May 16, 2021 Who Enters the Kingdom? Part 17

The Narrow Gate

(Who Enters the Kingdom?

Part Seventeen)

May 16, 2021


     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.

            14 “For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it.[1]


These two verses are part of the greatest sermon ever preached – the Sermon on the Mount. As we have seen before, the theme of the Sermon on the Mount is how we (those who follow Christ) need to live in order to enter the kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is not for the unsaved but for the saved. Yet, those who have not yet come to Christ can still receive a great blessing and enlightenment by seeking to understand the contents of this glorious message.


All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Because it is we should make every effort to do two things. We should interpret the Scriptures rightly and we should apply them to our lives. There is only one correct interpretation. If we can apprehend the author’s context and meaning then we capture the interpretation.


There is only one interpretation but there can be more than one application. Once we know the truth of a passage we can apply it in more than one way.


One should grasp the interpretation before trying to apply the truth found. However, this morning, as far as presentation is concerned, I wish to talk about application first.  Then we will consider the right meaning and a final application.


This great command by our Lord, “Enter through the narrow gate,” is for those who are already his disciples. Yet, there is an application for those who do not yet follow the Lord.


In that great and marvelous book, Pilgrim’s Progress written by John Bunyan, the main character, Christian, comes to a wicket gate. I have read this book many times. The first couple of times I read it I didn’t know what a wicket gate even was. I was thinking of wicker baskets. That is, woven baskets. I thought that a wicket gate was made out of basket materials. Ignorance can be funny! But wicket and wicker are different words. It wasn’t until years later that I figured out that a wicket gate is a door within a door.


When Christian comes to the wicket gate he finds salvation and is then told by the gatekeeper:


“Look before thee: dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go. It was cast up by the men of old, prophets, Christ and His apostles, and it is as straight as a rule can make it: this is the way thou must go.”


The wicket gate, which is a smaller or narrower gate, leads to the narrow way. Bunyan applies Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 to salvation.


There is a sense in which the entrance to salvation is narrow. The apostle Peter said:


And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” [2]


The “no one else” is Jesus Christ. No one can be saved by any other name. That is quite narrow! Indeed, this is one of the scandals, in the eyes of the world, of the Christian faith. It is too narrow in the world’s view.


But Christians did not make this way narrow. Jesus did.


Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[3]


No one can come to God the Father except through Christ! No one can come through Mohammad. No one can come through Buddah. No one can come through Krishna (sorry, George Harrison!). No one can come through their own efforts. One must believe in Christ and submit to Christ in order to be accepted by God.


Oh! The unregenerate man does like to hear that! But it is a truth that will never change, because it is spoken by Christ Himself.


Just a casual observation of our society informs us that the gate is wider that leads to destruction. There are more people that either have no religion at all, or who follow the wrong lord, than those who follow Christ.


The way of eternal life is found by only a few, relatively speaking. I use the word relatively because there are still millions of people who find eternal life through Christ. Will you be in that number?


Thus, here is an application for those who have not yet come to Christ for salvation: The way of salvation is narrow! Do not allow its narrowness to dissuade you from coming, because it is your only hope for eternal life. Rather, may the narrowness of the way make you all the more intent on taking hold of the gift of eternal life that God offers you.


If you will believe that Christ died for your sins, taking your place on the cross, and that he arose again from the dead, and if you renounce sin and choose to follow him, then you will enter the wicket gate and you will possess eternal life!


Now, let us consider the meaning of these verses as spoken by our Lord. As we have seen previously, the Sermon on the Mount is for his disciples. It begins in Matthew 5:1 –


Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. [4]


Because of the crowds, Jesus left and went up on the mountain and his disciples came to him. To make it even more clear, Matthew adds:


2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: [5]


Who is represented by the pronoun “them”? His disciples! He is teaching his disciples. To remove all doubt, he says to them:


“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.[6]


Unbelievers are not the salt of the earth. Unbelievers are not the light of the world. His disciples are! In chapter 6, verse 8, he tells them that their Father in heaven knows their needs before they even ask. God is always God, but he does not become our Father until we are adopted by him in Christ. The unbelievers do not have God as their Father, only as their Creator, Lord, and Judge.


Therefore, this narrow gate and this constricted way to which Jesus refers is a gate and a way for those who are already his.


First, we may ask, “What is the gate?” A gate is an entrance. It is a door to another place. In this instance, the other place is the “constricted way” in verse 14. There is a way to walk, a way to live really, that is constricted. Jesus is calling his disciples to walk in this way.


In chapters five and six, and the first part of chapter seven, the Lord has revealed to his disciples a high way of living. It is a living that is on higher ground. One of my favorite old hymns is the hymn, Higher Ground. When our children were young and we had our family devotions we often sang this hymn.


I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

  • Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
    By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
    A higher plane than I have found;
    Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.


The constricted way is a “higher plane” than the Lord’s disciples had heretofore found.


  • It is the way of the nine blessings in chapter five.
  • It is the way of salt and light.
  • It is the way of living the law of God inwardly.
  • It is the way of all offenses being mended.
  • It is the way of marital love and faithfulness.
  • It is the way of loving your enemies.
  • It is the way of being free from anxiety.
  • It is the way of living according to the words of Christ above all others.


In short, it is the difficult teachings of our Lord in this sermon being lived out!


The gate, then, is the entrance, the decision, the resolution, to live for the Lord on this higher ground. Once we enter this way we will find that it is constricted. It constricts us! Many of the things that we used to do and, in many cases, have the freedom to do, we can no longer do.


But what about the “destruction” that Jesus refers to in verse 13? The word for destruction in the original language is apoleyan and, according to Strong’s Lexicon, carries the meaning of ruin, loss, waste, or destruction. Often, it describes the destructive end of the lost, but not always. For example,


But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.[7]


Paul is telling Timothy to warn those in his church not to be so quick to seek to be rich. Why? Because when you seek to be rich, harmful desires accompany such a seeking and, if one follows those desires, their lives can be ruined, destroyed. The destruction that Paul refers to is not an eternal destruction but, rather, a ruination that one experiences in this life.


Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”[8]


The word, “waste,” in verse 8 is the exact same word for “destruction” in 7:13. In other words, those who do not take the constricted way but take the broad way will end up wasting their life. Particularly, their lives will be ruined for the next age!


What about verse 14? It says that only a few will find the way “that leads to life”? Is this eternal life in the same sense that the apostle Paul uses it, that is, referring to never-ending blessedness in the presence of God? No. The gospel writers use the word “life” as a synonym for the kingdom of the next age:


42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.[44 ] 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.[46 ] 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” [9]


See that Mark uses the phrase, “enter into life” twice and then switches to “enter into the kingdom of God.” He clearly means these phrases to reference the same thing, that is, the life that is coming in the next age. Matthew does the exact same thing in chapter 18 of his gospel (verses 3 and 8-9), only he reverses it. He uses the “kingdom of God” first and then transitions to “life.”



When Luke has Jesus speaking about the narrow door, he substitutes the phrase, “the kingdom of God” instead of “life.”[10]


24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.[11]


We see, then, that the warning of our Lord about the narrow gate is for his disciples. This means it is for us! Therefore, we must receive it. What will you do with the words of our Lord?


There are three reactions one can have.


[1.] A person can think that this warning is for the lost. “This warning is for those who are not saved. I’m saved. I don’t have to worry.” This is why I took the time to prove that these two verses are for his own disciples. It is for us! Don’t throw away verses meant for you!


[2.] A person can be receptive of this warning, seeing that it is for him or her, but then does nothing. I tell you this is a pervasive problem with Christians! How many Christians hear good preaching Sunday after Sunday but their lives never change? Their lives stay the same after a message as it was before they heard it. The apostle James addressed this problem in his day (James 1:21-25) and human nature has not changed. The Christians of the 21st century have the same failings as the Christians from the 1st century! Do not be like those to whom James wrote.


[3.] The third reaction is to receive the warning and change. One enters the narrow gate and walks the constricted way. One enters by resolving to walk the constricted way. In the same way that we have surrendered our lives to the Lord when we first came to him, we surrender ourselves to him anew. Commitment to the Lord ought not to be a one-time experience for the follower of Christ. Rather, anytime the believer recognizes a failing or a fading of their vow to the Lord, they should get on their knees and surrender to him anew. This was the experience of King David and of Hezekiah. John Wesley had this experience, as did many men and women of God throughout history.


This is the right effect of our Lord’s great sermon. When his own apostles heard Jesus teach later in the book of Matthew on God’s will for them, they outright said that they could not live this way (Mt. 19:10). Jesus answers them and says that, unless they were eunuchs, they could (19:12). The Sermon on the Mount is the higher way. It is Higher Ground. What will you do? Will you stay where doubts arise? Will you remain dismayed? Will you stay the way you are? Or, will you take hold of the power and walk the constricted way?







[1] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Mt 7:13–14). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 4:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:13–14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 26:6–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] New American Bible. (Mk 9:42–49). Also see Recovery Version.

[10] The gospel writers, quoting Jesus, occasionally even used the phrase “eternal life” to refer to the kingdom of the next age and not to a life of glory that never ends – what we usually think of when we hear the words “life” or “eternal life.” (See Luke 18:18-25; compare verse 18 with verses 24-25.)


[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 13:24–29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.