The Strait Gate
Great Sayings in the Gospels
13 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 thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. KJV
There are many, many people who have not realized that Jesus made a number of similar statements to this one.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen. KJV
23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. KJV
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. KJV
And many times when people do read such passages, they fail to note that Jesus is not speaking of the world of idolaters and the heathen wicked. He is speaking of people who actually “seek to enter in,” people who are known as “His disciples.”
Far too many people think that all of the “Christian religious” are going to be saved and this is a minority compared to the rest of the world. But Jesus was actually speaking of people who know the truths of God’s Word, people who have some interest in eternal life and have spent some effort seeking to be a part of the Kingdom of God.
Try, if you will, to hear the words of Christ as those heard it who were assembled in front of Him on the Mount as He taught. They were religious people. They believed that they were headed for eternity with God. They had spent considerable effort on that day to come into the countryside and stand to listen to this man speak of God. And He said to them (paraphrased), “There is a constricted gate and a narrow difficult path that leads to eternal life and most of you are not going to find it.”
I wonder how you would receive it this morning if I were to say such a thing to you? Would you be angry with me? Would you decide to attend church somewhere else? Of course, I do no know your heart, your faith, nor your level of commitment of devotion to Jesus Christ. All I know is what I see. I assume that all of you who claim to be true believers actually are.
But let me share this with you. Several years ago someone did a survey of the leading evangelical preachers in the U.S., including Billy Graham. They were asked, “what percentage of the people who profess Christ under your ministry do you believe are truly converted?” The results were astounding. They responded that it was their sincere conviction that 75% to 90% percent of the people who had ‘accepted Christ’ under their preaching were………UNCONVERTED!
In other words, they believed what Jesus said that of those who SEEK eternal life, FEW find it. This is the topic before us this morning.
First, I would have you notice that there is a way to life.
This is an amazing and incredible thing. God had created mankind, beginning with one man and one woman, Adam and Eve. He had given them perfect bodies and a perfect world to inhabit, enjoy, and populate with their children. He only required one thing, that they refrain from eating the fruit of one and only one tree in the beautiful garden they called home. But, you know how that ended and what the consequences were.
12 …by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: KJV
17 …by one man’s offence death reigned by one; KJV
18 …by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; KJV
19 …by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, KJV
It was not merely physical death which came upon the race, it was spiritual death. All were ‘made,’ constituted, sinners. And, we are taught in God’s word that this means that we were made spiritually dead by the sin of our father Adam.
And, every generation of Adam’s children added their “AMEN” in hearty agreement with their father’s sin. Every law that God gave as a requirement upon them they freely and gladly broke, thumbing their noses, as it were, at the God Who had created them.
An independent observed might conclude that this was the end of humanity, the doom of their destiny, to be forever locked out of communion with God, perpetually following lives of rebellion and destruction, and then cast away eternally from God’s Presence when they died.
There is an amazing little passage with two incredible words that come often to my mind.
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. KJV
God Himself was not content that the humans He had created should all be lost, locked up forever in spiritual death. HE HIMSELF made this “way which leadeth unto life,” and He did so in the Person and Work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I wonder if this is amazing to you. I wonder if this thrills your soul and if the very thought of it brings you often to grateful tears that the Holy God should provide such a thing for sinners.
If not, I wonder if the reason for that is that you have never really faced the horror of being lost, spiritually dead, with no way to help yourself.
God has indeed, prepared a ‘way’ to spiritual life.
So, what is this ‘strait gate’ and this ‘narrow way’?
I remember as a child trying to imagine what a ‘straight’ gate would be. I had never seen a crooked one, so I really didn’t know how to picture this gate. I do not remember anyone ever explaining that this word ‘strait’ is not the opposite of ‘crooked’ but the opposite of ‘broad’ or ‘wide.’ It is a narrow gate, difficult to get through. It is so difficult to squeeze through, Jesus said, that only a relative few find it and enter it.
And, on the other side of the gate there is a small and narrow path. The image here is the same as that of the gate. Because the way is narrow, it is difficult to travel and many who might think to travel it do not end up doing so.
Therefore, we are left to assume (and rightly so) that those who do not enter at the tiny gate and walk the narrow way, do not ultimately find themselves in possession of spiritual life.
John Bunyan, in his allegorical book of the Christian life, ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ spoke of a man named ‘Ignorance’ who made his way across the river of death and arrived at the entrance to heaven itself. Listen to his description of the event.
“When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to know, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, Whence came you, and what would you have? He answered, I have eat and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets. Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and shew it to the King; so he fumbled in his bosom for one and found none. Then said they, Have you none? But the man never answered a word. So they told the King, but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two Shining Ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the City, to go out and take Ignorance and bind him hand and foot, and take him away. Then they took him up, and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.”
The gate is so constricted and the path so narrow that many will not make it.
And, how is this gate and path so very narrow?
First of all, because they are entered by Faith.
Now many in our day believe that this thing of faith means that it is an easy thing. “Only believe,” they say, “anyone can believe. You believe in that pew that is holding you up, transfer that faith to Christ and be saved.”
But they err in that they believe that all faith is one thing, a simple act of mental assent to a proposition or a principle.
Such is not the case at all. The faith that saves is far more than that. James, in his epistle, rightly shows that the demons of hell have that kind of faith in Jesus Christ.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. KJV
The demons of hell, he says, believe in God. They believe so powerfully and so strongly in God that they are terrified of him. But that kind of faith, James says, is not the New Testament faith that produces salvation.
That faith produces a radical change in a person, makes him one who is obedient to God. And that is because there is something also required for one to enter the ‘strait gate.’
This gate is entered and the path is walked through repentance.
At it’s root, the NT word ‘repentance’ means ‘a change of mind.’ But just as saving faith is a radical kind of believing, so Biblical repentance is a radical change of mind.
One of the best examples of this radical change of mind is the story of the man Zacchaeus, a Jew of Jericho who collected taxes for the Roman government. The man was very corrupt, a thief and an abuser of poor people who took advantage of them because of his position.
When he came to the place of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, a profound revolution occurred in his mind. Listen to his own words.
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. KJV
This change of mind that is required at the ‘strait gate’ is so powerful that one will put away his sins as he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. He will literally turn himself and his life upside down and wrong side out in order to cast away from himself wicked and ungodly behavior. He will humbled himself like the Prodigal Son and make a complete change in his life.
He will do this or he will not enter the gate, he will not walk the path, he will never know eternal life.
Once through the gate, one must keep to the path, which is extremely narrow.
It is narrow because it is the path of obedience to God concerning His spiritual and moral law.
Here is a grand reality of life that we all must face. If one wants to get to a place, he must travel the ‘way’ that ends up there. In spite of popular opinion in our day, all paths do not lead to God. In fact, only one does.
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. KJV
In one sense, this is a blessed and glorious path. David said, “He leadeth me beside still waters, He restoreth my soul.” There is no other place that the soul can know the wonders, the comforts, the glorious provisions of God but this small, narrow, difficult path.
But there is no path that is more difficult either, for it is a path of self-sacrifice and a path of radical obedience to God.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. KJV
Paul called it “reckoning” ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. He also called it yielding our bodies as a “living sacrifice” unto God.
It is indeed the path that leads to life, the path walked with God, but it is also a path of God-li-ness.
So, have you found the gate and the path?
Are you one of the relative few who will actually give themselves to God, respond to the gospel, forsake sins and undertake to live in obedience to Him?
Or, has someone lied to you about the path and told you that this wide gate through which most are entering is the path to life? The next verses here are devoted to the Lord’s warnings about lying preachers, false prophets who promise a way to life but give false hope instead.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. KJV
My friend, enter the strait gate, walk the narrow path. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart. Forsake your sins like Zacchaeus and the Prodigal. Humble yourself in the sight of God and man and make confession of your sins. Then, take up your cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in a life devoted to Him, obedient to Him, a life that indeed leads to eternal life.