Author Topic: The Narrow Door  (Read 1984 times)

Dan Fienen

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The Narrow Door
« on: August 19, 2019, 10:53:04 AM »

The Gospel Reading for this coming Sunday, August 25, 2019, in the LSB Series C Lectionary is Luke 13:22-30. Interestingly, this pericope is not found in the RCL. Perhaps this is one of those difficult passages that the RCL has been alleged to skip.


Luke 13:22-30 (ESV)
22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 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.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”


This is one of a number of passages from Jesus' teaching that on the face of it indicates that not everyone will be saved. I completely agree that the decision of who God will save and who He will not is not up to us. We ate not to presume to limit God's saving work to those we approve of. But is it up to us to decide who He will save?


How does this pericope and other similar periscopes square with the idea that ultimately everyone is under the grace and salvific work of Jesus and so by God's grace everyone is ultimately saved?
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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Charles Austin

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2019, 11:03:34 AM »
Pastor Fienen asks:
How does this pericope and other similar periscopes square with the idea that ultimately everyone is under the grace and salvific work of Jesus and so by God's grace everyone is ultimately saved?

I comment:
I don’t know and don’t care, because I do not believe that “everyone is ultimately saved”.
However, I do believe that those who are saved are saved through Jesus, whether they know it or not.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. LCA/LWF staff. Former journalist  Writer for many church publications.

Dan Fienen

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2019, 12:04:23 PM »
Pastor Fienen asks:
How does this pericope and other similar periscopes square with the idea that ultimately everyone is under the grace and salvific work of Jesus and so by God's grace everyone is ultimately saved?

I comment:
I don’t know and don’t care, because I do not believe that “everyone is ultimately saved”.
However, I do believe that those who are saved are saved through Jesus, whether they know it or not.

I wonder, under what circumstances do you envision people being saved through Jesus and not know that they are saved through Jesus?
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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Charles Austin

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2019, 12:54:11 PM »
I do not, in any detailed way, “envision” things like that.
But I have said here before, if someone reaches eternity and the presence of God, it will be through Jesus. That is what I believe has been revealed to us (although God may have other ways not revealed to us yet.)
But simply put: if you “get there”, it’s through Jesus.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. LCA/LWF staff. Former journalist  Writer for many church publications.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2019, 02:21:24 PM »
Apparently, this was part of a pericope system in the past. The following is most of a sermon I preached on it in 1995.

“Strive to enter through the narrow door,” Jesus says. He’s responding to someone’s question, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” I’m not sure that Jesus ever fully answers that question. Some verses seem to state that only a few will be saved – like the picture of the narrow door and then the shut door. Many won’t strive hard enough. Many will be left outside the door. Other verses seem to state that huge numbers will be saved. People from every corner of the world are seated at the banquet table in the kingdom of God. How does Jesus answer this question? Will there be few or many who are saved?

“Strive to enter through the narrow door,” Jesus says. The Greek word translated strive is agonizomai. We get our English words, “agonize” and “agony” from the root of the Greek word. A form of the word is used of Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed with such agony that his sweat became drops of blood.

It seems that it is extremely difficult to enter through the narrow door, but the situation gets worse. Perhaps, with enough effort – and a rigorous diet, one could squeeze through a narrow door, but Jesus’ next picture is of a shut door. There is no opening. I don’t think that any amount of effort could squeeze us through the keyhole – if there is one. There is agony outside the narrow door and even more agony outside the shut door.

Why are the people on the outside of the door? Twice Jesus says, “I don’t know where you come from.” Often when we use that phrase, “Where are you comin’ from?” We are asking about motives. What’s inside the person. Why are they doing what they are doing. These people have done very religious things. They ate and drank in Jesus presence – could that be holy communion? They were taught by Jesus – could that be attending Sunday school? They’ve done the right things, but that isn’t enough. Why are they doing them? Are we religious because of what we might get from God? Do we treat God like a huge vending machine in the sky – we put in our quarter’s worth of religious deeds – going to church and Sunday school – and expect God to drop out kind of blessing for us? Is Jesus suggesting that we have to do even more – that we have to try even harder – that we need to agonize even more about the door into the kingdom? Jesus wants to know where we are coming from.

However, after the shut door, the picture changes. We have a glimpse into the kingdom of God. We see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the Jewish patriarchs in the kingdom. We see the prophets in the kingdom. We would expect to see these heroes of faith in the kingdom. They are part of the few we would expect to see in the kingdom of God. But we also see people from the east and west, north and south. It sounds like there is a huge crowd from around the world in the kingdom. It seems like a whole lot of people will be saved, not just a few. How does this world-wide crowd get into the kingdom? We aren’t told. Perhaps they agonized hard enough and got through the narrow door. Perhaps they were known by the homeowner who opened the door for them. However, I think that the presence of this huge, international crowd illustrates a brand new way of thinking about the kingdom.

Our translation says that they “will eat in the kingdom of God.” A more literal reading of the Greek would be, “they will be made to sit in the kingdom of God.” They don’t seat themselves. Someone else seats them at the heavenly banquet table. Who is that?

The same word is used earlier in Luke (12:35-40) in the parable of the watchful servants. When the master returns and finds the servants waiting; the master “makes them sit down to eat” and he serves them. It is the master – it is God who seats the international group at the banquet in the kingdom. This is a gracious picture of God. …

I think that the agony we face before the door is not the narrowness of the door, but a struggle within ourselves. Will we continue to try and struggle through the narrow door? Will we try to make all our inner motives pure enough for God? Or will we admit “I can’t” do it and accept God’s gracious invitation to sit at the banquet?

There is another story where Jesus talks about a narrow passage. He says: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The eye of a needle is a very narrow door.
The disciples ask Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” He answers, “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”

I’m not sure that it is possible for us to strive hard enough to enter through the narrow door. I’m not sure that it is possible for us to always have the pure motives that God requires. However, what is impossible for us, is possible for God. It can be agony for some to admit that they can’t do it themselves, that they need help, but our confession of “I can’t,” opens us to hear and receive God’s “I can”. God can get us through the narrow door or even through the eye of the needle. God can open up the closed door. God seats us at the banquet in the kingdom. What we can’t do, God can.

The Greek word “agonizomai” translated “strive” in our lesson, the root of our word “agonize” also means “to compete,” “to be in a contest.” Usually in contests there are winners and losers. There are those who come in first and those who don’t. What does it do to the competition if the first will be last and the last first? What does it do to our striving if coming in first doesn’t matter?
 
“Lord, will only a few be saved?” someone asks Jesus. It is clear from other scriptures that God wants everyone to be saved. God invites all to come and be seated at the banquet. Does this mean that everyone will be saved? I don’t think so. Some won’t trust God. They won’t accept God’s grace. They will want to do it on their own.

But for us who are here this morning. We have heard God’s word of grace. We are invited to this little banquet of heaven – a little bread and a little wine. At this meal God comes to us in the body and blood of Christ. It’s no longer a matter of us striving to get to God, but believing that God comes to us. If God has come to us, the rules are all changed. There is no more striving. There is no more contest. There is no more agonizing about the narrow or shut door. We celebrate the heavenly feast now with bread and wine in anticipation of the great banquet in the kingdom of God. Where not a few will be saved, but a great crowd from east and west, north and south and even a number of us from Wyoming who have heard and believe God’s word of grace.
 
« Last Edit: August 19, 2019, 02:28:38 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dan Fienen

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2019, 02:40:53 PM »
I do not, in any detailed way, “envision” things like that.
But I have said here before, if someone reaches eternity and the presence of God, it will be through Jesus. That is what I believe has been revealed to us (although God may have other ways not revealed to us yet.)
But simply put: if you “get there”, it’s through Jesus.
How typically vague. So, what was Jesus warning His hearers about?
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Charles Austin

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2019, 02:55:28 PM »
I don’t know. Maybe he was warning that some who say “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” Are not going to make it.
God has revealed to us how we can be in a proper relationship with him. How God may choose to deal with other people is not my business.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. LCA/LWF staff. Former journalist  Writer for many church publications.

Dan Fienen

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2019, 03:49:41 PM »
I thought that it was part of our task as preachers to convey to those who listen to us the full counsel of God, that would include His warnings lest our hearers, or we ourselves, end up not in a proper relationship with Him.


I agree that it is not our place to go around gleefully proclaiming damnation as though God delighted in condemning some. Yet doesn't Jesus and the Apostles give us some indication of the mechanism(s) by which God saves people by Jesus so that we can have some assurance that we are part of the group included among those who if we "'get there', it's through Jesus."


I certainly agree the if someone "get there", it's through Jesus. But that assurance is, for me, too vague to be useful. We need to also let people know how to be in such a relationship with God that we have His promise that we will "get there."  If Jesus felt it was important enough to warn people last they not "get there" that certainly implies a danger that some will be satisfied with a less than adequate relationship.
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Charles Austin

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2019, 04:02:07 PM »
You are looking for disagreement and spending too much time on the dark side.  I’m encouraging people to “stand on the promises”.
Those who don’t or those who never hear the promises I leave to a merciful God.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. LCA/LWF staff. Former journalist  Writer for many church publications.

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2019, 02:52:32 PM »

I wonder, under what circumstances do you envision people being saved through Jesus and not know that they are saved through Jesus?

I won't answer for Charles, but I think that fits with Matthew 27:31-46.

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DCharlton

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2019, 06:50:46 PM »
I thought that it was part of our task as preachers to convey to those who listen to us the full counsel of God, that would include His warnings lest our hearers, or we ourselves, end up not in a proper relationship with Him.

I agree that it is not our place to go around gleefully proclaiming damnation as though God delighted in condemning some. Yet doesn't Jesus and the Apostles give us some indication of the mechanism(s) by which God saves people by Jesus so that we can have some assurance that we are part of the group included among those who if we "'get there', it's through Jesus."

I certainly agree the if someone "get there", it's through Jesus. But that assurance is, for me, too vague to be useful. We need to also let people know how to be in such a relationship with God that we have His promise that we will "get there."  If Jesus felt it was important enough to warn people last they not "get there" that certainly implies a danger that some will be satisfied with a less than adequate relationship.

How about this?  We are talking about two things: The God Not Preached and the Preached God.  A question about what God does about those who never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is a question about the Deus Absconditus.   This Hidden God is a God of wrath; because his will is hidden.  Is his will life or death, salvation or damnation?  Yes, is the answer. 

The Preached God, or the Deus Revelatus, who we encounter in the preaching of the Gospel, is the God of grace, love, forgiveness and eternal life.  Its not the job of a preacher to speculate about what God might or might not do.  Can or will God save some or all who have never heard the Gospel?  God doesn't say.  It is the job of a preacher to preach God's Word.

Related to this is the question of what it means to preach.  To preach is not to speculate.  To preach is also not to discuss the fate of those people over there.  The Gospel is preached for me, for you, or for us, but not for them.  It is first to second person address, in the form of command or promise.  Anyone who is concerned about what God's judgment is for them should go to them and preach the Gospel, so that a them is turned into a you.

If I am concerned about the fate of my neighbor, because he or she has never heard the Gospel, then I had better do it!  There is no time to waste.   
David Charlton  

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Charles Austin

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2019, 06:54:24 PM »
I think Pastor Charlton and I agree on this.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. LCA/LWF staff. Former journalist  Writer for many church publications.

David M. Frye, OblSB

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2019, 03:52:26 PM »
Is his will [the will of Deus Absconditus] life or death, salvation or damnation?  Yes, is the answer.

I'm reminded of Schrödinger's cat in the box. Is it alive or dead? Yes. We cannot know whether it is alive or dead until we open the box.

Just an uncanny echo reverberating between physics and theology.
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evangelical catholic

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Re: The Narrow Door
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2019, 02:41:39 PM »
Francis' narrow "gate" involves the help of the blessed Virgin Mary at the “Gate of Heaven"