Luke 13:24, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” Cited to prove that a duty—here styled “striving”—is incumbent on all men, and that apart from its discharge none can be saved. This, however, is not the meaning of the passage, as will appear if we consider:
1. The persons addressed. An individual had inquired of Jesus whether such as are to be saved are few in number? Instead of answering this question directly (He had already done so elsewhere, Matt. 7:14), the Lord made it the occasion of a discourse, not to the inquirer only, but to all within the sound of His voice, whom he addressed collectively, as a religious gathering, on the ground of the interest in sacred themes which they then manifested. His subject was the possibility of being deluded upon the solemn matters which concern the soul and eternity. Thus our text is not a command to the unregenerate to do something, but a warning to religious professors to be diligent in seeing that they are right.
2. The injunction given. Strive with earnestness (literally agonize) to enter (into the kingdom of God) through the narrow gate (or door, the approved reading being the same word as in John 10:1); for many, I say unto you will seek (without agonizing earnestness, for a contrast is evidently intended between the full-hearted “striving” and the mere “seeking”) to enter in (that is to obtain admission to the kingdom of God by some other entrance) and will not be able.
This is Dean Alford’s interpretation. He observes, that we should supply the words, “the kingdom of God”—that the emphasis of the injunction lies at the phrase, the strait door—and that the words do not mean that some will seek to enter by this and not be able—but that they will attempt to enter elsewhere—“to climb up some other way.” John 10:1. [A thief and robber—“thief,” one who steals by fraud; “robber,” one who steals by violence. Such are liars and imposters in heart, and act in the energy of the flesh to deprive the Lord of His honour as the only Saviour. To set aside Jesus as needless and superfluous is to rob Him of His declarative glory.]
This disposes of the Arminian idea (often thrust on sinners to frighten them into becoming pious) that many men will come to Christ for salvation, and really seek Him in Faith, when it is too late.
Professedly religious persons should therefore be told that—There is but one way of entrance into salvation (Acts 4:12)—All who pass this portal—i.e., who come to Jesus in the energy of the Spirit-born life, and receive Jesus by Faith, do so with the deepest and most solemn feelings—Many attempt to obtain Salvation apart from Christ—not Unitarians only, but all are included to whom he is not absolutely essential and all sufficient—but such attempts prove failures.—We should strive with earnestness to know that our religion is of God.
The admonition, too long to transcribe here—but teaching that—Many will continue in a false profession until their death or the Second Advent.—Mere outward association with the Lord, in the days of His flesh, or with His followers now, will be no plea for His eternal approval.—Unless Christ knows us—by whatever means we have come by our religion—we shall be lost.-_Persons who enter upon a profession of religion without receiving Christ are workers of iniquity, an unusual expression (Alford) designating them as sinners of a very deep dye, who will be doomed to punishment of the heaviest character. Now they may receive compliments for their piety and liberality. Then their damnation will be of unspeakable severity.
Thus the passage does not teach Duty-Faith.