Prediction of the Narrow Road

The Lord predicted the pressured pathway many years before the New Testament.  Christ is described as a forger of gold and silver who purifies the metals.  The metal which is corrupted with the dross is God’s children.

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness (Mal. 3:1-3).

Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God (Zech. 13:7-9).

Both Zechariah and Malachi predict the same process for his people.  Jesus referred the smiting of the shepherd and the scattering of the sheep to himself and his disciples, which tells us this is a prediction for the New Testament times.

Job understood the process and the way the Lord was working with him and described his trials in the same words. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Peter identifies this process with the fire that purifies us being our temptations. “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7).  This spiritual gold is what makes the Christian rich. “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich” (Rev. 3:18).  The fire is further identified with testing when Paul describes God’s testing of every man’s work.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

The dross (impurities) must be burned out through trails, tribulation, suffering and other kinds of temptation.

Tribulation–A Sign of Salvation

Persecution and tribulation were a sign or token that the disciples were on the right path.

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.  For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me (Phil. 1:28-30).

This suffering was ‘given’ to these Christians.  The Old Testament prophets were on the same pathway.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matt. 5:10-12).

The Corinthian’s salvation was made effectual by suffering the same suffering that Paul and Christ had suffered.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation (2 Cor. 1:3-6).

The Greek word for ‘effectual’ is generally translated by the verb ‘to work.’ Their salvation is effectual or works by enduring the same suffering Paul was suffering.  Paul said that the suffering of Christ abounded in him which is to say that Paul and the Corinthians were following in the same pathway Christ walked.

God calls men out of the world to walk in the same steps of suffering that Jesus suffered. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).

The popular notion that Jesus suffered so that we don’t have to suffer is simply not according to the scriptures. He suffered so that we would follow his example. In fact, we are commanded to have a mind to suffer. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” (1 Pet. 4:1-2).

The disciple is not above his master and must follow the same steps. “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

This is a promise, and the Lord’s disciples must have a mind to endure as he suffered. This is a critical reason that many are not able to follow Christ.  In the parable of the sower he describes the disciple who falls away.

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;  Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended (Matt. 13:20-21).

He did not say ‘if’ tribulation or persecution arises, but ‘when’ it arises.  This is the plan the Lord has for his children.

X. THE PATHWAY TO THE FINISH LINE

Jesus told the apostles that there was a way to go to the Father.  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:3-4). The early Christians thought of Christianity as the way.  After Paul had been a Christian for many years he said “And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” (Acts 22:4).  The Ephesian Jews “spake evil of that way” (Acts 19:9).  Demetrius and the other Ephesians caused “no small stir about that way” (Acts 19:23), Apollos “was instructed in the way of the Lord,” (Acts 18:25-26) and the devils knew it as “the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17).  The way of salvation includes the five steps and the five acts of worship, but it is much more than that.  Felix had “more perfect knowledge of that way.”  What is this way?

The pathway of the race that leads to the finish line is narrow. Jesus said “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). The narrow way is the Greek word ‘thlipsis,’ which is generally translated affliction or trouble.  This pathway is the afflicted or troubled way.  It is no wonder that there are only a few who find the strait gate and narrow pathway.  Jesus is the author and finisher of this race (He 12:2).  He made this race and he ran it ahead of us.

The pathway that leads to life is described as being “through much tribulation.” Paul was “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). If God’s children are going to reign with Christ, they must be willing to suffer with him (2 Tim. 2:12).  The godly will inherit eternal life but “. . . all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). The disciples at Thessalonica knew they were called to suffer much persecution. Paul sent Timothy to encourage them so “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know” (1 Thess. 3:3-4).  Paul warned these disciples that the persecution would come for they were preparing to walk on that narrow way with all other faithful Christians.

The New Man has One Shepherd—ONE Master

Once the new man is in God’s family, he has but one Master, one Shepherd and runs from all others.  Jesus said, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5).  Those who ‘speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent’ and thus speak only as the oracles of God understand this principle.  Paul understood this principle.  He said, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). Paul listened strictly and only to the words of God. The creeds and manuals of men add to and take from the word of God.  The Lord commanded that no man should add to or take from anything in the Old Law.  He said, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Peter and all the prophets understood this principle. Peter said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).  If all the prophets spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, then they did not speak their own words and thus did not give their own interpretation to the word of God.  They were faithful to speak and write only those things in which they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  The prophecy they spoke was never given by their own will (the will of man), but only the will of God.  Those who interpret God’s word today simply ignore what God said and speak their own words.  When asked why they would interpret when the Lord plainly informs us that it is not allowed, some dare to change the word of God saying it should not read “interpret” but it should read “no private origin.” Virtually every literal translation except the paraphrase translations (like the TLB) translate the word ‘epilusis’ as interpret.  There is absolutely no manuscript listed in the Greek manuscripts (Nestles or UBS) that has anything but ‘epilusewV’ in that verse.  What justification could any man have for changing the word of God?  When the scriptures disagree with our theories it is time to change the theories, not the word of God.

Consider God’s faithful prophets and apostles regarding adding to or taking from the word of God.  Paul said “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13).  Plainly he states that he did not use words which man’s wisdom teaches.  God inspired Paul to congratulate the Thessalonians because they understood this principle.  He said, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).  They did not receive the words from Paul as the words of men (as Paul’s words), for they were not Paul’s words, but God’s words, inspired by His Holy Spirit. Timothy understood this principle. “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17). Paul taught the same thing in every church and Timothy was no different.

Jesus followed the principle excellently. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).  “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). The very words Jesus used were not his own.  He makes it even clearer when he uses each different kind of Greek word which refers to the ‘word.’  “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words (rhema – utterance), hath one that judgeth him: the word (logos—something said) that I have spoken (laleo—talk, utter words), the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken (laleo—talk, utter words) of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say (epo—to speak or say), and what I should speak (laleo—talk, utter words). And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak (laleo—talk, utter words) therefore, even as the Father said (ereo—speak or say) unto me, so I speak (laleo—talk, utter words)” (John 12:48-50).

The Holy Spirit followed the same principle.  Jesus foretold how the Holy Spirit would reveal the word of God to the apostles.  “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit did not speak of himself.  What he heard from Jesus is what he spoke to the apostles.  We have already seen that Jesus spoke only what he heard from the Father and the next two verses (John 16:14-15) say the same thing. The Holy Spirit searches the depths of God (1 Cor. 2:10-11) but He is still faithful to speak the words of God which he hears, and nothing else.

No man on earth is greater than the apostles, the Holy Spirit or Jesus; yet, men exalt themselves to speak their own words. Commenting on and giving examples of man’s work in rejecting the commands of the apostles and Jesus is not adding to the word of God.  It is exposing the folly of speaking one’s own words.  If any man speak, he is to speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11), not as some who claim to speak, ‘in harmony with the word of God.’

THE NEW MAN IS ENTIRELY NEW

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Some wonder about this scripture for they can look at their own lives and see, in fact, that very little has changed. The Lord shows us how all the old things can pass away and everything can become new. “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). If the new man has the new mind (repentance) in not living for himself at all, then all of the old has passed away. If the new man has the new mind in turning to live only for the one who died for him, then truly everything has become new. If we lose our life for Christ and the gospel (Mark 8:25), deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23, 24), and forsake all that we have (Luke 14:33), surely the old will have passed away and everything will become new. We have clear examples of prophets and apostles who, without question, lived for God and not for themselves in any way, like Moses and the other prophets, and Paul and the other apostles. Jesus did literally nothing of himself, but what he heard and saw from the Father—who is our chief example to follow. Truly, if we determine to walk in Jesus steps, live only for the Creator, everything will certainly become new, and the old will all be passed away.

So, who lives in the new man?

The new man no longer is willing to serve men, as he did before, for he has been bought with a price and commanded “be not ye the servants of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). If indeed he heeds the admonition, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), he does so, not because of his own desires, but because his Master has commanded him to do so. When he serves his earthly master, he no longer does so to get his favor or to get a raise. He does so “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Eph. 6:6-7).

The life he now lives is really not his living for himself, but living to serve Christ who lives in him (Gal. 2:20), for he truly is living only for Christ. The new man follows his one Master’s example who said, “…Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). He no longer receives (accepts) honor from men, but receives honor from God only (John 5:44), like his Master (John 5:41). He no longer receives (accepts) any praise at all from men, but any praise he does receive is from God only (Rom. 2:28-29). It is no wonder he states that for all those with the new mind (repentance), all of the old has passed away and all has become new for they have crucified the old man and risen with Christ to walk in the new life.