The Way (Part 2): Learning About The Way

The Way: What it Means to Be a Disciple of Jesus

But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case’” (Acts 24:22).

When Paul stood before rulers on trial, some knew nothing of the background of his teaching or the church. However, Felix had “a more exact knowledge of the Way.” Because of this knowledge, he was in a better position than others to believe Paul’s message and accept the gospel as the truth. As far as we know, Felix never did obey the gospel (cf. Acts 24:24-27); but he did start in a better position than many others did when they first heard the gospel.

In order for “the Way” to be of any benefit to us, we must know of it. What people had to know in the first century about “the Way” is the same as what we need to know about it. As we noticed in the previous lesson, Jesus is “the way” (John 14:6). Furthermore, He does not change: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, “the Way” has not changed.

The Way” described to us in the New Testament is still “the Way” we are to go. We need to develop “a more exact knowledge about the Way” (Acts 24:22). So let us notice what the Scriptures teach us about “the Way.

The Way That Is Narrow

Jesus contrasted two different “ways” that we could go – a broad way and a narrow way: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). These are the only two options, and they lead to two very different destinations. However, we do have the option. We get to choose which way we will take.

If we want to follow the way “that leads to life,” we must follow the “narrow” way (Matthew 7:14). But what did Jesus mean when He said, “The way is narrow”? First, He meant that there would be difficulties and obstacles along the way. The New King James Version uses the word difficult in this verse to describe “the way.” We will discuss this idea more in the fourth lesson.

Second, by saying that “the way is narrow,” Jesus was explaining the reason why there would be “few” who would follow “the way” (Matthew 7:14). Even though the way that leads to life is open to everyone, not all will choose to follow this path. Jesus told Nicodemus of the universal love of God and the salvation that was available as a result: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Paul told Titus, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). However, even though God “loved the world” (John 3:16) and has brought “salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11), Jesus made it clear that most people will not be saved. Why? The way is narrow and so they choose not to follow that way.

The Way of Truth

In warning about false teachers, Peter said they would cause “the way of the truth [to] be maligned” (2 Peter 2:2). We need to recognize that when it comes to the truth – especially truth that has come from above – it is not some vague concept. The way of truth is a way that can be identified – even by those who would speak evil of it.

During Jesus’ trial, Pilate famously asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Truth is found in the message of Christ. Jesus had told Pilate, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). As we have already noticed in our study, Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way, and the truth…” (John 14:6).

This truth has been “revealed [to us] through the Spirit” – as He has combined “spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” – so that we are able to know “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). When Jesus prayed to the Father, He said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The psalmist made the same point: “The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Psalm 119:160). The “way of truth” is found in the “word of truth” (cf. Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15) that has been revealed in the Scriptures.

The fact that Peter contrasted “the way of the truth” with “false words” (2 Peter 2:2-3) shows that truth is objective. We do not get to determine truth for ourselves and simply “follow our heart” and expect to please God. His word is “forever…settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). Therefore, the word of God is not going to change no matter how much our society changes around us. If we want to follow the way of truth, we must do so by following the Scriptures.

The Way of Righteousness

After speaking of “the way of the truth” (2 Peter 2:2), Peter talked about “the way of righteousness”: “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them” (2 Peter 2:21). This was also called “the holy commandment” in this verse. In other words, the “way of righteousness” refers to the rules that God has given to us.

This is related to the first two points – the way is narrow and is based upon truth. There is a difference between right and wrong, and we do not get to choose which is which. The Lord condemned those who would “call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). The fact that we or others may call something “right” does not make it part of the narrow way that is founded upon the truth.

The “way of righteousness” is found in the word of God. Paul made that clear in his writings. He told the saints in Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17). When he wrote to Timothy, he said, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We have to go to the Scriptures that have been revealed by God to know what is right.

However, it is not enough simply to know that the “way of righteousness” is found in the word of God – we must also practice it. John wrote, “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). We must do more than just claim to value what is right; we must do those works which the Scriptures have equipped us to do (2 Timothy 3:17).

Peter also warned that it is possible for us to turn away from the “way of righteousness.” Regarding false teachers, the apostle wrote, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’” (2 Peter 2:20-22). Clearly, it is possible to fall away and be lost (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:35-39). Therefore, we must continue on this path in following what is right.

The Way of Salvation

In Philippi, a slave girl who had been possessed by a spirit said that Paul proclaimed “the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). Despite the source of this testimony (one who was spirit-possessed), the statement was accurate. While in Antioch of Pisidia on their first preaching tour, Paul and Barnabas said, “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, that You may bring salvation to the end of the earth’” (Acts 13:47). Their mission was to preach salvation in Christ – even the spirit who possessed the slave girl in Philippi recognized this.

When we think about the “way of salvation,” there are a couple of different ways to approach it. First, we have salvation from something. For everyone of an accountable age, sin is a problem. Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Later in the same letter he wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The “death” that comes as a punishment for sin is spiritual death and eternal separation from God (Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). This is the fate that all of us deserve and are set to receive. The “way of salvation” allows us to escape this fate.

Second, we have salvation for something. We have been saved so that we might do the Lord’s will. Paul explained this to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). While we are saved by grace (unmerited favor), the Lord clearly expects us to be obedient to Him and do those “good works” which He “prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Paul told Titus that we are to be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

The Lord redeemed us so that we will do His will and so that we can be with Him for eternity. Peter wrote about this in his first letter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5). This hope is available to all the faithful – even “those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Conclusion

As we noticed in the previous lesson, Jesus is “the way” (John 14:6). But why did people in the first century follow Him? Why must we follow Him today? It is because He leads us in the way of truth, righteousness, and salvation.

Of course, we need to remember that “few” will follow “the way that is narrow that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14). Let us determine to be among the few and follow the narrow way no matter what might come upon us.


This material is available in paperback from Gospel Armory.


When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on Government, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Social Issues.