Why can Jesus’ gospel best be described as “the way?”
The fact that the gospel is described as a “way” indicates that it is not something passive.
A description of the gospel: the way of salvation
When you write an article or a book, you give it a title, and this title expresses the gist of the content of the article or the book. The title says what it is all about.
If we were to describe the content of Jesus’ gospel in all brevity, we could say it with many different words. It is particularly interesting to see that in the early days it was quite common to describe it as a “way.”
“This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’” Acts 16:17. This girl had a spirit of divination. This spirit knew the truth and described it as “the way of salvation.” And when they were to describe what Apollos was instructed in, we read: “In the way of the Lord.” Acts 18:25.
“But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them …” Acts 19:9. “And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.” Acts 19:23. “I persecuted this Way to the death …” Acts 22:4. “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers …” Acts 24:14. “Having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he [Felix] adjourned the proceedings …” Acts 24:22.
To describe the gospel as a way of salvation is quite appropriate. There was actually no “way” in the old covenant. They sacrificed and sinned, sacrificed and sinned, and didn’t make any headway. (Hebrews 10:1-4) What Jesus did, in a few words, was to “consecrate a way.”
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest in, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh …” Hebrews 10:19-20.
Jesus Himself said that the way that leads to life is narrow. Generally speaking, believers do not think in terms of a way. However, they do think of “experiences,” blessings, and the atonement, which is why there is no development, nor progress, nor growth.
Lost in the jungle
We can gain some insight into the great significance of Jesus having consecrated a way if we imagine being in the middle of a jungle, not knowing the way out. If there is a group of people they will always argue about the direction in which they should go, about doctrine, the method of working, and who should be the leader. However, if one of those who are in the jungle finds a way, he calls out, and all of them receive hope. That puts an end to doubting and all the confusion.
Paul says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells …” Romans 7:18. Our flesh can be compared to a large jungle. Paul writes further: “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.” Romans 7:5. Just a few people have found the way out of this jungle, and James asks if we know where all wars and fights come from. “Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” James. 4:1-3.
Oh, how Christians have struggled and tried for ages to get out of this jungle of passions, strife, and confusion. They have read Jesus’ prayer that all those who believe in Him shall be one just as He and the Father are one. They speak much about unity, and they have attempted to bring about this unity by means of ecumenical meetings, but the situation has not improved.
Israel was given the law as an aid in this jungle. It was a tremendous help for them to keep the beasts of prey at a distance, or act as a brake on sin. The law could punish sin after it was committed, but they could not enter into rest [from sin] through the law. The law was powerless because of the flesh.
“For what the law could not do … God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh …” Romans 8:3. Only then did people receive true help in the jungle. God led His Son out of the jungle, and His Son was obedient. We read what Jesus learned in the days of His flesh: “Yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Hebrews 5:7-9.
Generally speaking, believers wait for a blessing—something wonderful to come over them—so they can get out of this jungle. They are waiting to be “caught up” just as Philip was. (Acts 8:39) But we must go the way just as Jesus said: Take up our cross daily and deny ourselves, arming ourselves with the same mind, “For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” 1 Peter 4:1-2.
Finding the way out
Jesus did not go this way for us, but He has consecrated it for us. Jesus offered Himself up in the power of the eternal Spirit. The one hundred and twenty souls in the upper room were baptized with the same Spirit—and we are baptized with the same Spirit to be Christ’s body. (Acts 2:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13) By this Spirit we can put to death the deeds of the body. Put them to death! Crucify the flesh with its passions and desires! Then there will be rest. This is called the dying of Jesus, which we always carry about in our body. This dying makes an end of sin in the flesh—the animals in the jungle—and the virtues of Christ are manifested in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
Then we will have found the way out of the jungle: the way of salvation. The first Christians were so enthusiastic about this new and living way and spoke so much about it that the gospel was defined by just these words: “the way of the Lord,” “the way of salvation,” or “the way of God.” We must be led by the Spirit on this way. It is impossible to go on this way without being obedient.
This is truly a royal life, living the life of Jesus with a mortal flesh in which nothing good dwells, in the midst of ungodly people. This is what Jesus did, and He has given us this promise: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21.
This article has been translated from Norwegian, and is an edited version of the article “The Way” that was first published in BCC’s periodical “Skjulte Skatter” (“Hidden Treasures”) in March, 1961.
© Copyright Stiftelsen Skjulte Skatters Forlag
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.