On The Way To Damascus

Saul discovers what "the Way" is all about.

Acts 9:1-9 (ESV)

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 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. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

This glorious and familiar account contains a wondrous nugget most people gloss over – Christianity is called, “the Way.” While this label is used five more times in Acts (19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, & 24:22) we aren’t told how it came to be the name for the movement or even what it means.

The way to where? Heaven? God? Truth? Life? Who knows – maybe all of them. It’s just a common colloquialism.

More importantly, there’s no evidence that the disciples went through some kind of branding exercise to pick the name. It’s apparently just the label chosen by the public based on what the movement looked like.

That’s important. The people in the first century didn’t see Christianity as a religion; they saw it as a way – the way. But what does that mean?

Well, “way” here doesn’t mean style; it means road or path. The word in Greek is “hodos,” from which we get the word “Exodus” – the road out. So, the first Christians were people who looked like, and acted like, they were on a road or path.

Christianity isn’t an idea, or even a religion.

It’s a path.

This explains why James was so emphatic that you can’t be a Christian and stay on the couch. Christianity is, by its very nature, active.

People understand things in terms of the vocabulary and culture they already know. The first Christians saw it as a path. To the Greeks, it was a philosophy. In Rome, it became an empire. Then in Ireland, it was “green martyrdom.” After the reformation, it was a culture. Now in America, it’s an enterprise.

We’ve wandered a long way from our roots. We need to pray for a revival.

Ask the Lord to wake this country up and get it back on the path.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.