What Does it Mean That the Gate Is Narrow in Matthew 7?

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. For the gate is narrow and way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but unfortunately, not all of the lost want to be found. The unfortunate reality of the narrow and wide gates Jesus spoke of is not all of us will choose correctly. Many will follow the mainstream and miss out on eternal life in heaven. The brief narrative on the Narrow and Wide Gate is the first of four warnings Jesus gave in regard to applying the Sermon on the Mount. The first being “a caution to the lost about where they are headed.” (Moody) God is patient, not wanting any of us to perish. All are welcome to walk with Jesus. For narrow is the gate.

What Do We Know about 'Narrow Is the Gate' in Matthew 7?

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6 (ESV)

Jesus came so we would live life to the full. A full life is found in following Christ, alone. “The gate that leads into the kingdom of heaven is synonymous with ‘life,’ the NIV Study Bible explains, “destruction, separation from God in hell.” No one comes to the Father but through Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. The way Jesus made for us through the cross requires a response, and our response determines our eternal destination. “The narrow gate, small gate, and narrow way are harder to find than the wide ones and must be sought deliberately, or people will not escape destruction,” The Moody Bible Commentary explains.

Gate represents an entrance into the wall of a city, to a palace, a town, the temple, a prison, and at the time James penned these words also referred to the gates of hell (likened to a prison), or a metaphorical reference to an entrance. Interestingly, the original Greek word for narrow can be defined as straight. The gate is narrow but assured. Whereas the broad and wide way is simple to find but confusing to navigate. Jesus warned of false teachers and a lack of discipline in the verses following. (Matthew 7:15-27)

Entrance through the narrow gate is granted through believing in who Jesus is and what He came to earth to do for us. He is the Son of God and walked the earth fully God and fully man; not just a good person who performed miracles. The Christmas and Easter stories are not just stories full of wonder; they are wondrous stories because they are true! God made a way for us to escape the punishment of death for sin, and belief in Christ Jesus is the only way to enter through the narrow gate. Salvation cannot be earned by anything we do on earth; it is a gift freely given by a Savior who willingly left heaven to come to earth and die a ferociously unjust death on our accord. It’s the greatest love story of all time. Yet many, as Jesus warns, will sadly choose not to believe.

Why Did God Make the Path to Salvation Narrow?

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.” Acts 4:12 (ESV)

Jesus has already done the hard work of the cross. Sent here from heaven by the Father, but with the Father in the beginning, all things were made through Christ. He knows us, intimately. God is after an inmate relationship with us. Everything we go through is purposed to draw us closer to God, to whom we come to through Christ Jesus alone. “The narrow way that leads to life is found only by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” The Moody Bible Commentary explains.

We were created to bring glory to God. The gate is narrow because we have to continuously submit the wellspring of pride and legalism rising up in us as a result of the curse of sin and lay down our lives in exchange for God’s will for them. The New Bible Commentary summarizes, “True discipleship is a minority position, a matter of deliberately opting-out from the mainstream, but it is a matter of life and death.” Daily, God has woven a specific purpose into the breath He has blessed us with. When we fight and strive on our own accord, we take credit for our actions.

Swimming against the mainstream is accomplished by the strength and power of the Holy Spirit living in every Christ-follower. We quiet our souls and turn to Him because we are incapable of battling the war waging in the human world and spiritual realm. In the Holman Standard Christian Bible, Matthew 13-14 begins a section headed, “Entering the Kingdom,” including verses 15-23. Within these verses, Jesus warns of false teachers and how to recognize them (vv15-20), and also emphasizes the importance of following God’s will for our lives. (vv21-23) When we traverse through the narrow gate, we draw close to Christ for a better perspective, one which allows us to guard our hearts from false teachers and misleading habits concerning what it means to live as a disciple of Christ.

The majority of the world chases after possessions and achievements to define and earn worth; the wide gate is flung wide open. Salvation in Christ cannot be earned. It’s a gift. We have to stop what we are doing and turn to Christ. We let go and allow Him to lead us. “If you don’t put to death sinful temptation by a superior satisfaction in Jesus, but only by your willpower, then you are going to get the glory and not Jesus,” Pastor John Piper exudes, “And that is not biblical sanctification.” The gate is narrow because the process is hard, and the perspective we need to see the entrance to the narrow gate comes only through Messiah, Emmanuel, Savior, Christ Jesus. We don’t do it on our own but operate by the power of Christ, in us, so God receives all of the glory.

How Does One Access the Narrow Gate?

“Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it. But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straightened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 AMP

The goal of the narrow gate is to live a life that glorifies God. It may seem counterproductive to fight through the narrow gate of persecution and hardship by resting in Jesus. His burden is light, He promises. Putting it down all that entangles us is difficult! However, the possibility of missing our chance at eternity is extremely plausible if we clutch onto the desires and pursuits of the wide gate. Michael G. Vanlaningham writes, “Destruction means ‘a loss that produces utter ruin, perishing,’ and here refers to loss of eternal life.” (Moody)

The following are two Old Testament verses, one recorded by Moses and the other Jeremiah. Moses led God’s people through the desert, teaching them to rely on God, and God alone. Jeremiah encouraged an exiled people. Defeated and losing hope, he reminded them of the promised Messiah, and the future God promised to restore. From the beginning, it was our choice to believe and follow God.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says,

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, the you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (ESV)

Jeremiah 21:8 reads,

“And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.” (ESV)

Matthew 16:18 records Jesus saying,

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (ESV)

When we walk through the narrow gate, we become part of the family of God. All are welcome. All are invited, but not all will enter. “In Matt 16:18, Jesus refers to the ‘gates of Hades,’ reflecting the common ancient idea that the underworld was secured by strong gates that prevented either escape or assault by outsiders,” Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary explains, “In this verse Jesus is assuring his followers that the church will never succumb to Hades; that is, it will never die out.”

Those who choose to walk through the narrow gate, which signifies the beginning of life-long discipleship, become members of the church, Christ’s bride, which will never be overcome by evil. John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) The victory has already been won on the cross. Death has been defeated, and though traversing the narrow gate is persecuting and difficult, we clutch eternal joy and peace in Christ throughout the entirety of the journey. We know the end of our battle with sin on earth we will be with God in heaven, fully restored, for eternity.

“…whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 (ESV)

Christ-followers enter the narrow gate by belief in who Christ is and what He came to do on the cross. Salvation is a gift we are all welcome to freely accept. The difficulty of discipleship is a submission to lifelong joy and peace! “We will either follow Christ wholeheartedly or we will go down the path of destruction. There can be no half-hearted commitment to Jesus; if we are not on the narrow road of discipleship, then we are on the wide road to eternal damnation.” (Ligonier Ministries) The pursuit of holiness, to live a life that glorifies God, is a one-way ticket to eternal freedom. We leave the mainstream and look forward to eternal life in Christ.

Sources:
The Moody Bible Commentary, 2014.
The Everyday Life Bible, Amplified Version, 2006.
New International Version Study Bible, 2008.
“She Reads Truth,” Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2017.

Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): New Testament, 2004.
New Bible Commentary, 1973, 1978, 1984.
Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary, 2006.
desiringGod.org, ‘Matthew’s Amazing Warnings Not to Be a False Disciple’

Further reading:

Why Is the Gate of Salvation Narrow?

Narrow Is the Gate Passage

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/amite

meg bucher profile pic bioMeg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University, but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters and golden doodle.

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