The Broad Way Contrasted with the Narrow (Matt 7:13-23)
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
"Not everyone who says to Me,'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
The section that has been quoted is part of Jesus’ concluding words of the Sermon on the Mount, which includes the “asking, seeking, and knocking” of the prior paragraph and ends with building on the rock or the sand.
“Enter by the narrow gate… Because narrow is the gate and difficult [lit: constrained] is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Jesus is exhorting his audience to be careful to start things out in the right way; to get started at the right place. His audience must be careful that they go through the gate that leads to life and not to destruction. In terms of the larger audience, and the disciples He is saying: Be sure that your starting point is the correct starting point.
The narrow gate is Christ:
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Entering is by faith in Christ’s saving message:
…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
"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.
1 Tim 1:16
… as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
The way to life is constrained, narrow. There is but one gate, Jesus Christ, and there is only one way to enter it, by faith alone in Christ alone.
That “there are few who find it” should be quite sobering.*
…for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it
The wide gate with the broad path represents every other “way” to salvation that is not through Christ, through faith in His Name. This would inlude every false religion in the world from animism to humanism; Islam to Buddhism; Hinduism to Judaism, and all others in between.
But let us not stop here. The “way that leads to destruction” is also paved with “Christian” doctrines and false “gospels”. It is tiled with sincerity, good intentions; it is cemented with counterfeit prophets and bible teachers. This road attracts a lot of attention with high profile sects, denominations, and doctrinal positions; with radio bible teachers and seminary presidents; with global organizations and social activists. Those that beckon the world to this path proclaim far and wide the doctrines of Rome; the mysticism of Mormonism; the angelology of the JWs; the self-salvation of Arminianism; the costly conversion of Lordship Salvation; and the exclusivism of Traditionalism.
Any teaching that requires anything in addition to simple faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, the Guarantor of eternal life and resurrection to the believer in Him for it, diverts its adherents from the narrow gate and detours them to the broad way that leads to destruction. Therefore we must:
Beware of the False Prophets
One of the problems that people have in finding the correct gate is that there are people who tell them the wrong gate! There are people who profess prophetic ability or profess to be sent by God and they lead them astray. Jesus immediately follows the exhortation to enter into the correct gate by a warning against the false prophets. The way that the false prophets are known is by their fruits. He is not talking generally about professing Christians! He is not talking about being saved or unsaved. He is telling how we can recognize a false prophet.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.
The very first thing that we should notice concerning the prophets who lead people astray with their false messages, doctrines, and teachings, is that they come to the people “in sheep’s clothing.”
The Traditional interpretation of this passage is that men must gain assurance of their salvation by their works. This passage is so obviously not talking about this! How one can extract that meaning from this passage is a testament to the ingenuity and imagination of the eisegetical, presuppositional, and deductionistic advocates of Traditionalism!
The false prophets come to the people “in sheep’s clothing”. What is the implication here? -- There is no way to tell the false prophet by their outer appearances! They look, smell, act, and behave like sheep. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing! Every outward appearance is that of a Christian. So “fruit” cannot mean their conduct! Fruit is the doctrine that they preach; the fruit is the message that they bring. If they preach anything but eternal salvation by grace through simple faith in Jesus Christ, they are false prophets. If they bring a message that is contrary to what Jesus taught then they are false prophets.
That their words are their fruit is easily demonstrated by examining some corrollary passages:
"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods' -- which you have not known -- 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams”.
The false prophet exhorts his audience to heed unto false teachings! God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex 20:3), but they say “let us go after other gods.” God says “You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods” (Deut 6:13-14), but the false prophets say “let us serve them [other gods].”
We are not to look at the works of a prophet to determine if he is a true prophet or not. The Lord God poses the idea that false prophets can do signs and wonders that indeed come to pass. This shouldn’t be an indicator of whether or not we should follow their teaching! Truth matters! Obviously we will not want to follow a liscentious man. But there are many prophets out there who do good things, they have great appearances, and are moral. But since truth matters for our eternal destiny, that a prophet has a blameless exterior is of no great consequence. It is his message that we must be extremely wary about.
The reason why people are not finding the right gate is because false prophets are leading them to the wrong one with their message, their teachings, and their “gospels”. We must test for the false prophet by his “fruit” which is his words.
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned”.
The gospel writer Matthew, within the sphere of the very epistle we meet “you will know them by their fruits,” equates “fruit” here with “speak[ing]” and “words”. Everyone, no matter if they are saved or unsaved, will give an account for every idle word they give in their “day of judgment”. In a very real sense, by their words they will either be justified or condemned. We will see the condemnation that comes to the adherents of false prophets by their words later in this post.
Jesus is talking about false prophets who are pointing to the broad road that leads to destruction. We can know the false prophets by their message (their fruit). Jesus says, “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life,” (John 6:47), but the false prophet says “He who believes in Jesus and commits his life in costly discipleship, turning from all sins, and obeying the Lord, persevering until the end, will ultimately receive eternal life.”
It doesn’t matter if they have large Christian radio audiences. It is of no consequence that they preside over mammoth bible colleges and seminaries. It is not even really significant that they turn out people who love the Lord and are zealous for Him, for if it is not in truth, then it is of no value.
A false prophet, whether sincere or malicious, points people to the broad road that leads to destruction, and the only way that they can be identified is by their fruit, which is the message that they bring.
Paul was very concerned about the false prophets:
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit… Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Within the context of the evangelistic model here, the false prophet cannot bring the good message of salvation, he will bear bad fruit. Only the true prophet can bring the truth of the gospel. True prophets point to the correct gate; false prophets can only point to the broad road that leads to destruction.
The Traditionalist interprets these verses in the context of recognizing professing vs. genuine Christians, and as test of assurance of one's own salvation. They get into a lot of trouble here, though. They understand it as believers are good trees and therefore can only bring forth good fruit, but as the language shows, this would lead one, if followed through, to believe in sinless perfection; the text does not speak relatively. They would also understand unbelievers as bad trees and therefore can only bring forth bad fruit, but as the language shows, the image of God would not only marred, but totally extinct in the unsaved. The only way the Traditionalist can salvage this interpretation is to add the element of relativity, which is not present in the language, to their interpretal stew. This is the quicksand into which the false interpretation of this passage slides. We must keep in mind that Jesus is talking about false prophets over against true prophets, and not the tests of a believer or professor.
By the message of the “prophet” a person will be able to recognize whether the prophet is a true prophet or a false prophet.
“The true test for discovering a false prophet or teacher is to compare his or her message with God's. This, after all, has always been the test for discovering who speaks for God and who does not.
Not much thought has to be given to see that it makes sense that it should be this way. God cannot possibly contradict Himself (Num 23:19). Furthermore, His Word stands forever (Isa 40:8). If indeed we have something that solid--and we do--we should use it as a touchstone to test everything that is said by anyone claiming to be a messenger of God. For in doing this, we are not only living in obedience to God's Word, but we also will be able to know those who are His spokesmen and those who are not.” (D. Scott Henderson, Looking a Wolf in the Mouth Newsletter of the Grace Evangelical Society).
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
God is going to judge the false prophet. We don’t have to have a knee-jerk reaction to “fire” and talk always about hell. In a general way the fire of God’s judgment is waiting for these people. But obviously if a man who claims to be a prophet of God who is not a prophet of God is unsaved, he will ultimately wind up in the fire of hell, which the following verses will have something to say.
By Your Words You Will Be Condemned
What is the lot for those who heed the untrue gospel messages of the false prophets? They will have their “day in court” and by their words they will be condemned!
We started our treatise with Jesus’ plea to begin right by entering the correct gate; followed by his solemn exhortation to recognize the false prophets who point to the broad road that leads to destruction; and here now we end with the destiny of those putting their trust in the fallacious hopes of the false prophets:
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Many on the day of their judgment will lay the hope of their eternal well-being upon their allegiance to Christ as Lord and their efforts and works for Him. This is the gospel that they have been given by the false prophets. They are told to “Make Jesus your Lord”, “Jesus must be Lord of your life or you can’t be saved!”. The false prophets tell their listeners that they “must follow Jesus in costly discipleship or you can’t be saved.” They confuse discipleship with the call to receive a free gift, therefore lead people down the wide gate and broad road that ends in destruction.
Many, “in that day”, will sincerely address Jesus as Lord. Jesus will not quarrel with them on this point. That a person considered Jesus their Lord is not means for entrance into the kingdom.
In the gospel of John, the only explicitely written book in the Bible for the purpose of evangelism (John 20:31), we find Jesus explain how one “enters the kingdom”.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
One must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. To be born into God’s family, born from above, we must receive Jesus Christ by believing in His name. Whoever believes in Jesus will be born from above, becoming a child of God, and immediately possessing eternal life.
Only those who do the will of the Father in heaven will enter the kingdom of God. What is the will of the Father in heaven? The Father’s will is to believe on His Son for eternal life.
For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe [disobeys = apeitho] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
The Son speaks the words of the Father. The one who believes in Jesus immediately possesses eternal life, for he is heeding “the will of the Father”. The one who disobeys the Son (who does not obey the command to believe in Him for eternal life, which is the message from the Father) is disobeying the will of the Father.
In the sphere of the reception of eternal life and entrance into the kingdom of God, the will of the Father is obvious! The will of the Father for the reception of eternal life, to enter the kingdom is to believe in His Son.
And this is the will of Him who sent Me [the will of the Father], that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
It is clear that God’s will is to give everlasting life, entrance into the kingdom, and resurrection to those is to resurrect and give eternal life to all who merely believe (and only believe) in His Son!
Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?
“Jesus in His mercy tells us what many will say to Him in that Day: First, they will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, addressing Him as 'Lord.' Not only will they say it once, they will repeat it: 'Lord, Lord.' Recognizing the gravity of the situation, they will plead for their lives. This repetition of 'Lord' may also suggest that they think they are on familiar terms with Jesus.
Next, they will ask Jesus a series of questions, calling the Christ Himself as a witness in their defense. Notice that they will not directly assert that they have done good works. They will speak in interrogative, not declarative, sentences. Because of this, their defense will actually be much stronger than their own mere declarations would have been: They will call Christ Jesus Himself as their defense witness. They will ask Him to testify to the facts of their lives: their prophesying, exorcising, and wonder working.” (John W. Robbins, The Trinity Foundation, Justification and Judgment)
Those who have heeded the message of the false prophets will plead their case with Jesus. They will be all too sincere. They will not be conscious charlatans trying to pull the wool over Jesus’s eyes. They will be all too serious as they point to both to their allegiance to Christ and to their works in His name!
These aren’t Buddhists, Hindus, etc. They are “Christians” who are offering their works “in Your [Jesus’] name” (three times!). These are the ones who obeyed the words of the false prophets who led them down the road to perdition. They did not do the will of the Father which was to trust solely in Jesus Christ for their entrance into the kingdom. They will be condemned for their words which betray their trust in their works!
And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
“Jesus will describe these people as ‘you who practice lawlessness.’ Now if we had seen these people on earth—and perhaps we have seen some of them—we may not have reached that conclusion. After all, we would have seen these church leaders prophesying, casting out demons, and performing supernatural wonders, all in the name of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church-State would have declared them saints. The ersatz Evangelicals would have made them best-selling authors and celebrities. But Jesus calls them ‘you who practice lawlessness.’ Why?
He has already told us why. All of these extraordinary and wonderful works done in the name of Jesus are lawlessness, because they are done for the purpose of obtaining salvation. These works are lawlessness because they involve an illegal use of the law. The law, Paul tells us, is given for the knowledge of sin. It is not given that we sinners might use it to gain entrance into heaven. Conviction of sin, not salvation, is the purpose of the law. Legalism, because it is an illegal use of the law, is lawlessness. ‘But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,’ Paul told Timothy. But using the law in an effort to obtain heaven is not lawful; it is an illegal use of the law; it is lawlessness.
But if we see some of these men on earth, we are able to recognize them as false teachers, not because of what they do, but because of what they say: They teach salvation by faith and works, by faith and obedience, by faith and covenant faithfulness. They teach on earth what they will tell the Lord Jesus Christ at the judgment. That is what they believe.” (John W. Robbins, Ibid. Emphasis Mine)
The end of those who obey a false gospel is the lake of fire. We must be wary of those who present a message that differs from Christ’s message of the free gift of eternal life and resurrection received by simple faith alone in Him. We must start out on the right foot by entering the correct gate. Most of Christendom and much of Evangelicalism need to be evangelized! They have listened to false prophets who are wolves in sheep’s clothing!
We must not back down from the simple message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Antonio da Rosa
* Lets get some perspective. In the newest edition of “Operation World” (A prayer guide for missions) we find that the world’s population is around 6 billion. Out of those 6 billion, roughly 2.5 billion are considered “Christian”.
350 million Protestants
303 million Indepentants
67 million Anglicans
420 million Evangelicals
345 million Charismatics
1 billion Catholics
212 million Orthodox
Christians account for roughly 1/3rd of the world’s population. This does not qualify for a “few”.
Christ contrasts the terms “many” and “few”. Only a “few” find the correct gate and enter thereby. I am speculating here, but what percentage out of 100 could we bracket off such a modifier as “few”? When I was a kid, we would say to someone who had candy “give me a couple” and he would give us “two” because a couple is “two”. We learned from that. We would then say give me a “few”, which would mean somewhere between 3-5 in a package of 40 M&Ms. Such an understanding I do not believe is far off from Christ’s use of the term “few”. If I had to make an educated guess on what percentage of 100 is a “few” in Christ’s discourse here, I would say 8-15%. I hope I am not offending anyone with my candy illustration. I am trying to get at how the word “few” is used. In the Bible, “few” is used relatively as to what is being compared; few always means a relatively small number from that which could be termed “many”. I could not see the word “few” being used of a relative percentage of 25% or more in any given illustration. Could you? Argue with me if you like. Few means a relatively small number in comparison to the many.
If my crude analysis of “few” meaning 8-15% of the population is correct, than we have a problem. 33% of the world’s population is “Christian”; much too high of a figure to denote a relative “few”. What can we glean of this? That much of “Christianity” is not saved, but needs to be evanglized. Why? The gospel has been corrupted by thousands of false teachers who preach a distorted gospel.
The Wide Gate and Broad Road:
“there are many who go in by it”
The Narrow Gate and Constrained Way:
“there are few who find it”
This is sad and sobering. Yet this is deadly serious. What are we waiting for? Let us go out and evangelize, and make disciples of grace!