There are two choices: the wide path and the narrow path. Which will you take?
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The Narrow and Wide Gates
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Robert Frost (1874-1963) was one of the greatest literary figures in American history. He brought us such works as Fire and Ice, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, Mending Wall, and many, many more. A wise and incredibly talented man, Frost made it his life’s work to take abstract themes and weave them into vivid metaphors.
Perhaps nowhere was this astounding ability made more apparent than in one of Frost’s most oft-quoted poems: The Road Not Taken. In its concluding verses we hear the poet proclaim:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Imagine, if you would, a grandfather who is advanced in age and drawing near to the end of his life. He sits down next to his grandson and tells him about the time in his life when he happened upon two diverging pathways in the woods. He’d looked to his right and seen a path which was well-traveled and well-worn, having been traversed by thousands of people over the years. It seemed sturdy, trusted, proven. But to the left was a smaller path, barely visible beneath the weeds and bushes, and it was that course which he elected to take.
Now, imagine the man leaning in and, almost at a whisper, saying ‘…And that has made all the difference.‘
What a powerful metaphor. What a lesson!
Instead of traveling the same route as everyone else, you may choose to take a different path which leads to different results. Readers of The Road Not Taken – myself included – can’t help but infer from the text that the speaker is well-pleased with his unorthodox decision, that he’s satisfied with how things turned out, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
He took the road less traveled, and it served him well.
The Biblical Road Not Taken
In a similar manner to Frost’s revered poem, Matthew 7:13-14 presents us with a tale of two diverging paths. In verse 13 we are told the following:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
This first of the two selected verses is primarily geared towards describing the gate that leads to destruction. We are told that it is a ‘wide gate’ and a ‘broad way.’ For these reasons, it naturally follows that ‘many enter through it.‘
Matthew 7:14, on the other hand, follows the scary conclusions of its predecessor with:
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Clearly, this small passage of the Bible has huge implications. It gives readers a choice between one of two options – you may either enter the wide gate and follow the broad way, or you can enter the small gate and walk the narrow road. There is no in-between, and you must either be travelling down one path or the other. Like the narrator in The Road Not Taken, you’ve got a choice: will you take the well-worn path, or will you take the path less traveled?
A Side-by-Side Comparison
As I thought more and more about this small passage of Matthew, I came to the realization that these two parallel pathways are polar opposites. They differ from each other in every conceivable way, from the size of their gates all the way down to the effects they yield for those who walk upon them. Below is a comparison chart highlighting these differences.
By laying out the information in a graphical format, it’s quite easy to see that the two ‘roads’ or ‘paths’ are completely opposite. Like north and south, hot and cold, dark and light, these two avenues of life could not be further apart.
An In-Depth Look: The Broad Path
For reasons which will become apparent in the information which is to follow, I believe that Matthew 7:13-14 is one of the most sobering passages in the Bible. Today, many are being told that ‘all roads lead to God,’ or that ‘everyone goes to Heaven, and Hell is just an old-fashioned myth made up to scare people.’ Indeed, Hell is there to scare us – it’s one incentive to seek salvation! Verses 7:13-14 impress upon us to do just that.
Let’s begin with the first main topic of discussion:
Point I – The Broad Road Leads to Destruction
Before proceeding with the analysis, we must first define ‘destruction’ in light of the Scripture. This is where cross references are incredibly helpful. And as it so turns out, Matthew 10:28 sheds considerable light on the situation and what exactly is meant by the term ‘destruction.’ It reads as follows:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
A more in-depth look at the comparison reveals that the original Greek words which denote ‘destruction’ are the same in both verses, with the only difference being the form in which they are used (Matthew 10:28 uses the verb form ‘to destroy’ whereas Matthew 7:13 uses destruction). Thus, we can be quite certain that the form of destruction mentioned in Mt. 10:28 is the same as that used in Mt. 7:13.
When the information is synthesized together, the logical conclusion becomes as follows: those who enter into the wide gate and walk the broad path of destruction are bound for Hell. They will suffer eternal demolition of both the body and soul. There will be no rest for them day or night. Continuing one’s walk down the broad path, although it will undoubtedly seem right (after all, most others are doing it as well), leads to an eternity apart from God. It is irreversible, irrevocable, and final.
This is the chief consequence of staying one’s course down the broad road – eternal death.
Point II – Many Enter Through It
The first point makes the second all the more sad, much to the point that I wish it were not true. Yet the text clearly states that ‘…many enter through it.’ This is an especially chilling statement when contrasted against what is said of the narrow gate – ‘few find it.’ Not only does the broad way of destruction lead to eternal death and separation from God, but it is also the preferred route for the majority. It is the default setting, the way that one will head if he/she does not come to a saving knowledge of the truth.
Point III – Not Only is the Path Broad, but the Gate is Too
A broad road calls for an equally broad gate. It is through these word choices that we can get a sense of what it actually means to be travelling through the wide gate and down the broad way which leads to (eternal) destruction.
To further unpack the meaning of ‘wide is the gate and broad is the road,’ we need look no further than Luke 13:23-24. It reads as follows:
Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Emphases added by me)
Luke 13:23-24 looks primarily at the narrow gate, and by examining both sides of this tale of two roads, we arrive at the conclusion that seeking the narrow road is difficult and quite exclusive. Therefore, the broad road must be wide and inclusive. This is further confirmed by Jesus’s words in John 14:6:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
In other words, Jesus Christ is the sole doorway – or gate – by which God has enabled us to come to Him. Thus, all other religions and all other belief systems are what constitute the ‘wide gate and broad road.’
I will not name the names of all the world’s religions and beliefs and value systems, but if you are attempting to seek God through any other avenue apart from His one and only Son, you will come up short. If you refuse to seek God at all, you will come up short. If you live your life in service to God, fully expecting to earn your own salvation through good works, you will still fail the test, for you have entered through the wide gate and are walking the broad way.
This is what the whole crux of Mathew 7:13’s road to destruction is about: God is the answer, and the only way to seek Him is through Christ Jesus.
Point IV – It’s the Easier Path to Follow
A common theme throughout the Bible can be summed up in this phrase: should I do what is right or what is easy? The apostle Peter provides one such instance of this when he, in John 18:13-27, denied Jesus three times in the face of strangers who inquired about his connection with the Son of God. Here was a man who had spent huge amounts of time with Christ, becoming more familiar with the suffering Savior than almost anyone in history, yet he still denied Him before people he didn’t even know. And for what? One reason: it was the ‘easier’ thing to do.
Likewise, following the road to destruction is much, much easier than entering through the narrow gate. To see this, let’s revisit Luke 13:23-24, in which Jesus implores us to “Make every effort to enter the narrow door.”
Looking upon the excerpt, one word in particular stands out from the start: effort. And not only does it say that ‘you must make an effort’ or ‘you must try hard,’ but it uses the far more severe wording of ‘make every effort.‘ Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. Make every effort to do so, because unless you really seek and you really search and you get down on your hands and knees and look about with all your might, you will not be able to enter! Expend all your energy on this task, for nothing has ever mattered more.
In stark contrast to the difficult way of the narrow road, the broad road is very easy to enter into. Matthew 7:13 clearly shows us that many will be found there, in comparison to the ‘few’ who will elect to enter by the small gate. Thus, one can easily picture a giant highway down which thousands of cars are traveling at NASCAR speeds, each and every one of them making great time on the well-paved road which appears to be leading into abundance and prosperity. But over off to the side, there’s a tiny gravel road, and once in a while a car will turn off the highway and enter into this twisting, winding, looping pathway.
Sadly, the vast majority of the people will never make the turn, for it’s easier to enter in through the wide gate. It’s easier to stay on the broad path. It is far more comfortable to continue making good time down that well-paved highway, and the longer you stay on the highway, the harder it is to pull away. Perhaps Proverbs 14:12 sums this idea up most succinctly:
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
That way, my friends, is the road of destruction.
Our Great Hope: The Road of Jesus
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Matthew 7:13 gave us a description of fire and fury. It informed us that there is a way which leads nowhere; an attractive, easy-to-follow path that seems right but leads to eternal doom. Furthermore, it revealed that the majority would be taking this path, and not only that, but most of these lost people would never find their way out.
Matthew 7:14, on the other hand, follows the dire warning of its predecessor with a look at the solution: “…Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” To bring this into clearer focus, let us also look back at the very beginning of Matthew 7:13, which states, “Enter through the narrow gate…” and Luke 13:24, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”
What is God’s Word telling us? Enter through the narrow gate, for it is the only way.
The One Way to God
One aspect of the New Testament that particularly stands out to me is the urgency and solidity with which it is written. It does not base its writings upon conjecture or upon theory. It doesn’t make claims without excellent reasoning behind those claims. And like the rest of the Bible, it is one-hundred percent truthful. The New Testament pulls no punches when it comes to describing the state of things in this world. Just look at what is said in Mark 14:21:
“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Yikes! Those words, spoken directly by Jesus Himself, demonstrate nothing less than brutal, stern, yet loving honesty. This is the pattern that much of the New Testament follows after, and when it comes to salvation, its message is equally well-defined.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7).
If there has ever been an exclusive claim in the history of exclusive claims, this is the one. Jesus made it perfectly clear that there is no other way by which men could be saved. He doesn’t merely represent the truth, but he is the truth. He doesn’t only give life; He is life. Yet perhaps the weightiest truth in this statement is Christ’s claim that He is “the way.”
Matthew 7:14 tells us that there is a ‘narrow way’ which leads to life. And what does Christ tell us about Himself in John 14? He is the life. He is the way. Therefore, Christ is the narrow road and the narrow gate of which we must make every effort to enter into. Nothing matters more than Him; nothing in the world can be more important! If He is the way to life, then what could possibly be a better use of our time than to seek Him while He may be found?
Turning Our Faces to the Son
The very moment that we recognize our need for a savior, we take the first step towards seeking God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We, by ourselves, cannot be saved. We have no power by which we might make ourselves worthy of God. It is only by His sheer grace, and through His mercy, that we have hope of being reconciled to Him.
Still, despite this understanding of the nature of salvation, many times we are tempted to believe otherwise. I myself often struggle with this, for I know in my heart that it is only by Christ’s sacrifice that I am saved, yet I often strive to ‘better myself’ so that God will find favor with me. This is a path which leads to nowhere. Only by resting in the peace and joy which is in Christ Jesus can we ever truly start moving closer to God. Romans 10:9-10 tells us:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
What is the recipe for salvation? Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and then go forth and proclaim this truth with your words. Notice that Paul says “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.” The foundation of any saving faith is a belief in the soul-saving work of Christ. This foundation is then ‘built upon’ when a believer proclaims Jesus’s saving power through their words.
In essence, belief in one’s heart is what enables us to be saved through Christ, and this belief will naturally translate into spoken reverence for our Savior. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not ‘praying the prayer of salvation’ which binds us to Jesus, but rather a heartfelt belief in Christ which then motivates us to pray that prayer. From the point in time when a person truly recognizes their brokenness and calls out to Jesus through faith alone, they are “a new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
A Life Reborn: Forsaking the Broad Way
One of the most important aspects of Christianity is that of change. Multiple times throughout the Gospels, Jesus commands us to change. He commands us to grow. He even goes so far as to order us to “take up our cross and follow him” (Mark 16:34). In other words, there is far, far more to the Christian life than just going to church, talking about Jesus, and listening to Gospel music. When Christ enters into a person’s heart, the change which takes place is nothing short of a miracle.
It’s for these reasons that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth the following message:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Reading the text, it’s possible to practically feel the excitement that Paul had towards this miracle of the Christian life. We do not remain unchanged when we are joined with Christ! There is no sin, no trespass, no way of life which is too sinful or too terrible for the blood of our Savior to cover. Whatever once was bad and ugly within you, when subject to the reign of Jesus Christ, will start to be reformed.
For this reason, our salvation from the broad way of destruction shows itself visibly as an increased desire to turn away from sin. The ‘broad road’ and ‘wide gate’ represent all things which are outside of Christ. It represents sin and darkness. It represents gossip, slander, lying, sexual immorality, hatred, greed, and every other sin imaginable. Indeed, the broad way can (but need not!) represent more wholesome avenues of life, such as charity work, community service, or even good deeds done ‘for the church.’
It is thus best to think of the broad way as ‘everything outside of Christ.’ This road to destruction is our entire way of life before we make the commitment in our heart to follow Jesus. But when we truly and genuinely accept Christ into our heart and life by faith alone, He comes in (with the Holy Spirit) and begins to clean house.
Now, does this necessarily mean that we will immediately become righteous people? Not quite. The process that God begins in the heart of a person who has trusted Christ is known as sanctification, and this tends to happen in stages. A hardened criminal who becomes saved may take years – even decades – to show significant outward change. But the overall trend in a person’s life will be more towards God and less towards the things of this world. The pattern of persistent, pervasive sin will slowly evaporate like a puddle of water in a parking lot on a hot summer’s day. The longer a Christ-follower follows Jesus, the more they will desire God and the less they will desire the ways of the broad road of destruction.
To put it all in a nutshell, travelling along the narrow road of Jesus will lead us progressively further and further from that busy, bustling highway of sin and death. Will it be difficult? Yes. It will require us to submit ourselves to Him, and with His divine power, overcome the ways of the world. But no decision that we could ever make as people will be a better one than the choice of following Christ.
Two Roads Diverged, and I Took the Road Less Traveled By
Throughout life, we are presented with choices. Some choices are trivial, others impactful, and a few are life-changers. But never will there come a decision as important as that presented in Matthew 7:13-14.
There are two choices: the broad way which leads to destruction eternal, or the narrow way which leads to life today, tomorrow, and forevermore.
Granted, following the broad way will be easy. It will be effortless. Indulging in the pride and sins of life will gratify us and please our flesh. Perhaps that’s why so few people find the narrow road – because few actually look. They are blinded by the pleasing sights and pleasures of the superhighway of death. But if you’re reading this, then there are two main possibilities: either you’re already devoted to Christ, or something has been stirred within you. Perhaps that’s God – your almighty, perfect Heavenly father – calling out to you, ‘Come and seek me. I will forgive you, cleanse you, and use you for my high purposes. Never again will you suffer without hope.’
If you have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, I invite you to do so now. He is waiting. He loves you. And He is the only way by which you might be saved and brought into God’s fellowship for all eternity. He is the narrow gate, and the life He will lead you down afterwards is the narrow path.
As I draw this to a close, I’ll leave you with one more verse from scripture.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-18)
Once you decide to follow Christ, nothing can ever steal you out of His hand. He is our shepherd, our protector, our savior, and our best friend. Nothing can stand against Him. The troubles of this life will continue – in fact, they may even get worse as Satan and the worldly system rebels against your conversion to Christ – but God will be with you through it all.
Friends, if you have yet to accept Jesus but you feel His pull on your heart, bow down before the Lord in faith and ask Him to come in. Make Him the Lord of your life, the Lord of all that you are. Submit to Him in all your ways, and you will witness His redemptive power. He will not condemn you, but rather deliver you from all condemnation. He is the way, the truth and the life.
What could possibly be better than that?
A hundred years ago, a wise man once said,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Two roads. Two possibilities. Two outcomes.
Which road will you take?