The New Testament is filled with information on what it means to be a Christ follower, with Jesus beautifully detailing and describing “the narrow path.” This path can be summarized as: embracing Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind, believing he died for our sins and living life for him.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV) and Luke 13:23-24 (NIV) that “narrow is the gate” and “narrow is the way.” We’ll unpack these statements and truths, but the general take-away is that the Christian way is not one that everyone will follow. In fact, only “a few will find it.”
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Here’s the full text of Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV):
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Readers will find similar language about the narrow path in Luke 13:23-24 (NIV), which reads:
“Someone asked him, “‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.’”
These verses likely spark many questions, so let’s dive right in to try and understand what Jesus means when he uses this “narrow is the gate” and “narrow is the way” language.
The Narrow Path: What Does This Mean?
It seems Jesus is making an important point here about the narrow path, and when you read it in context with the rest of the New Testament, that point is clear: Jesus is the only road to heaven, so when we’re told “narrow is the gate” and “narrow is the way,” we’re told that we reach God by following Jesus.
We, as humans, can’t know how the narrow path translates into actual numbers of people who will or who have, throughout human history, chosen the narrow way. But we can know how to take the journey and what it means to live out Jesus’ commands.
GotQuestions.org has an intriguing descriptor of this portion of scripture, noting that John describes seeing multitudes of believers when he wrote Revelation 7:9-10 (NIV):
“While there will be relatively few who go through the narrow gate compared to the many on the broad road, there will still be multitudes who will follow the Good Shepherd. The apostle John saw this multitude in his vision in the book of Revelation: ‘After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
Rather than being consumed over speculation surrounding how many people embrace the “narrow is the gate” reality, we can focus our own lives on following the narrow path. This, in reality, is the only thing we can control, and it’s what ensures our own salvation.
Narrow Is the Gate: John 3:16
The Bible verse that perhaps gets the most attention is John 3:16 (NIV). The text of this verse details God’s plan for humanity: His decision to create the narrow path for mankind. That beloved scripture reads:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This language specifically focuses on the “narrow is the gate” reality — that anyone who believes in Jesus won’t perish, but will instead have eternal life. But while that verse gets a lot of attention, it’s the context around it that is sometimes a bit more ignored or glossed over.
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The entirety of John 3 offers us much to think about when we consider Jesus’ “narrow is the gate” words, and the implications for this reality in our own lives.
The Narrow Path: John 3 Unpacked
John 3:16 is certainly fascinating, but it’s the entirety of the chapter that deserves some real attention, as Jesus offers important details on the narrow path.
It is in this text that we see Jesus tell Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling class, what it means when He proclaims that narrow is the gate. Nicodemus comes to Jesus one night and proclaims that he and others know Christ came from God due to the miracles and signs He performed during His life.
Jesus immediately responds by essentially telling Nicodemus “narrow is the way.” In John 3:3 (NIV), Christ proclaims: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” From there, the conversation takes a fascinating turn, as Nicodemus seems perplexed, asking Jesus how someone can “be born when they are old,” especially since they “cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born.”
And that’s where Christ fully explains what it means to be “born again” and to embrace the Bible’s “narrow is the way” truths. Here’s what Jesus responded in John 3:5-8 (NIV):
“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’”
It is here that the narrow path is starting to become clearer, though Nicodemus still struggled to understand. The conversation eventually leads into John 3:16, and Jesus explains that God sent Him to save mankind, again driving home the “narrow is the gate” and “narrow is the way” reality.
In further unpacking the narrow path, Jesus said God didn’t send Him into the world to condemn it, “but to save the world through him.” But it’s Christ’s stirring words in John 3:18-20 (NIV) that offer a convicting explainer on what happens when we reject the narrow path and refuse to recognize that “narrow is the way.” Here is the text (read all of John 3 right now on Biblica):
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”
So, the scriptures make it clear: the narrow path is Jesus. And when we’re told "narrow is the gate" and "narrow is the way," we’re told that many will seek other avenues to heaven but that the only road that can possibly lead to it is Christ through His sacrifice for mankind.
The Narrow Way: Living It Out
It’s one thing to say we believe everything presented in John 3, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually live it out. Some people fall into the trap of believing that we can say the sinner’s prayer — accept Jesus, say we love Him and know He died for our sins and move on.
But the Bible doesn’t actually say that. The New Testament implores us to seek Christ throughout our lives, to live like Him and to live lives according to God’s will and not our own. Paul expounds upon the narrow path in Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV) when he explains how a “narrow is the gate” mindset it fully lived out:
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Remember: we serve a God of mercy and redemption; He’s forgiving and loving — and He offers us the narrow way. We each have a choice to accept and seek Him, but it requires we realize that “narrow is the gate” and “narrow is the way.”
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The Narrow Path: Some Tips for You
So, how do you live out the narrow path? Luckily, there are everyday ways you can take steps to get closer to God and to live out His call to salvation. We put together a list of 10 ways to live for God in the modern world, so check that out.
Each of these tips helps you follow the “narrow is the gate” reality in your own life. Here’s a quick snapshot of five potential steps, but you can read more for developed thoughts and tips here:
- Start Your Day With Prayer
- Subscribe to a Christian Podcast
- Commit to Reading One Christian Book Per Month
- Play a Morning Sermon
- Journal Your Faith
Narrow is the way, indeed. So, The Pure Flix Insider blog has many other tips and Bible verses lists that can help you on your journey to live out the gospel. From Bible verses about strength to scriptures about God’s love, we’ve got you covered.
In addition to these resources helping you focus on the narrow path, you can watch thousands of inspirational movies, TV series and documentaries by taking advantage of your free, one-month Pure Flix trial. You’ll have access to thousands of kid- and family-friendly pieces of content — fun inspirational entertainment for the whole family.