(Mat 7:13-14 ESV) "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
What precisely did Jesus mean when he said enter by the narrow gate? First off, he meant that one must enter by him as he proclaimed that he was the door (John 10:7.) It is important to understand who the audience is that Jesus is addressing. The Sermon on the Mount was addressed to the multitude of people that had become followers of Jesus. This was not strictly believers. It was instead a group of people, who for the most part, felt disenfranchised by Rome and the Jewish religious leadership. There was *end of the age* fervor and fever that captivated the thoughts of most everyone in second temple Judaism. They were looking for and hoping for a deliverer Messiah. Most all of these people were Jews and had a fairly strong sense of the Torah and what it meant to be a Jew. For the most part they were all religious or semi-religious people. They believed in the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, when he speaks of the wide gate he is not speaking of the pagan world with all of its concentration on sinning and sensuality as so many Christian theologians have erroneously asserted. He is speaking of the wide gate in terms of people who are concerned for ethics and morality. To bring it to today, he was not speaking to the unbelievers in the nightclubs and or those with lax morality. He was speaking to the ultra-religious. He was speaking to the self-righteous.
In this same passage a little farther on he speaks of false prophets… (Mat 7:21-23) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' (23) And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”
What is the WILL of the Father? Jesus answers this in (John 6:39-40) “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (40) For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
There you have it in a nutshell. The narrow gate is believing in… to spell it out that is, relying on, clinging to, and having settled confidence in Jesus and the gospel message; that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting sin and further that he made him who knew no sin to be made sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in him.
There is a reason that this is considered a narrow gate. It would hang up many of the religious people who were following him in the deserts. They would want the entrance to be gained by their own righteousness and righteous acts. This is the very thing that hangs up so many religious self-righteous Christians. They are not entering by the narrow way but by the wide. They are trusting in their own righteousness.