In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His audience that there are only two ways by which they would pass through life. In Mt. 7:13, 14 He described them as the broad way and the narrow way. The broad way, He said, leads to destruction, but the narrow way leads to life. He also said that more people will travel down the broad way than those who find and follow the narrow way. He did not allow for any other option.
We sometimes speak of staying on the “straight and narrow”, a phrase that is derived from the old King James Version, which speaks of the “strait gate” and the “narrow way”. The point, of course, is that there is only one way that leads to heaven, and it is the path less traveled. This way is a more difficult path, as the old English word “strait” suggests, rather than being an unwavering line, as the modern term “straight” suggests. It is a way of life that submits to the commands of the Lord and eschews the ways of the world.
The most significant aspect of the Lord’s description of the path that leads to life, however, is the term “narrow.” This suggests that there is no room to waver, or to stray to one side or the other. This is not a popular idea in many religious circles today, but the concept of a narrow way is well documented in the scriptures. It is stated in a very powerful manner in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, and was endorsed by the Lord Himself during His earthly ministry.
When Moses was preparing Israel to enter the Promised Land after his death, he reminded them of God’s Law, and was the first to cite the principle of a narrow way. In Deut. 5:32 he said, “So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.” He repeated this command in Deut. 7:19, 20 with regard to the future kings of Israel, and again as he revealed the covenant of blessings and curses to Israel in Deut. 28:14. Later, God bound Joshua with the same charge in Josh. 1:7. Just before he died, Joshua repeated this charge to Israel (Josh. 23:6).
This is a powerful statement of what God requires of His people. He expects us to stay on the pathway of obedience to His commands. He does not want us to veer from the path to either side of it. His way is a narrow way, and it is the only way that leads to eternal life. Our Savior made this clear in Jn. 14:6, where He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (emphasis added). There is simply no alternative to God’s narrow way.
In our time, we often use the terms “right” and “left” to describe a conservative point of view versus a liberal point of view. Even in the church we often use these terms, and depending upon one’s perspective, we extoll the one while vilifying the other. Unfortunately, we greatly err when we do so, because we have ignored or forgotten God’s point of view on matters of faith. God does not call us to be conservative or liberal. He calls us to walk straight down the narrow path. He commands us to not turn aside either to the right or to the left.
A reason for this command is that those of a conservative mindset often tend to add to God’s commands, while those of a liberal mindset tend to take away from God’s commands. Doing either of these things violates God’s will. In Deut. 4:2 Moses commanded Israel that they must not add to or take away from God’s commands. John the apostle restated this principle with regard to the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:18, 19), and we correctly apply this principle to the entire New Testament.
Jesus said that we have two choices: the broad way that leads to destruction, or the narrow way that leads to eternal life. Therefore, let us choose the narrow way, and as we walk this path, let us not turn aside either to the right or to the left.