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 TLV “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” 15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes aren’t gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, are they? 17 Even so, every good tree produces good fruit, but the rotten tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away 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 TLV “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What harmony does Messiah have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement does God’s Temple have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God—just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 Therefore, come out from among them, and be separate, says Adonai. Touch no unclean thing. Then I will take you in. 18 I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says Adonai-Tzva’ot.” 7:1 Therefore, since we have these promises, loved ones, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 TLV “For this is the will of God—your sanctification: to abstain from sexual immorality; to know, each of you, how to gain control over his own body in holiness and honor— not in the passion of lust like the pagans who do not know God; and not to overstep his brother and take advantage of him in this matter— because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, as we told you before and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity, but in holiness. Consequently, the one who rejects this is not rejecting man, but God, who gives His Ruach ha-Kodesh 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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