The Golden Rule is the concluding verse of the major part of the Sermon on the Mount, for all the verses that follow it are but a long, although significant, postscript. Like Matthew 5:48, the verse that concludes the first chapter of the sermon, the Golden Rule aptly summarizes all that has gone before it and then lifts the eyes of the reader to Jesus Christ, who is the only possible source of such goodness. From this point on, Jesus turns to a series of warnings designed to keep His listeners from falling by the wayside through unbelief, apathy, deceit, hypocrisy, or discouragement.
Now if all this is true—that is, if these verses (Matt. 7:13-27) are primarily a warning to those of Christ’s time to keep on until His death and resurrection brought His ministry to completion—then it is also clear how we must understand the first of these four warnings.
Another truth also lies at the heart of His warning, the truth that salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ only. What is the gate? What is the way that leads to life? The answer is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9). He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). These verses throw the only proper light upon our text. For they show that Jesus was speaking of faith in Himself when he told the Galileans, “Narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” The way to heaven is as narrow as Jesus.
Do not make the mistake of counting upon your moral record as a way of coming to God. It is your record that gets you into trouble in the first place. Your record will condemn you, no matter how good you think you are or how good you appear in other men’s eyes. Count on the fact that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin, that He did what no other person would do. And accept the fact that He by His death provided the way for simple, sinful people like you and me to enter heaven.
We need to see one more great truth from this passage. Jesus said, “Enter in at the narrow gate” or, as the parallel saying in Luke’s Gospel puts it, “Strive to enter in” (Luke 13:24). Clearly it is not enough merely to listen to preaching about this gate or to study its architecture. It is not enough to praise it. It is not enough to stand by it. It must be entered. And this means that there must be a personal decision to enter into Christ by everyone who comes under the preaching of the Gospel.
The twelfth chapter of Acts brings us to the end of the second major section of this book, but in a strange way. It tells of the death of King Herod, and our reaction is likely to be, “So what?” The death of a king is not remarkable. In fact, most deaths are not.
Herod Agrippa I, the Herod of Acts 12, had an interesting career. He was raised in Rome, and while he was there he became a friend of Gaius Caligula. That was not a great honor. Caligula turned out to be shockingly corrupt even in a shockingly corrupt age. But Herod got to know him, and when Caligula came to the throne, he appointed Herod to a prominent position. In A.D. 39 Herod was in Rome, contributed to the fall of Herod Antipas and received his tetrarchy as a result. After the ascension of Claudius in A.D. 41, Herod also received Judea and Samaria and therefore ruled at last over all the territory of his grandfather.
When I read the story of Herod’s death I think of a similar one in the Old Testament, the story of Nebuchadnezzar. The fourth chapter of Daniel tells of the time Nebuchadnezzar stood on the roof of his great palace in Babylon, looked out over the famous hanging gardens and said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). It was a classical statement of what we call secular humanism, the persuasion that everything in life is of man, by man and for man’s glory.
I think of those who have tried to oppose the Gospel over the centuries. There were times when Christ’s enemies tried to oppose the expansion of the Word of God by the sword, just as Herod did when he executed James. The powerful said, “If you continue to preach this Gospel, we will take away your lives.” And they did. There have been countless martyrs in the history of the Church. Yet the Word of God has not been bound. The more the enemies of Christ have killed His followers, the more the Gospel has spread outward like ripples on a pond.
Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
PO Box 24087, RPO Josephine
North Bay, ON, P1B 0C7