A. S. writes:
Hello. Thanks for your articles. I genuinely believe in salvation by faith alone, by trusting in Jesus Christ as God and His atoning death/blood for the forgiveness of sins.
However, one Scripture that has always confused me is Matthew 7:13-14. What does Jesus mean when He says we need to strive to enter the narrow gate and that the way is hard? Does that seem to imply an intense struggle to be saved?
In other words, how does Matthew 7:13-14 square with Romans 6:23, Galatians 2:16, or Romans 5:1?
Thank you in advance for your response.
He is correct when he asks how to square Matt 7:13-14 with other clear verses that teach justification by faith alone, apart from works. That is the right question.
Some think that Matt 7:13-14 concerns discipleship, not salvation from eternal condemnation. They understand “the way which leads to life” to refer to the path of discipleship that leads to abundant life. However, it is more natural in this context to see the phrase as referring to everlasting life and its path (cf. Matt 18:8-9; 19:16-17).
If everlasting life and justification are in view, we know that the condition is faith in Christ (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; Gal 2:16; Rom 5:1).
Could faith alone in Christ for everlasting life be the narrow gate?
Do some people need to strive in order to believe the promise of everlasting life to the believer?
Yes, and yes.
Most people on Earth today reject the faith-alone message. Even most professing Christians!
Coming from another religion might make you uncomfortable attending church or talking with a Christian about Christ. The faith-alone message may seem like nonsense to you.
The same is true, as well, if you come from most Christian traditions. You would be uncomfortable attending a church that proclaims the faith-alone message.
Striving is not required in order to be born again. The Lord never said that. But for most in His legalistic Jewish audience, striving was necessary.
If you have ever shared the faith-alone message, you know that most people reject it. Most are happy to tell you why you are preaching a false gospel. They will charge you with cheap grace and easy believism. (See here for a blog on easy believism. You can also listen to this podcast on Matt 7:13-14.)
Maybe you could tell them about the narrow gate. What if the narrow gate is the faith-alone message? Are they willing to pray about that? Are they willing to read the Gospel of John and meditate on what they read there? Is striving out of the question for them?
I find it odd that many are willing to strive to enter into life by turning from their sins, committing their lives to Christ, and beginning on the path of discipleship. They are willing to clean up their lives. But they are unwilling to consider that their view may be wrong. The Lord rebuked some legalistic Jews, saying, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
Don’t be afraid to ask someone if he is willing to believe the faith-alone message. Invite him to pray and search the Scriptures with a willing heart.