Striving To Enter (by Jonathan Lipnick And Dr. Eli Lizorkin-eyzenberg)

Holy Strive LizorkinJesus’ teaching about the “narrow gate” is a familiar passage for many Christians.  His message is that entering the kingdom of heaven is not easy. Unlike the comfort of “walking on the broad road”, “entering the narrow gate” requires discipline, strength and bravery. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says simply “enter through the narrow gate” (Mt. 7:13). But in the Gospel of Luke there is much more urgency: “strive to enter through the narrow door” (Lk. 13:24). To read the original and to make a comment, click HERE.

The English word “strive” is not nearly as interesting as the original Greek word, which Luke uses: ἀγωνίζομαι (agōnizomai). This is a verb built on the root ἀγών (agōn), which means an athletic competition, such as a running race or a wrestling match.

He chooses this word because he wishes to convey the sense of pain and struggle which is required of those who chose to follow Christ. Paul, who authored his letters before Luke did his Luke-Acts, also used this athletic imagery of running the race and fighting the fight (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7). Luke and Paul use this athletic term because they wish to show that the suffering endured by Christians today will be followed by triumph reserved for them in the future.

To read about Koine Judeo-Greek click HERE.

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Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. Mary Anne

    Hi Dr. Eli, yes, I believe we’re on the same page. We lost our original access to the Divine as fallen creatures. That access was restored when Jesus bequeathed the Holy Spirit to us upon his death / resurrection. I agree, the ongoing inspiration of the Holy Spirit comes to us through the Word and thus we can’t rely on our human “feelings” to be our compass. Ironically, though, we would not know of the existence of the precious Word if not for the Holy Spirit’s prompting in the first place. I am continually amazed at how we all are brought to the Word. It’s a wonderful mystery indeed as each believer can come to the Word through various ‘theologies’, as you point out. Shalom!

  2. Mary Anne

    Comments on this post : ‘” Our approach to scripture however should not be ‘ I believe first and then I read what the scripture says’, but the other way around.”

    .Jesus said that in order to fully realize God (who is Spirit) – we must seek & worship Him in Spirit. Therefore, we are called to have FAITH FIRST. Yes, that faith comes to us by & through the Word of God – YET- it is ONLY by the Holy Spirit’s leading to & revelation of that Word that we apprehend the truth. Reliance only on man-made theology (whatever that theology may be) – w/o FIRST relying on the life-giving Spirit of God (who lives in us by & through Jesus) we are incomplete and fall short of finding God, our Father.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Mary, I think you are misunderstanding what I am saying. I am saying that our idea (including theological) must be based not on what where we think/feel the spirit is leading too (after all we are fallen beings with fallen communication with the divine), but the Spirit inspired – the Word. That’s in a nutshell is my point. I have a hunch that we may be meaning to say the same thing. 🙂

  3. Shayne Higgins

    &the Pharisaic interpretation of the Mosaic law or the righteousness of the Mosaic law.This was also a period of Jewish history when the Jrwish people were looking 4 redemption.It was a time when they were suffering under Roman oppression&looking 4 some type of Messianic redemption, primarily,a national redemption from the servitude to Rome; nevertheless they sought a redemption of messianic proportions.They were looking 4 the Messiah to come&establish His Kingdom on opposition to the kingdom of Rome.According to the Old Testament prophets, righteousness was the means to entering the Kingdom.Jesus offered people righteousness but He received opposition from tthePharisees2 b continued

  4. Shayne Higgins

    The background of the Sermon on the Mount, firstly it occurred after intense interest in the person of Jesus was stirred up.By this time, He had gone all over the country proclaiming His Messiahship and authenticating His claims with many miracles, signs&wonders.Which is why Jewish people were there from all over the country&outside the country as well.It also occured after the selection of the 12 disciples.In fact, it was immediately b4 this sermon that Jesus selected&closed His apostolic group of 12.It also came after there had been several conflicts with the Pharisees over the authority of Pharisaic Judaism,&after debates between Jesus&the Pharisees over its validity..to b continued

  5. Sandy

    This is my first time visiting this site and it is awesome. Thank you for this riveting and needless to say fantastically interesting interpretation of this scripture. God bless you as you educate His people. Sandy

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Moses and Sandy, thank you both for kind remarks. Please enjoy the blog and lets study together.

  6. moses

    Dr ELI thank you for your work.a true disciple of The Lord believes his word.so if one thinks the gate is not narrow let that person think again about his faith.Luke 18:17,24 tells us clearly.you can get the picture in those verses why striving is commanded. there is nothing about easy journey it is hard way Jesus showed us

  7. Shara Hernandez

    Actually, you had 1 Corinthians 9:25 , but also the book of Jude uses the Greek word epagonizomai (to contend earnestly ) demonstrate how we should be exerting ourselves in the faith. Another great scripture is Hebrews 12:11″ No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”

  8. Shara Hernandez

    Athletic terminology is commonly used as we are called to be spiritually athletic. Remember, for instance, Ephesians 6:12 ” For we are [wrestling (pale in Greek) ] not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.” See also, 1 Corinthians 9:25 “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

  9. Wiseman

    This is very interesting and very true as well, being a follower of Christ is never a walk in the park, on the contrary one will meet many obstacles. Hence the Christian life is a life of faith sometimes things might be very challenging and there might seem to be a way out but faith says that I can see beyond the visible. Though we might strive because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ it is always a comforting thought to know that one does not strive to be saved or justified but only through faith alone. May God continue to bless you all. Shalom Aliechem

  10. Kat Hobaugh

    You referenced “fight the good fight of faith” Are there separate words for our faith in” God’s actions” and our faith that “our actions” will produce fruit in accordance to God’s will? I see this as important in understanding the word strive.

  11. Sylvia Wackenier

    Dr.Eli, thank you for the reply.

    I didn’t think such as conflicting verses. I agree with your answer ” usually a sense of peace and holy effort. What I ment by effort ” the struggle in my translation to find the words to express myself in writing in English, not in study. My apology. Kind regards. Sylvia.

  12. Mary Anne

    Hi all,

    A little more on the “striving” aspect from my perspective. The verse in Hebrews i referred to in previous post is a metaphor describing our needed endurance / perseverance as we seek to find & follow the narrow path / straight gate. I like the reference that the author of Hebrews made when he stated that we “run the race with perseverance marked out for us”.

    What I derive from that phrase tells us that God has pre-ordained those who believe in him to follow (i.e., run the race) the only path that leads to him – that path being Jesus Christ – and that path being “narrow” and “hard”. It is narrow and hard because we live in a world which constantly bombards us with information / temptations / philosophies which are against / counter to Jesus Christ and his ministry.

    So, I believe the reference to the “striving” and the “run the race” recognize just how difficult it can be for the true believer in Christ to balance “being in the World, but not of the World”.

    John 15:19 – “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you”. (I take the reference to “hate” to mean rejection of our expression of Christian beliefs).

    That’s why Forums like this one are a gift from God to the believer who is striving to run the race on the narrow path to Jesus. Thanks!! Mary Anne

  13. Mary Anne

    First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you Dr. Eli!! Blessings and joy to you this day and every day going forward.

    In response to your note regarding Paul not being the author of Hebrews – on doing some research (because I had always assumed Paul was the author); I see that the author of this Epistle has been debated since post-apostolic days. A plausible option under consideration is that this was actually a sermon given by Paul – but it was transcribed later by Luke. Other authors have also been considered as well…

    From my perspective, the ‘tone and tenor’ of the Epistle mirrors that of Paul’s style in his other Epistles. My particular persuasion is that the Epistle to the Hebrews was most likely based on a sermon given by Paul or it was penned by someone intimately involved in Paul’s ministry.

    In any case, the message within this Epistle – furtherance of the understanding of the high-priestly ministry of the Man of Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, is all that we need be concerned with. To me, the authorship of the Epistle is inconsequential to the message contained therein.

    I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks!!

  14. Sylvia Wackenier

    Dear Jonathan Lipnick and Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg,

    A strive to enter,
    Cor 9:24-27 Not to get involved to run a race for gain. Not to strive for being yasikg ( yod-shin-gimmel) from the root (nun-shin-gimmel ?? ) please will you help me on this.

    1 Tim 6:12 We are called in obediance to G-ds word to strife in faith a battle against injustice.
    Discipline to body and soul, strenght and braverie ?

    2 Tim 4:7 My battle has strifed , my run has ended , I KEPT THE FAITH.
    Goal !

    Is my way of thinking correct ?

    PS: I translate into English ! from the Tenach Hebrew-Flemish, also the B’rit Chadasha. I hope for the best. Hope to have soon the Hebrew-English versions. This is my effort at the moment.

    I thank you in advance for your corrections and guidance.

    Kind regards Sylvia.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Sylvia, I don’t think that these are conflicting verses. There is usually a sense of peace and holy effort.

  15. Daniel

    Greetings of peace to all in Christ,

    Thank you for your kind comments Mary Anne. Unfortunately, I did not respond to your post, but rather to Dr. Eli’s post entitled: “Striving to Enter.” Hopefully, that should clarify any misunderstanding.

    As to Mr. Pink, I am not a fan of his or any other man or woman. Indeed, if I had to use that term “fan”, I would only say that I am a “fan” of Jesus Christ; for Scripture teaches that we are not to be fans of men, but followers of God. See e.g. Isaiah 2:22; (“Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?”); Ephesians 5:1 (“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;”).

    Having said that, I must also make clear here to you that I don’t believe having faith is a competition and neither do I believe it is a competition “within ourselves” to believe, as if our belief were a work of ourselves. Indeed, such an unscriptural view of salvation is precisely what I endeavored to reprove with my initial comment in which I cited Ephesians 2:8.

    For while you are right in stating that Christ’s gifts can only be received by one’s belief in him, Scripture clearly teaches that we can receive nothing unless it be given to us from above, (see John 3:27), and that includes our belief in Christ, (Ephesians 2:8), and whatever else distinguishes us from one another. See 1 Corinthians 4:7 (This is another forceful reason not to be a fan of any creature but rather of the Creator who made us.).

    According to Scripture, the entire salvific process, which includes our justification, sanctification and glorification, are wholly accomplished by God through Jesus Christ in us. See John 1:1, 14; John 15:3; John 17: 17; Acts 26:18; Romans 8:28-30; 10:17; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 5:10; Hebrews 11:40; 12:2, 23. I cite the New Testament here but there are many verses in the Old Testament which testify to the same effect. See e.g., Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 20:8; Deuteronomy 30:6; Psalms 138:8; Ezekiel 20:12; 36:22-36. In the end, we just fear and tremble, (see Philippians 2:12-13), as we are appointed to suffer tribulation for Christ’s sake (see John 16:33; Acts 14:22), through manifold trials of our faith in the body of this death, (1 Thess. 3:3; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:12-13; James 1:2-3; Romans 7:14-24), through our ongoing spiritual battle against the rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places as we live godly and preach his words to the lost, (2 Tim. 3:12; Ephesians 6:12), and through our enduring the constant contradiction of sinners against Christ in this evil world. See 1 Peter 3:19; Hebrews 12:2-3. Throughout we are exhorted not to faint, and fight the good fight of faith, but it is the Lord who ultimately strengthens us and holds us up throughout. See Psalm 31:24; Isaiah 40:31; 2 Thess. 3:3. For his alone is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

    Though I am but an infant in Christ, I sincerely pray you will understand the sense of my words and that God will bless you richly with his grace and peace in Christ Jesus.

  16. Kat Hobaugh

    I am puzzled as to why the word “strive” and the words “enter through the narrow gate” don’t seem to offer guidance (strive to believe in Jesus?, strive for forgiveness? strive for righteousness?). Would this be because the Jewish mindset (keeping the law or following Christ) had already been established? Or is the Koine Judeo-Greek based off of a mindset?

  17. Mary Anne

    Hi Daniel and all,

    I have been a life-long Christian and I see that both you and Dr. Eli are fans of Arthur Pink (as I am). – i.e. Sanctification / Justification, The Gospel of John, etc. I am in In full agreement that Jesus is the gate (the Only Way to find God and achieve eternal life. Perhaps I wasn’t clear – but I think it is more of a case of you misunderstanding what I said.

    Jesus Christ is the narrow gate; the only way (meaning his “way” is hard from a spiritual perspective – not human perspective – and not everyone will be “fit” to go through that gate). I never implied that one can achieve what Christ offers is by their works. HOWEVER, since you brought it up, Christ’s gifts can only be a received through one’s belief in Him. God does not offer salvation to those who do not believe in Jesus. That’s sad that you view that as a “competition”. The only competition is within ourselves / our souls – do we truly believe or do we not truly believe In Jesus Christ?

    God told us that If one does not believe in Jesus Christ as the incarnate God, then salvation is not attainable. Works only come into play when one believes in Jesus Christ in that they now strive to be like him and mirror what he showed us about good works. However, again, works are but a by-product of belief. So, to state again, I fully agree that attaining eternal life is not something that someone can “work” in a physical, human way to obtain.

    I am really befuddled how you came to the conclusion from my post…

  18. Joan Lesabe

    Shalom Dr Eli
    Thanks for the post of the narrow gate. You can not take much thru a narrow gate luggage wise. Christ wants us to leave excess buggage and concentrate on running to enter& finnish the race before us. It is not a competion, but one of endurance & finnishing.
    Thank you somuch for such enlightening teachings.
    Shabbat shalom
    Joan

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, all comparisons are partial and will work in one context and may not work in another. Joan, thank you for your comment.

  19. alfredo

    This goes along with Yeshua’s words
    “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.” Matthew 11:12
    in allusion to
    Micah 2:12-13
    “I will surely gather all of you, Jacob;
    I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
    I will bring them together like sheep in a pen,
    like a flock in its pasture;
    the place will throng with people.
    The One who breaks open the way will go up before them;
    they will break through the gate and go out.
    Their King will pass through before them,
    the Lord at their head.”

    you can see what this image is about in this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-peO-RNzWdA

    So we should be striving like those sheep in that narrow gate, going from this world (Olam HaZeh) into the next world (Olam Haba).

  20. Mary Anne

    Hello, as growing and “ever-learning” Christian, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this forum! Thanks so much for being here and providing meaningful and thought- proving insights!

    I love Christ for so many reasons, but one of those reasons is that He didn’t “mince” words making it clear what we must do to be his followers in this life and garner his ultimate gift to us of eternal life. At the same time, He always offers words of encouragement “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. My personal interpretation here (and attempting to reconcile the narrow gate and the easy yoke – I would appreciate your insight on reconciling these two verses) is that while we are struggling along ‘highway of holiness’, Christ is always ‘at the ready’ to help and uplift us, so that our continual striving does not overwhelm and discourage us.

    One thing that I have always found intriguing is Pauls’ verse – Hebrews 12:1-2 – (which echos the same thought) is the idea that we are running a race that “has been marked out for us”. It strikes me that Paul is saying the each of us (while we do have free will as we are running this race) has been pre-ordained by God (if we believe in Christ) to perform specific actions in this life – carved out specifically for each one of us. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks!

    Best Regards, Mary Anne

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Mary Ann, hi. Quick clarification Paul did not write the epistle to the Hebrews (it was a common mistake of the past).

      About how to reconcile these two statements: First of all this incredible question. I think one has to do with our effort as part of the sanctification process (as theology calls it) and the other has to do with the kind of rest we find when we place yourself in the God’s hands. You remember the verse that tells us on the one hand to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but on the other as we do that we must know that it is God who works in us both to will and to do according to his will and pleasure.

      1. BENEDICTA NAZARETH

        In the last paragraph of the book of Hebrews the author wrote: I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.. From this statement it is obvious that book of Hebrews was not written by Paul.Paul adressed Timothy as :my son…” In the beginning of the book the style, approach sounds like only Paul who was a Pharisee could write the book.But there is only one place where the identity of the author is revealed and as I can remember it is correctly translated as a verb with feminine gender in Philips translation but king James has changed it to THE a definite article. I wish I am able to help here.

        1. BENEDICTA NAZARETH

          I believe Priscilla and her husband were instrumental in convincing Apollo ,( a brilliant Jew who taught baptism of John the Baptist) about Yeshua. She was a brilliant woman who studied from Paul. Bible tells us how they met Paul and helped him. So, could it be possible that she wrote Book of Hebrew?

  21. Daniel

    Greetings in Christ,

    I usually don’t comment on your posts, but I read this one and felt moved to make this comment. Christ uses the terms strait gate and narrow way, not because the gate is hard to enter or the way difficult, as most corrupt modern Bible versions have it. Rather, Christ uses those terms because he is the gate, and he is the way. See John 10:9; 14:6;. That one would have to strive to enter in is indeed a reference to the good fight of faith, but your post here leaves the unlearned reader with the distinct impression that salvation is a competition and such an impression undoubtedly suggests that salvation is by one’s works, and not by faith, which is not of ourselves, but rather the gift of God. See Ephesians 2:8. I sincerely pray you will understand my words and that the Lord will continue to bless your ministry.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Daniel, first of all thank you for taking the time to comment and expressing your thoughts so clearly. I agree that the entering here deals more with sanctification then justification component. The difficulty is that right now in our discussion we are imposing MUCH later theological definitions (and blood both truths) to these texts that had no concern with Catholic-Protestant debates of the Reformation. Now having said that I agree with you especially in you quotations in John. I think you are absolutely correct especially in John. Dr. Eli

      1. Daniel

        Greetings of peace in Christ Dr. Eli,

        Thank you for your kind reply to my comment. I am afraid, however, that you will have to define what you mean by “MUCH later theological definitions (and blood both truths)” as I don’t fully understand your comment. May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Daniel

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Daniel, thank you. So sorry I think that day I was particularly busy so I did not reread my reply (mistake). it was indeed unclear and missing words :-). What I mean is that you and I are BOUND to read the Bible via the lenses of Catholic-Protestant debate over justification, while when those sacred texts were written there was no such tension for this reason when we interpret (think about the bible and what it all means) we MUST learn to as much as possible to think as they thought though and not anachronistically interpret something from the past in the light of later developments.

          1. Daniel

            Greetings of peace Dr. Eli,

            Thank you for your response to my question. I wholeheartedly agree with your point of view. May grace and peace be mulitplied unto us all through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Shalom.

          2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            Thank you so much! Blessings and peace, Dr. Eli

      2. BENEDICTA NAZARETH

        DR ELI
        WE NEED TO ADHERE TO THE PURE WORD OF GOD AND NOT CHANGE IT TO ADAPT TO MAN’S THEOLOGY. THEOLOGY KEEPS CHANGING AND THEY ARE MORE AND MORE LIBERAL. AS DANIEL WROTE: YESHUA IS THE GATE AND MANY WILL FALL AWAY FROM FOLLOWING HIM WHEN THEY ARE FACED WITH WORLDY CHALLENGES AND TEMPTATIONS. WE MUST REMAIN FOCUSSED ON YESHUA IF WE WANT TO BE HIS DISCIPLES.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Benedicta, hi. So sorry for late response. The problem that I find with what you write is that it is only good theory :-). Meaning that what you mean by the “pure word of God” is what you think is the right interpretation of that Word is. There is no way to avoid theology all together. You do theology, I do theology, everyone does. It is not an issue of us being theologians or not, but us being poor theologians or not. For example, assuming you read your Bible mostly in translation, you are still reading someone’s interpretation of what the ORIGINAL (PURE WORD OF GOD) is saying. Translation decisions taken by translators are just as much interpretation as anyone doing theology. Hope this is not too much to handle. Dr. Eli

          1. BENEDICTA NAZARETH

            Dr Eli
            Thank you for your time. I will look forward to learning from you. I am beginning to see and understand the prism you look at the scriptures. You have a great advantage over those living elsewhere in the world and raised in different culture. Culture has great influence on languages, our thinking and as well as on religions.
            I wish the story of tower of Babel never existed. I am now learning to think the Jewish way and enjoy it. The only thing I will not be able to accept is some one trying to diminish the divinity of Christ. He is indeed God incarnated in the flesh, the second person of the Triune God, our Redeemer, Savior. He became man just to atone for our sins.

          2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            Shavout (Acts.2) is a reversal of the curse of the Tower of Babel (languages are united again!!) So we should be OK :-). I (personally) believe in full divinity of Christ myself. I think that our approach to scripture however should not be. I believe first and then I read what the scripture says, but the other way around. I think you are (given your other comments about the course) way too fearful about this issue. I think Christ is divine, but I also recognize that this is a very complicated matter indeed.

            Dr. Eli

          3. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza

            BS”D

            Dr Eli.
            Here, is remarkable that according to the Talmud, (TB, Séder Nashim, maséjet sotá’, p. 32a, cap. 7 Halajáh 5, guemara), the Torah was spoken in 70 languages Shiv’im lashon, and the HOly one blessed be He, gave each people and nation to understand it. Curiously, the Midrásh Rut Rabá’, Parasháh 3, cap2 also tells us that King David died during a festival of Shavu’ot.