Words of Faith 9-20-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.  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.
In the time of Jesus, the Jewish faith had certain clearly defined the essentials, but there were some huge differences between the factions called Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes.
Even in common synagogue life, there were certain questions that were asked of any Rabbi who came along that would determine where they stood on various issues. These were not necessarily matters that defined one as Jewish, but they were matters on which Rabbis of some thought and distinction strongly disagreed. How Jesus answered such questions would identify Him with one of the prominent schools of rabbinical thought.
One of the key issues was the nature of salvation. "Sir, are only a few people going to be saved?" "Rabbi, where do you weigh in on the number of people who will be saved?" Is there some limited number?
One idea among Rabbis was that all Jews would be saved collectively as a nation by Messiah. Others said this was true but there were a limited number who could be in heaven. It was not surprising that the people asked this question. As often was the case, Jesus answered in a way that confirmed Scriptural truth, revealed new truth, and was at the same time in sharp variance with the rabbinical schools of the day.
"Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to."
This is perhaps more stunning to us than it was to those who listened at first. We have lived and learned a great deal under the teaching of Rabbi Paul who has taught us richly the grace of God in Jesus Christ. How can "effort" be involved at all? Are we not saved by grace? For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus made it clear that while we are saved by Grace, we are called to respond to that grace. We are saved by grace, but we must cooperate with that grace. We are saved by grace, but we must receive the grace.
We receive by entering through a free gate, but we must walk through it. The Apostle Paul expressed a similar thought to the Philippians exhorting them to "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philip. 2:11-13). Paul did not say to "work for" your salvation. He also affirmed the work of God in us that saves us. But we do "work out" our salvation as we cooperate with God's work within us.
A good image for us might be a fully paid airline ticket. You have your way paid, but you still must pack. You still must come to the airport. You still must check in. You still must confirm your reservation. You still must go through security. Most important, you must still board the flight.
What does Jesus mean "the gate is narrow?" A city like Jerusalem would have a wide gate for the purpose of moving a mass of livestock through all at once. At night, this gate was shut and only a "narrow gate" was available and it was tightly guarded. Jesus was making it clear that we do not enter through a wide "sheep gate." We enter through the narrow gate where identity is checked carefully.
We enter as individuals and the gate is more like passport control, one by one. We are not saved by race; we are saved by grace, which must be received individually. Salvation is not the conclusion of some collective effort. God deals with us individually. We are not saved because we are part of a "mass." We are saved because we respond to God's effort and grace toward us.
How wide is the narrow gate? Simple. One person wide. You do not enter with a group. You do not get a group visa. You do not enter with your family. The gate is one person wide. The marvelous truth of this is that in the end the God of the whole universe finally deals with every person on a completely personal and individual basis.
Now don't misunderstand. This is not an "individualized" or "personalized" basis. There are not a million different "ways of salvation" or even a thousand; there is one. One gate. But we enter one by one.
Jesus defined the narrow gate. Frankly, entry is based upon who you know. Only those who know the owner of the house may come in to the banquet. Jesus said in John 10:9 "I AM the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
If we assume we have a group visa or that there is another way, we make a very grave and eternal error. Many people assume entry is based upon themselves. They say: "I am the gate." Jesus says that you are not the gate. You are not the way in. Jesus is. If you depend upon anything else there is no entry. We must trust completely that Jesus is the way. He is the gate entry, the truth and the way to life.
Some may suggest that this narrow gate idea is too exclusive but the only alternative to the narrow gate is no gate at all. There is a wideness in God's mercy, but the gate through which we respond is very narrow.
Have you responded to the call of God? He has purchased the ticket. Have you confirmed your reservation?
Father God, I give thanks for Your provision in Jesus. I will make every effort to enter through the narrow gate trusting solely in the work of Jesus. In the precious name of Jesus.