In response to a question regarding the meaning of Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
Does this passage teach that people had faith in Christ but didn’t try hard enough, and so were not saved?
People desire salvation. They desire the benefits of Christianity. They desire happiness, peace, forgiveness. But they want to gain those things on their own terms. They want to gain them in a way that satisfies their pride, their lusts, their desires. They don’t want to repent and submit to God.
The passage in question essentially means, I think, that the only thing necessary to go to hell is for people to just keep doing what they’re doing, to do what comes naturally. To find life, a change is necessary. We have to do what is hard for us- to repent, to renounce our ability to save ourselves, to renounce our right to govern our own lives. People want to just do some ceremonies, to profess the right things, to check off the right boxes and go to heaven. But true salvation comes when we surrender, when we confess Jesus as Lord. If Jesus is Lord, then He’s the boss, He tells us what to do, and we do it.
A lot of people in the Gospels believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but they wanted Him to be the Messiah they wanted Him to be, to serve their selfish ends. They never surrendered to Him, and when He disappointed their expectations, they left Him. True salvation is never accomplished by a half-way effort. Jesus said that if you put your hand to the plow and look back, you’re not worthy of the kingdom of heaven. We’re not saved by our works, we’re saved by our faith. But we’re not saved by a belief that if we just do the minimum, just check off the right boxes, then God will get off our backs and leave us free to do what we want. The faith that is worked by the Holy Spirit works a complete surrender to Jesus as Lord.
Jesus goes on in that passage to talk about those who claimed the right to enter heaven based on the fact that they showed up when religion was going on- “Lord, we ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” They participated in religious activities. But Jesus rejects them, calling them workers of “iniquity”, that is, lawlessness. There was no repentance, no desire to change their lives to conform to God’s truth, and therefore there was no faith, no relationship. There was just a desire to jump through a few hoops to gain the blessings of salvation.
That is the broad and easy way. The narrow way, the way that few find, is the way repentance, of surrender to the rightful Lord of creation.