THE NARROW DOOR
Luke 13:22 30
When I was a child, we learned to sing a little chorus that said, "One door and only one, and yet its sides are two,
I am on the inside, on which side are you?" The little chorus was based on statements like this of our Lord about
the narrow door.
This whole discussion began as a response to a question. The unnamed ques¬tioner asked, "Lord, are only a
few people going to be saved?" He probably asked the question to start a debate. This was the kind of question
that the teachers of the day debated. Most of them had accepted the proposition that all of the Jews would be
saved, but that the Gentiles would be lost. The man who asked the question probably assumed that he would be
among the "few". Most people make that assumption.
The response of Jesus was to point the man, and all who heard Him, to the narrow door to salvation, and to
admonish, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door."
Jesus is using a familiar figure here. He is using the Biblical image of the marriage feast. The kingdom of God is
a great feast in which we will participate with celebration. To be saved is to be in this kingdom. Jesus is declaring
that there is just one door into the realm of spiritual reality that we call the kingdom of God, and this door is
narrow. Jesus is declaring that He has come into history to open a door for mankind to enter into the kingdom of
God, the feast of celebration. But we must make sure that we have entered. Instead of spending our time
speculating about how many will be saved, the urgent question is "Have I been saved? Have I gone through the
narrow door?" In order to help us be sure about this, let's look at what we can learn about the narrow door.
I. GOD HAS MADE THE NARROW DOOR TO THE KINGDOM ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYONE
The man probably asked his question with an assumption. He probably assumed that the people of the nation of
Israel would be saved, and probably no one else. Is it not amazing how we tend to think that only our brand will
be saved? But the response of Jesus revealed that we can expect some surprises in heaven. Some of the
people we expect to be there will be missing. But some people we did not expect to make it will be there.
Jesus described graphically the day of judgment when the truly saved are revealed. Those who thought they
were saved, but were not, will experience great grief and regret. "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of
teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves
thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the
kingdom of God.''
Jesus does affirm that the believing people of Israel have a part in His salvation. The door is open to them. The
mentioning of the names of the patri¬archs of Israel is a confirmation of this. They are some of the "first" to go
through the narrow door. Jesus also affirms that the door is open to the people of all nations. He sees the people
coming to take their place at the feast in the kingdom from all of the points on the compass. This must have been
a shock to the Jewish man who had raised the question. This is clearly our Lord's way of saying, "The door to the
kingdom is now open to everyone.''
We still have difficulty accepting this. Those who have grown up in the church do not have difficulty believing that
it is open to us, but we do have difficulty believing that it is open to everyone. Almost every one of us have at
least one group of people that we would exclude. For some of us, it is a racial or national group. For some of us,
it may be people of a certain moral corrup¬tion that we would exclude. We too will be surprised to see who has
come through the narrow door in the last day. But some of you have difficulty believing that the door is open to
you. You just cannot believe that you can ever be worthy of a part in the eternal kingdom of God, of a place at
the feast of the kingdom. You are the very one to whom the door is open in a special way.
II. GOD KEEPS THE NARROW DOOR TO THE KINGDOM OPEN FOR A LIMITED TIME
Jesus sets this forth in the parable He uses. "Once the owner of the house
gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door to us.' Then
you will say, 'we ate and drank with you, and you
taught in our streets.' But He will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come
from. Away from me, all you evildoers!''
God is the owner of the house. He is the host at the feast to which the people have been invited. He surely has
the right to shut the door, and bring an end to His invitation. This is precisely what He does in the parable. The
door is shut by God. It is not until the door is shut that the invited guests who did not come in will realize the
urgency of their plight. Then they will begin to knock on the closed door, and plead for entrance, but it will be too
It is true that the door is to be open to the human family for only a limited time. God has revealed to us in the
Bible that this special period of grace is to be a limited time. The time of grace, the time of the open door that we
enjoy now, is to be followed by a demonstration of the judgment of God. A part of that demonstration of judgment
will be the closing of the door. The day of opportunity will be gone forever. This puts urgency into our task as a
church. This puts urgency upon those who have an opportunity to enter the door.
It is also true that the door is to be open to the individual for only a limited time. The time of the open door is
limited at least to the limits of your life upon the earth, and may be even more limited. But you can be sure, on
the basis of Scripture, that if you have not entered the narrow door when death comes, you will find the door
shut forever. You have missed your last opportuni¬ty to ever be a part of God's eternal kingdom. God grants to
us a "space to repent".
It is also limited by your capacity to enter the door. There is a process of deterioration that goes on in a life of
sin. Every time a man looks at that narrow door, and does not go through it, it becomes ever more difficult for
him to enter the door. It is not that the door becomes narrower, but rather he just looses some of his capacity to
make the response that is necessary to enter the door. So the door is truly open for only a limited time.
In the book John Volume III, William Barclay quotes the following statistics. "E. D. Starbuck, in his book The
Psychology of Religion, has some interesting and warning statistics about the age at which conversion normally
occurs. Conversion can occur as early as seven or eight; it increases gradually to the age of ten or eleven; it
increases rapidly to the age of sixteen; it declines steeply up to the age of twenty; and after thirty, it is rare.''
III. GOD REQUIRES A WHOLE HEARTED EFFORT TO ENTER THE NARROW DOOR
The man who asked the question must have it in a casual manner. He
probably asked in the same tone of voice that one would use when asking, "Who do you think will win the Super
Bowl this year?" While it is a question that will
provoke debate and discussion, it will not stir you to any effort or anxiety unless
you happen to be betting on one of the teams. This must have been the attitude
of the man with the question. Jesus quickly moved the question from the casual
to the serious.
Jesus gave a command, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to
enter and will not be able to." "Make every effort" translates as a strong word. The King James Version translates
it "strive". The Greek word has come into English as "agonize". It was a word used to describe the efforts of the
athlete. It means to struggle, to strain every nerve. The force of the word gives this a continuous force. This is
the atti¬tude that is to characterize our Christian commitment all the way through. This rules out a half hearted,
indifferent, lazy kind of response to the kingdom. The half hearted will never get through the narrow door.
Jesus describes the door as "narrow" to emphasize the difficulty that is involved in getting into the kingdom. This
suggests that it is not entered easily. The door is narrow because of man, not because of God. Everything about
man's condition makes it difficult for him to give the whole hearted response to God that is necessary to enter
Man is a sinner this means that he is naturally inclined to put himself above God. He is naturally inclined to think
that he can work out his salvation on his own. But the door is so narrow that you can never get through it until
you admit that it is your only hope.
Man is also inclined to put the things of the world above God. This is the reason that Jesus warned of the
difficulty of the rich man getting into the kingdom of God. The door is narrow so you come in only with whole
hearted effort. This does not mean that man earns salvation, rather it just reveals that the condi¬tions of
salvation are whole hearted.
Repentance is a whole hearted response to God. Repentance is turning from sin and turning to God. You
cannot do that half way. A half turn toward God is no turn at all. You cannot enter the kingdom of God unless
you thoroughly repent of your sin.
Faith is a whole hearted trust in God. It is not just a simple mental acceptance of the reality of God. Such a
mental assent will never get you into the narrow door. You can come through this door only if you believe with
your heart. This means that you are trusting Him, and Him alone, for salvation. You have given up on every other
hope for your life. This is what you strive for. You do not strive to make yourself acceptable before God. Rather,
you strive to repent of sin and to commit your life to a way of trusting obedience to Jesus Christ.
The man asked the wrong question. He should have asked, "Will I be saved?'' What does it matter if few or many
are saved, and I am not saved? What does it matter if I find the door shut? Jesus really gave some good news in
this pas¬sage. He declared that the door to the kingdom of God is accessible to all. It is open now, but it will not
be open forever. He also lets us know what is required for entrance. It will do us no good to make our appeal that
we did not know such whole heartedness was required. Now you know. What will you do about it?
I quote Watchman Nee from page 38 in his book, What Shall This Man Do? "In England in the early nineteenth
century was a woman who had Christian parents and who for years had longed to be saved. She went to hear
this and that preacher and visited churches and chapels in search of salvation, but all in vain. One day she
wandered into a little chapel with no real expectation in her heart, for she was almost in despair. She sat down at
the back. The speaker was an elderly man. Suddenly in the middle of his address he stopped and pointed his
finger at her and said: 'You Miss, sitting there at the back, you can be saved now. You don't need to do
anything!' Light flashed into her heart, and with it peace and joy. Charlotte Elliott went home and wrote her well
known hymn, 'Just as I am, without one plea ... 0 Lamb of God I come.''