Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus clearly tells us that many will be lost and few saved. The road to hell is wide and easy. The way to heaven is narrow and difficult.
The narrow gate of heaven will require effort on our part to enter. Jesus said in Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” This does not mean that heaven is attained solely by our own efforts and self-justification, for there would be no way to heaven at all if God had not opened it for us through the death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:20). What it means is that we cannot be slothful and look to others to do the diligence required to enter. The final contrast in the sermon is between those who hear and do and those who hear and do not (Matthew 7:24-27). Simply coming to church services and hearing will not cause one to enter the narrow gate. We must examine what we hear and practice what God’s word says. We ourselves must strive to enter. The preacher, the elders, our parents, our friends and loved ones may encourage us, but we must make sure that we are truly following the Lord and not men. In fact, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ showed that one’s righteousness must exceed the self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). It requires one to follow true religion from a pure heart rather than false alternatives that may look very similar. Effort is required to distinguish the two.
Obviously, there are many people in the world who do not profess to be religious whatsoever and are on the broad way. However, perhaps even more people are following a false religion. This is a subtle device of the devil. It causes many to think they are on the narrow way which leads to life, but in reality they are headed toward destruction. The contrasts the Lord gives in this sermon are not between religious people and irreligious, but rather between true and false religion. In Matthew 6:1-4, the contrast is not between those who gives alms and those who don’t, but rather between those who give to be seen of men and those who give in secret out of a pure motive of love. Likewise, in Matthew 6:5-6, the contrast is not between those who pray and those who do not pray, but rather those who pray to be seen of men and those who pray in secret to seek their heavenly Father.
Immediately following the admonition of the two ways, Jesus warns of false prophets (Matthew 7:15). Many are led to destruction thinking they are following the right path, but they are sadly following false teaching. A prime example of this is found in what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” How many today believe they are going to heaven because they have simply given assent in their mind to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God without obeying Him? Merely acknowledging the truth of Jesus’ identity is far short of obeying Him. This is why many will be surprised on the day of judgment (Matthew 7:22-23).
Give diligence to make sure what you practice in religion is from the Lord and not men, and is out of a pure heart and not for show. Your eternal destiny hangs in the balance.