The Strait Gate and Narrow Way
[We offer the following article, based on the weighty words of the Lord Jesus, from Matthew 7:13-14. The author uses the KJV which does obscure the meaning. Keep in mind that Jesus is speaking of the narrow gate when the author speaks of the strait gate. Also keep in mind that the authors reference to the church later in the article is from an Anabaptist perspective.]
Many of Jesus’ profound teachings are so simple. So it is with His teaching about the strait gate and the narrow way. He said, “Enter ye in at the strait [narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’ (Matt. 7:13,14). The illustration Jesus used is easily understood, but the meaning wants to slip from us.
Some 700 years before Christ, Isaiah prophesied about this way, saying, “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (Isa. 35:8).
To the one with a humble mind and heart the significance of Jesus citing a gate and path is readily comprehended. On the other hand, His teaching about the dimension of the road to heaven entails divine truths that must be revealed by the Spirit to be understood. They are not meaningful to the natural mind.
Jesus said that the strait gate and narrow way lead to life. This life is the abundant life (John 10:10) here in time, or eternal life begun below. While the Lord did not say it in so many words, He surely also meant that this narrow way leads to eternal bliss in heaven. There is only one way that leads right trough heaven’s portals: the strait gate and narrow road of holiness. Looking at it from another perspective, the strait gate and narrow way faithfully reflect the true dimension of heaven’s door.
Why must it be a strait gate and a narrow way? The strait gate and narrow way are the dimensions they are because of what God is. The councils of Heaven did not just decide to make the way of salvation hard; God is not mean-spirited. The narrow way is the dimension it is because it corresponds to the Father’s holiness. It is a reflection of God’s righteousness.
The first attribute of God is holiness (Lev. 11:45,46; 1 Pet. 1:16), and the second is love (1 John 4:8). These two attributes of the Almighty do not conflict but rather compliment each other. Because God loves mankind He did not withhold from man the measurement of the way that leads to His holy presence. God wants man to be with Him in eternity and share in His glory. That is why the way has the dimension it does.
There is no hint in Jesus’ words that the strait gate and the narrow road may vary slightly from one another in their width. Jesus said, “I am the door” (John 10:7), and He also said, “I am the way” (John 14:6). There is no variance between Christ the Door and Christ the Way. The passage through the door, or gate, is so strait that there is no room for the flesh to pass through. Once having entered through the strait gate, the road beyond retains the same dimension. Having come in through the strait gate, it will not be grievous to walk the narrow way.
As Christ laid down His life, so must the seekers and knockers at the gate forfeit their lives (Matt. 16:25) to enter the kingdom. As one stands before the strait gate he surrenders everything to the Lord that he might gain entrance. Having become penitent and broken by Holy-Ghost conviction, there is no plea bargaining and no reservations stipulated. With a broken heart and contrite spirit (Ps. 34:18) one divests himself of his fleshly baggage on the world side of the strait gate. He does this willingly because his heart is being made new. He now knows that there is no other way unto salvation. He resolves to forsake the world and all its lusts, deny self, take up his cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. This he promises to do until his dying breath. This latter promise pertains to walking the narrow way.
It is imperative that one does not begin to think that the way is broader than the gate. The Scriptures give no other thought but that the door of heaven is the same dimension as the strait gate and narrow way. Some today would like to make the way just a little broader than the strait gate, but this was not their confession of faith when they entered through the gate. Somewhere along the way they began to chafe at the flesh-restricting dimension of the way They listened to the cries of the crucified old man and had sympathy on him. It is at this point that the narrow way begins to appear as bondage, rather than providing liberty from the flesh.
How many Christian professors will travel a broader way only to bump into the doorposts of heaven and fall to the left-hand side? According to Jesus, the number will be more than a few (Matt. 7:22,23). The strait gate and narrow way alone lead directly into the glories of God’s dwelling place.
While the way is not wider than the gate, neither will it be any narrower Having come in through the strait gate by repentance and faith, one can know he will find no place in the way that will be impossible if he keeps that same spirit.
That “there be few that find it” tells us that this gate is hidden. We understand from these words that many “seek” to find it, but only a few are successful. The failures are due to not seeking with the whole heart (1cr. 29:13). People do not just happen upon the narrow way casually This apparently is the meaning of Isaiah’s words, “though fools, shall not err therein:’ Those who are presumptuous or less than sincere about the things of God will not inadvertently stumble onto this way. The strait gate is hidden to human wisdom and thinking, but it is revealed to the honest, searching heart.
God has not hidden the strait gate and narrow way to exclude anyone–except the fleshly minded (1 Cor. 15:50). When Adam and Eve transgressed in the garden of Eden, God “placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24). This was done so that man would not eat of the tree of life in his fallen state and thereby be consigned to a “living” death. Likewise, He has “hidden” the entrance to the narrow way so that only the truly penitent and humble find it. This is a safeguard against deception.
Some today might feel that the ministry or brotherhood is denying them entrance. As a result they come into trials, and some turn away. But the church’s task is to prove whether one’s spirit and life is such that indicate one has truly found the strait gate. And thus she endeavors to speak the truth. She must not do any less, lest men be given a false hope.
What is the essence of the straitness of this gate and narrow way? It is in denying oneself of many “things,” or is it only the heart that matters? The answer is neither if considered separately and alone, but both when one’s motivation is examined. The cause, or root, of sinning must receive the focus here. James writes that “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14, 15). This lust, which is strong selfish desire, is going to bear evil fruit unless it is continually mortifled (Rom. 8:13). There is not room on the narrow way for the manifestations of self. The narrow way will not accommodate “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).
The two greatest commandments are to love God supremely and to love one’s neighbor as himself. Jesus said that everything else derives from these (Matt. 22:44; see also Rom. 13:9). To love God and our fellowmen as Jesus taught means we will seek their highest well-being and happiness above our own pleasure. If one chooses his own satisfaction ahead of God’s honor and glory, or at the expense of someone’s grief or disappointment, he deems himself more worthy of satisfaction than God or his fellowman. Such a person manifests gross pride. This deference to selfishness because of pride is the essence of all sin. It is this old man of self that is excluded from the strait and narrow way.
As the flesh is crucified in order to walk the narrow way, the spirit is set free to commune with God. Too many see only the negatives of the narrow way. But “there is joy in the journey” when one settles the issues of life and his course is set. He then rejoices in the word of the Lord that says, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).
The above is an editorial from the September 1, 1999, Messenger of Truth, PO Box 230, Moundridge, Kansas 67107