When I was in college there was a cult pouring its poison into unsuspecting students who didn’t know their Bible. Truth is there were dozens of these cults stalking the spiritual lives of young impressionable students. The one that I am thinking of called itself “THE WAY”. They used biblical words, talked a lot about “Jesus” and offered a weekend class called “Power for Abundant Living” for $75. This particular group was kind of infamous for “love bombing” potential recruits. They would shower students with “love” as a means of getting them to one of their weekend retreats where they could propagandize them with their false teaching. I suspect they still roam the campuses of America.
I had a friend, a Jewish girl, who had had a run in with them. Something they said peeked her interest and she was promptly “love bombed” and invited to the retreat. Then, when she balked at the $75 fee, (remember, I went to college 40 years ago when $75 was nearly a weeks wages!), they turned on her with a viciousness that brought her to tears. She was overweight, and they “fat shamed her.” She was not very attractive, so they “beauty shamed” her. She was a little socially awkward, so they bullied her. It was a horrific and traumatizing experience.
Unfortunately, they tainted a very biblical and early name for the Church and of those who first entered into the discipleship of Jesus.
This distinctive term for the early followers of Christ as followers of “the way” is only seen in the book of Acts and never again in the New Testament. It seems like, in the earliest days of the Church, Christians identified themselves as followers of “The Way”. The Way was different from the world. It pursued an altogether different way of life from the world around them. There is one other phrase that is similar in meaning. After opening prison gates and taking Peter and company out of prison in the night, an angel of the Lord says to the newly freed disciples,
“Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”
The Data: (The NT texts that refer to “The Way”)
- Acts 9:2;
- Acts 19:9, 23;
- Acts 22:4 (Lit., “this”);
- Acts 24:14, 22;
- Acts 18:25 (Lit., “the way of the Lord”) and
- Acts 18:26 (Lit., “the way of God”); and maybe
- 2 Peter 2:21 (Lit., “the way of righteousness”)
It’s not surprising really. After all, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6) He said things like, “Follow me.” (20 times in the gospels, Jesus calls people to follow Him, among them Matthew 4:19.) So, it isn’t really surprising that the One who called people to follow Him and said that He was the way, would have followers who described themselves as followers of “The Way.”
“The Way” was a new thing on the earth. It was the way of Jesus. He came to find lost sheep (Matthew 15:24). He had come to save a people for Himself (Matthew 1:21). He came to give his life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). He came to be a propitiation for sin (Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). But He also came to establish an assembly of those who would live passionately for and like Him (Matthew 16:18). He came to establish a Church—a Way, that would lead men to heaven and the Father and be a blessing to the world. Let’s follow Jesus with everything, nothing held back. Let’s live like the early church, the church of the WAY, the only way to the Father.