What are the “gate” and the “road” in Matthew 7:13-14?

I like Frederick Dale Bruner’s words about the meaning of the narrow gate and hard road in Matthew 7:13-14. The “gate” is, first and foremost, conversion. The “road” is sanctification. But he points out that Jesus uses the present-tense verb in verse 14: “and how few are finding this way.” This emphasizes what he calls the “daily decisions to find this gate and walk this way.”[1]

He continues:

In summary, the two great facts about Jesus are what we may call his “Gate” and his “Road”: (1) the theological Gate of his gracious substitutionary death and resurrection and (2) the ethical Road of his just as gracious commands to follow him in rugged daily discipleship. Paul majors in the former without neglecting the latter; Matthew majors in the latter without neglecting the former. These two great facts about Jesus have been faithfully preserved in the great liturgies of the church, for example, in the Book of Common Prayer (where I will highlight the saving “two facts”): “Almighty God, who has given your only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin and all an example of his godly life: Give me grace that I may always [!] most thankfully receive his inestimable benefit [at the Gate] and also daily [!] endeavor myself to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life [on the Road]; through [which in the liturgy means, correctly, “by the power of”] the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.[2]

My own preaching over the past several years emphasizes “the Gate” because, first, I always want unsaved people to become saved people. The stakes are heaven or hell, eternal life or eternal damnation; they literally couldn’t be higher. Every time I preach, there are people who hear me who haven’t been converted and need to be.

Second, nothing inspires us on our journey of sanctification like being reminded, often, of what God has done for us, once and for all, through the cross of his Son Jesus. For this reason, I like the way the late Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde put it: “Sanctification is learning to live with our justification.”

A future post will talk about how the doctrine of assurance fits in with all of this.

1. Frederick Dale Bruner, The Christbook: Matthew 1-12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 351.

2. Ibid.

2 thoughts on “What are the “gate” and the “road” in Matthew 7:13-14?”

  1. It took me some time to internalize the fact that Jesus is the Gate. He doesn’t just lead us to the Gate, He is the Gate.

    He is the Way; the Road.

    He is the Truth. He is the Life. He is the Door. He is the Good Shepherd. And so on….

    I believe that the reason this is important is that it points to Jesus as both the Hope and the Solution. Only in Him will you be able to find the eternal rest and restoration that is promised to all who believe.

    Maybe this is blindingly obvious to most people, but it took me a long time to “get it”. And, once you see it, it makes all the difference.

    1. Thanks, Grant. I just remembered that Jesus refers to himself as both the “gate” (sheep gate) and (of course) the “way” (or road) in John’s gospel.

      I like this reminder because it helps us to remember that it’s only through Christ (and not our own efforts) that we’re saved.

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