The Strait and Narrow Way
El Edén 12 de agosto de 2007
DOS MANERAS DE VIVIR
Mat. 7:13, 14
This parable similitude emphasizes the truth that there “are but two ways, right and wrong, good and evil; the way to heaven, and the way to hell . . . saints and sinners, godly and ungodly” (Henry). The world wants many ways in the matter of character. But there are only two ways or two categories for the souls of men.
In the closing verses of the Sermon on the Mount, four different contrasts represent four warnings that focus on future final judgment. There are two ways (7:13-14), two types of trees (7:15-20), two kinds of followers (7:21-23), and two ways to build (7:24-27).
And the truths emphasized in this parable similitude about the two ways “are fearful truths! they ought to raise great searchings of heart in the minds of all who hear them—‘Which way am I going? By what road am I traveling?’—In one or other of the two ways here described, everyone of us may be found” (Ryle).
Rooted in traditions at least as old as the time of the prophets, the concept of two ways is reflected in a wide spectrum of Jewish texts. (Cf. Deut. 11:26; 30:15–20; Ps. 1:6; Jer. 21:8; and the entire book of Proverbs.) For Matthew, there are two different roads to travel, two different ways to build, here and now. And they will lead in the end to contrasting outcomes (cf. the parables of the end in chap. 25). Choosing the right way is thus a matter of greatest importance.
To study this instructive parable of Christ about the two ways and man’s well-being, we will consider the command in the parable, the contrasts in the parable, and the conclusions in the parable.
1. The Command in the Parable
“Entrad por la puerta estrecha”(Matthew 7:13); “Esforzaos a entrar por la puerta angosta”(Luke 13:24). In the parable about the two ways and man’s well-being, Christ gave a command to walk on the right way. And it was not a difficult command to understand. Furthermore, it applies to all of us. “The command of God is clear and universal”.
To examine this command, we especially note the directive in the command, and the difficulty of doing the command.
The directive in the command. In the command in our texts regarding the way we should go, Christ commanded us to walk on the right way, for the “strait gate” is the gate that opens to the right way. This directive to go the right way says some important truths about God’s commands.
First, it declares the character of God’s commands. They never counsel us to sin. They never lead us astray.
Second, it discloses the concern in God’s commands. God’s commands always have our best interest at heart. They are always profitable for us to follow. You may not see the profit at the outset, but you will be clipping dividends all eternity.
Third, it denounces the criticism of God’s commands. It says that to despise Divine commands, as many do, is to despise what is good for you. How very foolish of mankind to kick at God’s commands when they tell the right way to go and have one’s best interests at heart. All the complaining and scorning about Divine commands is foolish speaking.
The difficulty of doing the command. Not surprisingly, this command of God about going the right way is a difficult command to do. This is seen in two words: “strive” and “strait.”
First, strive. Christ commanded us to “Esforzaos a entrar por la puerta angosta” (Luke 13:24). The word translated “strive” in this text comes from the word which we via transliteration get our English word “agonize.” Thus entering the right way and doing right is obviously not easy to do. It requires considerable effort. This does not teach works for the gaining of salvation but rather earnestness in the quest for salvation. You have to earnestly want to be saved in order to come to Christ. If the desire to be saved is small and weak, you will go to hell. Much of the world evidences little concern about their soul’s eternal needs. Hence, much of the world will go to hell as we will see later in this parable similitude.
Second, strait. Christ commanded us to “enter ye in at the strait gate” (Matthew 7:13). The word “strait” (which is sometimes confused with the word “straight”) is translated from the Greek word meaning “pent up, narrow, difficult to be entered” (Barnes). The message of the word “strait” in this parable similitude is that the right way is a difficult way to get onto because the gate to the right way is narrow and restrictive. In the Luke text of this parable similitude, Christ gives emphasis to this truth when He said, “Many… will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24). The narrowness of the gate speaks of the narrowness of the way of salvation. Salvation is restricted to coming through Jesus Christ. There is only one way of salvation, not many ways. Christ is the way. “Y en ningún otro hay salvación; porque no hay otro nombre bajo el cielo, dado a los hombres, en que podamos ser salvos.
” (Acts 4:12). It is very difficult for many folk to accept this fact that Christ is the only way of salvation. They want works or other means to be saved. But Christ is the only way.
2. The Contrasts in the Parable
In this parable similitude about the two ways of life, Christ described the character of each way. The character of the two ways is a study in contrasts, for the two ways are opposites in character. The wrong way and the right way are as different as day and night in character. Good and evil always are. Some try to make them similar, but they are a great contrast instead.
The wrong way. “Entrad por la puerta estrecha; porque ancha es la puerta, y espacioso el camino que lleva a la perdición, y muchos son los que entran por ella (Matthew 7:13). The character of the wrong way can be described by three words: easy, deceitful, and popular.
First, easy. The wrong way is easy to get on because the gate is “wide.” There are no restrictions. Anyone can enter the wrong way. It is also easy to travel on because the way is “broad.” You can be a staggering drunk and still stay on this way because it is so broad. There is not a single hindrance to entering the wide gate. Nothing keeps a person from entering it. It is as if a person naturally stands before its wide open doors.
You will have abundance of liberty in that way; the gate is wide, and stands wide open to tempt those that go right on their way. You may go in at this gate with all your lusts about you; it gives no check to your appetites, to your passions: you may walk in the way of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes.
Second, deceitful. The word translated “broad” means spacious, suggesting magnificence in appearance as well as in size and width. Sin is splashy, impressive, and attractive. This helps to make sin very deceptive as to its tragic consequences. The wide gate is wide enough to include all: all philosophies and beliefs no matter how extreme, all appetites and passions, all liberties and licenses, all sin and selfishness. The gate is swung wide open so that any and all can enter.
Third, popular. “Many there be which go in thereat.” This is the way where you will find a crowd. This will be the way that will be most recommended to you. It is popular to walk on this way. Sin captures many through the means of popularity. When everybody is doing it, folk foolishly tend to think it is the thing to do. But being popular is no substitute for being pious. And being popular with man does not make us popular with God.
The broad and easy way can be followed without thought. There is plenty of space to walk in; there is plenty of space for the attractive things of the world to grow and allure; there is plenty of space for a person to wander about. It is difficult to wander off its path. The broad way is the way of the unthoughtful, the undisciplined, the lazy, the worldly, the ungodly, the materialistic, and the carnal.
The right way. “Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). Christ gives two main features about the right way on which we should walk. Neither will appeal to the flesh. These two features concern the difficulty of the way and the unpopularity of the way.
First, the difficulty of the way. We noted earlier that the command indicated that getting on the right way was difficult. Here we note that after you have gotten on the right way, it continues to be difficult. It is difficult to proceed. This is seen in the word “narrow” in our text. It is from a word which means to be “hemmed in, like a mountain gorge” (Vine); “pressing together, pressure” (Thayer); and “to crowd” (Strong). The word translated “narrow” in this text is translated “atribulados” in 2 Corinthians 1:6; “ “pasar tribulaciones” in 1 Thessalonians 3:4, and “angustiados” in Hebrews 11:37. All these meanings say the right way is a most difficult way on which to walk. But Christ never said it was easy to be a Christian.
Christ continually emphasized the difficulty of following Him (10:38; 16:24, 25; John 15:18, 19; 16:1–3; cf. Acts 14:22).
Here, then, is the first test: Did your profession of faith in Christ cost you anything? If not, then it was not a true profession. Many people who “trust” Jesus Christ never leave the broad road with its appetites and associations. They have an easy Christianity that makes no demands on them. Yet Jesus said that the narrow way was hard. We cannot walk on two roads, in two different directions, at the same time.
However, as we will see more about shortly, being a Christian (being on the right way) is far better than not being a Christian (being on the wrong way).
Second, the unpopularity of the way. “Few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, cp. Luke 13:24). Scripture records Christ giving this parable similitude on two different occasions. The first occasion was the Sermon on the Mount. The second occasion was in response to being asked, “son pocos los que se salvan?” (Luke 13:23). The answer to this question is plain in this parable. Few will be saved. This truth is not very popular, of course. The prophet Jeremiah illustrated the unpopularity of the right road when after he said, “tu palabra me fue por gozo y por alegría de mi corazón ” (Jeremiah 15:16); he then said, “Me senté solo” (Jeremiah 15:17). Being unpopular adds to the difficulty of the way. It can be very discouraging and disheartening to be unpopular. Others look upon it, but shun it; they like not to be so limited and restrained.
The popular church is the “big” church today, the one which has “record breaking attendances.” But this achievement in size does not guarantee faithfulness in doctrine. Rather, the faithful and true church is usually small and unpopular. However, even if all the true churches were big churches and breaking records in attendance, it still would not change the fact that “few” are saved; for compared to the multitudes of the world, the Bible-believing churches have always been few in number. But “we have no reason to be discouraged and cast down, if the religion we profess is not popular, and few agree with us . . . Repentance and faith in Christ, and holiness of life, have never been fashionable. The true flock of Christ has always been small” (Ryle). If you find little company in regards to your faith in Christ, that does not invalidate your faith but instead validates what the Scriptures says about “few” being on the right way. The idea of a “moral majority” may sound nice, but it is a myth. The majority have never been moral. Such a thought contradicts the statements of Scripture.
The narrow and hard way requires commitment, determination, discipline, control, and self-denial. There is little space along its path. It is difficult to get through. A person has to stay alert at all times lest he wander out of the way off its path. The narrow way is the way of the thinking, the disciplined, the responsible, and the spiritual.
The two travellers may be contrasted as the thoughtless vs. the thinking; the undisciplined vs. the disciplined, the lazy vs. the responsible, the materialistic or carnal vs. the spiritual-minded.
3. The Conclusions in the Parable
We must always consider the conclusion of anything, for that is the most important factor to consider about either way spoken of in our parable. Do not look at the initial or present situations and make your judgment without looking at the conclusion. One may have a very exciting experience jumping off a cliff if he focuses only on the initial part of the jumping. But if he focuses on the conclusion of the jumping, the experience ceases to be exciting but totally and forever destructive. Satan wants us to focus on the here-and-now and not on the hereafter. But the here-and-now is only temporary; the hereafter is eternal. In the parable similitude before us, Christ gives us the conclusion of both ways, and that really shows which way is the best way. If you do not look at the conclusion, you will be deceived into thinking the wrong way is the best way.
To examine the conclusions of each of the two ways, we will look first at the conclusion of the wrong way and then the conclusion of the right way.
The conclusion of the wrong way. The wrong way “lleva a la perdición” (Matthew 7:13). Destruction is the fearful and terrible conclusion of the wrong way. The word destruction here means “loss.” It is not the end of existence but the end of comfort in existence. It is not the end of living, but the end of enjoyable living. You do not cease to be, but you cease to be well. It is not the loss of being, but it is the loss of well-being that is spoken of here in the meaning of the word “destruction.”
There are at least three important things which are destroyed and which you will suffer the loss of at the end of this wrong way. They are your serenity, your satisfaction, and your soul.
First, the loss of your serenity. This way does not lead to peace. “No hay paz, dijo mi Dios, para los impíos.” (Isaiah 57:21). This destruction of peace is a terrible loss especially because it involves more than a temporary loss of peace—it is an eternal loss of peace. En la lección de hoy leimos del sentimiento de la culpa. The concluding result, the final consequence of the wrong way includes the eternal loss of peace.
Second, the loss of your satisfaction. The wrong way is the way of disappointment. The farther you go on this way, the less satisfaction there is. And the end is total dissatisfaction. Satisfaction is lost forever. The world is so taken up with the trinkets of the world, but even in this life they soon learn about dissatisfaction. In eternity the dissatisfaction will be enormous. But that is one of the conclusions of the wrong path.
Third, the loss of your soul. This is the greatest loss of all. The “way of sin will destroy the soul; whether it be open and notorious, or secret and refined” (Simeon). Some mock the loss of their souls by saying that all their friends will be in hell and they want to be with their friends. But as Simeon says, “Will you be contented to perish, seeing that you will have so many companions in misery? Alas! what comfort will it be to you to behold others as wretched as yourself? Will their torments assuage your anguish?” Christ asked, “Porque ¿qué aprovechará al hombre si ganare todo el mundo, y perdiere su alma? ”(Mark 8:36). The loss of one’s soul is the “end” consequence of the wrong way though it be the wide way and popular path.
The conclusion of the right way. The right way “lleva a la vida” (Matthew 7:14). The wrong way leads to loss, the right way leads to life. We note the dynamic, delight, and duration of this life which is found at the end of the right way.
First, the dynamic of this life. The word translated “life” is the Greek word “zoe” which gives us our English word “zoology.” Used in a spiritual sense in Scripture, this word speaks of “the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God” (Thayer). It is used of that life “which the Father has in Himself, and which He gave to the Incarnate Son to have in Himself, John 5:26, and which the Son manifested in the world, 1 John 1:2” (Vine). Christ is talking Divine life which comes through Christ in salvation. Jesus said regarding this life, that He was “the life” (John 14:6), and that “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Second, the delight in this life. This life will bring great joy. As such it will more than compensate for any trials and troubles and sorrows one had to endure in the “strait” gate and on the “narrow” path. No one will ever be sorry they experienced the “strait” gate and the “narrow” way in order to obtain this life. The rewards God gives us for holy living far exceed any affliction we experienced in living holy. Paul spoke of these afflictions when he said, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Our temporal troubles from being on the right way give way to eternal blessings at the end of the right way.
Third, the duration of this life. This life is eternal life. Christ is talking about life everlasting in our text. This life continues forever. There is no end to it. The bliss, the joy, the blessing of this life will know no end. Just as loss at the end of the wrong way is forever, so life at the end of the right way is forever. The world has nothing to offer like this life. They have nothing that even remotely compares to this life.
Gardner, R. B. (1991). Matthew. Believers church Bible commentary (139). Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press.
Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Mt 7:12). Peabody: Hendrickson.