Chapter 5, Part 2
In order to emphasize the importance of entering by the narrow gate, the gracious Lord first spoke on the negative aspect of the wide gate. He revealed to us that as believers, we are faced with two gates narrow or wide. We are also faced with two ways--narrow and broad. We must enter into one of them. He wants us to enter by the narrow gate! If we do not enter by the narrow gate, we will automatically enter by the wide gate and walk the broad way, and at the end, we would not be qualified to be members of the Kingdom personnel! The negative and positive aspects of the basic requirement will be discussed in the following sections to help the chosen ones of the church in the last days.
A. The Negative Aspect of the Basic Requirement
The Scriptures clearly record that the gracious Lord wants us to enter by the narrow gate so that we will not be destroyed. He said, "...for the gate is wide, the way is broad that leads to destruction and many are those who enter by it!" These words seem to tell us that the only reason for entering by the narrow gate is to avoid "destruction" or "perishing"! If this were so, we have encountered a difficult theological problem. If a person must enter by the narrow gate and walk the narrow way in order not to perish, then what determines whether a person is going to perish or not? Is it by believing in Jesus or is it by entering by the narrow gate? Perhaps this is the reason why so many expositors have interpreted these verses as speaking to the non-believers. Because the Scriptures clearly say, "All those believe in Him shall not perish!" Does the Scripture contradicting itself?
Before proceeding further, the author would like to explain a principle in Bible interpretation. When we discover what appear to be discrepancies or contradictions in the Bible, we must remember this principle. The principle is that in ancient times, each word may have more than one meaning. As time moves on, more words are developed and the meaning becomes more specific. In ancient texts, there were fewer words. The complexity of life, however, has changed little since Adam was created. So in order to meet the needs of life then with the limited vocabulary, each word had to take on several meanings. The Bible is written in ancient languages. It is not uncommon for one word to have over ten meanings. Some words and phrases can have over seventy translations! Thus, in studying the meaning of Biblical words, the meaning of a word must be ascertained from its context. It cannot be explained by social perspective or academic research only. Otherwise, there will be a lot of confusion!
The word for "destroy" appears in verb and noun forms in the New Testament Greek Bible. The verb was used 91 times. In the Chinese Bible alone, it has 30 different translations. For example, it is translated as "lost", "lose" (Matt. 10:6.39.42); "perish" (Luke 21:18), ''wasted" (John 6:12 NIV), etc. Therefore, the word "perish" in John 3:16 should have these above meanings other than "eternal destruction". This is a true picture of life: Unless a person accepts Jesus, his life would be lost and be wasted! The noun is used 20 times in the New Testament. Other than in this verse which is translated as "destruction", it can be translated as ''waste" (Matt. 26:8;Mark:. 14:4). So in this verse, the meaning of "destruction" and its reference to "eternal destruction" is nothing but ''wasting'' God's grace! This is no different from those young people who skip school and waste their parents' efforts. They end up to be a waste in the society and cause their parents to weep (see Luke 19:41). In the same manner, if we are stiff necked and do not enter by the narrow gate, we will also waste God's grace, His efforts and break His heart.
What is the wide gate and broad way? We can be illuminated by the history of the Jews because the gracious Lord wept over them! God was gracious to them and He cared for every aspect of their lives. With great effort, He delivered them out of the land of Egypt and led them into Canaan. He gave them a majestic Holy City, the glorious Temple and a functional priestly system. However, they did not strive to do God's will, i.e., they did not walk the narrow way. Instead, they stiffened their necks and did according to their hardened hearts' desires,i.e.,they walked the broad way. They forsook God, the source of living water (narrow gate) and carved their own cisterns. But those cisterns were cracked and could not hold water (walking the broad way). In the end, destruction came upon them! In like manner, the gracious Lord saved us. Not only did He forgive our sins, He also desired that we no longer live for ourselves (enter by the narrow gate). Instead, we should live for the Lord who died and resurrected (walk the narrow way). So, as believers, should we not fulfill the basic requirement in order to be members of the Kingdom's personnel?
B. The Positive Aspect of the Basic Requirement
The above was the negative side of the basic requirement. Now let us consider the positive aspect of it. The gracious Lord wants us to enter by the narrow gate in order to lead us to eternal life. He said, "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it." The last phrase really hits home! How many people really understand it? How many people know that one has to enter the small gate and walk the narrow way in order to be led into eternal life? If few are those who find it, fewer are those who would enter it! No wonder the Lord said, "Many are called, few are chosen!" Again, we encounter a difficult theological problem here: Is eternal life obtained by believing in Jesus or by entering by the narrow gate and walking on the narrow way? In other words, are there conditions in receiving eternal life? Some might say, "Salvation is by grace through faith, but we also need to pay a price!" While this statement seems to be a reasonable explanation, it is actually quite contradictory. "Being freely justified" requires no conditions. If it requires conditions, then it is not "free"! (Rom. 3:24) "Eternal life" is a "free gift of God" (Rom. 6:23)! If it is a free gift, then there isn't a price. Thank God, eternal life is a gift. Anyone who is willing to accept it can enjoy it. There is no price to be paid. In fact, it is priceless!
How do we resolve this difficult problem then? According to the principle we learned earlier, we can figure out that "eternal life" must have more than one meaning. Yes, it has. "Eternal life" has at least four meanings. We shall only look at two. The first meaning is "God's free gift" (Rom. 6:23). It is God's life that He gives to us as a present as previously mentioned. The second meaning is the "Kingdom of God". It is the Kingdom that God prepared from the foundation of the world. How do we know? The Scriptures clearly tell us: "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matt.25:46) "Eternal punishment' refers to the "eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt.25:41). Since "eternal life" requires the action of going or entering into, obviously, it is not a gift. It must refer to something else. From the context of the verse, we know that it is the Kingdom prepared by God from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34). This Kingdom is also recorded in Matthew 19:28, 29. ''You who have followed Me" in verse 28 refers to the same people as "Everyone who has left houses..." in verse 29. "In the regeneration...you shall also sit upon twelve thrones..." in verse 28 is the same as "shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life" in verse 29. Therefore, "inherit eternal life" in verse 29 is the same as "sit upon the thrones'' in verse 28. Therefore, "eternal life" refers to God's free gift and also the Kingdom He prepared since the foundation of the world. In the verse quoted in this chapter ("leads into eternal life") the eternal life refers to the Kingdom or a sharing of kingship with the Lord. Please notice that to enter by the small gate and walk in the narrow way is the basic requirement to be in the Kingdom personnel and to reign with the Lord. Unfortunately few are those who find it! Fewer yet are those who enter the small gate! Even fewer are those who walk the narrow way!
Now that the meaning of eternal life is clear, there are still two urgent questions that need to be answered. One is the small gate and the other is the narrow way. For convenience sake, the "narrow way" will be first explained. What is the "narrow way"? The narrow way is what leads people into eternal life. In other words, it is the short cut into the Kingdom of Inheritance. Those taking this short cut are those ''who do the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). This is because the gracious Lord said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven!" On that day (not now), no matter who they are, if they do not walk the narrow path and do the will of the Father, it does not matter how excellent is their work, the gracious Lord will not acknowledge them! This would include preachers, those who can cast out demons, and workers of miracles. The Lord will not allow them, the lawless people, to enter into His Kingdom!
Now that we know what the "narrow way'' is, but if we cannot find the "small gate", we would not know where to begin! In other words, we must first enter into the small gate before we can walk the narrow way, i.e., to do the will of the Father who is in heaven. What is the small gate? The author was stuck on this for quite a while! One day, suddenly a voice said to the author, "Small gate, small gate is in Romans,chapter 12!" At first, the author could not understand. Chapter 12 of Romans does not have the word "small gate". After thinking it over and over again, it became clear as day that the small gate is in verse 1. Why is that? The reason is that Paul's epistles have a certain style. The first half of the epistle usually talks about life. The second half talks about living (walking the narrow way). The first eight chapters of Romans are about "life". Chapters 9 to 11 is a side track on the relation between the fate of the Jews and the church. Chapter 12 starts to talk about "living". Verse 1 and 2 in chapter 12 is concerned with the beginning of living--the beginning of walking on the narrow way. This is equivalent to saying: To live a spiritual life, one must begin by taking this action of personal dedication (to enter by the small gate). God saved us and He gave us grace upon grace. He did so much for us and now He has only one request. He wants us to enter in the small gate--to present or dedicate ourselves. He knows that if we do not enter into this small gate, we cannot be transformed and our mind cannot be renewed. Also we will not be able to prove what is the will of God which is good and acceptable and perfect--to walk the narrow way. Furthermore, we cannot begin the training process for being a member of the Kingdom personnel.
To present oneself as a living sacrifice (dedication) has always been misunderstood by Chinese churches in the past. They thought that only the preachers have to present themselves as a living sacrifice. They did not know that to present oneself and to be a preacher are two entirely different things. To present oneself is the basic duty every believer should fulfill. Christ did so much for us and now He has only one request which is to present ourselves. What then is the meaning to present ourselves? Please read 2 Corinthians 5:15, ''They who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf'. This is the meaning of "dedication"! As for being a full time preacher. one must be called by God and also sent by God. If a person is unclear about God's calling or sending, he should not do anything rash! Otherwise, not only will God not be responsible, He would even object (Jer. 23:32)! After one has presented oneself, one needs to apply for enlightenment continuously. Pray daily in the morning and evening to the Heavenly Father that He would give you spirit of wisdom through His revelation, so that you might have a full knowledge of God and know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches and glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward those who believe (Eph. 1:17-19). In this manner, after the basic requirement is fulfilled, then the training of Kingdom personnel can proceed. May all honor, power, praise and thanksgiving be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen!