The Narrow Path (Matthew 7:13-23)

The other day I saw a quote that said the part of the Bible we would like to ignore is the part we need the most. In Matthew chapter seven, we read the words judge not, that you be not judged. And that’s where most people stop. They don’t want to acknowledge that the rest of the passage is talking about hypocritical judgment. People especially ignore other passages about judging and not eating with professed believers who continue in sin (1 Corinthians 5).

I want to focus on the end of the chapter, which is probably one of the most convicting and hard-hitting texts in all of Scripture.

Matthew 7:13-23 ESV “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

If I’m being honest, I would have to say most of us don’t believe that. We don’t think the gate and way to life are narrow and challenging, but that is what the Bible says. By and large, we have adopted an understanding of grace that allows for continual repentance for the same sin, but not a grace that sanctifies us. So before we look at the narrow way, let’s establish this in other parts of Scripture.

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 ESV “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 ESV “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

Scripture is clear. As believers, we are called to a particular way of life. Paul wrote to Timothy and told him to keep watch over his life and doctrine. Leaders are held to a higher standard and will receive a stricter judgment, but that does not excuse believers from watching over their lives and doctrine.

The gate for every believer is narrow, and the way is hard. The word narrow defined in the Vine’s Expository Dictionary means, “hemmed in. The way is rendered “narrow” by the divine conditions, which make it impossible for any to enter who think the entrance depends upon self-merit, or who still incline toward sin, or desire to continue in evil.”

The grace of God doesn’t allow for lawless living; we are to be separate from the world. Therefore, our gospel presentation shouldn’t look like the world. We shouldn’t use secular music to draw the world in; we don’t change the message. Paul said that the message of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, and the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The gospel, not your testimony and not a miracle; the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

The narrow gate symbolizes the exclusive nature of Christ’s kingdom. Entrance requires the disciple to do the will of the Father in heaven (v. 21). The gate that is wide indicates that hell grants unrestricted entrance and that many will enter through its gates. The difficult (lit “narrow”) road may symbolize the life of hardship and persecution that the disciple must face. However, since Jewish literature often used the symbol of the road to represent a moral path (Jdg 2:22; Is 30:21; Jr 6:16; 2Jn 6) and because the law was portrayed as a narrow road from which a person was not to deviate (Dt 5:32; 17:20; 28:14; Jos 1:7; 2Kg 22:2), the narrow road probably represents Jesus’s morally restrictive teaching. The wide road permits travelers to meander and pursue worldly desires, but the narrow path requires travelers to stick to God’s will (Mt 7:21).

CSB Study Bible, note on Matthew 7:13-14

Not only are we admonished to walk a narrow path, but we are warned against false prophets (false proclaimers) in sheep’s clothing who are wolves. These teachers don’t call you to repentance, who make the Bible about you; they preach a different gospel. They are the ones Paul warned about, who turn the grace of God into lawlessness. Many in the Church are scared to death of legalism, but they do not worry about lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness; we cannot afford to wander onto the broad path.

We may think we are secure because we made a profession of faith at one time but look at the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Read that again and take in the gravity of what Jesus is saying. People will stand before Jesus, telling them all the signs and wonders they did, and He will respond by saying, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

The narrow way is not an option; it’s a requirement. Those who profess Christ but walk a broad way, excusing sin, downplaying doctrine, and living like the world will hear the dreadful words, “depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” So heed the words of Jesus, walk the narrow path; it may not be easy, but it’s the only way that leads to life.

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