Finding the Narrow Path


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“Enter by the narrow[1] gate. For the gate[2] is wide and the way is easy[3] that leads to destruction[4], and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow[5] and the way is hard[6] that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

The tendencies of the self work within us and the forces of the world in which we live press upon us to move us along the broad and wide way. This way is easy and feels familiar. It is the milieu into which we are born and operates according to the customary and usual ways of our culture and society.

The easy and familiar way is not free of conflict or hardship. On the contrary, the boulevards on which the masses travel are pocked with the damage of conflict and strewn with victims of the hardships of life, not the least of which are the lusts, greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, violence and destructive natures of our very selves and the fellow travelers on this way.

It is easy because it is the flow of the world. It is familiar because it is the world into which we are born. We hardly notice the strength of the current that carries us unless and until we attempt to resist it.

Jesus says that this narrow, small, difficult way leads to life, while the broad, easy and familiar way leads to destruction. As both ways have their hardships and difficulties, we might be unable to determine the way that Jesus beckons us to go but for the example and the guidance Jesus gives us.

Simply judging by the number of the travelers on the path we travel is not a good measure. The fact that few are on our chosen path is no assurance we are entering through the gate of which Jesus spoke. We should not go where Jesus does not lead.

On the other hand, if we find ourselves moving in the same direction as the traveling throng, we should be rightfully alarmed that we have missed the narrow gate. The gate to which Jesus points is not so much an entrance into something, but an exit out of something else. The narrow path leads us out of the “world” in which we first find ourselves.

That is why Jesus said we must be born again. John 3:3. We must enter into a relationship with God that is an exit from the world in which we were first born. We must leave the familiar behind and take hold of the unfamiliar way that Jesus says is life.

Jesus, the one who points to the narrow way, is the one we must follow through that gate. We dare not trust ourselves or the common travelers around us; rather we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer[7] (founder, author and source) of the faith that is the narrow way that we seek. (Hebrews 12:2 (NIV))

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[1] The Greek word is 4728/stenos, meaning, literally, narrow; (figuratively) it means the closely-defined pathway God ordains for us to travel on to gain His approval (used three times in the NT). God’s gate is “narrow” in the sense it restricts all unneeded (unfruitful) things from getting through!  The “broad way” is followed by the masses and is undiscriminating, preferring the path of self-government. “The way that leads to life involves straits and afflictions.” (McNeile) Going through the “narrow gate” (God’s will) excludes “everything that is not from faith” (Ro 14:23 – whatever is not of faith is sin.)

[2] 4439/pýlē (a feminine noun) means a large door; an entrance-gate to a city or fortress; a door-gate, typically an exit for people to go out of. Pýlē (“a door-gate”) suggests then what proceeds out of it. The masculine noun (4440/pylōn, “gate”) however suggests entrance through a door-gate – the “opportunity to go into (something).”

[3] The NASB Bible uses the word “broad”. The emphasis in the original Greek text is on the words “wide” and “broad” and the contrasting words, “narrow” and “small”.

[4] 684/apōleia (from 622/apóllymi, “cut off”) means destruction, where someone (something) is completely severed in the sense of cut off (entirely) from what could or should have been. Apōleia (“perdition”) does not imply “annihilation” (see the meaning of the root-verb, 622/apóllymi, “cut off”) but instead “loss of well-being” rather than being (Vine’s Expository Dictionary, 165; cf. Jn 11:50; Ac 5:37; 1 Cor 10:9-10; Jude 11)

[5] The NASB uses the word, “small”, but it is the same word stenos used in the first phrase of the passage (see 1 above).

[6] The NASB uses the word, “narrow”. The Greek word is 2346/thlíbō (the root of 2347/thlípsis, reflecting an original “b”/bēta) meaning, literally, to rub together, constrict (compress), i.e. press together; (figuratively) oppressively afflict (cause distress), like when circumstances “rub us the wrong way” and make us feel confined (hemmed in, restricted to a “narrow” place).

Reflection: The very situations that “restrict” movement ironically enlarge our spiritual opportunity to know the Lord’s unlimited power.  God purposefully designs the physical scenes of life to offer maximum spiritual transformation (cf. Ro 5:1-5 with Jn 1:3 and Eph 1:11) God uses the “irritations of life” with the same result of His work in the oyster: transforming the irritations of life (grain of sand) into precious pearls!  What constricts us (presses hard upon us) also ironically opens God’s limitless power as He takes us through “limiting” circumstances – and not merely out of them!

[7] 747/arxēgós(from 746/arxē, “the first” and 71/ágō, “to lead”) means, literally, first in a long procession; a file-leader, pioneering the way for others to follow.  747 (arxēgos) literally means “one who leads from the beginning,” i.e. the file-leader (chief, founder) who is the first in succession of many who follow.  This trailblazer (pioneer) arrives at the destination (end) where others must also go. Arxēgos does not strictly mean “author,” but rather “a person who is originator or founder of a movement and continues as the leader – i.e. ‘pioneer leader, founding leader'”.

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