Monday, January 31, 2011

Matthew 7: Ignoring Grace (Our Daily Bread)

Matt 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." 

This morning, I was reading Bill Crowder's reflection on Matt 7:14 in Our Daily Bread and was surprised to hear him interpret the "narrow" gate as the Grace-gate. This is new to me because I've often thought of Grace as free & easy since it's based on faith. Furthermore, the theme for today's ODB reading  is "Christ believed is salvation received." Since Crowder has linked the "narrow gate" with grace, I found myself asking, "if this is so, why would so few find it since salvation is received freely through faith." Reading in context, the marks of those who enter via the grace gate would be good fruits and obedience to the will of the Father (v.21): "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." 

As I thought more about this, the following questions came to my mind: 
(1) If the gate that leads to life is grace, then why is it so narrow that few find it? Does it imply that the broad & easy gate is the "works" gate?
(2) How is faith related to obedience to the will of the Father? 
(3) Who are the people who will be rejected by Christ on Judgment Day (v.21)--did they come via the narrow or broad gate? 

Looking at the great number of people who are flocking to churches that preach the grace gospel in Singapore, one would be tempted to say that that the  grace gospel must be "broad and easy gate" since "many enter through it"! If grace is the narrow gate, why are there more people attending such churches than those that preach works? Those churches that emphasize "works" (spiritual disciplines, rules, etc) are not attracting the crowds. In fact, many Christians who are burn out by "works" churches have left for the grace churches that demand very little from them--except to believe. 

But I do believe that Jesus' teaching in this passage must be understood in terms of grace. However, what perhaps Jesus is doing is to put grace in the right contexts: that grace does not make obedience unnecessary but makes obedience possible. Grace is the free-gift (power) of God to enable  us to obey and bear fruit. Therefore, those who come via the "broad and easy" gate probably confuse ministry success (casting out demons  and performing miracles) with obedience to the Father's will. We can have a fantastic ministry and yet not a heart of obedience born out of grace. In other words, we can confuse using God (for ministry success) and loving Him (by obeying His will). Those who use God's name in ministry (even if successful) can fall into the trap of neglecting obedience to His will. One can think of successful evangelists & pastors who have recently fallen into this trap of having  ministry success without obedience to God. They have fallen out of grace into disobedience.

Father, may You grant us the grace to love You more by obeying You, rather than use You and Your name for own ministry success. Search our hearts and know our thoughts. In Christ's name, Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your comments.