The other day, as I was reading along in my Greek New Testament, I came across some of the most challenging verses in all of Scripture. In Matthew 7:13–14, Jesus makes it clear that the path of salvation will be found by few. Even those who find it, who enter through the gate, will find the road rough and the going difficult. The broad way, leading to destruction, is spacious. The narrow way, the way leading unto life, is cramped.
As I read these words, I began to meditate on what they might mean. What makes the way of life so difficult? Why do so few find it? How could one gate be difficult for everyone who goes through it? Surely there could not be a gate that everyone, no matter what their size, finds it difficult to fit through, could there? And what of the many passages in Scripture that speak of the freedom and the liberty that is found in Christ, of an easy yoke and a lightened burden? What about the repeated assertions in Scripture of the wideness of the gospel offer, that anyone who will come to Christ will be saved, that none will be turned away?
As I meditated, I began to realize that the clue to this “mystery” is in recognizing that the gate is a Door and the Door is a Person. Jesus is the Door. He is the Gate that leads to eternal life. The images of a gate opening onto a narrow road and a door opening onto a confined sheepfold are slightly different but they refer to the same precious reality. What we are freely offered in the gospel is no mere ticket to heaven—it is union with, and ultimate conformity to, Christ Himself. Salvation, as Paul makes clear in Romans 8:28–30 is the beginning of a process of being conformed to the image of Christ Himself, of being shaped into the likeness of the One who has redeemed us, who has brought us into union with Himself.
This is why the door cannot but be narrow, why the road cannot but be difficult. This is why no one fits through the door easily. No one, as Jesus made clear in the Gospel of John, fits through the Door at all, without the Divine working of the Holy Spirit. We are all the wrong size. Some are too timid. Some are too proud. Some are too ignorant. Some are too opinionated. Some are too confused. All of us are too rebellious. We are all, each in our own way, ugly distortions of the Door in whose image our forefather Adam was created.
This is the wonder of the gospel. There is no one who fits through this Door on their own. None of us is the “right size.” Yet all who come, no matter how misshapen they may look to others, will be, through the power of the Holy Spirit, brought through the same Door, and led along the same path—the path of perfect conformity to Christ Himself. The gate is narrow for everyone, the path is difficult for all of us, but the end is glorious for everyone who, through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, repents and believes.