"THE GATE AJAR FOR ME"
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate…." (Lk. 13.24)
INTRO.: A song which indicates that sinners can respond to the invitation because Jesus has left a gate open for us is "The Gate Ajar for Me" (#533 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Mrs. Lydia Baxter (1809-1874). It may have been published as early as 1855 in her Gems by the Wayside. An invalid, Mrs. Baxter is perhaps best remembered for her song, "Take the Name of Jesus With You." The tune (Gate Ajar) was composed by Silas Jones Vail (1818-1884). It is dated 1872. A couple of Vail’s other melodies that are well known are used with Fanny Crosby’s "Close to Thee" and the hymn often attributed to Johann W. Von Goethe that begins, "Purer, Yet and Purer." Sometimes the composer’s name is given as Philip Philips (1834-1895). A noted music publisher, Phillips may have first published the song and perhaps arranged it. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "The Gate Ajar for Me" appeared in the 1917 Selected Revival Songs edited by F. L. Rowe; the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it is found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song invites people to enter the strait gate that they might receive salvation.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the existence of the gate
"There is a gate that stands ajar, And through its portals gleaming
A radiance from the cross afar, The Savior’s love revealing."
A. Jesus said that there is strait gate that opens to a narrow way which leads to everlasting life: Matt. 7.13-14
B. The figurative language of the song may picture the radiance that gleams through its portals as coming from the gates of the eternal city: Rev. 21.25
C. And this radiance shines upon the cross that reveals the Savior’s love for our salvation: 1 Cor. 1.18
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the free nature of the gate
"That gate ajar stands free for all Who seek through it salvation:
The rich and poor, the great and small, Of every tribe and nation."
A. The gift that God offers to those who enter the gate is free: Rom. 5.15-18
B. The result of the free gift is the salvation that Jesus came to bring to mankind: 1 Pet. 1.9
C. This free gift is offered to every tribe and nation because the gospel is for the whole world: Mk. 16.15-16
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the blessings of the gate
"Press onward, then, though foes may frown, While mercy’s gate is open;
Accept the cross, and win the crown, Love’s everlasting token."
A. That we might enter the strait gate and stay on the narrow way to receive the blessings we must press onward: Phil. 3.14
B. These blessings are available only while the door is open: Rev. 3.8
C. And these blessings are offered because of the great love of God: Jn. 3.16
IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the final destination of the gate
"Beyond the river’s brink we’ll lay The cross that here is given,
And bear the crown of life away, And love Him more in heaven."
A. The idea of "beyond the river’s brink" often poetically suggests crossing over the river of death into the eternal promised land just as the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River into Canaan: Josh. 3.17, Heb. 4.8-9
B. Then, we shall lay down the cross that we have borne throughout this life: Matt. 16.24
C. And we shall exchange it that we might bear away the crown of life: Jas. 1.12
CONCL.: The chorus reminds us that the gate has been left ajar for anyone who wishes to enter.
"Oh, depth of mercy! can it be That gate was left ajar for me?
For me, for me? Was left ajar for me?"
Most of our books (except Sacred Selections) have altered the first two lines of the chorus to read, "Yes, in the blood of Christ I see The gate that stands ajar for me." I do not know why this change was made, nor have I been able to find out who did it, but it does appear as early as the Selected Revival Songs mentioned earlier. In any event, if I am a sinner, it is good to know that Jesus has left "The Gate Ajar For Me."