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THE VIOLENT TAKE IT BY FORCE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, February 2, 2003


"Because strait [small] is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14).


The gate to life is small. Jesus said, "I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:9). The gate and the door are synonymous. They both refer to Jesus. Jesus is said to be a "small gate" because He excludes all other gates. Mankind has devised 6,000 religions and thousands of ways to be saved. But Jesus is the only way to true salvation. Therefore the gate is a small gate, not the "big" gate of salvation through many religions, as people say today.

Then, "narrow is the way." The Greek word means "difficult," and it is translated that way in the New King James Bible. The idea is that it is a narrow and difficult way. He is not speaking of the Christian life. Oh, no! He is speaking of "the way which leadeth unto life." He is saying that the pathway leading up to conversion is narrow and difficult. No one ever described "the way which leadeth unto life" better than John Bunyan. The first third of his Pilgrim's Progress describes the narrow, difficult way leading up to the moment when Pilgrim finds life by conversion to Jesus Christ.

That is what this verse is talking about. Salvation is only through the "small" gate of Jesus Christ. The way leading to salvation in Christ is difficult and narrow. It is difficult because there are many obstacles to stop you from being converted, as Bunyan points out. It is narrow because you may leave the path that leads to conversion and go off in some other direction. You must stay on the narrow way "which leadeth unto life."

When you come to Christ and are converted, you have entered the small gate, and have stayed on the narrow road that leads to salvation in Him. You stayed on that way until you found life in Him.

This verse ends by telling us, "and few there be that find it," that is, life. Few people find salvation through Christ. That, of course, shows that not many people are saved. The only ones who are saved are those who follow the narrow and difficult road until they enter the "small" gate of salvation through Christ.

The Puritans and the preachers of the three great awakenings of the past preached strongly on the preparation of the heart for conversion. They said that a man must go through trials and difficulties on the road to conversion, and that a person only passes through the "strait gate" with agony. Men like Jonathan Edwards said this, although he was very careful to say that such "birth pangs" of conversion could be greatly compressed into a short space of time in certain cases. But he taught that the majority of conversions are much longer in the preparatory stage. It is in that time of preparation that you must stay on the narrow way "which leadeth unto life."

Taken together, this verse speaks of salvation as a very serious matter, and it tells us that only those who are very serious will experience true salvation, "and few there be that find it." Here are three verses of Scripture which show us different sides of the seriousness that leads to real salvation.

I. Serious salvation requires taking it by force.

Please turn to Matthew 11:12,

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matthew 11:12).

The Greek word translated "violent" is "biastai," which means "to force" (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Revell, 1966, p. 118). Dr. A. T. Robertson says, "The kingdom is forced, is stormed, is taken by men of violence like 'men of violence take it by force'" ( Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1930, volume I, p. 89). Dr. J. Vernon McGee says, "Those who are committed wholeheartedly press into it; that is, they violently want to come in. There is a note of need and desperation" ( Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, volume IV, p. 63). The Puritan commentator Matthew Poole adds, "The violent take it by force: they are not lazy wishes or cold endeavors that will bring men to heaven" ( A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 reprint of the 1685 edition, volume III, p. 49).

Men and women who are desperate (McGee) for salvation "violently want to come in" to full salvation in Christ. "Men of violence take it by force" (Robertson). Poole says, "They are not lazy wishes or cold endeavors that will bring men to heaven."

C. H. Spurgeon sums it all up by saying,

Those who have received the Spirit…in truth are violent men. They have a violent anxiety to be saved, and they violently strive that they may enter in at the strait gate. Well they know that seeking to enter in is not enough, for many seek to enter in but shall not be able, and therefore they do strive with might and main [with all their might] ( New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1981 printing, volume V, pp. 217-218).

Again, Spurgeon says,

Ye have enemies within you, enemies without, enemies beneath, enemies on every side - the world, the flesh, and the devil…The man who would be saved must be violent, because of the opposition he encounters" (ibid., p. 222).

Now, I ask you, are you violently serious about finding salvation in Christ? Or do you only have "lazy wishes or cold [attempts]," as Matthew Poole puts it? Many of you here tonight wish to be saved, but your wishes are indeed lazy. You are too lazy to read the Old and New Testament readings given out by the church each week. You wish to be saved without the violent desperation required to force yourself to do all the prescribed Bible readings. When the sermon is preached you let it pass over your head without violently and desperately forcing your mind to think about the sermon deeply. And you seldom pray for your own salvation. And when you do, it is only a lazy prayer. There is no violent zeal in your prayers for salvation. There is no desperate pleading with God to convert you. Again, I say with Poole, "The violent take it by force: they are not lazy wishes or cold endeavors [attempts] that will bring men to heaven."

Remember the violent desperation of Paul, who fasted three days, and travelled a long distance to be counselled, and did exactly what he was told after he was counselled. No wonder he was soundly converted. He was serious and even violent with desire to be saved. How different Paul was compared to your "lazy wishes and cold attempts"! John Wesley travelled the ocean, fasted, prayed and threw himself into the work of finding salvation in Christ. So did George Whitefield. So did Martin Luther. And so must you. Away with your lazy wishes and cold attempts! Get the holy violence of Paul, Wesley, Whitefield and Luther. Feel within yourself that you must have Christ or perish in the attempt. Spurgeon went through a snow storm to hear the sermon that converted him. He was in violent pursuit of salvation in Christ. And you must be just as violent, just as relentless, in your pursuit of salvation. "The violent take it by force."

II. Serious salvation requires pressing into it.

Please turn to Luke 16:16,

"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16).

The Greek word for "presseth" is the same as the word translated "violence" in Matthew 11:12. But there it is in the passive voice, "suffereth violence." Here it is in the middle voice, and is translated "entereth violently" in the RV and as "is forcing his way into it" in the NASV. Middle voice indicates the meaning as referring to those who make an effort to enter the Kingdom in spite of violent opposition (W. E. Vine, op. cit., p. 189).

"…since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth [is forcing his way] into it" (Luke 16:16).

Jesus is telling the Pharisees that ever since John the Baptist began preaching many people have been forcing their way into the Kingdom of God. "'Every man presseth into it,' that is many press, into it" (Poole, op. cit., p. 249).

Spurgeon said,

Only the violent are saved, and all the violent are saved. When God makes a man violent after salvation, that man cannot perish. The gates of heaven may sooner be unhinged than that man be robbed of the prize for which he has sought (C. H. Spurgeon, op. cit., p. 223).

You have never earnestly sought after Christ. You come to church and listen listlessly to the sermon. There is no urgency in you. You are like a man in bed who hears his neighbor screaming, "Fire! Fire." But you turn over on your bed and go back to sleep. The flames are leaping up in another part of the house, and are steadily making their way toward your bedroom. Soon you will be engulfed in a mountain of fire. But you are drowsy and sleep on. This is the way a lost person acts, sleeping on, even in church. Sleeping on, even as the flames of Hell lick at your shoes!

"Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead"
     (Ephesians 5:14).

Awaken and press into the Kingdom of God!

The gates of Heaven are clogged with massive crowds of people, "and he that would enter must press, and elbow, and push, or he [can] go away certain that he can never enter" (C. H. Spurgeon, ibid.). You must either get serious about pressing your way into salvation - or you will go to Hell while you sleep on!

"Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead"
     (Ephesians 5:14).

This brings us to the third passage of Scripture concerning seriousness that leads to salvation. Please turn to Luke 13:24.

III. Serious salvation requires that you strive to enter into it.

Jesus said:

"Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24).

The two most important words here are "strive" and "seek." "Strive" is from "agonizesthe." It means "to struggle, to labor strongly and fervently." "Seek" is translated from "zeteosin." It means "to desire, to enquire about." Now this makes it clear: The person who "wants to be saved" and asks questions about salvation will not get saved! Only the person who struggles and works to find salvation will find it!

The Bible says:

"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

"Work out" means "continue to work until it is completed." In light of the next verse, this refers to salvation. You must continue to work at it until you are converted. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate" (Luke 13:24).

If you don't struggle, and continue to struggle, to enter salvation, you will never get truly converted.

Read the examples of the conversions of famous Christians like Paul, Augustine, Luther, Bunyan, Whitefield, or Spurgeon. In every case these men strove with all their might to enter into salvation.

If you don't struggle to enter in, you are never going to get saved - no matter how many times you go to the inquiry room!

"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

"Strive to enter in at the strait gate" (Luke 13:24).

Yes, "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14). The only people who find it are those who are dead serious and work hard at it. You must take it by force. You must press into it. You must struggle with all your might to enter it.

"The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matthew 11:12).

(END OF SERMON)


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan:

Matthew 11:12; Luke 16:14-16.

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" (by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE VIOLENT TAKE IT BY FORCE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Because strait [small] is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14).

(John 10:9)

I.   Serious salvation requires taking it by force,
Matthew 11:12.

II.  Serious salvation requires pressing into it,
Luke 16:16; Ephesians 5:14.

III. Serious salvation requires that you strive to enter into it,
Luke 13:24; Philippians 2:12.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."