"...but try the spirits whether they are of God..." (1 Jno. 4:1)
|Volume Five, Number Two||Summer 1997|
Jesus is widely misunderstood. Men misunderstand as to who He is. They also misunderstand as to what He taught and as to how He taught it.
Many people hold that Jesus taught that men are free to believe and do whatever they like (no matter how contradictory of how he taught) and still be pleasing to God. Such people hold that one may commit even such crimes as murder, rape, lying, stealing, adultery, et al. and be pleasing to God even while they refuse to repent of their sins. This notion is simply false. Jesus was not a "namby-pamby" teacher. He did not equivocate. He was not ambiguous. He never said to any one, "Believe what you wish and do what you please--I will save you by my grace without regard to what you do or do not do"!
Yet men will say, "Jesus is so good--He will never allow anyone to be lost." Jesus is good, but it is not true that He is "goody-goody" (in the sense of allowing men to run roughshod over His teachings as if He were nothing but a mere man)! There are a number of statements made by Jesus which are recorded in the Sermon on the Mount which make this point very, very clear. Among these statements is the one recorded in Matthew 7:13-14, which reads as follows:
Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate and straightened is the way that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it. (American Standard Version).
The basic aim of this editorial is to "take a look" at the various elements of this teaching by Jesus.
I. Jesus Decisively Taught That There Is No Middle Inviter Between Himself And Satan
1. The Bible plainly teaches the reality of both Jesus Christ and Satan (the devil).
(1) The reality of Jesus. The gospel according to John begins with the following words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.
...And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth (John 1:1-3, 14, ASV).
Thus, there can be no doubt that the Bible plainly declares the reality of Jesus , the Word who became flesh. The Word was God (timeless existence, He always was God--without beginning). He became flesh (Jesus of Nazareth, born of the virgin Mary). When the Word became flesh, while remaining God, He became what He was not before--that is, He became flesh (man, John 1:14; 1 Tim. 2:5).
(2) The reality of the devil. Matthew's record makes clear that the devil really does exist and has the power to tempt. He tempted Jesus Himself (Matt. 4:1-11). The apostle Peter warns men in the following way:
Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom stand fast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world.
2. The Bible teaches that there is no middle INVITER between Christ and Satan. During the period when the Law of Moses was in force for the Jews, God inspired Moses to teach Israel that they must choose between the only two alternatives: (a) a blessing or (b) a curse. To have the blessing, one must have the approval of God. To have the approval of God, one must obey ("hearken to") the instructions which God had given to him. To fail to hearken unto those instructions was to become the recipient of the curse (punishment for sin). See Deuteronomy 11:26-28.
Actually, Jesus does not merely "invite" (although He does do this); He commands men to submit to Him in faithful obedience to His word (Matt. 11:28-30; cf.: Heb. 5:8,9; II Thess. 1:7-9; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 22:16).
There is really no ultimate inviter (to a way of life) to men other than Jesus Christ and the devil. While it is true that there are thousands of people who with regularity are inviting other people to accept this or that religion, it is nevertheless the case that every human being who urges another to accept some particular uses either the doctrine of Christ or the doctrine of the devil in extending that invitation to others.
Each human being will--even must--accept either the invitation which Jesus Christ extends to men or the invitation which the devil extends to men. It is simply the case that there is no other ultimate inviter than these two. Every man will listen to and obey either Jesus Christ or Satan (Matt. 11:28-30; I Pet. 5:8).
II. Jesus Decisively Taught That There Is No Middle Message Between Truth And False Doctrine
1. There is one--and only one--body of doctrine which is true. In Ephesians 4:4-6, the apostle Paul taught that there are seven "ones"--there is one God, one Lord, one Spirit, one hope, one faith, one baptism, and one body. The "one faith" is the one body of doctrine which is the gospel of Christ (the law of Christ, the word of God, the doctrine of Christ; et al.). Just as there is one--and only one--God, there is only--and only one--Son of God (Jesus Christ). And, just as there is one--and only one--Son of God, so there is one--and only one--body of doctrine (the faith, the gospel) which belief of and obedience to will save a man from his sins (Rom. 1:15-17; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:22-47; 3:17-23).
2. Any religious doctrine other than the faith (the gospel of Christ) is powerless to save anyone. No mere human doctrine--no matter how sincere and conscientious may be the believer of it--can save the soul of any man. Every man who fails to obey the gospel of Christ will be eternally lost (II Thess. 1:7-9). Only those who do the will of God will be saved (Matt. 7:21-22; 24-27). No man who does not do the will of Christ has the right to call Him Lord (Lk. 6:46; cf. Acts 3:22-23).
3. There is no middle message between the gospel and false doctrine. Either one will believe and obey the gospel of Christ or else he will obey some false doctrine, be it atheistic, agnostic, or some human religious doctrine.
(1) Jesus wants every man to recognize--live by--the gospel of Christ as the one and only body of doctrine the obedience to which will save his soul. Jesus wants every man to understand that no mere human doctrine (one which has its source from men and not from God) can save the soul of any one.
(2) On the contrary, Satan (the devil) wants every man to reject the gospel of Christ as too narrow, too "old fogy," too restrictive, too "fun-killing," and so on and on. This is why so many people say such things as, "Every person has a right to his own belief. If I am sincere in my religion, Christ will save me no matter what I believe and do in religion." But such is simply not true (see II Thess. 1:7-9; Heb. 5:8,9; Rev. 2:10; Mat 7:13-27; et al.). Satan wants men to accept and follow mere human doctrines. He wants men to think that the doctrines which have been invented and preached by various denominations are just as powerful to save as is the true gospel of Christ. He wants men to think that when men draw conclusions as to what the will of God is, God will accept what they believe and do, even if their conclusions contradict what the Bible really does teach. The devil wants all men to believe that they are simply FREE to believe and do what they themselves want to do in religion. He wants men to think that they will be judged (at the Judgement) by their own interpretations of the Bible (even if their interpretations contradict Bible teachings in regards to obligatory matters) and not what the Bible itself really does teach. That all of this is false is made clear by the following passages of Scripture: (a) Galatians 1:6-9 makes clear that No ONE can teach another (different) gospel (from the gospel of Christ) without being anathema--God allows no one to PERVERT his word, (b) John 12:48 teaches that men will be judged by the word of God--not by some human doctrine, and (c) Revelation 22:18-19 makes clear that God will not tolerate either adding to or taking from His word.
All men are amenable to the gospel (law) of Christ (the one faith), and, thus no man can reject it with impunity.
There is no middle message between the message of Christ (the gospel) and the message of Satan (any message other than the gospel of Christ).
III. Jesus Decisively Taught That There Is No Middle Gate Between The Narrow Gate and the Wide Gate
In the preceding material, it has been shown (a) that there is no middle inviter (of man) between Christ and Satan and (b) that there is no middle message between the truth (the gospel) and false doctrine. This means that every man must answer (obey) the "invitation" of either Christ or Satan--there is no other inviter to respond to. It also means that every man must obey either the truth or false doctrine--there is no other message (as pertains to the soul) which man can obey.
Now, in the third place, it must be noted that there is no middle gate between the narrow gate and the wide gate.
The "narrow gate" is that by which one leaves the world and enters into Christ (into the body of Christ, the church which Jesus purchased with His own blood, Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:22-23). One is enabled to "go through" this narrow gate by--and only by--favorably responding to the one "inviter" (Jesus) by opening the one message (the gospel). The culminating act (following the hearing, learning, believing the gospel, repenting of one's sins, and confessing the name of Christ is to be baptized. No one can accidentally enter in at the narrow gate; one must learn and obey the truth--the one and only truth which is the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:4-6; Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:15-17; Gal. 1:6-9;; II Thess. 1:7-9 et al.). It is those--and only those-- who gladly receive the word (the truth, the gospel) who can enter in at the narrow gate (Acts 2:22-47; not especially 2:41; cf. John 3:3-5; Gal. 3:26-27). It is only the narrow gate which provides entrance to the "straightened way" (the living of the Christian life) which--if faithfully followed--will lead to everlasting life (Rev. 2:10).
The "wide gate" is entered when men sin (that is, by violating the word of God, I John 3:4; Rom. 3:23: Isa. 59:1-2). Unlike the narrow gate (which requires that a man do what is specifically required by the one message of Christ), one can enter through the "wide gate" by countless ways of thinking and/or doing. Any disobedience of the word of God or any obedience of false religious doctrine will cause one to enter in at the wide gate. The wide gate provides the entrance into a life of ungodliness--it provides the entrance into "the broad way" which leads to everlasting punishment.
There is no middle gate between the narrow and the wide gate. Every man either will enter in at the narrow gate or at the wide gate.
IV. Jesus Decisively Taught That There Is No Middle Way Between The Straightened Way and The Broad Way
1. If one has entered the narrow gate (been baptized--as a penitent believer in Christ--into Christ), then he has become a Christian (a child of God, one saved from his sins by the blood of Christ, Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-5). This means that he then begins the walk down the "straitened way" which leads to eternal life (heaven).
On the other hand, if one has entered in at the wide gate, then he has entered into a life of sin (he has become a child of the devil, one lost in his sins, separated from God). Thus, he is then walking down the broad way which leads to everlasting punishment (hell, Matt. 25:46).
2. To walk in the straitened way involves commitment to Jesus Christ, to truth and righteousness. Jesus made clear that for any child of God to be faithful to Him (Jesus), he must "take up his cross daily" and follow after Him (Lk. 9:23). This means that, to be faithful to Jesus, one must be willing to pay any price in order to be obedient to the will of Christ (Lk. 9:24). The apostle Paul made this clear when he said (in the face of great danger to himself) that he was ready not only to go to prison but also to die in order to be faithful to Christ (Acts 21:13). Jesus clearly taught that to be faithful to Christ one must love Him (Jesus) more than one's spouse, one's parents, one's children, one's possessions, and one's own life (Lk. 14:25-26). This all means that there are simply some things which one cannot do and be pleasing to God. For example, one cannot (a) love, espouse, and follow (obey) false doctrine, (b) do that which is not authorized by the gospel (II John 9-11), (c) be involved in the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8) and still walk in the straitened way of Matthew 7:13-14. One must espouse and obey the truth and only the truth. One must do in religion only that which is authorized by the gospel of Christ. One must be involved in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23; cf. II Pet. 1:5-11).
There is no middle way between the straitened way and the broad way. The broad way allows being involved in the espousal of false doctrine, doing that which is not authorized by the sacred Scriptures, being involved in the works of the flesh, being members of the "churches" (religious bodies) which were not purchased by the blood of Christ (denominations).
Every man on earth is walking either in the straitened way or the broad way. There is simply no way for a man to walk in. There is no middle way between the straitened way and the broad way.
V. Jesus Decisively Taught That There Is No Middle Destiny Between Eternal Life And Eternal Punishment Every man who enters in at the narrow gate and walks faithfully down the straitened way will have eternal life in heaven with God, Christ, and all the saved.
Every man who enters in at the wide gate and walks down the broad way will be cast into eternal punishment (hell) when his life is over.
Jesus taught that at the Judgement evil men "shall go away into eternal punishment" but that righteous men "shall go away into eternal life" (Matt 25:46). In Mark 9:43-48, Jesus made clear that the only two eternal destinies into which one may go are life (heaven) and hell.
A passage which marvelously sums up this matter of the possible eternal destinies of men is John 5:28-29. This passage says, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of the life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation" (KJV).
There is no middle DESTINY between the destiny of eternal life and the destiny of eternal punishment.
There is no middle destiny between eternal life and eternal punishment.
The lesson is easily summed up in these five affirmations: (1) There is no middle INVITER between Christ and Satan, (2) there is no middle MESSAGE between the truth and false doctrine, (3) there is no middle GATE between the narrow and wide gate, (4) there is no middle WAY between the straitened way and the broad way, and (5) there is no middle DESTINY between eternal life and eternal punishment. [Via The Spiritual Sword, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 1-5).
CHALLENGE is published quarterly by Challenge Publications.
Jerry D. McDonald, Editor; Michael P. Hughes, Associate Editor.