The Wide or Narrow Roads

What Is Truth?


Dr. John Hoole – November 19, 2017




One of the biggest question that will ever be answered is the question, “Which way to heaven?”  The most important decision that anybody will ever make is the decision that they make regarding their eternal destiny.  Life here, says the Bible, is a vapor that appears for a little time and vanishes away.  It is like steam off a cup of coffee, nothing more, compared to eternity.  Everyone will live somewhere forever without end.  Where you live forever is absolutely critical.  There are two options: It is either hell and eternal punishment, or heaven and eternal joy.


In our study of the Sermon on the Mount, we have come to that part about the wide and narrow roads --- as found in Matthew 7:13-14.  But before we specifically dissect those verse, let’s look at the words of Christ in John 18.


John 18:36-38 NKJV – He is standing before Pilate.


36     Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."

37     Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

38     Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no fault in Him at all.”




Bob Dylan said, “All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.”  Is it really that depressing?  Most people are a little more optimistic in their outlook.


Truth is the conformity to fact or what actually exists.  It speaks of reliability, stability and continuance.  Truth is something that is constant.  It never changes.  Truth doesn’t care about the preponderance of scholarly opinion.  Just because people believe something is true doesn’t make it so.  Likewise, truth doesn’t lose its validity if the preponderance of scholarly opinion is against it.  Truth is truth, regardless.  It never changes.


Pilate lived in an age of Gnostics, Epicureans, Stoics, Platonist, and other philosophical theorists.  What is Truth?  One person says one thing, while another believe something altogether different.


This is not unlike the world in which we live today.  The whole world, regardless of culture, has attempted to answer Pilate’s question.  The funny thing is, the very truth they have searched so hard to find, is also the very thing they have fought so strongly against having applied to their lives.  Let me explain what I mean.


Have you ever heard such statements as:


       •  “All roads lead to heaven”

       •  “You Christians are so narrow.  You think you have exclusive rights to heaven.”


Think about truth for a few minutes.  Truth, by its very nature, is exclusive.  (i.e., you cannot make a true statement about anything without excluding other things.)  For example:  2 plus 2 equals 4.  That is not just my opinion; that is fact.  I don’t care what new math you use, if you have two marbles in your left hand and two marbles in your right hand, you have a total of four marbles in both your hands.  That is truth and it cannot change.  But as soon as we accept the statement the 2 + 2 = 4 as being true, it excludes the possibility of 2 + 2 equaling 3 or 5.


Again, by its very nature, truth is exclusive.  People have operated on this basis for all times. You may not fully understand all the mathematical postulates or scientific law, but we should be thankful that these always work only one way.  This would be a very chaotic world if they did not.


And because they always work one way, they are accepted by the scientist and mathematicians as a fact of truth --- and they work to the exclusion of all other possibilities.  It is a fact of life that TRUTH is exclusive.  Error is also a fact of life…….and truth and error are mutually exclusive.


Yet, there are those who are offended by the statement of Jesus, in John 14:6.  John 14:6 (KJV):  I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  They complain, “That’s much too narrow.”  “That excludes all the other religions in the world.”


I would like to challenge any skeptic to really think it through.  See if you can come up with a way of truth that is less exclusive than the invitation of Jesus.  He says, “Whosoever will may come.”  One can hardly issue a more open and generous invitation than that.


“The gift of God is eternal life.”  And this life is free to anyone who will take it.   You can’t beat that.  Any other way is actually more exclusive.


We live in an age of moral relativism.  Everything is relative – nothing is absolute, except that everything is absolutely relative.


The Bible talked about our days.


2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV


3       For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

4       and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.


Moral relativism is now the reigning philosophy of American life --- the idea that truth differs from culture to culture, or from group to group, or from person to person where each person determines their own truth for themselves.


This indifference to truth is at the root of the moral collapse in American life.  Pollster George Barna discovered that 72% of all American reject even the concept of absolute truth.  In response to the question asked by the prophets of old – “how should we then live?” the answer most American gives is “however I please.”


64% of Americans believe, “Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and all others pray to the same god, even though they use different names for that God.”  Unfortunately, the current Catholic Pope agrees, saying, “All major religions are paths to the same God.”


Continuing the poll of Americans:


62%         “It doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because all faiths teach similar lessons about life.”


72%         “There is no absolute standards that apply to everybody in all situations.”


53%         of those who claim there is no such thing as absolute truth identify themselves as “born again Christians.


One professor states: “Whatever else students may dare to do, they will not risk being thought of as moral absolutists…..Almost every student entering the university believes, or at least they say they believe, that truth is relative.”


And yet, here is what another study has stated about what happens if a young person fails to embrace absolute truth as something that governs their lives.


They will be:


         36%         more likely to lie to a parent.


         48%         more likely to cheat on an exam.


         65%         more likely to mistrust other people.


         100%       (or twice) as likely to try to physically hurt someone.


         2 times     more likely to view pornography.


         2 times     more likely to steal.


         3 times     more likely to use illegal drugs.


         2 times     more likely to be angry with life.


         2 times     more likely to lack purpose in life.


         6 times     more likely to commit suicide.



If absolutes exist, and I for one believe they do, it requires people to make some very important choices.


Today, we come to a pivotal point in the Sermon on the Mount.  We come to the end of the main body of his message.  Some scholars would say we now embark on the conclusion of the sermon, where he asks his listeners to apply what He had already taught.


The test of a good message from God isn’t whether the pastor gets a pat on the back.  The test of a good sermon is, did it make us stop and take a look at our lives and, where necessary, make some changes.


That is what happened on the hillside in Galilee.  Jesus turns to the crowd and said, “Now you must make a decision.”  “You must decide what path you will choose to walk.”  And He hits it straight on.  “Which is it – the large gate leading to the broad way, or the narrow gate giving entrance to the straight path?”


That is the way it is with God.  He shows the way but we must decide what we are going to do.  He will not force us to follow him.  He will not make us follow what He knows is the best course for our life.  It is our choice – it is always our choice.


Before we tackle Matthew 7:13-14, let’s examine its place in the entire context of the Sermon.


Matthew 7:13-29 NKJV


13     “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

14     Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15     "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

16     You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

17     Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

18     A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

19     Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

20     Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

21     "Not everyone who says to Me,'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

22     Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'

23     And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

24     "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

25     and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26     "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:

27     and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

28     And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,

29     for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.


At the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – which you have heard me call “The Manifesto of the Kingdom.” Jesus gives his listeners – and us – a wake-up call.  It is a call to listen and obey – a call to follow Him.


Jesus conveys the urgency of his call in a series of word pairs that draw the issues very sharply.  And most of these word pairs will require a choice on our part.


Narrow gate                                    Wide gate                                  verse 13

Narrow path                                    Broad way                            14

Life                                                  Destruction                          13 - 14

Few                                                  Many                                    13 - 14

Sheep                                              Wolves                                  15

(True Prophet)                                False Prophet                       15

Good fruit                                        Bad fruit                               16 - 20

Good tree                                         Bad tree                               16 – 20

Grapes                                              Thornbushes                        16

Figs                                                    Thistles                                16

Doers of His will                              Mere professors                   21 – 23

Wise man                                          Foolish man                          24 – 27

Rock                                                  Sand                                     24 – 27

Did not fall                                         Fell with great crash            24 – 27


Now let’s look specifically at Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)


13.    Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

14.    Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.


In the Sermon on March 5, 2005, our then Pastor, Rick Ross, was teaching in Joshua 5, in his current series at that time: Series: “Wandering or Winning – The Choice is Yours”  The title of that specific sermon was Identity, Loyalty, and the End of a Free Lunch.”  Pastor Rick talked about finding the Children of Israel at Gilgal, as recorded in Joshua 5. In the notes, which were projected on the screen, it read: “Gilgal – a key place for Israel:



I remember, as a teenager, sometime during my first two years of Bible college – 1958-1960, someone speaking at our chapel service on the subject of decision, direction & destiny”.  I don’t remember if Joshua 5 was the text of our chapel speaker.  But I do remember what that person drove home to the students in attendance.


He said your decision will determine which direction you are headed and the direction you are headed will ultimately determine your destiny.


By the time Jesus gets to the end of his message, people had a pretty good idea of the qualitative difference between life that just sort of happens, and life where God makes the rules.


So, near the end of his message Jesus did something that every good preacher or teacher does.  He anticipated the reaction of his listeners.  He knew their hesitation – and ours – and He addressed it head on.


Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)


13.    Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

14.    Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.


These two verses make a provocative statement by our Lord.  That is really the point to which He has been driving in all of this masterful sermon.  He brings the whole thing to a climax of a decision – a choice.  Two gates which bring the individual to two roads which lead to two destinations.  And these two roads are populated by different crowds.


Jesus has brought his listeners to the inevitable decision that has to be made regarding that which He has been saying.  Someone has well said that all of life concentrates on each of us being at a crossroads.  That is really true.  From the time of our life when we are old enough to make an independent decision, or any decision, life becomes a matter of constant decision-making.


I must admit that some of our decision or choices are not that significant.  Whether you choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream would probably not change your life.  But there are other, more essential, life-changing, life-altering decisions.  Choosing a mate will certainly change your life.  Every day in our society people make choices that not only change their earthly lives, but also change their eternal destinies.


For example, through Moses, God confronted the children of Israel, in the 30th chapter of Deuteronomy, and He said this:


Deuteronomy 30:19 NKJV


19     I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;


God gave to the people of Israel the ultimate choice – life or death, good or evil – and He called for a decision.


Joshua, who followed Moses as the leader of the people of Israel as they entered the Promised Land, in the 24th chapter of Joshua, said this:


Joshua 24:15 NKJV


15     And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."


                   Again, a choice is given.


Jeremiah 21:8 (NKJV) heard God say:


8       Now you shall say to this people, 'Thus says the Lord: "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.”


Elijah, on Mount Carmel, called for a decision.


1 Kings 18:21 NKJV


21     And Elijah came to all the people, and said,    "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."


                   This is the ultimate choice.


So our Lord confronts men and women on the hill that day with a decision.  One writer I perused said, “It is make-up-your-mind” time on the mountain.  One thing we cannot do is to sit back and say that the sermon was a great treatise on ethics.  Jesus is not interested in bouquets for His virtues and ethical statements of the Sermon.


Jesus wants a decision about your destiny!


He has articulated the principle of living in His kingdom.  And now He gives us the choice to either enter it or stay out of it.  He demands a response.


Notice the response Christ got in Matthew 9.


Matthew 9:9 NKJV


9       As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him.


This verse describes the scene when Jesus visited Matthew’s place of business and requested that he become one of His disciples.  He called many, if not all, his disciples this way.


Matthew 4:18-20 (NKJV) says:


18.        And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

19.        Then he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

20.       They immediately left their nets, and followed him.




Matthew 16:24 helps answer this question.


24   Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”


We must:


                   1.      Deny ourselves

                   2.      Take up our cross




It refers to all the difficulties, troubles and even sufferings that come as a result of following Christ.


Matthew 5:10-12 reads:


10   Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11   Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  

12   Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you




                   •  It says here that they are persecuted “for righteousness’ sake”




True persecution “for righteousness’ sake” comes as a result of a believer who dares to live what the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount teaches.  The world’s philosophy is exactly opposite of that which Jesus expresses in this Sermon and these opposite viewpoints lead to opposing ways of life.


Let me try to describe it using a couple of diagrams.  What do you and I normally picture in our minds when we think of what Christ says in Matthew 7:13-14 about the “Two Ways” – The Broad Way and the Narrow Way


Do you picture it as all humanity coming to a point - a sort of “Y” in the road…..where they must make a decision which road to take and whatever their decision is will lead them off in opposite directions, like the diagram above.


I do believe we are going in opposite directions, but I think it could be depicted in a better way.  I would like to suggest that we depict the narrow road running right down the middle of the broad road, but in the opposite direction -- like the diagram at the right.  We are walking in one direction, and the world is walking in the other, and it is impossible not to collide at many points along the road.


The point of this last Beatitude is that it teaches us that persecution is the lot of all Christians.  The righteous have always suffered for their faith in one way or another.


It began with Abel’s being killed by Cain – and Cain was a religious man.  Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God (Heb. 11:25) than to compromise his position in Egypt.  Jesus told us that the prophets were persecuted, and warned that it would happen to his followers as well.  The Book of Acts and all of church history since then verify our Lord’s predictions.


Other things which are illustrated by the second diagram of the two roads: We are “in the world, but not of if.”



Now that we have arrived at this place in the Sermon on the Mount, we learn from what we have just briefly discussed, that there are high stakes in the decision we and others must make at this point.  Jesus was admonishing us to realize the gravity of our situation.  There are only two destinations, and thus, you and I cannot remain neutral.  Which road are we going to follow?


        •  The narrow road to life, or the broad way to destruction.


First let’s look at the Broad Road.




1.      It has a wide gate leading to it.


2.      Many people are on this road (it is popular).


3.      It leads to destruction




         What is the significance of its breadth?


         Why is it so popular?




If you think that Christianity is too narrow for you, consider this:  If you are dropped into the middle of a body of water, you have only two options – sink or swim.  You may want the options to be broader or more varied.  We may want to do something else, but, like it or not, sink or swim is all there is.


It’s the same with life.  You are either saved or lost.  There are no other alternative choices.


Through Moses, God said, in…..


Deuteronomy  30:19  (NIV)


19     This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live


         There are only two choices offered here – death or life.