Matthew 7:12-14 “The Narrow Gate that Leads to Life”

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 06 November 2011


7:12 Therefore, whatever things y’all might wish that men might do to y’all, you yourselves should also do likewise to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

7:13 Enter through the narrow gate, because

            the gate is wide

            and the way leading on into the destruction is broad,

            and the ones who are entering through it are many,

7:14 How narrow the gate and constricted the way is which is leading on into the life, and the ones who are finding it are few.

Introduction: Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan (The Wicket Gate)

…in process of time, Christian got up to the gate. Now, over the gate there was written, “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” He knocked, therefore, more than once or twice, saying,
      “May I now enter here? Will he within
      Open to sorry me, though I have been

      An undeserving rebel? Then shall I

      Not fail to sing his lasting praise on high.”

At last there came a grave person to the gate, named Goodwill, who asked who was there, and whence he came, and what he would have.

CHRISTIAN: Here is a poor burdened sinner. I come from the city of Destruction, but am going to Mount Zion, that I may be delivered from the wrath to come; I would therefore, sir, since I am informed that by this gate is the way thither, know if you are willing to let me in.

GOODWILL: I am willing with all my heart, said he; and with that he opened the gate…

CHRISTIAN: Now I begin to reap the benefits of my hazards.

GOODWILL: But how is it that you came alone?

CHRISTIAN: Because none of my neighbors saw their danger as I saw mine.

GOODWILL: Did any of them know of your coming?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, my wife and children saw me at the first, and called after me to turn again: also, some of my neighbors stood crying and calling after me to return; but I put my fingers in my ears, and so came on my way.

GOODWILL: But did none of them follow you, to persuade you to go back?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, both Obstinate and Pliable; but when they saw that they could not prevail, Obstinate went railing back; but Pliable came with me a little way.

GOODWILL: But why did he not come through?

CHRISTIAN: We indeed came both together until we came to the Slough of Despond, into the which we also suddenly fell. And then was my neighbor Pliable discouraged, and would not venture farther. Wherefore, getting out again on the side next to his own house, he told me I should possess the brave country alone for him: so he went his way, and I came mine; he after Obstinate, and I to this gate.

GOODWILL: Then said Goodwill, Alas, poor man; is the celestial glory of so little esteem with him, that he counteth it not worth running the hazard of a few difficulties to obtain it? …

GOODWILL …Christian, come a little way with me, and I will teach thee about the way thou must go. Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go. It was cast up by the patriarchs, prophets, Christ, and his apostles, and it is as strait as a rule can make it; this is the way thou must go.

[LATER, Christian]… espied two men come tumbling over the wall, on the left hand of the narrow way; and they made up apace to him. The name of the one was Formalist, and the name of the other Hypocrisy. So, as I said, they drew up unto him, who thus entered with them into discourse.

CHRISTIAN: Gentlemen, whence came you, and whither do you go?

FORMALIST AND HYPOCRISY: We were born in the land of Vain-glory, and are going, for praise, to Mount Zion.

CHRISTIAN: Why came you not in at the gate which standeth at the beginning of the way? Know ye not that it is written, that “he that cometh not in by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber?” John 10:1.

FORMALIST AND HYPOCRISY: They said, that to go to the gate for entrance was by all their countrymen counted too far about; and that therefore their usual way was to make a short cut of it, and to climb over the wall, as they had done.

CHRISTIAN: But will it not be counted a trespass against the Lord of the city whither we are bound, thus to violate his revealed will? …

FORMALIST AND HYPOCRISY: They told him, that custom, it being of so long standing as above a thousand years, would doubtless now be admitted as a thing legal by an impartial judge: and besides, said they, if we get into the way, what matter is it which way we get in? If we are in, we are in: thou art but in the way, who, as we perceive, came in at the gate; and we also are in the way, that came tumbling over the wall: wherein now is thy condition better than ours?

CHRISTIAN: I walk by the rule of my Master: you walk by the rude working of your fancies. You are counted thieves already by the Lord of the way: therefore I doubt you will not be found true men at the end of the way. You come in by yourselves without his direction, and shall go out by yourselves without his mercy…

To these things they gave him no answer; only they looked upon each other, and laughed. Then I saw that they went all on, save that Christian kept before, who had no more talk but with himself, and that sometimes sighingly, and sometimes comfortably: also he would be often reading in the roll that one of the Shining Ones gave him, by which he was refreshed.

I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which there was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, Isa. 49:10, and drank thereof to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill, saying,

      “The hill, though high, I covet to ascend; The difficulty will not me offend;

      For I perceive the way to life lies here: Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear.

      Better, though difficult, the right way to go, Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”

The other two also came to the foot of the hill. But when they saw that the hill was steep and high, and that there were two other ways to go; and supposing also that these two ways might meet again with that up which Christian went, on the other side of the hill; therefore they were resolved to go in those ways. Now the name of one of those ways was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction. So the one took the way which is called Danger, which led him into a great wood; and the other took directly up the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field, full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no more.


Our passage of study begins with the famous Bible verse known as the “Golden Rule:”

Summary of the righteousness of the kingdom: The Golden Rule

Mat 7:12  Πάντα οὖν* ὅσα ἄν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, οὕτω καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς· οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται.

Therefore, whatever things y’all might wish that men [othersESV,NIV/peopleNASBattempts to remove sexist language, but actually different words] might do to y’all, you yourselves should also do likewise to them, for this is [NIV=sums up] the Law and the Prophets.


·         CONTEXT: It starts with “οὖν/therefore/so” – What’s the “therefore” there for?

§         “Fitly is the law of justice subjoined to the law of prayer, for unless we be honest in our conversation, God will not hear our prayers (Isa. 1:15-17, 58:6-9, Zec. 7:9-13)” ~M. Henry

·         COMMAND: “do likewise/even soKJV/alsoNKJ/the same wayNASB/ - NIV]

§         I am always floored when I have to go over the “don’t hit people over the head with a stick” rule in our house, but it seems to be a lesson each child has to learn. My wife and I don’t go walking around the house with clubs hitting people on the head, so I don’t know where they get the idea from, but there comes that point when the toddler walks steadily enough to start carrying things with two hands, and one day, they’re walking along with a stick and they seem to say to themselves, “I wonder what would happen if I brought this down on someone’s head?” A couple of weeks ago, it was my 4-year-old daughter. She was standing by the front door with a curtain rod in her hands, when a guest entered the door. It was Chris Zachary, and WHACK!, she brought that curtain rod down on his head. It apparently didn’t occur to her to think about whether or not he would appreciate being thus battered upon entering our house. We need to take the time to think about what we’re doing; this is part of loving our neighbor as ourself, as God commands.

§         Now, what if I had told everybody in my house that they could have 9 candy corns? Now, my four-year-old daughter would be very careful to count out her candy so that she didn’t get shorted by even one – or cheated by getting only half of one.

§         John Calvin wrote, “Everyone shows himself an exact scholar of equitable dealing, when it suits himself. Then how is it that there is not the same immediate appreciation in questions of another person’s benefit or loss?”

§         Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

§         “It is not, of course, what – in our wayward, capricious, gasping moods – we should wish that men would do to us… but only what – in the exercise of an impartial judgment, and putting ourselves in their place – we consider it reasonable that they should do to us, that we are to do to them.” ~JFB

·         THE REASON Jesus gives is very instructive: “this is the Law and the Prophets.”

§         “The non-Christian religious prophet views his rule as a requirement which man is able to fulfill in his own strength… [But] Scripture emphatically denies that he has this ability… Apart from the operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of God’s children, obedience… is impossible… [O]ut of gratitude for the Father’s continuing gifts – you should love your neighbors even as you desire that they love you, in order that the stream of love toward the undeserving may flow on…” ~Wm. Hendricksen


Now after summarizing the call to the kingdom (“ask seek knock”) and the righteousness of the kingdom (“do to others”) Jesus summarizes the exclusive membership of the kingdom:

The Exclusivity of the Kingdom: “Enter the narrow gate”

Mat 7:13 Εἰσέλθατε[3] διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης· ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ* πύλη* καὶ εὐρύχωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν, καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν* οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι᾿ αὐτῆς. 14τι[4] στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν, καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν.

13Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way leading on into the destruction is broad, and the ones who are entering through it are many. 14How narrow the gate and constricted the way is which is leading on into the life, and the ones who are finding it are few.


·         Back in the day, cities were built with a wall around them and a gate for security against maraud­ing armies. In America we don’t worry about that – except maybe in the big cities. But in the suburbs, we put walls around our yards with a gate to keep little kids in and marauding dogs out.

·         In this figure of speech, Jesus pictures a wide gate and a narrow gate:

·         πλατεῖα “broad/wide” is a word used throughout the Greek translation of the O.T. to indicate a main street where there were markets and wide open spaces. In America, just about every town has a street named “Broadway.” It’s flat and easy to walk on and will hold lots of people.

·         On the other hand, “the way that leads on into the life” which God offers is described as not only constricted/straitKJV(not to be confused with “straiGHt”)/narrowNKJ,ESV/smallNAS,NIV (στενῆς) but with a 2nd word which means confiningHend/afflictedHenry/pressing in/getting narrower/difficultNKJ/ hardESV.

o       People don’t normally become Christians because they think it’s easier than being a Non-Christian (although there are non-Christians who have been afflicted by their sins and realize that the only way to find peace is through following Christ – Isa. 48:22; 26:3).

o       Jesus has already said in chapter 5 that those people are blessed who are poor, mournful, meek, merciful, pure, peacemaking, persecuted and insulted. That’s not the easy way to live life.

o       Christianity is a bit scary. It means giving up control of your life, and giving control over to an invisible God that you don’t fully understand. It means taking up a cross and exposing yourself to the Refiner’s fire, dying to self and growing in sanctification. The natural mind balks at that.

o       “Christ’s teaching is at no point more opposed to the flesh… Men are so permissive towards themselves, so uncontrolled and lax, that Christ here tells His disciples to get themselves onto the narrow and thorny road. As it is unpleasant to force our desires away from their free and unrestricted career, He relieves the pain by the glad compensation of telling us that by this narrow gate and path, we enter upon life!” ~J. Calvin

o       Paul puts it poignantly in 2 Corinthians: (6:4-10) “…proving ourselves to be those who serve God… in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses… by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit… By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness… (4:8) We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed… (4:17) For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!”

Why is the way to destruction so broad and the way to life so narrow?

1.      Narrowness implies boundaries. God has given mankind boundaries through His word.

§         Those who ignore God’s laws and God’s judgments about right and wrong may feel like they are living a wide-open, easy life without restrictions imposed upon them: “No boundaries;” they say, “do as you please” without some God spoiling your fun with His oppressive rules. They choose the wide gate because there is plenty of room for them to carry their lusts, appetites, passions, and worldly possessions with them through it. But,

§         “The righteousness of the kingdom, so amply described, both in principle and in detail, would be seen to involve self-sacrifice at every step. Multitudes would never face this. But it must be faced, else the consequences will be fatal. This would divide all within the sound of these truths into two classes: the many, who will follow the path of ease and self-indulgence – end where it might; and the few, who, bent on eternal safety above everything else, take the way that leads to it – at whatever cost.” ~JFB There is no other, middle way. (M. Henry)

§         APPLICATION: Deut. 30:15-16 See, I have set before you… life and good, and death and evil, In that I command you… to love the LORD… to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the LORD your God shall bless you in the land which you are going to possess... (Josh. 24:15) And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (M. Henry)

2.      Narrowness leads us to look outside ourselves for salvation:
Stene “narrow” is not used anywhere else in the N.T. (except the parallel passage in Luke 13:24), but it does occur over a dozen times in the O.T. Septuagint, where we see God consistently saving those who call upon Him when they bump up against their own human limitations and realize that they are too limited to save themselves and need a God who has no limitations to save them. (Quotes below from Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint)

§         It was during Job’s stressful affliction that he heard the Lord speak and teach Job 18:11, 40ff

§         In Numbers 22:26 Baalam met the angel of the Lord “in a narrow place where it was impossible to turn to the right or the left.”

§         In 1 Samuel 13, God brought victory against oppressors to Jonathan in a “tight spot.”

§         David resorted to hiding in “narrow passes in the wilderness of Engedi” where “the Lord deliv­ered him” from Saul and prepared him to be king (1 Sam. 23:14,19,24:1, cf . 2 Sam. 24:14).

§         2 Kings 6:1 the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “Behold now, the place where we dwell is too narrow for us. (The next thing that happens is the miraculous floating axehead)

§         God also used the “affliction and distress” of the Assyrian and Babylonian armies and 70 years of captivity to purify His people, and He saved them after 70 years of captivity and sent Jesus to live among those very people and save them:  Isaiah 30:20 …the Lord shall give you the bread of affliction… Jeremiah 37:7 … it is a time of straitness to Jacob; but he shall be saved out of it. (cf. Isa. 8:22)

§         APPLICATION: It’s in these narrow places where we are feeling pressure that God meets us and saves us when we call out to Him. Are you feeling stressed out? Desperate for help? Take this opportunity to call out to Jesus. Ask, seek, knock, and He will deliver you!

3.      Narrowness implies Sovereign Grace

APPLICATIONS: in the light of Sovereign Grace:

1.      If there are people you love that you don’t want to see lost, ask God to save them, then share the Gospel with them. God must act first to turn them into seekers, and if He is left out of considera-

tion, we have little reason to expect success in sharing the Gospel. Let us ask God for lost souls!

2.      We can also apply this principle of God’s sovereign grace in salvation in our own struggles with doubts and fears: “Am I really saved?” “Will I really make it to heaven?” “Does God love me?” Listen, if you are seeking to enter into eternal life through faith in Christ, then be encouraged! You would not naturally seek such a thing; your seeking has been prompted by the Holy Spirit working in you because God wants to save you! The fact that you desire it and are willing to go through the confinement of the narrow way is a sign that God is working to give eternal life to you! Take heart!

o       Back in verses 7-8, Jesus says that those who seek for it find it. Do not be afraid that God will not reveal it to you. You will find it if you are seeking it from God.

What is this gate? How do we find it? How do we “enter”?

O.T. instances of “entering gates” from Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint

§         Psalm 24:7 Lift up your gates… and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the king of glory shall come in.

§         cf. 1 Samuel 4:13, 2 Samuel 19:8, 2 Kings 7:10, 11:19. 2 Chron 23:20, Lamentations 4:12, Jeremiah 17:25, 22:4, Ezekiel 9:2, 43:4, 44:2, 46:2, Obadiah 1:11

§         often speaking of a hostile army taking over rulership of a town.

§         But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

§         Ex. 27:16 – God’s tabernacle had a gate

§         Psalm 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with hymns; give thanks to him, praise his name.

§         Ezekiel also mentions worshippers coming through the temple gates to “go in before the Lord” (46:9)

§         Psalm 118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and give praise to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord: the righteous shall enter by it.

§         Isaiah 26:2 Open ye the gates, let the nation enter that keeps righteousness, and keeps truth,

§         2 Chronicles 23:19 “doorkeepers stood at the gates of the house of the Lord, so that no one unclean in any respect should enter in.”

§         Esther 4:2 And he came to the king's gate, and stood; for it was not lawful for him to enter into the palace, wearing sackcloth and ashes.

§         As we have seen before, we are not righteous enough to enter the presence of the Lord, so we cannot enter His gates unless we have been made righteous.

§         But in 2 Corinthians 5:21 it says God “made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus can make us righteous enough to enter the gates of the kingdom of heaven, by taking away our sin!

o       Jesus is the gate:

§         John 14:6 “I am the way the truth and the life, No one comes to the Father but by me”

§         Jesus said "I am the door for the sheep… if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:8-11) –different word but same idea.

§         Jesus is the fulfillment of Jacob’s ladder which reached from heaven to earth and brought communication between God and man, Jacob called that ladder “the gate of heaven” (Gen 28:17). Jesus is the gate.

§         We enter the narrow gate by trusting in Him to save us from destruction. If you haven’t done that yet, now is the time to ask Him to save you!

§         “Conversion and regeneration are the gate by which we enter into this way, in which we begin a life of faith and serious godliness, out of a state of sin into a state of grace we must pass by the new birth” ~M. Henry

·         APPLICATION 1: Entering the narrow gate of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone implies recognizing that doing what everybody else is doing will lead to destruction, it implies turning away from the broad way, parting ways with the mainstream and being different.

o       “In order to enter by the narrow gate, one must strip himself of many things, such as a consum­ing desire for earthly goods, the unforgiving spirit, selfishness, and especially self-righteous­ness. The narrow gate is therefore the gate of self-denial and obedience.” ~Wm. Hendriksen

o       The Apostle Paul was a good example of doing that. In Romans 12:2 he wrote, “Don’t be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Our eyes are not on the crowd to see where our next step should be; our eyes are fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

o       “If we follow the multitude, it will be to do evil; if we go with the crowd, it will be the wrong way…; if many perish we should be the more cautious.” ~M. Henry

o       Are you ready to stop following the crowd and seek to obey God alone? That’s what it means to enter the narrow gate.

·         APPLICATION 2: Entering a gate that leads to life connotes that this is just the beginning of a journey and that there is a life beyond the journey, so let us persevere in the hardships of the way that leads to life in anticipation of the glories of heaven!

o       After the Israelites passed through the strait of the Red Sea, they had to get through the wilderness before entering the promised land. (M. Henry)

o       The Imperative translated “enter” is in the Greek Aorist tense, indicating something done not many times but only once.

o       If you have already entered the gate, continue down the path that leads to the celestial city. You have not arrived yet; don’t let your guard down or allow yourself to go to sleep (like Christian and Hopeful did in Pilgrim’s Progress when they fell asleep on Giant Despair’s property and were captured and imprisoned for many days.)

o       Eternal life belongs to all who believe in Jesus, but this is only the first installment of that life. We will enjoy life eternally with God after we die and this world is destroyed and remade.

o       “Self must be denied, the body kept under, corruptions mortified (that are as a right eye and a right hand), daily temptations must be resisted, duties must be done that are against our inclination, we must endure hardship, must wrestle and be in agony, must watch in all things, and walk with care and circumspection… [T]his way… leads to life, to present comfort in the favour of God, which is the life of the soul; to eternal bliss, the hope of which, at the end of our way, should reconcile us to all the difficulties and inconveniences of the road… but one hour in heaven will make amends for it!” ~M. Henry

[1] William Hendricksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, p.365.

[2] This idea also came from Hendricksen, p.363.

[3] Majority and Textus Receptus spell with epsilon instead of alpha in the ending – a variant spelling with no difference in meaning (according to Perschbacher). No textual support for this variation is mentioned by Nestle-Aland or UBS editors.

* The 4th Century Sinaiticus Greek manuscript is a bit more terse, omitting all four of these words.

[4] The 4th Century Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts have τι here, as does the modern Textus Receptus and the 1904 "Patriarchal" Greek New Testament of the Greek Orthodox Church. However, I have another edition of the Byzantine text from Athens containing a greeting from the patriarch of Constantinople from 1896 and a print date of 1990 which has just τι. The vast majority of Greek manuscripts have τι. KJV translates “Because” (NAS=For, NIV=But). Thayer and Arndt & Gingrich render as exclamation “How very/How!” and I think that is best.