"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" (Matthew
At their recent Convention, our brethren the Southern Baptists took
a number of courageous stands. They reaffirmed the authority of the Holy
Scriptures as Godís Word Written and as the inerrant revelation of Godís
Truth. They declared their loyalty to the pattern of sexual morality that
God has laid out in the Scripturesófaithful, life-long, monogamous marriage
between a man and a woman and celibacy for all (male or female, heterosexual
or homosexual) outside the state of Holy Matrimony. And they proclaimed
their loyalty to the Biblical standards for ordination to the ministry,
including the God-given pattern of a male pastorate.
In one way, what made these actions by the Southern Baptists so remarkable
is that they were necessary at all. Until very recently, to say that one
was "a Christian" was also to say necessarily that the Bible is Godís Word
Written and that the essence of Christianity itself is to obey the Word
of God, whether written in the Scriptures or Incarnate of the Virgin Mary.
On the other hand, much has changed in recent years.
There are those who claim to be "Christians" who also claim the "right"
to pick and choose among the Scriptures, or to ignore them entirely, as
they invent a religion for themselves. Of course, only God has the right
to invent a religion, but this does not seem to faze such people at all.
Likewise, it doesnít seem to bother them that they canít really call themselves
"Christians" with any truth if they assert that they have "rights" before
God, and especially the "right of private interpretation."
Perhaps they have forgotten (or just donít care) that a "right," as
far as the Scriptures are concerned, is only a duty of righteousness that
we owe to God or to our neighbor. Nothing unrighteous can ever be a right,
and rights are never about what we receive, as much as they are about what
we must give to others. The chief "equality" in the Bible is this: the
equal duty of every man, woman, and child to obey God in all things.
The Scriptures themselves, moreover, forbid any such thing as "private
interpretation." St. Peter writes, "Ö[N]o 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 Peter 1:20-21). The moment one enters the realm of private interpretation,
he has left the realm of Godís Word, and certainly he has left behind the
legitimate practice of Christianity.
The "usual suspects," of course, have howled in protest against the
Baptistsí simple affirmation of a scriptural faith, just as the same anti-Christian
forces have, from time to time, slandered our own attempts to remain faithful
to the whole of the Gospel. But this is nothing new. There have always
been enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, contained as promises in the
Old Testament and delivered as the fulfillment of Godís promises in the
New. And there have always been some who called themselves "Christians"
but had no intention of trying to convert the world around them to faith
in Jesus Christ and obedience to his Father. Instead, they set out to convert
the Christian Church and Christian doctrine to the false wisdom and false
morality of this fallen world, which is in open rebellion against God.
For this reason, St. James had to write to some of the earliest Christians,
"[K]now ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever
therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4).
If this warning from the Apostle seems harsh, our Lordís own warning is
even stronger: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheepís
clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. 7:15).
Our Lord will not even allow that those who misrepresent or warp the
Word of God are merely "mistaken." He insists in these words from the Sermon
on the Mount that those who teach a different doctrine from the doctrine
of God in the Bible are "ravening wolves" who have disguised themselves
as members of Godís flock in order to kill and to destroy the unsuspecting
But how can the once faithful be destroyed by these "wolves" and their
false doctrines? The answer is simple. If the once faithful turn away from
the One True God; if they put their faith in something less than God; if
they worship what is not God; and if they do not repent and repudiate all
false doctrine and all false gods, they will die an eternal death and be
excluded from the kingdom of heaven. St. John warns us, indeed, that "There
is a sin unto death" (1 John 5:16). And St. Paul admonishes us, "Know ye
not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye
are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"
Of course, the heart of all modern false doctrine is that there is no
final judgment of God, and so it doesnít really matter what we believe
or we do, since we are all on our way to heaven anyway. If this were true,
who would need the Scriptures as a guide to truth and life? But our Lord
Jesus Christ tells us clearly that such a doctrine of do-it-yourself religion
is a dangerous lie. He says in the Sermon on the Mount, in the words with
which we began, "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."
Only the disciplined way of the Scriptures (given by God as a graceful
token of his goodness) makes a disciple of Jesus Christ, and all other
ways lead to destruction precisely because they are opposed to God and
his goodness. The gate of heaven is narrow and can only be entered by those
who follow Jesus Christ in all things whatsoever, submitting their private
judgment to the judgment of their Lord. We pray, or we ought to pray, constantly
for the salvation of all men. But if we mean those prayers and if we truly
love our neighbors, then we must recognize that Christ has said "few" will
enter into life, and only those who follow him, because he has also said,
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father,
but by me" (John 14:6).
This is the only Gospel that a Christian can preach, because no other
Gospel is true or the Word of God. For a Christian to say otherwise is
to join the wolves and the false prophets in doing harm to others, no matter
how pious he may appear. Mere personal piety is not enough, since our Lord
Jesus Christ attests, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall
enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father
which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
Christianity is an objective religion of the express will of God, and
not a religion of our personal feelings or intentions. These may be right
or wrong, but that can only be known by the revealed Word of God in the
Scriptures. Perhaps the most pitiful scene in those Scriptures is our Lordís
description of the Last Judgment: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord,
Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out
devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess
unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew
And what is the "iniquity" that damned these poor souls? It was the
use of Jesus Christís holy Name to justify what Jesus Christ had not commanded
to be done or to be believed. That iniquity is their self-assertion and
their self-fulfillment in their works and teaching, rather than the effort
to give all the glory to God in humble obedience to his will, as God has
given his will forever in the Holy Scriptures. That iniquity is what is
called today "cafeteria Christianity," where people pick and choose among
Godís teachings what they will believe or obey.
So thank God for the witness of the Southern Baptists, and may God bless
them for their faithfulness, even as a fallen world heaps scorn upon them.
And may God give us the same courage to witness to the entirety of his
revealed Truth, and may he give us all of the gifts of the Holy Ghost to
make us strong in obeying his Son Jesus Christ, who is the Living Commandment
of his Father in heaven.
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Andrewís Church and Dr. Tarsitano.