Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Luke 13:23-27 The narrow door

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, September 6, 2018

23 Someone asked him, “Sir, will only a few be saved?”

The man’s question isn’t a classroom question about theory. He really means to ask: Will only a few be saved? Will I be one?

He said to them,  24 “Try your hardest to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not be able to.  25 Once the master of the house gets up and locks the door, you may find yourself standing outside knocking on the door and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door to us,’ but he will answer, ‘I do not know you or where you come from.’ 26 Then you will start to say, ‘We once ate and drank with you; you taught in our streets….’  27 But he will reply, ‘I do not know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’”

Jesus answers the man with a clear and memorable picture. It helps our understanding of an ancient question, one that I was asked just yesterday by four or five students in Catechism class: Why didn’t God destroy the devil when he fell into sin?

The Bible does not specifically tell us why God chose to leave the creation intact after sin corrupted it, but one thing to keep in mind is that the angels were created by God in an immortal state, and they retain that state. They cannot die or cease to exist. Hebrews 1:14 calls the angels “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.” Professor John D. Schuetze of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary describes angels this way: “As spirits, angels do not take up space, nor are they bound by time and space as we are in this world” (Angels and Demons, 1997, p. 14). Although there is a lot more we could say about them, here I only want to emphasize that angels are spirits and are therefore not subject to death or the limits of time. The devil was not created in a form that could be destroyed. The angels enjoy the privilege of being immortal, but unlike human beings, they cannot be redeemed. For an angel, once damned means always and forever damned.

The man’s question to Jesus is a realization that there will be human beings who also go to hell, forever damned along with the devil and his demons. How can we escape this? Jesus makes it even more vivid by depicting the Master shutting and locking the door. The word ἀποκλείσῃ, apokleise, can mean either “shut” (Isaiah 26:20; Bel and the Dragon 1:11) or “lock, bolt” (2 Samuel 13:17; Isaiah 24:22) depending on the context. Many ancient doors had no difference—to shut the door was to lock it. Notice the exchange after the Master closes the door. Someone knocks and pleads, “Open the door,” but the Master says, “I do not know you or where you come from.” Those who are locked out realize that they are bound together with the devil and his demons—they are in hell, and they want to do anything to escape and get to heaven. They try reasoning with the Lord…

When they “start to say” (Greek ἄρξεσθε λέγειν) their reasoned arguments, the Master cuts them off with the same reply: “I do not know you or where you come from.” It doesn’t matter that they once did things with Jesus (“We ate and drank”) or that he was in their “wide streets” (πλατείαις, plateiais “wide places” could even be “plazas, parks”). The answer is the same: “I do not know you or where you come from.”

The Master’s words ring with an especially clear warning to those who want to claim that they had the Lord’s Supper once. “We ate and drank,” but was it done with faith, for the forgiveness of sins? Or was it just show? “You taught in our streets” – or your apostles or pastors taught in our churches… but salvation is not about who your pastor was. It’s about the faith in your own heart. Do you trust in Jesus your Savior? You can have the shyest or least interesting pastor in the world. Your Reverend might be the world’s worst administrator. Maybe he can’t type two lines of the bulletin without misspelling something. But if he has helped you keep your faith alive by preaching Law and Gospel then thank God for him and bless him.

“Try your hardest to enter by the narrow door,” Jesus says. What would you do to hang on to your faith? Would you brave a hurricane? Face a firing squad? Would you submit to waterboarding, or forty lashes? If so, what about forty minutes of Bible reading? What about one hour of a Bible class? What about listening to a sermon a week? It’s one thing to be brave, but it’s another thing to be wise. Be wise with your faith. That’s a narrow door you’re going through…

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive