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The Strait Gate

The truth over against an error has to do with “the Strait Gate and the Narrow Way.” This is treated in Matthew 7:13, 14, where the word of God states, “Enter ye in 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.” These classic words appear in the superb Sermon on the Mount. The first part of that sermon is doctrinal and preparatory to a holy way of life; the last part is practical and applicator= to a sanctified life. The aim of the sermon is to show the nature and extent of the righteousness of the kingdom of God. The nature of kingdom-righteousness is obedience to the revealed law of God. The extent of that righteousness is in excess of the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. If personal righteousness (i.e., your righteousness) does not go to that extent, there can be no entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). The self-righteous hearers of our Lord’s sermon thought themselves already citizens of the kingdom, with not only their own righteousness measuring up quite satisfactorily to the law, but even proving to be quite supererogative, soaring higher than the perfect demands of the law. The Jews of that day prided themselves with being, exclusively, the children of Abraham. But the Lord identified Abraham’s children as having the faith of Abraham (Romans 4: 16), as doing the works of Abraham (John 8:39), and as those Gentiles who have faith in Him, Christ (Galatians 3:29). One possessing this righteousness of the kingdom is one who practices complete self-denial, abandons the dearest idols and forsakes the most cherished sin.

This righteousness is the Christian’s way of lie, and is represented under the figure of plucking our right eyes and cutting off right hands (Matthew 5:29ff), if necessary to avoid the evil of the whole body being thrown into hell. The Christian way is then a very dedicated way of life. It is one in which “your righteousness” (5:20) and “His righteousness” (6:33) are closely related. Your righteousness, to be acceptable to God, must be in conformity to His righteousness. These words of our text the Lord spoke to His disciples (5:1), to His own children, who were regenerated citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Two negatives in the chapter identify and characterize the children of the kingdom: “judge not” (rashly and hastily, v. I), and “give not that which is holy to the dogs” (v. 6). Two positives identify the righteous: “ask, and ye shall receive” (v. 7) and “do whatsoever ye would that men should do to you”(v. 12).

Now this strait gate is not pictured in Scripture as a place where a crowd stands at cross-roads, where they must choose in what direction they shall go, on the narrow or on the Broad Way. Must les are there two gates. The Broad Way has no gate at all. It is all open territory. What we have are two classes of people, the one class entering the one way, and the other class entering the other.

First, consider the Strait Gate. Is this gate prior to or posterior to the narrow way? Is the gate at the beginning of the way, or at is end? The gate is plainly at the beginning of the way. At the end of the way are the gates (plural) of pearl (Revelation 22:14). Those on the Broad Way are in the worst misery-on the road to destruction. Those on the narrow way experience deliverance from that deadly misery.

The word strait is involved with that figure of speech known as a homonym i.e., a word with the same pronunciation as another word, but with a different meaning, origin, and usually, spelling. For example, b-o-r-e and b-o-a-r, and here s-t-r-a-i-t and s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t. We speak of the straight and narrow, by which we mean a narrowness which is nevertheless right, true, and correct. But the strait gate is a narrow gate guarding the narrow way. In nature and geography there are the Georgia and the Juan de Fuca Straits, two very beautiful but narrowed bodies of water. We speak of a strait-laced person to denote someone quite narrow in thought and behavior; and a strait-jacket is for very narrow confinement of a disorderly person. A gate is a portal which lets in, but also shuts out, as is clear with the door of Noah’s ark. It’s just as clear in the case of the wise virgins who went into the marriage with the Bridegroom, and then the door was shut against the foolish virgins (Matthew 25: 10). They who enter the strait gate are Christ’s own sheep, and “the Lord knoweth them that are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). They who do not enter, do not strive to enter, must hear Christ’s “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). This gate often is, from the point of view of our sanctification, righteousness, and “His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) first of all, which must then become “your righteousness,” if you are to enter the kingdom of God. Now we may understand why the Psalmist loved to sing, “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord, this gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter” (Psalm 118:19, 20). Scripture makes plain, then, that the strait gate is the gate of practical righteousness.

Now it becomes evident that this righteousness is identical with the teaching of Christ; it is what He taught His disciples (Matthew 5: l-2). Where does this teaching actually begin? Upon entering the strait gate to set out on the narrow way. This means then that when the Lord commands, Go in through the strait gate! His covenant people, in effect, respond, we did! Hence, they are already on the way of righteousness, which is the way of life (Proverbs 12; 28). John Bunyan in his “The Pilgrim’s Progress” illustrates this in his unforgettable character, Christian, who, on that narrow way, fled the City of Destruction to head for the Heavenly City. How he got on that road was not easy. At first he got sidetracked to the town of Morality. But the burden he carried could not be removed in this town. Then he came to the foot of Mt. Sinai, where his heavy burden (of sin and guilt of soul) was only made the heavier as that mount towered over him and threatened to topple in a terrible avalanche to bury him. At this point in the story, by the help of Evangelist (Grace) he entered the wicket (small) gate. Doing so, he became aware of a spattering of arrows thudding into the doorposts behind him. This action was explained to him by Goodwill (Romans 12:2) as that Satan envies those who enter and so tries to prevent and discourage their entering. Christian was next instructed by Interpreter (the Holy Spirit). Then the Cross had meaning for him; he became conscious of his burden leaving him, falling off at the foot of the Cross to roll down Mt. Calvary and be swallowed up forever in Christ’s empty- tomb!

The gate is of necessity a strait gate to guard against sin. It is not wide enough to accommodate mere sinners with their sins and wicked worldliness. Not the ultimate gate of heaven nor the proximate gate of righteousness may admit such encumbered, unprepared characters. Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortions, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9, 10). Also the – gate is narrow because it maintains the law, guarding against two errors, (1) that we can earn heaven by our obedience, and (2) that we can enter heaven without holiness. The law closes the gate on both counts. It is also too narrow a gate to admit the world. For that reason, you cannot take it with you. In another place, the Lord requires, “Strive (or agonize) to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24), and that means, cling to the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, love him with all your  heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. It means to forsake the world, crucify the old nature and walk in a new and holy life.

This gate opens on the narrow way. It is a single concourse, being the only way to saving good. It is called the way of the Lord (Exodus 13:21), the good and the right way (Samuel 12:22), the way of wisdom (Proverbs 4:11), the way of righteousness (8:20), the way of life (10:17), the way of holiness (Jeremiah 25:8) and the way of truth (2 Peter 2:2). Our aim is to deny self, take up the cross and follow the Lord, and not to deviate from that narrow way. There is only one direction to the North Star, but there are one billion directions from it! Amen. (Prayer) Heavenly Father, Thou alone canst lead us infallibly to Jesus Christ, the Life, the Truth, the Way! Set our feet in the path that leads unto life; and to all those who walk in the truth, give the assurance of faith, that they are Thine, that they belong to Jesus our faithful Savior. In his name, Amen.