A Summarizing Statement

Now we arrive at a verse that should be considered a statement that summarizes practically everything Jesus said up to this point. Many commentators miss this, but it is important that we don’t. This particular verse is obviously a summarizing statement, as it begins with the word therefore. It is thus linked to previous instructions, and the question is: How much of what Jesus has said does it summarize? Let’s read it and think:

Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12).

This statement can’t be a summary of just the few verses before it about prayer, otherwise it would make no sense.

Remember that early in His sermon, Jesus had warned against the error of thinking that He had come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (see Matt. 5:17). From that point in His sermon until the verse at which we’ve now arrived, He did essentially nothing but endorse and explain God’s Old Testament commandments. Thus, He now summarizes everything He’s commanded, all of which He derived from the Law and Prophets: “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (7:12). The phrase, “the Law and the Prophets,” connects everything Jesus said between Matthew 5:17 and 7:12.

Now, as Jesus begins the conclusion of His sermon, He reiterates His primary theme once more—Only the holy inherit God’s kingdom:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it (Matt. 7:13-14).

Obviously the narrow gate and the way that leads to life, which few find, is symbolic of salvation. The wide gate and broad way that leads to destruction, the route of the majority, symbolizes damnation. If everything Jesus said prior to this statement means anything, if this sermon has any logical progression, if Jesus possessed any intelligence as a communicator, then the most natural interpretation would be that the narrow way is the way of following Jesus, obeying His commandments. The broad way would be the opposite. How many professing Christians are on the narrow way described in this sermon? The disciple-making minister is certainly on the narrow way, and he is leading his disciples on that same way.

It is puzzling to some professing Christians that Jesus said nothing about faith or believing in Him in this sermon in which He said so much about salvation and damnation. To those who understand the inseparable correlation between belief and behavior, however, this sermon presents no problem. People who obey Jesus show their faith by their works. Those who don’t obey Him don’t believe He is the Son of God. Not only is our salvation an indication of God’s grace toward us, so is the transformation that has taken place in our lives. Our holiness is really His holiness.