The Way (Part 3): Belonging To The Way

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

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

Persecution against the church began with the death of Stephen (Acts 8:1). Saul continued this persecution with a plan to go to Damascus to arrest disciples and bring them back to Jerusalem. The ones who were targeted for persecution were those who were “belonging to the Way.” We will discuss the idea of persecution in the next lesson.

However, before these individuals were targeted, they first had to belong to “the Way.” In this lesson, we are going to see what the Scriptures teach about “belonging to the Way” – how to become a part of this group and remain in it.

Becoming a Disciple

The Way” (Acts 9:2) was made up of those two were followers of Jesus – the one who is identified as “the way” (John 14:6). This is the essence of discipleship – being a follower of Jesus. The Greek word for disciple means “a learner, pupil” (Thayer). The apostles were commissioned by the Lord to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).

How does one become a disciple? To answer this question, we can look at the instructions the Lord and His apostles gave to those who would be His followers. Looking to the New Testament, we can see that in order to become a disciple, an individual must:

  • Hear the gospel – “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’” (Mark 16:15). The gospel must be preached because people must hear it in order to respond to it. Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 8:8).
  • Believe that Jesus is the Christ – “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Not only is belief necessary for salvation, but Jesus specifically said that those who do not believe will be lost. He said elsewhere, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Interestingly, the word “He” is not in the original Greek text but was added by the translators. Jesus’ statement meant that we must believe that He is the “I AM” – the name that God called Himself when speaking to Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). In other words, it is not enough simply to believe in the existence of Jesus; we must believe that He is Deity (cf. Colossians 2:9).
  • Repent of sins – “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). The belief that we are to have (previous point) must lead us to action. Repentance means to put away sin and begin serving the Lord. Jesus said elsewhere, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). When we make the decision to follow the Lord, we are making a commitment to serve Him daily.
  • Confess faith in Christ – “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). This is the verbal affirmation of our faith. We must do more than mentally acknowledge the Lordship of Christ. In addition to repentance, we must also be willing to make “the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
  • Be baptized into Christ – “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Many people will push back on this point and try to argue that baptism is not necessary in order to be saved or to become a disciple of Jesus. Yet Jesus said that baptism is just as necessary for salvation as belief (Mark 16:16) and is an essential step in the discipleship process (Matthew 28:19). Those who reject this and have “disbelieved” Jesus “shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Paul described baptism as the act in which we put on Christ: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

When we become a disciple, we then belong to Christ. Peter explained this in his first epistle: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God…” (1 Peter 2:9-10). As “a people for His own possession,” we must be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). In other words, we must continue to serve Him and do what is right throughout our lives.

Following the Right Direction

Belonging to the Way” (Acts 9:2) suggests that we are following a certain path. We discussed the characteristics of this path in the previous lesson:

  • It is “the way [that] is narrow” (Matthew 7:14).
  • It is “the way of the truth” (2 Peter 2:2).
  • It is “the way of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:21).

It is not enough simply to become a disciple. Discipleship is not a “merit badge” that we earn at one point and then move on to other things. Discipleship is a lifestyle that involves following the Lord.

In making disciples, the apostles were to teach them to observe Jesus’ commands: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This means we must go to the word of God for the instructions we are to follow in every area of life.

  • In the home – “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” (Colossians 3:18-21). Whatever place we have in the family, we must fulfill our responsibilities that have been laid out in God’s word.
  • In the workplace – “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 3:22-4:1). Though these instructions describe the master-slave relationship – which we do not have in our society – we can apply the same principles today. Whether we are a leader or a subordinate, we are expected to act according to the Lord’s precepts.
  • In the community – “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We are to conduct ourselves before others so that they can see that “Christ lives in [us]” (Galatians 2:20).
  • In the church – “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:23-24). The church belongs to Christ; therefore, we must do all things according to the pattern He has revealed in His word (cf. 2 Timothy 1:13; Hebrews 8:5).
  • In the assembly – “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We cannot worship any way we want and expect to please God. We must worship with the proper attitude (“in spirit”), following His instructions regarding what He wants us to do in our assemblies (“in truth”).

Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). Everything we do must be done in the name of the Lord. This does not mean that we simply claim to do things for the Lord. It means we act by His authority. Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23). In other words, there would be many who were doing things that they would claim to be for the Lord; yet they were actually engaged in lawlessness –acting without authority from God found in His law that He has revealed in His word. As disciples, we must learn to go to the Scriptures to find what we need to do in all things.

Continuing on the Path

When we become a disciple, we do not sign a contract that will be over after a period of time; we are making a lifelong commitment. Jesus said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Later, in speaking of discipleship, Jesus said, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30). While it is good to start on the right path, it is all for naught if we do not continue on the right path until the end.

No matter what happens in this life, we must remain faithful to the Lord. The Christians in Smyrna were told, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

It is possible for a disciple to forfeit his salvation. Many religious people believe in the concept of “once saved, always saved”; yet Paul was clear in his writings that a Christian can “[fall] from grace” (Galatians 5:4). This is why he admonished the brethren in Corinth “not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1). They had received God’s gracious gift of salvation when they obeyed the gospel, yet they could act in such a way as to throw that away. Even Paul himself knew that if he did not remain faithful, he could be lost. In his first letter to Corinth, he wrote, “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). We must not “shrink back to destruction, but [be] of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).

Paul told the Philippians, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). In the same way, we must “press on toward the goal” today.

Conclusion

The Way” leads to salvation, but we must belong to “the Way” in order to be saved. We must hear the gospel, believe that Jesus is the Son of God, repent of our sins, confess our faith, then be baptized into Christ. Then once we are on “the Way,” we must continue on the path so we will reach our reward.


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