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The Narrow Door

by Edward Fudge

A gracEmail subscriber inquires concerning the text in which someone asks Jesus, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” and Jesus answers, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Lk. 13:23-24).

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Jesus is not saying that those who are finally saved will be numerically few, for elsewhere we learn that they will be too many to count (Gen. 15:5; Rev. 7:9). This conversation is not about mathematics but regarding presumptions of special privilege. In the following verses, Jesus identifies those who will be excluded from the Kingdom. They are individuals who had a casual acquaintance with Jesus but were not really his intimate friends at all (13:26-27).

Jesus’ statement, “Depart from me, all you evildoers,” is quoted from Psalm 6:8. The Psalms often use the term “evildoers” or “workers of iniquity” to describe hypocrites in Israel, people who claim to belong to God but whose hearts are far from him. The exclusion of hypocritical Jews will be all the more ironic, says Jesus, when they see the Gentiles (those who “come from east and west”) joining Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the messianic feast (Lk. 13:28-29).

It is not enough to be acquainted with Jesus, or even to “know” much about him. What counts in the day of judgment is to be known by him – to be in relationship with him in genuine, mutual friendship. Those of us who fill churches today need to hear that message just as much as the Jews did in the first century. God’s “chosen people” have no claim on God, not then and not now. Their status is always one of wholly unmerited grace – which God may extend at any time to anyone he wishes. Jesus’ admonition in this passage still rings in solemn warning – “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Lk. 13:24).

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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10