Q. In Luke 13:23-30 Jesus commands some followers who question Him about ‘Are there just a few who are being saved’ to “strive to enter through the narrow door”. Well, the word ‘strive’ sounds like ‘work’ to me and I thought we were saved by faith and not by works (Eph 2:8,9)? Could you explain this passage?
A. The issue here is faith. Faith is the narrow door because man has a compulsion to add to what the Lord has done. Every non christian religion is based in work, and even in the Church there are strong voices advocating a “grace plus work” theology, as if the Lord’s death alone is not enough to purchase our salvation or guarantee it.
There is work that God requires of us, and it’s to believe in the one He sent (John 6:28-29). Faith is the only thing we can do that’s not counted as work (Romans 4:4-5), but it’s hard for man to just believe. We have this need to contribute, not realizing that when we do we’re actually saying we don’t think the Lord’s death was sufficient to save or keep us.
Luke 13:23-30 contains snippets from other talks the Lord gave on the subject. The narrow door of Luke 13:24 is like the narrow gate in Matt. 7:13-14 where the broad road and the wide gate represents man’s religion. Luke 13:25 recalls the parable of the 10 virgins in Matt. 25:1-13 where 5 of them are rejected for lack of the Holy Spirit, represented by oil. Luke 13:26-27 is like Matt. 7:21-23 where the people claimed religious works as their qualification, and Luke 13:28-30 parallels Matt. 8:10-12 where it’s ancestry instead of faith. In each case people who try to replace faith alone with something else are rejected.