DUNCAN/The call to enter the kingdom, Part 1: The narrow way
Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 7:13-14. In these verses, Jesus contrasts two ways: a broad way, and a narrow way. Jesus, in this passage, is telling us how we come to partake of the blessings of the kingdom. Jesus gives us four arguments in this passage as to why we ought to enter the narrow gate. First, we see the two gates. Second, the two ways. Third, two final destinations. And fourth, two different groups.
I. The Two Gates
Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Jesus tells us that the wide gate, the broad gate, the wide way, is a way that leads to destruction. The first thing that I would like to direct your attention to are the gates. There are two gates in this passage. Jesus speaks of these two gates to remind us that there is only one way of salvation. Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide that leads to destruction, for the gate is small that leads to life.” The broad gate, the wide gate, looks inviting, but in fact it is deadly. It looks easy, but in fact it is hard.
The narrow gate, on the other hand, is hard. It looks hard. It requires self-denial. It requires confession of sin. Christ is the narrow gate. He is the entry way into the kingdom. The gate itself is costly. It cost Him to construct. And it costs us. We, too, must go the way of confession of sin and self-denial. We must leave behind our self-righteousness and our selfish ambition at that gate. But the Lord Jesus tells us to not be fooled. The gates may look like one is easy and one is hard, but don’t be fooled by the superficial appearance, because the hard gate in the end is the gate that leads to salvation. The Lord Jesus says that he is the only way. Enter by the narrow gate.
II. The Two Ways
Notice also, He speaks about the way. There are two ways He contrasts in verse 14. “The way is broad that leads to destruction. The way is narrow that leads to life.” He contrasts for us here two ways, two patterns of life. If we were using modern nomenclature, we would say two lifestyles. The lifestyle of righteousness, and the lifestyle of wickedness. And the Lord Jesus again here teaches us that there is only one blessed life. There are many people who are saying to you today that you can chose any alternative lifestyle that you want and it can be a blessed way. The Lord Jesus says that there is one lifestyle that is blessed, and it is a lifestyle that lives by the grace of God under the reign of God according to the righteousness of God, as set forth in His Word. He sets forth before us two patterns. The broad way, that is that pattern of living according to our own standards which is wickedness. It is living to our own standards, our own desires. It is an easy way because you make it up as you go. But is hard in the end. It may seem right, it may feel right, but in the end, if it is not the way of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if it is not the way of God’s Word, it ends in destruction.
Then there is the way to life. It is a narrow way. Jesus is talking about that pattern of life according to righteousness; living according to God’s standards, living according to God’s desires, living to desire to glorify Him, living in accordance with God’s Word. It is the way of self-denial. It is the way of righteousness. It is the way of blessing. We must learn to embrace the gospel paradox. The hard way is the easy way. The cross is the way to glory. The narrow gate is the gate that frees you. It is the gate that gives you liberty. It may not look easy, and it isn’t, but it is far more blessed than the way of destruction.
III. Two Final Destinations
Notice also the Lord Jesus speaks about our two final destinations. He speaks of the two final places that men and women go. There is a way that leads to destruction, and there is a way that leads to life. The Lord Jesus is deadly serious when He speaks about this hell. I know that is not a popular doctrine today. But the Lord Jesus speaks about it more than He speaks about heaven. The Lord Jesus created it. He knows what it is. And the Lord Jesus warns us in deadly earnest that we be ready to make the wise choice and to go the narrow way that we might avoid the destruction which awaits all those who reject Him. Hell is no joke. There are many ways to determine what you are really after in life. You can look at your desires, your deepest desires. What do you really want in life? You can look at your choices? What are the things that you are choosing in life? You can look at your priorities and ask what those priorities tell you about your ultimate destination.
IV. Two Different Groups
And finally, the Lord Jesus reminds us that there are two different groups. One that accepts His call to become disciples, and another that rejects it. There are the many and the few. The gate is wide, and many enter the way that leads to destruction. The gate is small and few who find it, the gate that leads to life. Jesus describes the many, those who are indifferent, those who will ultimately be condemned. And the few, those who have been embraced by Him, those who have embraced Him by faith. They are the blessed. They are the justified. They are the ones who have entered the kingdom. There could be no neutrality. You are either God’s people, or you are not. You have either embraced Him by faith or you haven’t. The Lord Jesus doesn’t give any other alternatives. The Lord Jesus is issuing an earnest call to join His kingdom. This is a call for believer and unbeliever alike. If you are a believer, the Lord Jesus is asking you to examine your walk. Are you walking on the way, or have you strayed? If you have not embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, He is issuing an urgent plea that you embrace Him before it is too late. For who knows the number of our days. May God enable us to choose life.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.