A Broad Way


I. Only the Narrow Gate leads to life –

A. This way is not necessarily obvious but opens only to those who seek it with a right spirit and for the right purpose (“those who find it are few.”). Jesus just had urged seeking, knocking and asking, from the Heavenly Father in order to find, or be given, good things. (7:7-11).

B. The gate here must be the beginning of the Christian life for it is followed by a way that is hard. If the gate were the culmination of a long journey, then entering the gate would immediately be the joy and blessings of eternal life fully realized. This refers, however, to the road that Jesus had described throughout as beginning with poverty of spirit, mourning, and meekness. It involves being persecuted for righteousness sake, praying and loving those that so persecute, living constantly with true righteousness as the driving force of all thought and action, denial of present pleasures for the sake of heavenly enjoyment, and consistently having a mind toward the well-being of other people, doing to them as we would have them do to us.

C. It leads to life (14).As opposed to the toil of this present life, the straitened, pressing, difficult way (according to the standards of this world) leads to eternal life—that life that is life indeed *(1 Timothy 6:17-19).

D. Though all its ways are pleasantness, and filled with green pastures and still waters, and the restoration of soul, this way necessarily involves mortification of the flesh (Romans 8:13) and a warfare with spiritual forces of this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12). The pleasantness comes from contemplation on the love of God that sought us, the blood of Christ that bought us, and the power of the Spirit that wrought us. We settle for too little if we prefer the passing and deceitful pleasures presently to the inheritance undefiled, unchanging, that fadeth not away reserved in heaven.

II.  The Broad way stands before us without our seeking it and is the default path taken by all who do not seek the other.

A. The gate is wide. Jesus does not teach here that the path to perdition must necessarily be chosen as one of two options that lie before us. No, it is wide, already present to us, and calls for no special effort or investigation. We have not come to two roads that stand before us, considering from a neutral position the implications of both. Those in the broad way do not find it, they simply “enter [that is, into eternity] by it.” They come to consciousness dwelling in a spacious field that is broad, capacious, apparently commodious, and the wandering in it is free; finally, however, it is found to constitute a real journey, a true path with a single destination that ends in destruction. We are “by nature children of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3).  “In their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:16, 17).

B. Given this broadness and our native propensity for it, it is easy. One must simply pursue what is natural to his thinking and his actions. He must follow his present desires and does not have to consider the need for a new affection that would radically alter his thoughts and his direction in life. It involves no repentance, no mortification of sin, no plucking out eyes or cutting off hands in this way (5:29, 30)

C. Its end is destruction. Given the context of Jesus’ teaching in this sermon, one need not be mystified about what he means in this word, “destruction.” Since he gives so many characteristics of those who are citizens of the “kingdom of heaven,” those who do not share those qualifications are not its citizens. Some will “never enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). Some are liable to judgment and the “hell of fire” (5:22). Some with unmortified lusts will “go into hell” (5:29, 30). Some lay up treasures in heaven and others do not (6:19-21). In the day of final judgment, many will hear the Lord say, “Depart from me.”

III. Proclaimers of the Broad Way – verse 15 -20) – Jesus invoked a theme that plods with heavy and persistent steps throughout Scripture: false prophets.

A. Deuteronomy 13:1-6 warns against those that seek to lead away from the clearly verified truths that have been given to Israel and instructs the nation to execute them. Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and others, had to endure the opposition of false prophets. Paul immediately upon the first leg of his first missionary journey confronted Elymas the false prophet (Acts 13:6) and uttered a severe, but just, imprecation on him (Acts 13:10,11). He told the elders at Ephesus to beware of false teachers (Acts 20:29, 30). Peter warned against false teachers in the church as there were false prophets in Israel (2 Peter2:1). John warned against false prophets (1 John 4:1). This warning is consistent with warnings about escaping the broad way by entering the narrow way. There are many ways of error and only one way of truth.

B. Bearers of Bad Fruit – One emphasis of Jesus in this sermon has been consistency between conduct and pure teaching. A parallel passage in Luke 6 shows that Jesus emphasized pure teaching and consistent conduct. Though later in this Matthew passage the emphasis falls on conduct (21, 23, 24), the relation between true doctrine and right conduct has a common source in the conditions of the heart, or the affections. In 12:33 – 37 Jesus emphasized that corrupt teaching proceeds from the mouth because of a corrupt heart within. Broadus cited Jerome: “For it behooves the servants of God that both their works should be approved by their teaching, and their teaching by their works.” We do not observe a one-to-one correspondence between each false teaching and destructive conduct, but there is a general correspondence between an unmortified heart and propagation of false doctrine as well as the phenomenon of false teaching leading to ungodly conduct (Jude 4).In his day of fighting the deadly intrusion of liberalism, Spurgeon posed the question in considering this verse, “What is the effect of modern theology upon the spirituality, the prayerfulness, the holiness of the people? Has it any good effect?”

C. Religious claims – The false prophets that will have the greatest tendency to corrupt the church are those that can gain confidence through their pious appearance.

1. Such teachers will use religious language showing familiarity with the language of Zion without its substance. They have the gift of jargon but not the grace of repentance and faith. I have read many pages of writers that speak of Jesus as “Lord” while denying his deity or decrying the doctrine of the necessity of his redeeming sacrifice. In his biography, The Living of these Days, Harry Emerson Fosdick called himself “an intelligent modern and a serious Christian.” After a dismissal of what he called “ostentatious orthodoxies” (As I See Religion, 37), he pointed to the unique in Christianity as its “reverence for personality” and defined the “Divinity of Christ” as “the idea that, if God is to be symbolized by personal life, he should be symbolized by the best personal life we know” (58). A Christian is one who “shared Jesus’ reverence for personality” (63). Fosdick was fond of using the term “Master” for Jesus and wrote with a damning praise, ”When today I plead against the peril of worshiping Jesus, you see it is not because I, myself, do not exalt him. You know I do exalt him. He is supremely great. That constitutes the seriousness of the situation. He is really great—not to be flattered, not to be pleased by creedal praise or sacramental worship, wanting just one thing so much that he died for it,–the divine Will done in personal lives and social relationships” (The Hope of the World, 99, 100). Fosdick preached that Jesus “did not fear being opposed; he feared being worshiped.” Fosdick wanted people to call Jesus, “Lord, Lord” and have no intention of consenting to his deity in so doing; he did not look for their worship but for their energy in imitating him.

2. These false teachers also claim great power in the realm of the Spirit. Verses 21-23 -The reality is that persons may be gifted, even by the Spirit of God, for certain external actions of might and power and not have a life-altering operation of the Holy Spirit that has brought them to true faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The variations in this category of false faith are legion. The health and wealth gospel manipulates the Bible in the interest of worldly power, wealth, and position. Joel Osteen pronounces, “Because you are a believer, all will be well with you. All will be well with your family. All will be well with your finances. All will be well with your health. All will be well with your career. You need to get ready, because God’s promises are about to come to pass in your life” (Break Out, 133). The social action generated by the Social Gospel dismissed the importance of individual salvation in order to focus on social and economic development in the difficult places on earth. This involved a reinterpretation of Scripture that denied classic doctrines of the person of Christ and his saving work. Compassion and social action should be pursued without its cost being the gospel of eternal life. Pretensions to following Christ that do not involve a real grasp of his Lordship as a person, true love for his will and his commandments as divinely authoritative, a humble submission to his providence (Philippians 4:10-13), and a jealousy for proper interpretation of his word, are all species of miserable delusion.

C. Ignore the teaching of Jesus – Jesus shows the strength of a house that will stand in a storm as opposed to a house that will crash under the weight of disaster. He makes the difference between the two to reside in obedience to his words. Jesus clearly claimed an authority to command and to teach truth throughout this sermon, culminating in this warning that is tantamount to a claim to deity. Fosdick’s explanation of the emphasis of this passage again illustrates the danger of missing the divine authority of Jesus in an effort to isolate his message from his person. This is from a sermon entitled “The Peril of Worshi8ping Jesus.”

We need, however, to imagine what would happen if somehow he [Jesus] could be released from all the brocaded velvets and golden crowns of our too conventional and formal adoration and could speak to us in his own voice. How little he would care for anything that did not involve personal character and social righteousness! How little he would care whether a man idolized his ego, if only he possessed his spirit! What a company he would claim as his own—men and women of all races, colors, creeds, religions, some who had worshiped him and some who had not, in  whom he found his spirit! For he supremely would care that what he stood for should permeate the world. Not every one, not any one, who merely says, “Lord, “Lord! But he that doeth the Father’s will! (The Hope of the World, 106)

This is the classic statement of dividing right belief from right doing.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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