Have you ever heard this one? If God really is loving and wants all to be saved, why is He so picky about things? Why does He have all these rules and why does He make it so hard to be accepted? Why doesn’t He just accept everyone?
The idea that the way to salvation is hard isn’t error dreamed up by Satan to deter people from religion, by the way. Jesus Himself tells us the way will be difficult. Matt. 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” So, while the way to destruction is easy, the way to life, to salvation, is hard and only a few will find it.
Also, Luke 13:23-27 “And someone said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them, Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.‘ But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'”
Not only will the saved be few, but many who listen to the Lord and eat with Him – figuratively, those who participate in some form of religious activities – will be condemned. If God really wishes that all would be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4) then why does He make the road so hard?
I suggest that we are looking at this issue backwards. Instead of moaning about how hard the road to the narrow gate is, we should be looking instead at all God did to open the gate for us. For instance, God had a plan in place to save us before He even created us: 1 Pet. 1:19-20 “but with the precious blood of Christ . . . He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you”. Before the world was created it was already planned out who was going to be the Christ and how salvation was going to be realized (His blood). God also had a plan for who was going to be saved, those who through faith were holy and blameless. Eph. 1:4 “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”. So, God didn’t create us willy-nilly and then after Adam & Eve sinned come up with an ad hoc plan to save us. He loved us enough to use forethought and plan for our salvation.
Then there is the unimaginable: God sacrificed His Son for us. We know this, but has the concept dulled through repetition? Feel this in your gut. God killed His Son so we could live. The most famous passage in the Bible: John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” How much does He love us? How much does He want us to be saved? He gave His Son
If there are any further doubts about His love, see Romans 5 “and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (vs 5-8). Notice especially how we are described in these verses. Weak. Unable to save ourselves. Lacking the strength. Ungodly. If being godly means being toward God, having God as our focus, living our lives for God, then being ungodly means being against God. Working against His wishes. Sinners. Offenders against God. Having missed His mark. Having fallen short. Then if we were to look at verse ten, we are all called enemies of God. Weak, ungodly, sinners and enemies. That’s who we were when Christ died for us. He did that to reconcile us to Him and open the door to salvation.
Parents, let me ask you a question: Is there anything so important to you that you would kill your child to accomplish it? Moms? Dads? That’s what God did for us. That was the price and He paid it. Now, if someone did allow their child to die to save you, how would you feel about him? Imagine that you are fishing out on a boat and you and your buddy’s son both go overboard and your buddy saves you first and by the time he gets to his son, the boy is dead. If your buddy ever asked you for a favor, do you think you’d do it for him?
But God’s working to save us didn’t end at the sacrifice of His Son. He would have been perfectly justified in saying “Ok, I opened the door by sacrificing my Son, now you guys get through the door on your own.” But He didn’t. He continues to work to help us make it through that narrow gate. Rom. 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” He will give us all we need to make it. Also: Eph. 1:19-20 “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places”. How great is His power toward us? As great as the power He used to raise Jesus from the dead and take Him to heaven. How much power does it take to do that? If it could be measured in Kilowatt-hours, what would the electric bill be? However amazingly much power it is, it is the power God is using to help us get to heaven.
How do these passages affect your understanding of other promises of God? In 1 Cor. 10:13 we are told that God is guarding us and not allowing us to be tempted more than we can bear. He is using the same power to protect us that He used to raise Jesus. Do you think there is any chance Satan will sneak past that? In James 1:5 we are told to ask God for wisdom. Do you think God is going to be chintzy when He answers that prayer? No, He will “graciously give us all things” we need, just as He gave us His Son. When we read that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13), how much is He strengthening us? With the power He used to raise Jesus from the dead and translate Him to heaven! God is working hard to help us make it through the door of salvation which He opened for us with the death of His Son.
But His efforts on our part still aren’t done. Having sacrificed Jesus and promised to help us, He worked to get the word out. In Jeremiah, when God is describing how hard He had worked to try to get the Israelites to obey Him there is an interesting phrase used: Jer. 7:13, 25 “And now, because ye have done all these works, says Jehovah, and I spake unto you, RISING UP EARLY and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not. . . Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have sent unto you all my servants the prophets, DAILY RISING UP EARLY and sending them”. This phrase comes up over and over again throughout Jeremiah: Jer. 7:13, 25; 11:7; 25:3, 4; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 35:14, 15; 44:4. God wasn’t sleeping in and then sending His prophets whenever He got around to it. He was earnestly working to save His people.
If He worked that hard to get the word out to the physical nation of Israel, do you think He worked hard to announce His kingdom? He sent His Spirit to work directly with the Apostles, and later other prophets, on the day of Pentecost. The divine working directly with man. Second in awe inducement only to the divine becoming man and dying for the created, God also worked to confirm that His apostles and prophets were indeed from Him: Mark 16:20 “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed.” The signs showed that what the Apostles said was backed up by God.
Then, the Spirit directed the writing of the New Testament in the space of 50 years, an incredible outpouring of inspiration when you consider the Old Testament took 1,000 years to write. Finally, God providentially protected His word through the millennia so we could be confident in it today. (And there is no legitimate doubt about the text of the scriptures.)
To sum up, He planned for our salvation; He sacrificed His Son so we could be saved; He works to provide us all the help we could need; He worked to get the Word out and keep it preserved for us.
By comparison, how little He asks of us.
He asks that we believe when we hear the word, that we confess Him as Lord and Jesus as Christ, that we repent of our sins and be baptized for the remission of those sins and that we live holy lives before Him. That’s all. And yet people will argue until they're blue in the face that they don’t have to do those simple things. After all He’s done for us.
I’m not saying the way will always be easy. In fact, we know it won’t be because Jesus said the way was hard. We will be ridiculed, or worse, by unbelievers if we live our beliefs. We have to work to learn His word. We have to worship according to the pattern. The way isn’t easy, but think of how much He did to open the way for us.
Finally, think about this. If God had wanted mindless obedience, He could have created robots programmed to obey. Instead, God wanted servants who would choose to serve Him and who would jump at the opportunity to be adopted into His family. That’s what we are promised, to be the children of God.
The nature of choice, though, means that some will choose not to follow God. Some will choose not to live holy lives. This is not what God wants; He wants all to be saved, but the nature of choice is that some won’t follow Him.
Don’t be one of those who make the wrong choice.