The Narrow Path: God’s Highway of Holiness

Jesus encourages us to enter the narrow path that leads to life. The Bible gives vital details about the challenges and benefits of this Highway of Holiness.

As God’s people proceed toward the Kingdom of God, there is a road they must travel—an elevated road—a highway—that leads to that destination. No other road can take them to the Kingdom of God. The Bible speaks often about this highway.

With lots of help from Him, God’s people should, as the expression goes, “keep it between the ditches” of that road, the most important highway of all—the “Highway of Holiness” that leads to eternal life.

Our direction in life

Human life has a purpose. The Author and Giver of life had a purpose in mind when He created the world, all the plants and creatures, and then His ultimate handiwork—mankind—made in His own image (Genesis 1:27; Hebrews 2:10).

Since human life has a purpose, it is important for people to know about, understand and fulfill that purpose—lest they be out of sync with their fundamental reason for existing. Ultimately, everyone will know this purpose, but in today’s world, not many do.

People need to know how to proceed toward fulfilling God’s purpose for them. They need to know the way. The Bible reveals that way.

Call it a direction. Call it a path. Call it a road. Or call it a highway.

The Highway of Holiness

“A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8, emphasis added throughout).

In addition to being a highway on which “the ransomed of the LORD shall return … to Zion” (verse 10), “the Highway of Holiness” also represents a way of life.

Wise King Solomon wrote about this highway:

  • “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who keeps his way preserves his soul” (Proverbs 16:17).
  • “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil” (Proverbs 4:26-27, English Standard Version).

People who travel on this highway are fulfilling their purpose for being alive. They are heading toward the holy Creator God, not away from Him.

Those traveling on this highway are heading away from evil—actions, motivations and thoughts contrary to the will of the one true Creator God. They are taking their lives seriously and giving careful attention to the decisions they make, wanting them to conform to their Creator’s revealed desires for them.

The right way (and many wrong ways)

The Highway of Holiness is the only way to the true God, to conforming to His character. And it is the way to what only the true God offers—eternal life in the Kingdom of God.The Highway of Holiness is the only way to the true God, to conforming to His character. And it is the way to what only the true God offers—eternal life in the Kingdom of God. No other highway leads to this.

There are many counterfeit highways in this world, allegedly leading to the Kingdom of God, but actually leading only to death. Regarding every single one of these counterfeit highways, God makes the following assessment:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Though the wonderful and singular highway of life is the sole means of advancing toward the Kingdom of God, it is decidedly not an easy road to travel on—and it takes an invitation from God even to recognize that it is the right road (John 6:44).

This road is full of inconvenient twists, turns and hazards—even hostility and suffering. It is not a clear and smooth road. It has obstacles and challenges aplenty. To the mind of natural man, it often seems to be unnecessarily difficult to stay on this highway. It takes God-given spiritual enlightenment and motivation to have the understanding and commitment and desire to continue to travel on it.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Following His footsteps

This distinctive highway is noted for an important previous Traveler. His footsteps are on it, always facing forward, never backward, and never toward an exit ramp.

It is important for anyone traveling on this highway to follow faithfully those footsteps made by that Pioneer traveler.

Jesus Christ is the way

This Highway of Holiness actually has another name. The name is—Jesus Christ. He is the way. He was the Pioneer traveler on this highway.

In His life as a human being, He traveled the Highway of Holiness exclusively and perfectly. He personified the way of perfectly yielding to and fulfilling the will of God the Father. In that way, Jesus set the pattern for all other human beings who wish to fulfill their purpose—God’s purpose for them—for being alive.

  • “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).
  • “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain [Greek archegos—leader, pioneer] of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10).
  • “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
  • “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Obstacles on the highway: the stone of stumbling

By design, there are obstacles to be overcome in traveling on it. There is one particular obstacle that has caused some people not to make progress on this road, or indeed to want to travel on it. It is an obstacle over which some have stumbled and will stumble.

This obstacle has everything to do with the Pioneer who first traveled this highway and who personified it. It is a particular “stone of stumbling” and “rock of offense.” Long ago, it was prophesied to be so, and in the person of Christ, it was fulfilled and has been ever since.

The prophets described this stone of stumbling, this obstacle to the carnal, faithless mind:

  • “Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will lay stumbling blocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall on them’” (Jeremiah 6:21).
  • “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken” (Isaiah 8:14-15).

The apostles also drew attention to how the very foundation of this wonderful highway could also trip many up:

  • “For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’” (Romans 9:32-33).
  • “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
    “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’
    “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock off offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” (1 Peter 2:4-8).

Christ, in His holiness and mind yielded to the will of the Father, embodies the foundational principle of the Kingdom of God. He is the personification of this highway. He is “the way.”

A new and living way

Those not yet called by God stumble and fall at this utterly different and “new” way of thinking and living. Human reasoning is offended at it.

“By a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:20-22).

This obstacle—this stone of stumbling—this Christlike way of thinking and doing has caused some people to criticize the Designer of this highway and even its very purpose. It has offended and will offend some people if their own sense of what is right and wrong, and of what is necessary and unnecessary, is a god to them. It offends some people if they are not walking by faith, but instead by sight.

“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’” (John 6:66-68).

This particular obstacle is personified in the Designer of the highway, its first Traveler, and the demands He places on anyone who would be His disciple and follow His pioneering journey on it. It is the requirement that such a person must carry a certain something as he walks on this highway—just as He did.

That something is the cross of self-denial. It is a “not my will, but Your will” way of thinking and doing.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’” (Matthew 16:24).

Traveling this highway is foolishness to the world

This godly highway goes in directions that sometimes are counterintuitive, even seemingly foolish—at least to the natural mind of man. But if a person stays on this road, he is being led in the ways of true, godly wisdom. He is progressing in a way that rejects the foolishness of his natural mind, and he is growing in godly wisdom.

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Invited through the narrow gate

The entry ramp onto this highway of life is narrow.The entry ramp onto this highway of life is narrow. Only one traveler at a time accesses this highway. It is an individual and personal matter to start a journey on this highway. It is by invitation only, and at this time in the history of mankind, the invitations are relatively few.

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

Not just any way of thinking or believing or doing is permissible while on this unique highway. Only one way is permissible. Any other habitual way of thinking, believing and doing means exiting from this highway. The exit ramps are many.

“Difficult is the way” (it’s not for the lazy!)

This is not a road for the lazy. It takes perseverance and sustained, purposeful effort to make progress on this highway.

“The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns, but the way of the upright is a highway” (Proverbs 15:19).

The apostle Paul traveled on this highway. Here is how he was inspired to describe his progress on it:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).

He exerted himself; laziness wasn’t appropriate! Paul not only walked on this highway, he ran. He raced toward the end point—the resurrection into the Kingdom of God.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance [cheerful, patient endurance] the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Beware the exit ramps

There are many exit ramps on this highway, and to the natural mind they seem to offer a better travel experience. It takes faith—the faith of conviction—to stay on this highway. A person must have faith that it (and it alone) leads to the desired destination—the Kingdom of God.

Much of the evidence a person sees with his eyes and processes with his merely human reasoning leads to the conclusion that this highway is not where he should be, and that arriving at his desired destination via this road is impossible, or at least unnecessarily difficult.

“But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone” (Romans 9:31-32).

How to turn your life around

If a traveler on this highway has made the mistake of exiting from it in order to travel another direction (either intentionally, through succumbing to the inclinations of the “old man,” or unintentionally, through inattention or carelessness), he can get back onto the right highway.

But, in order to do so, he must first “turn back” from (repent of) the steps he has taken on the wrong roads. He must acknowledge and “confess” that the distance he traveled on the other roads was contrary to God’s will. It was backward “progress”—away from the Kingdom of God. It was sin.

This has been the case since the beginning. It was the message in ancient times, when God was dealing primarily with the physical nation of Israel (see Jeremiah 18:15; 31:21). It is the case today, when God is dealing primarily with “spiritual Israel”—the Church of God.

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7-9).

“This is the way, walk in it”: when the highway will be open to all

The Bible reveals the truth about a future time when things will be much different. Then this true highway will be accessible to all the world’s inhabitants, not just to a few (by invitation only), as it is today.

It will be everywhere. It will be available to all peoples and nations—in all the world. The world will then be organized and ruled and educated such that all roads lead to the Kingdom of God!

This future age is the time of “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). It is the Millennium and beyond. It is the world God’s people long for. The Highway of Holiness—the way that Jesus Christ, the Pioneer of our salvation, personified—will connect the entire world under His rule. Then there will be holy teachers to help all people in the world stay on that highway.

“I will make each of My mountains a road, and My highways shall be elevated” (Isaiah 49:11).

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).

Which way will you choose?

Few today have understood the narrow path, and fewer have entered it now. But if your eyes have been opened to recognize the diverging paths before you, choose the narrow way that leads to life.

For God’s people living in this present evil world, the route and destination are clear. With much help from God, we must stay on the Highway of Holiness. In the world tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to help many others do the same.

About the Author

Tom Kirkpatrick

Tom Kirkpatrick holds a PhD in accounting from the University of North Texas, and is a retired CPA. He has taught accounting and business courses at the university graduate level, and has served in the financial management of Church of God organizations. He most recently pastored two congregations of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, before his retirement in 2020.

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