It Is a Hard Matter To Get To Heaven Part Three

“Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:” Luke 13:23-25

I write these little articles to try to get people to think. Of course being spoon fed something your entire life is easier than studying and thinking for yourself. But even infants, {if they are healthy} eventually try to feed themselves. I’ve read about some people in the Bible who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”. Sounds like a noble endeavor.

Matthew Henry {1662-1714} the 17th century commentator said “It is a hard matter to get to Heaven.” Most people today have never heard anything like that.  I’m sure some would even say the statement was heretical. Many suppose that going to Heaven is as simple as going to an alter or raising their hand or repeating a prayer. The problem is that you cannot find any of those things in the Word of God. Jesus said “Strive to enter in at the strait gate”.

B. H. Carroll. (1843-1914) was a Confederate soldier, Baptist leader, seminary president and author. I offer a couple of his comments on our Lords admonition to strive to enter in.

“No man believes more than I do the doctrine of predestination, the doctrine of the elect, the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation, the doctrine that salvation from its inception to its consummation is of God, the doctrine of the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit at the very beginning and throughout the entire course of the Christian life. All of these I believe, without a shadow of reservation. And yet the Bible teaches that man must not sit still; that he occupies no waiting attitude; that he is not to remain in a morally passive state, and if I knew that I had to stand before the judgment bar tomorrow and answer for the orthodoxy, the soundness of the statement ‘I now make, I would lift up my voice confidently and say that this lesson shows that in the matter of salvation there must be the most attentive, the most earnest, the most vigorous and the most persistent exertion upon our part. On what word do I found this? I found it on this word “strive.” It is our Lord, not I, who turns the questioner from a question of curiosity first to his own case and then to the responsibility of exertion. The Greek word is agonizes.”

“… He {Jesus} calls upon us to direct our attention, to call forth all our powers, to concentrate our minds, and to lay hold and to hold on, and to press to its settlement the question of our personal salvation in the sight of God.” From The Four Gospels by B. H. Carroll

It is no wonder Missionary James Stewart {1910-1975} said that when he preached the gospel like our forefathers preached it, the people in this country would accuse him of preaching a new or different gospel. Please consider the following quotes from J. C. Ryle, John Bunyan, Alexander Maclaren and William Gurnall.


“…The gate is strait. The work is great. The enemies of our souls are many. We must be up and doing. We are to wait for nobody. We are not to inquire what other people are doing, and whether many of our neighbors, and relatives, and friends are serving Christ. The unbelief and indecision of others will be no excuse at the last day. We must never follow a multitude to do evil. If we go to heaven alone, we must resolve that by God’s grace we will go. Whether we have many with us or a few, the command before us is plain–“Strive to enter in.” –J.C. Ryle {1816-1900} From his Commentary on Luke

…this word strive is expressed by several other terms; as, It is expressed by that word, “So run that ye may obtain.” (1 Cor 9:24,25)  It is expressed by that word, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Tim 6:12)  It is expressed by that word, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” (John 6:27)  It is expressed by that word, “We wrestle – with principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world.” (Eph 6:12) Therefore, when he saith, Strive, it is as much as to say, Run for heaven, Fight for heaven, Labour for heaven, Wrestle for heaven, or you are likely to go without it. John Bunyan {1628-1688} from The Strait Gate or Great or Difficulty of Going to Heaven

Very solemnly significant is the difference between striving  and seeking. It is like the difference between wishing and willing. There may be a seeking which has no real earnestness in it, and is not sufficiently determined, to do what is needful in order to find. Plenty of people would like to possess earthly good, but cannot brace themselves to needful work and sacrifice. Plenty would like to ‘go to heaven,’ as they understand the phrase, but cannot screw themselves to the surrender of self and the world. Vagrant, halfhearted seeking, such as one sees many examples of, will never win anything, either in this world or in the other. We must strive, and not only seek. The Strait Gate by Alexander Maclaren {1826-1910}, Expositions of Holy Scripture

“…Strive to enter,” fight and wrestle, venture life and limb, rather than fall short of Heaven. “For many shall seek, but shall not be able;” that is, seek by an easy profession, and cheap religion, such as hearing the Word, performance of duties, and the like; of this kind there are many that will come and walk about Heaven-door, willing enough to enter, if they may do it without ruffling their pride in a crowd, or hazarding their present carnal interest by any contest and scuffle. “But they shall not be able,” that is, “to enter;” because their carnal cowardly hearts shall not be able to strive. “The Christian in Complete Armour Volume 2 by William Gurnall {1617-1679}

Finally one more quote from J. C. Ryle

“…It does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.“{emphasis mine}  From The Cost by J.C. Ryle.

All of the preachers I’ve quoted would be considered Sovereign Grace or Calvinistic in their theology.  In other words, they would have vehemently renounced any type of “salvation by works”. Yet they were not hesitant to agree with Christ when He said to strive. I think it would do us good to search the scriptures and see if these men were right.

Brother Shawn

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