Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1139 MP3 Audio File Video File

The Narrow Way and the Rock Pt 1

(Matt 7:13-14)

Delivered 10/30/22

Good morning, Bereans. We are going to be taking a break from 1 Thessalonians for the next couple of weeks. In our last study in 1 Thessalonians, we looked at some very difficult commands. One of them being:

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV

"See that no one repays anyone evil for evil"this is present active imperative. Believers should act in love and not react in anger. Revenge is one of the most natural of human responses to hurt or injury, but believers are never to do it. No matter what anyone does to you, no matter how evil, you are never to retaliate. Now that is hard enough to swallow but Paul goes on to say, "but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone"—the Greek word translated "seek" is dioko which means to go after something with strong intent and effort. We could paraphrase, "Rather than seek vengeance, go after the other person’s highest good with a vengeance." Think about that! They do evil to you but your response is to go after their highest good with a vengeance. This is how we are called to live. This is not normal or natural, it is supernatural. Only as you walk in the Spirit, only as you abide in Christ, trusting on His power, can this be done. And when the world sees this, they see Yahweh.

Launching from this thought of supernatural living, I want to spend today and next Sunday talking about The Narrow Way and the Rock.  For our study this morning, I want us to look at Matthew 7:13-14 which talks about the narrow and wide gates.  

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

 The majority opinion is that these verses are talking about eternal life and eternal damnation. Christianity is the narrow and difficult way that leads to life. You probably already know that I’m not going to take the majority opinion, but hear me out.

To understand these verses, we must answer the question, "to whom was the Sermon on the Mount intended?" I see this sermon as addressed to "all believers." To be born again is to be a kingdom citizen.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, Colossians 1:13 ESV

Who is the "us"? Believers! In Colossians 1:2, Paul says that he is writing to the "saints"!

Yeshua's audience for this sermon is determined in Matthew 5.

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: Matthew 5:1-2 ESV

"And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying"—who is the antecedent of "them"? It is the disciples! "His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying." This sermon, or teaching, is primarily for the disciples. In other words, the Sermon on the Mount was meant for the believing portion of society. Though the disciples where the target audience, they were not the only audience.

And when Yeshua finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29 ESV

As Yeshua taught his disciples, the crowd listened in with astonishment. So, although He is primarily addressing his disciples, the Lord is aware that others are present as well.

We can see in these verses, then, that the Lord does not lose sight of the larger audience. Among other things, He warns them to "start out right" by entering through "the narrow gate" (Matthew 7:13). In the light of the rest of the New Testament, this could refer to man's narrow and restricted way to God which is by faith alone in Christ alone.

Does that make sense to you? It certainly could be what Yeshua is teaching. It is clearly a truth taught throughout the Bible. Yeshua said:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 ESV

That is narrow! Yeshua says that He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. Have you ever heard someone say, "It doesn't matter what you call Him. We are all worshiping the same God but by different names"? There is no such thing as a Christianity that stands side by side with Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, and says, "We worship one God under many names."

Christians believe, fundamentally and of necessity, that there is one true God. This true God is not Allah. This true God is not Krishna. This true God is not the god of Joseph Smith or Buddha or the Jews. This true God is the Lord Yeshua the Christ, as established in Titus 2!

… waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Yeshua the Christ, Titus 2:13 ESV

Yeshua the Christ is Yahweh. And as Yahweh, He seeks true worship—worship based upon a knowledge of who He is in reality and based upon His revelation to man. He does not grant to man the freedom to worship Him in a manner that pleases the creature rather than the Creator. God is particular about His worship. His worship is intimately, vitally connected to truth. Without truth, there is no worship of the Christian God.

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  John 4:24 ESV

Christianity is all about Yeshua the Christ. Apart from Christ, there is no salvation. He is the only true God. The heart of the issue lies in the answer to the question, who is Yeshua the Christ? People need to understand who Yeshua really is. Who He is and what He has done can change not only our lives but our eternity. Who is Yeshua? The Bible tells us very clearly in Philippians 2.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Yeshua the Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 ESV

The word "name" is the Greek word onoma, which can mean "name, rank, or personality." Here the emphasis is on title or rank above all ranks (i.e., position).

What is the name above all names? The movement of verses 9-11 does not stop at the phrase "gave him the name" but flows straight on to the universal confession that Yeshua the Christ is Lord. This clearly suggests that the significant thing is the ascription of "LORD" (Yahweh).

Verse 10 is a direct quotation of Isaiah 45:23 where Yahweh, having declared himself to be the only God and only Savior, vows that He will yet be the object of universal worship. It is this divine honor that is now bestowed upon the Lord Yeshua the Christ.

Christianity affirms that Yeshua is God, but all other religions deny it. Listen to the following words of the Bible:

Who is the liar but he who denies that Yeshua is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23 ESV

To deny that Yeshua is God is to be antichrist. To deny the Son is to deny the Father. This condemns not only Judaism but all other religions as well.

Christianity, then, is a narrow way. One comes through Yeshua, or he doesn't come at all. That is narrow enough but the gospel is even narrower than that. Salvation comes through faith in Christ ALONE!

There's a preterist book out called A Time of Transition.  The author writes the following:

The Scripture has been terribly abused by those who advocate the pernicious doctrine of salvation by faith alone. The false doctrine of faith alone teaches that a person is instantly saved on the mental assent to the fact that Jesus Christ is the son of God such a doctrine contradicts many scriptures, and vastly disagrees with faith as revealed in the Bible.

As a proof text to this view he footnotes, he adds this footnote:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. James 2:24 ESV

James is talking here about being justified before men by your works. We have dealt with this text in James, and I would encourage you to go to our website and check it out. It’s titled "James on Saving Faith."

Most forms of the gospel being preached today are what I would call faith-plus gospels. These say that faith in Christ for eternal life is necessary but that it is not enough. Works must accompany faith in order for a person to make it to heaven.

Salvation is not of faith plus works. It's all faith! You may think that this is basic and beyond saying, but all religions add human works to faith. Religion teaches that faith alone is not enough. The Judaizers taught faith plus works.

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."  Acts 15:1 ESV

They taught that faith alone wasn't enough for salvation and that one must also be circumcised. There are many today who teach a "faith plus works salvation."

But the only condition of eternal salvation is faith in Christ. Even a casual reading of the Gospel of John, the only book in Scripture whose purpose is evangelistic (John 20:31), makes this clear. "He who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47). "He who believes in Him is not condemned" (John 3:18). "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24). "Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die [spiritually]" (John 11:26).

Faith in Christ is the conviction that He is the Guarantor of eternal life for every believer. Many add to what Yeshua said and end up with this distorted gospel: "He who believes in Me and turns from His sins and perseveres in good works shall live." That is not what Yeshua promised.

Some say, "Yes, He is the Giver of eternal life; however, to be saved takes more than just believing. You must also commit your life to Him, turn from your sins, confess Him, obey Him, be baptized, etc., etc., etc." Once again, if a person is convinced that this distorted message is true, then he doesn't believe what Yeshua is saying. Yeshua made it clear that the only condition is being convinced that He guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him. Add anything to that, and you have a different gospel.

We know that the Roman Catholics teach that we are saved by faith plus works. Lordship Salvation teaches that we are saved by faith that works. But don't both definitions include works as a condition necessary for faith to be valid, for faith to be effectual? Either way, works are a necessary condition of eternal salvation.

To make works a necessary condition of faith confuses grace with merit. The Scriptures are clear that we cannot confuse grace with merit lest we boast (Eph 2:8-9). It degrades Christ's work if we are required to work as well. We are required to believe in order to be saved. It is Christ's obedience that saves us.

For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 ESV

It's not our obedience that saves us; it's Christ's obedience that saves us. We are the recipients of the blessing of the work that He has done for us. The only requirement for salvation is that we believe the gospel. Not only is believing the gospel enough, but it is the only way to salvation. Yeshua guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him for it. Do you believe this?

So, Yeshua could be teaching in Matthew 7:13-14 that Christianity is a very narrow way; one enters only by faith in Christ alone. This is what the Bible teaches. But I am not convinced that this is what Yeshua is teaching in this text.

It seems to me that Yeshua is not talking about the gate and road to Christianity but to discipleship. Let me share with you why I think these verses deal with discipleship 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 the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

Yeshua is here saying that this way is narrow and difficult. Let's look at some of the Greek words that are used in these verses. The word for "narrow" is stenos, which means "difficult, distressful, narrow by reason of obstacles which surround it, difficult to continue or hold up."

I don't see coming to faith in Christ as "difficult." It is, in fact, impossible apart from a work of God. God gives us life and the faith to believe. What is "difficult" here is the practice of the principles that the Lord Yeshua has taught us in the Sermon on the Mount. Living this way calls for commitment and discipline. It is a difficult way. These verses must be taken in the context of the golden rule and all of the things Yeshua taught in the preceding verses.

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 ESV

This is a narrow and difficult way. How about when Yeshua says to "Love your enemies." How narrow and difficult is that?

"Enter by the narrow gate" is far from being an easy thing to do. This is clearly stated in Luke 13.

"Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Luke 13:24 ESV

The Greek word used for "strive" is agonizomai, which is a very expressive and emphatic word meaning "agonize." It occurs again in 1 Corinthians 9.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:25 ESV

The reference is to the athletes who took part in the marathon races. They were willing to undergo the most self-denying discipline to be at their fittest, thereby hoping to win an earthly crown. This word rendered "agonizomai" is translated as "laboring fervently" in Colossians 4:12 and as "fight" in 2 Timothy 4:7.

It is a struggle, a battle, an extreme effort. There is almost a violence implied. Believer, let me ask you, "Is this how you became a Christian? Did you strive, labor, agonize to become a Christian? No! One of the most important and misunderstood distinctions in the Bible is that of a Christian and a disciple. Many see them as synonymous, but I think the Bible makes a distinction between them.

How does a person become a Christian? What do you have to do to be a Christian? The answer is simple—believe the gospel! A person becomes a Christian by faith in Yeshua the Christ.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36 ESV

The word translated "whoever does not obey" is the verb apeitheo. The leading Greek Lexicon of the New Testament by Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker makes a very insightful comment about apeitheo which sheds light on John 3:36: "Since in the view of the early Christians, the supreme disobedience was a refusal to believe their Gospel, apeitheo may be restricted in some passages to the meaning: "disbelieve, be an unbeliever" (BAGD, p.82).

A person becomes a Christian when he understands and believes the gospel of Yeshua Christ. At that moment, he is placed into the body of Christ, given Christ's righteousness, indwelt by God, and is as sure of heaven as if he were already there. He is "in Christ."

The Scriptures make it quite clear that salvation is a free gift of God's grace, but the Scriptures also teach that discipleship is costly. Salvation is our birth into the Christian life, and discipleship is our education and maturity in the Christian life. Let’s compare John 3:16 with Luke 14:33.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV

Eternal life is a gift of grace to all who believe. Do you see any cost involved here? Do you see any labor or agony? But now notice what Luke writes.

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33 ESV

Discipleship is a call to forsake all and to follow Christ. Can this be talking about the same thing as John 3:16? I don't see how. I see discipleship as a conditional relationship that can be interrupted or terminated after it has begun. All Christians are called to be disciples, but many will not pay the price. Discipleship is costly!

This same idea can be stated in the terms of union and communion. Positionally, we are united with Christ—this is our union. Practically we are called to walk in fellowship with Christ—this is our communion. God has given us a picture of union and communion in marriage. When a man and a woman get married, they enter into a relationship, a union. As the years pass, their relationship, their communion, may be good or bad. But whatever their experience, the fact of their union remains. In a similar way, we enter an eternal union with God at salvation, but our communion is based upon a living, active faith. We can drift in and out of communion with God, just as we can drift in and out of communion with a spouse. The conditions for fellowship are seen in 1 John 1.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:6-9 ESV

Willful disobedience breaks our communion with God, but when we are in communion with God, we are constantly cleansed by Christ's blood. This is a beautiful description of the intimacy and fellowship that our union in Christ should bring.

The Bible speaks about our communion with Christ in many ways. In John 15, it is called "abiding" in Christ. In 1 John, it is "fellowship" or "knowing" Him. In James, it is "living faith" or being a "doer" of the Word. Throughout the New Testament this communion relationship is referred to as "discipleship."

So Yeshua said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32 ESV

Is salvation narrow and difficult? No! It is impossible apart from God’s drawing us.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 ESV

Salvation comes to us by grace through faith. But discipleship is a call to obedience, a call to live out the principles stated in the Sermon on the Mount.

You might object to this view of mine by saying that these two roads are said to lead to destruction or life. Isn't that speaking of eternal destinies?

One commentator says, "When Jesus refers to life in these verses, He is talking about eternal life." How does he know this? The Greek word for "life" is zoe. This term is often joined with "eternal" (some 30 times) and with "everlasting" (some 17 times). This would clearly denote "eternal life" or "redemption." But the term zoe by itself can refer to a quality of temporal life. Over and over the Proverbs talk about righteousness leading to life.

Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. Proverbs 11:19 ESV
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30 ESV

Here envy causes physical problems but a sound heart is life—this speaks of a quality of life.

The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. Proverbs 19:23 ESV

Life is here portrayed as satisfaction and the absence of being visited with evil.

The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4 ESV

Humility doesn't bring physical life but a quality of life.

The word "life" as used in our text can refer to a quality of life—fellowship with God. If he wanted to refer to eternal life, he could have said that. By "life" is meant that glorious state of unclouded fellowship with God, the heart's being satisfied with Him, the realization of His unspeakable excellency and the fullness of joy there is in His immediate presence.

What about the word "destruction." Doesn't that imply eternal judgment? Not necessarily! Let's look at this Greek word. The word "destruction" is the Greek word apoleia which means "ruin, loss, destruction." It is translated as "wasted" in Mark 14.

There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that?  Mark 14:4 ESV

This verb form is used of physical death in 1 Corinthians 10.

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 1 Corinthians 10:9 ESV

Destroyed here is apollumi.

This verb form of the word is also used of unbelievers being eternally damned.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV

But this same verb is also used of believers.

For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. Romans 14:15 ESV

Because we hold to the Reformed faith, we know that if Christ died for them, they are believers, and, therefore, this could not be referring to eternal destruction. You can't cause a believer to perish, so this is depicting some kind of spiritual loss. Apollumi is used to speak of loss of reward.

Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 2 John 1:8 ESV

Yeshua could be using apollumi in Matthew 7:13 to speak of loss of spiritual blessedness or physical death or a wasted life.

I believe that the "narrow and difficult" way that Yeshua is referring to is that of discipleship. He is referring to all He has said in this sermon. He is calling us to live radically different lives. Let's review just a few of the things that Yeshua has commanded believers to do in this sermon.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44 ESV

Yeshua said, "Pray for those who persecute you." Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love because it means that you have to really want something good to happen to them. You might do nice things for your enemy without any genuine desire that things go well with them. But prayer for them is in the presence of God who knows your heart, and prayer is interceding with God on their behalf. He is not saying that we should pray for them to be struck by lightning or that a house should fall on them. Rather, He is saying that we should pray on their behalf to God. It may be prayer for their conversion. It may be for their repentance. But the prayer Yeshua has in mind here is always for their good.

How many Christians do you know who live like this? When is the last time you prayed for an enemy? When is the last time that you prayed for someone who mistreated you and persecuted you? This is how the disciples of Yeshua are to live!

In the end of chapter 6, Yeshua says that we are not to worry about our lives:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 ESV

The "kingdom of God" signifies the rule of God. We are to seek the kingdom of God, to come under His kingship, and to come into subjection to Him as King. The word "righteousness," as used in our text, comes from the Greek word dikaiosune which means "a pattern of life in conformity to God's will."

The word "to seek" here is the Greek word zeteo which means "to seek, to desire to worship." It is to seek with a desire to worship.

But not only must we seek His kingdom and righteousness. It should be our supreme priority. The word "first" in our text comes from the Greek word proton which means "first in order or importance, first or "chiefest" of all, holding the highest place in all our affections." The Lord is saying that the first place in the priority of our affections must be His will.

When He is speaking of His kingdom, He is talking about our coming under submission to His reign, setting our priorities straight so the authority of His Word occupies the first place in our lives. It means "to walk under His reign, to live in obedience to the Lord."

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness … "Now please notice the end of the verse. "… and all these things shall be added unto you." What things? They are all the things the Gentiles seek and strive for. The Lord is telling us not to worry about those things. Just walk in obedience to Him, and He will provide them. We do not need to strive for material things. "… and all these things shall be added unto you," is the great reward for those who walk in the obedience of faith.

I believe that this is the "life" that the "narrow and difficult" path leads to—it is the blessing of God. Joy, peace and contentment come from Christ’s being the priority of your life. Nothing else can bring the joy that an intimate relationship with God can bring, and once you learn to base your peace and contentment on your relationship with God, nothing in the world can take it away from you. It seems that few Christians today live at this level spiritually, and this is why we have so much anxiety and dissatisfaction in our lives.

In Matthew 7:14 Yeshua says, "And those who find it are few." There are many on the broad road but there are "few" on the narrow and difficult way. Among the many who have trusted Christ, there are few who truly follow Him. Do you think that is true? Again, I ask you, "How many Christians do you know who live their lives according to the principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount"? Most Christians I know are dominated by pride and selfishness. They spend very little time seeking the Kingdom of God; they're too busy pursuing their own desires and goals.

In his book, What Americans Believe, George Barna states, "One of the most penetrating and inescapable questions that confronts Americans is: 'Why am I alive?'"

The answer he found was most surprising. "Most adults conclude that we exist to gratify the flesh. Sixty-three percent concur that the purpose in life is enjoyment and personal fulfillment."

Let me share with you some alarming statistics that I found on an atheist's web- site. He writes, "WARNING! Christianity Doesn't Work as Advertised. The divorce rate for Christians is HIGHER than for Atheists. More than half of Christians are habitual LIARS. Few Christians have personal happiness - all this from Christian pollster Barna. Do you still think Christians are better than Atheists? You'd better think again!!!"

He then goes on to quote some Barna statistics.

Pollster, George Barna, reported: "Born-again Christians have a higher rate of divorce than non-believers; fundamentalists top them all. And 87% divorced after accepting Christ, presumably aware of the biblical teaching on divorce."

75% of "born-again" Christians lie regularly - conscious, premeditated lies.

Desiring to have a close, personal relationship with God ranks sixth among the 21 life goals tested among born-agains, trailing such desires as "living a comfortable lifestyle." "Are people's lives being transformed" by Christianity? Barna has asked. "We can't find evidence of a transformation."

Although his statistics often show self-described Christians living lives no different from those of atheists, Barna's faith never has wavered. "The issue isn't whether Jesus or Christianity is real," he said. "The issue is, are Americans willing to put Christ first in their lives?"

I agree with Barna. The problem is that Christians are not willing to put Christ first in their lives. Why is that? I think the answer is because we are a lazy, selfish people and walking in fellowship with God is difficult.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5 ESV

Do you seek for an intimate relationship with God as intensely as you do for earthly treasures? Let me pose a question for you to think about: "Which road are you on?" If you are on the narrow road, your life will be lived in submission to the Lordship of Christ. Christ will be your life. His will will consume you. He will have the preeminence in your life.

Yeshua ends his sermon by stressing the importance of doing what he says. He says it isn't easy to do what He says. The road is narrow and difficult. But it is vitally important that we do so because it is the path to a blessed life.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalms 1:1-3 ESV

The narrow road leads to a blessed, peaceful, satisfied, joyful life. The broad road leads to destruction, misery, pain, turmoil. Which road are you on? I think that Moses' words in Deuteronomy are a fitting closing this morning.

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, Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV

Choose life believer! Walk on the narrow road.

Continue the Series

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