Narrow Gate - Convergence


#1

I was thinking of Mt. 7:14-15 yesterday, the wide gate and broad way vs. narrow gate and straight way passage; and I saw something I had never seen before. As you know, it is traditionally interpreted to speak of us getting into heaven through a correct set of beliefs. If we believe correctly, then we’re ok. However, I believe this traditional interpretation completely misses the point. And the point is understood only from the context.

Mt. 7:14-15 comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount and what many people fail to note is that in much, most of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is specifically countering the errant beliefs, wrong attitudes, and bad practices of the Pharisees. One of the key phrases that helps us understand this is “you have heard it said”; this was an idiomatic way of referencing the Oral teachings of the Pharisees, elsewhere called the traditions of the fathers. The Pharisees believed that these teachings were the proper interpretation and application of the Written Law of Moses. In fact, they believed that one could not correctly understand and live out the Written Law without these Oral traditions. So when Jesus says “you’ve heard it said”, He is referencing these oral teachings, practices, and beliefs of the Pharisees.

For example, concerning Oaths, the Pharisees had a whole system of oaths that allowed them to lie without technically sinning against God. They could swear by the temple and it didn’t really count, but if they swore by the gold on the temple it did count. So Jesus instructed His audience to not give into that and rather to be a person of integrity whose “yes means yes” and “no means no”.

And concerning praying in public, it’s good to pray. And it’s good to lead coorporate prayer. But if one is doing it so that they can gain the admiration of others, then he is doing it for the wrong reason and it does him no good. And concerning adultery, the Pharisees taught that a married man could sleep with any woman except another Jewish man’s wife and not be committing adultery. Jesus though pointed out how foolish that was and instead called people to not even lust.

So what was the narrow and straight way? It is the convergence of right beliefs, right actions, and right attitudes! These lead to life, abundant life, life filled with and blessed by God! Anything less leads to death and destruction! One can have right beliefs and even right actions, but if one’s attitude is wrong then it’s worthless, even deadly. One can have the right attitudes and beliefs, but if one does not put action with it then it’s worthless, useless, a house built on sand. And if one’s beliefs are wrong, these profoundly effect one’s attitudes and actions. They are all three closely related and strongly influence each of the others. The convergence of all three being right “right” is truly narrow like a narrow security gate through which one must pass where every hidden thing is exposed.

So Jesus is calling us to a convergence of right attitudes, right doctrine, and right actions – the Narrow Way – honesty and integrity of heart, mind, and deeds which leads to a life blessed by God, eternal life! Anything less results in death and destruction!


#2

I appreciate your thougths here Sherman. I imagine that this passage is full of meaning and means more than what the traditional Christian would apply to it, that the narrow way means to believe Jesus’ blood paid the price. It seems likely that the narrow way involves, like you say, a convergence of things. I’ll admit there seems to be a relationship between what we believe and our attitudes/actions.

Most people I know use these verses to defend their view that most people will never find the road that leads to life. It seems like there is blessing for those that enter through the small, narrow gate, but I wonder if it necessarily follows then that people that enter the broad road, experience destruction, will never experience life. Is it possible that these are people that experience hard knocks on their road, but this too is for a purpose? It reminds me a little of the Rom. 11:22 vs. Talbott likes to point to that says, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.” This verse seems like another descriptive way to warn us that the better way is the narrow way. It leads to life, God’s blessing/kindness, whereas outside of it there is pain, consequences, destruction and we are cut off from life.


#3

Hi Amy,

I believe understanding scripture in its context is of utmost importance. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is speaking of right attitudes, right doctrine, and right actions. If either one of those is missing, it results eventually in destruction. Note that it does not say “Tartaroo” - Greek Hell. If Jesus had meant to convey the concept of endless torture, then Tartaroo would have been the word to use, or an equivalent Hebrew word which there isn’t. The result of not having right attitudes, right beliefs, and/or right actions is destruction, whether thats physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, financial, or social. The narrow gate, straight road is when we live having right attitudes, right beliefs, and right actions.

Look at the Sermon on the Mount in outline form.

5:1-11 Beatitudes - right attitudes
5:13-16 Salt & Light - right beliefs about one’s self
5:17-19 Law, jot & tittle, - right attitude towards the Law, the word of God
5:20 Pharisees - prime example of being wrong about everything (doctrine, attitudes, and practices)
5:21-26 Pharisees teaching on Murder - wrong! Seek peace and reconciliation - right.
5:27-30 Pharisees teaching on Adultery - wrong! Seek holiness of thought life - right.
5:33-37 Pharisees doctrine and system of Oaths - wrong! Having integrity - right.
5:38-41 Pharisees teaching on escalating vengeance - wrong! Be forgiving and seek peace - right.
5:43-48 Pharisees teaching on hating enemies (racism) - wrong! Like God love everyone, even enemies - right.
6:1-4 Pharisees giving of alms - wrong motive! Giving should be natural, unconscious even, an outflow of love - right.
6:5-15 Pharisees praying for admiration - wrong motive! Prayer - relational, real, and simplistic - right!
6:16-18 Pharisees fasting for attention - wrong! Fasting for a closer personal relationship w/ God - right!
6:19-24 Living for money - wrong! Use money to Live - Right!
6:25-34 Worry - wrong! Faith - Right!
7:1-6 Judging others - wrong. Helping others - right!
7:7-12 Faith, perseverance in prayer, and doing unto others as you’d have them do to you - Right.
7:13-14 Narrow Gate - right way, leads to life, Broad road, wrong way, leads to destruction.7:15-23 Don’t be gullible, especially in following Charismatic leaders - check the fruit, character.
7:24-29 Wise builders - right attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Foolish builders - no action to their beliefs.


#4

It’s hard once you’ve been indoctrinated in a view to see outside of it. I see, now, that you are applying this to what we reap now, even in this life, right? My dad was pointing out to me awhile ago just how apt we are to interpret scripture as being for later, instead of applying it to our life right now. I can appreciate that God cares about our attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Also, that when we are following His way it’s the narrow way. Sometimes it can feel like, though, that people that don’t go the narrow way don’t reap destruction and the ones that do what’s right aren’t rewarded with life.


#5

I’m sure you remember this, but for the sake of those who don’t: even if that word had been used, context might still indicate something other than endless torture. We can be entirely sure of this, because the one time Tartaroo is used in the NT (2 Peter 2:4), it’s specifically in relation to a situation which contextually (in a couple of different ways) isn’t about endless torture but about remedial punishment instead.

(The sinning angels are kept for “chastening”, a term that practically always means remedial punishment elsewhere in the NT; and are compared directly to persons, destroyed in the Flood, whom Peter has a lot of hope for salvation of, in Jesus, in his other epistle. Peter’s harsh words concerning similar ultra-fallen persons later in the same chapter are contextually mitigated by the observation that “their last has become worse than the first”–a statement Christ applied in the Synoptics to describe the prior state of a man after He had saved the man! The situation wasn’t hopeless in Christ for him; thus similarly not for the ultra-sinners of 2 Peter 2. The similarity of 2 Peter 2 with several of the Hebraist’s warnings may also involve contextual mitigation, depending on how the Hebraist’s own total presentation is put together.)

Anyway, I remember Sherman (or was it someone else…?) being very impressed when I pointed this out several months ago in reply to an identical statement about the use of the term “Tartarus”, so I thought I’d mention it again. :smiley:

Back to his excellently fine comment! :mrgreen:


#6

The small narrow gate into God’s kingdom that has been perfected by Jesus’ crucifixion is NOT the combine of your personal attitudes and conjectures that are a self assessment. For it is first necessary to hear what the gate is and then an individual’s necessity to use the gate to be saved from the penalty of eternal death.


#7

Very insightful, Sherman!

Jesus closes the sermon with Matt 7:24ff “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

which corresponds to what you are discerning about the narrow and wide gate. The choice is between LIFE and DEATH in my life here and now, and Jesus is saying that most people don’t find the Narrow path of LIFE! :frowning:

Which reminds me of something else I wanted to share with you (IIIRC, I saw you mention the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil elsewhere) In the Garden of Eden, there were two trees. One was the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” (abbreviate TOTKOGAE). The other was the “Tree of Life”.

Eating the TOTKOGAE brought DEATH. But Sherman, its not just “the knowledge of EVIL”. How can “the knowledge of GOOD” bring death? Personally, I think its got to do with self righteousness, phariseeism. Like you mentioned they had this whole system whereby they thought they were “righteous”. They depended on their own “goodness” instead of eating of the Tree of LIFE!.

ALL the things in the Sermon on the Mount, we can be empowered to fulfill, through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, not in our own strength. Partaking of the Tree of Life (Jesus) will keep us on that path of LIFE.


#8

Gem, what you are saying about the two trees is very thought provoking. I’m going to have to think about this some more.


#9

I’ve long said that the tree of the knowledge is the tree of religion. :wink:

Makes for a really neat and tidy way to condemn fault-finding pharisaism. :mrgreen:


#10

Except that quite a number of "you’ve heard it said"s are actually quotes from the Law of Moses:

"Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: " - Matthew 5:21 (Exodus 20:13)

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:” - Matthew 5:27 (Exodus 20:14)

“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:” - Matthew 5:31 (Deut. 24:1)

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:” - Matthew 5:38 (Exodus 21:24)

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.” - Matthew 5:43 (Leviticus 19:18)

Granted, some of these laws the Pharisees have taken liberty to add onto the sayings, for instance it does not say anywhere in the Law that one should “hate thine enemy”. But for the most part, these sayings are correctly reflected in the Law.

While it is temting to paint all the Pharisees in Jesus’ time with the same brush, I must point out that of all the sects that existed at that time, the Pharisees were considered the closest adherents to the written Law. (But Josephus notes that there were seven types of Pharisees - See here) But Josepus also quotes that the Pharisees “follow what the Word* (of God) in its authority determines and transmits as good. They believe that to keep what (God) wished to counsel is worth fighting for.” They distained the Hellenistic philosophy that crept up in Jewish thought and, of course, differ from the Sadduccees and Essenes on certian theological points.

There’s reason to believe that Jesus gain instruction from the school of Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary Pharisee who taught to “love peace, seek peace, love mankind and thus lead them to the law” and was in opposition to another Pharisee Rabbi Shammai, who taught a most rigid adherance to the Law.

But the problem with the Pharisees which Jesus encountered (probably of the Shammai school) wasn’t in teaching the Law, even in the most rigid sense, but that they were simply hypocrites to the Law themselves:

  • “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” - Matthew 23:1-4 *

Here Jesus endorses His listeners to keep that which the Pharisees teach, but don’t do like them in making the Law burdensome, which the Oral Law imposed.

When Jesus is appealing to “keep these sayings of Mine” He’s really telling his audience to look at the Law for what it is, as instruction on how to Love God and love thy neighbor, not just as an religious obligation or duty to perform.