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THE WAY (1): I Am the Way…

I expect this to be a multi-part series. Hence, the numeral after “THE WAY.”

Why was the early church in Acts sometimes called “THE WAY”?

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest (2) and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. (Acts 19:9)

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. (Acts 19:23)

I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women…. (Acts 22:4)

But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets. (Acts 24:14)

But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” (Acts 24:22)

These half dozen occurrences of  the expression, all in Acts and all involving Saul/Paul of Tarsus, are the only uses of this very common word with reference to the church. The Greek word is hodos, and simply means road. Strong’s definition, as found in e-sword.net is:

Apparently a primary word; a road; by implication a progress (the route, act or distance); figuratively, a mode or means: – journey, (high-) way.

When this term speaks of the church, it is figurative. It speaks of the “mode or means” of the “journey” or “way” in which the church walks.

Where, though, is the emphasis of this figure? Does the “mode or means” describe the rituals of the church? Or is it something different and deeper than the ritual performances of the disciples of Christ?

Perhaps we can get some insight into this from these words of Jesus to His disciples on the night He was arrested just before He was crucified.

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

Isaiah had prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus arrived on the earth:

And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the way of Holiness
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 35:8-10

This is a clear reference to the time of the Messianic rule. Inaugurated when Jesus began to walk about Judea and Galilee with His disciples, it reached a fuller stage when He sent His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way….” Just as he is the source of life for the child of God and the truth by which we live, He is the way, or the road, in which we walk.

Mark writes of Jesus and His disciples when they were going up to Jerusalem the last time:

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way…. (Mark 9:32, NIV)

I like to think of this as a parable of our journey to the heavenly Jerusalem. We are on the way, with Jesus leading.

I once heard a story of travelers across the desert. When they asked their guide, “Where is the road?”, he replied, “In the desert, I am your road.”

In the wilderness of this world, in the chaos of the din and clamor that is all around us, in the midst of the corruption, lies, and evil of life – Jesus is our Way. Our safe transit through this life can come only as we walk behind Him and follow Him.

In later posts, we shall look at some implications of this great truth.


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