Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
23. And one saith to him, Lord, are there few who obtain salvation? And he said to them, 24. Strive to enter by the narrow gate: for many, I say to you, will seek to enter, and shall not be able.
Luke 13:23. And one saith to him Although Matthew relates this answer, as if it were immediately connected with other sentences taken out of our Lord’s sermons, yet I rather think that the occasion of its being spoken arose out of the present question. The reason why the question was put appears to have been, that Christ, who declared himself to be the author of life, could with difficulty collect a small number of disciples. It might appear, that a small band of men was to be saved, and that the whole church was going to ruin: for the whole of that nation, among whom the doctrine of Christ made no great progress, and by whom it was universally rejected, had been adopted by God as the heir of life. A similar doubt steals upon us, when we look at the melancholy condition of the world. “‘The greater part of men pursue a life which is utterly at variance with the Gospel. What is the meaning of this?” For this reason Christ, directing his discourse to all, exhorted them to strive to enter by the narrow gate These words were intended to withdraw his people from a foolish curiosity, by which many are retarded and involved, when they look around to see if any companions are joining them, as if they were unwilling to be saved but in a crowd. When he bids them strive, or labor, he conveys the information, that it is impossible to obtain eternal life without great and appalling difficulties. Let believers, therefore, give their earnest attention to this object, instead of indulging in excessive curiosity about the vast number of those who are going astray.
24. For many will seek to enter This was added, that we might not be deceived by a vain hope, as if the multitude of our companions would be of any avail to us. The flesh is willing to flatter itself, and many who now give themselves every indulgence, promise to themselves an easy entrance into life. Thus men practice mutual deception on each other, and fall asleep in wicked indifference. To shake off from his own people those flattering hopes, Christ declares that those who calculate that their possession of life is already certain, will be shut out. 473
Our author appears to have become apprehensive that this language was ambiguous, and, lest it might be interpreted differently from what he intended, he has taken care to insert in the French Version an explanatory clause: “que ceux qui se font accroire qu'ils sont desia tout asseurez de la vie eternelle, et cheminent a leur plaisir sans souci, en seront rejettez;” —”that those who make themselves believe that they are already perfectly assured of eternal life, and walk on at their pleasure without concern, will be excluded from it.” — Ed.