How do you interpret the narrow gate, narrow way? Answered by Patrick Crandall
Hey guys, Patrick here, and today on ask Theocast, I’m going to be answering Jamie’s question about the narrow way and the narrow gate. Jesus uses this imagery towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew seven to describe what is necessary to enter into life.
If you’re like me, the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear “the narrow way” is staying on the straight and narrow. I think of my own ability to keep the rules and my own ability to perform. That’s where I instantly gravitate towards. This actually gets us moving in the right direction toward understanding this passage rightly because if we look at scripture and what’s necessary to enter into life, it always has been and always will be righteousness.
We can see this beginning in the garden with Adam and Eve moving on through the mosaic covenant. What’s always been required for life is in fact righteousness. Now, the question then becomes how much righteousness? How narrow is this narrow way? How small is this gate that we have to enter into? This is where things start to shift, because Jesus, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, gives us a pretty clear standard. In Matthew five, he says that you must be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect. That’s a really narrow way, right? This isn’t just “be pretty good.” This isn’t just “be better than your neighbor.” This isn’t just “be better than you were yesterday.” We have to be perfect, and we know clearly from scripture and we should know from our own personal experience that perfection is something we will always fall short of. So what does that mean for us?
Well, we’ve got to remember that Jesus, the one who used this imagery, also called himself “the way.” That’s because this way was so narrow that there’s only one who’s ever walked it, and that’s Jesus himself. He’s the only one who had a perfect righteousness. He was the only one who was perfect as his Father is perfect. So there’s one source of this righteousness.
This call for us to walk the narrow way and to know that the narrow way is the only way into life is not a call for us to look to ourselves and to our own righteousness, and to try harder, and to be better, and to look to what we’re doing for assurance that we are on the narrow way, rather, it’s the opposite. It’s a call to look outside of ourselves, to realize that we can never look to our own performance and our own righteousness as sufficient evidence that we are on the straight and narrow. The only way we can know that we are on that narrow way and that we will make it through that narrow gate is when we are in union with Christ, when we have Christ’s righteousness as our own by grace through faith, clothed in that in union with him, that is how we walk the narrow way and enter into the narrow gate.
It is nothing that we do. It is by faith and trust in Christ alone and looking to him outside of ourselves for righteousness that we do nothing to produce. It’s all in Christ. So that is a reformed, covenantal way of understanding this narrow way, this narrow gate. It is meant to drive us outside of ourselves, to look away from our own performance and our own obedience, and to look to the perfect righteousness of Christ that is made ours by grace, through faith. I hope that’s helpful to you guys and I hope you have a great week.