desire, above all else, to do the will of the Father. God, which door should I walk through? God, how do You want to use me today? God, how do You want me to manage my finances today, this week, this month? There is so much on my agenda today, but I want to know if You have anything on Your agenda that You’d like me to participate in?
God… is this what You want me to do?
What a revolutionary question with real world consequences! If you live by that question, and know that it is only by grace that you are saved, you surely will stay safely on that narrow path, living the life God designed for you and entering the Kingdom of Heaven!
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/© Marco Bottigelli
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.