“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: Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
We may definitely assert that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is the subject of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Throughout this sermon in, the spiritual character of this Kingdom receives all emphasis. It is spiritual in distinction from the earthy expectation of the disciples on the one hand and from the external and sham righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees on the other. This Kingdom of heaven is established by Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the law, and it is worked spiritually in His people through the Holy Spirit, Needless to say, our entrance into that Kingdom is a matter of grave importance. This latter thought constitutes the Word of God in this text.
We must understand, I am sure, that the viewpoint of this text is not that of God as He leads His people into the heavenly glory. God encounters no difficulties. He knows no strait gate or narrow way. The viewpoint here is that of our entrance into this heavenly kingdom. We can enter into it only through a strait gate and upon a narrow way. And inasmuch as this is true, and these ways lead either to life or destruction, how urgent therefore is our calling to enter in at the strait gate.
According to this text we must pass through the strait gate to enter eternal life. Jesus does not exhort us to enter in at the strait gate and upon the narrow way. We are merely told to enter in at the strait gate. The gate receives the emphasis here. The way (narrow or broad) follows upon the gate and is determined by it. The strait gate always results in a narrow way. At the very outset we may ask ourselves three questions which call for an answer:
1. What is meant by life?
2. What is meant by the gate which leads unto life?
3. What is meant by entering in at the strait gate?
1. First of all, Christ speaks here of life and its contrast, destruction. Destruction in this text must, of course, not be confused with annihilation. Annihilation is taught by the Russelites and Universalites but is clearly denied in the Scriptures, as e.g., in. This destruction refers to man’s conscious and eternal ruin. Man, while upon earth, lives in a dream world. (He imagines himself rich in the temporary possession of earthy treasures. But his destruction awaits him, when, at the end of time and forevermore, he will experience the unspeakable misery of being eternally forsaken of God. He will then be deprived of all his possessions and taste eternally the wrath of God. The contrast of this destruction is life. It is evident, in the light of the word “destruction”, that our Lord here refers to the Kingdom of Heaven from the viewpoint of its eternal culmination. Only, He speaks of that Kingdom from the aspect of life. This life refers, not only to our public justification before the eyes of all men, but positively to the eternal, glorious fellowship with God in Christ Jesus in heavenly glory, when we shall serve the living God perfectly and forevermore.
2. Secondly, what is meant by the gate which leads into life? The strait gate leads unto life and the wide gate leads unto destruction. The identity of this gate which leads unto life is beyond every doubt. The entire sermon on the mount throws light on this question, especially the Beatitudes, chap. 5:20, where Christ contrasts our righteousness with that of the Pharisees, and chapter 6:33 where we are admonished to seek the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. Our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven can never be anything else than the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Righteousness signifies that we are declared by the supreme judge of heaven and earth to be in perfect harmony with His will and law. We can speak of righteousness in a judicial sense and thereby emphasize the truth that, upon the declaration of God as judge, our guilt has been paid and we have obtained the right to eternal life. And we can also emphasize the spiritual aspect and thereby refer to the harmony between our own spiritual life and the will of God. The gate mentioned in this text refers to righteousness in this twofold sense of the word. And this righteousness is ours in Christ Jesus, He alone restored us to favor with God. He alone works in us the spiritual harmony between our lives and the will of God. And through this righteousness we enter life eternal, fellowship with God, now in principle and soon in eternal perfection. Hence, the wide gate of my text is the gate of sin and unrighteousness.
3. Thirdly, what is meant by our entering through the strait gate? It is evident that Christ here is speaking of our personal and conscious entering into the Kingdom of Heaven through the strait gate. This implies three things. It implies, in the first place, a conscious clinging unto the cross of Golgotha. By nature we are hopelessly estranged from God. That cross alone is our only hope. For on that cross Christ died and reconciled us with the Father. To enter through the strait gate means therefore that we consciously, by faith, embrace the crucified Christ. It implies, secondly, a conscious choosing for the holiness of the law of God. We must consciously forsake the way of sin, put off the old main, and turn unto the living God and reach forward unto the perfection in Jesus Christ, our Lord. And it signifies, thirdly, that this entrance through the strait gate must occur throughout our entire life. It is true that this choice, in principle, takes place but once. But this one choice must occur throughout our lives.
It is evident from the text that this entrance through the strait gate is extremely difficult. Does not the Savior speak of a strait gate and of a narrow way? The reason for this difficulty is twofold, subjective and objective. It is difficult, subjectively, because of us who must pass through it. It is true that we are renewed in principle. But it is equally true that we are but in principle holy. To be sure, our nature is renewed in principle. But this work of the grace of God has been wrought in an earthly tabernacle. Our old nature does not disappear. Sanctification does not imply the dying of the old man. But it refers to our dying of the old man. And this struggle against the workings of sin within us continues until the end of our earthly lives. It is difficult, objectively, because the gate is so strait and the way is terribly narrow.
We may also in this connection note the relation between gate and way. The concept “way” in the text refers to our walk, our manifestation and path in the midst of the world. The relation is that of cause and effect. The gate determines the way. My choosing for sin or righteousness determines definitely my “way” in the midst of the world.
In contrast with the difficulty attending my entrance through the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven the way of sin is easy. The gate of sin and unrighteousness is extremely wide. We pass through it so easily. To choose for sin and evil does not involve us in a struggle with the flesh. We merely follow our own nature, walk according to our own pleasures. It demands of us no self-denial. And the way which follows such a choice is delightfully broad. To travel upon it is a pleasure. Then we can go everywhere and the entire world lies before us. Besides, many, we read, walk on it. We shall not lack company. We need not be regarded as outcasts and the off scouring of society.
On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to enter through the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven. The gate, we read, is strait, narrow. To embrace the cross of Golgotha implies that I must renounce myself. Nothing of ourselves can pass through this gate. The moment we behold any righteousness in ourselves we will find it impossible to pass through this gate into the Kingdom of Heaven. To cling unto the Christ of Calvary implies that we know ourselves as condemnable, utterly unworthy of the mercies of God and that Jesus alone is our salvation. And therefore we must pass through this gate naked, ever appearing before the living God in sackcloth and ashes. Besides, our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is also difficult because of the way which must inevitably follow. That way is terribly narrow. Having embraced the principles of the Kingdom of God we have renounced the lusts of the eyes and of the flesh, and the greatness of life. We are radically different from those whose god is their belly, who glory in their shame, who hate the cross of Christ. The children of the world proceed in all their activity from the principle of sin and that which is below. The children of the Kingdom are moved by the fear of God. For this reason their path in the world shall be narrow. It is narrow because they must deny themselves the pleasures of sin for a season. It is narrow also because the wicked world hates the Church of God and will persecute those who seek the things above. And there are few that find it, God’s people are a ridiculed minority.
The extreme difficulty attending our entrance through the strait gate is further emphasized in the text when Jesus informs us that “few there be that find it.” The implication is not that all men seek to enter God’s eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Scripture teaches us differently. All men do, however, seek a certain peace and rest, a heaven of their own imagination. But, in all the world’s seeking for peace and rest few find the strait gate. The wide gate, with its broad way, is the choice of the vast majority. Only a few will choose shame and reproach as, the way to eternal glory and peace.
Finally, the tone of the text is such that it emphasizes the urgent necessity of entering through the strait gate. It is imperative for us to enter through this strait gate because the gate and way which lead unto destruction are broad and it is only through the strait gate and upon the narrow way that we are led into eternal life. The broad way leads to destruction. The narrow way is the way of life. This must be. God rewards according to works. Unrighteousness is the gateway and pathway to hell. The wages of sin is death. For God is the God of righteousness and the wicked therefore gather for themselves treasures, of eternal wrath. The strait gate, on the other hand, leads to life. It leads to life not because of our own righteousness. Christ is our righteousness. He paid our debt land merited for us life. His work is our reward. To believe in Christ, to suffer for His Name’s sake in the midst of the world demands eternal life on the basis of the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Urgently necessary therefore is this admonition. The gate and way of destruction are wide. The gate of life is narrow. Enter ye in, not at the wide gate, but at the strait gate.