People of the Way

Many Christians are familiar with Acts 11:26, “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” Some are less familiar with another term for believers, people of the Way (Acts 9:2). This is a term that marked them several times in the book of Acts (19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). While it may have its roots in Isaiah 40:3, it became Luke’s most prominent title for the new movement, the followers of Jesus.[1]

Significant to the term, theologian John Murray states, “the nomenclature does evidence the total distinctiveness (emphasis mine) of the faith, worship, and life of the disciples of Christ.”[2] And biblical scholar David Peterson tells us, “Its appearance twice in this context (Acts 19:9, 23) suggests that Christians in Ephesus were being clearly identified as ‘constituting a socially cohesive movement, a movement arising out of and grounded in their shared faith in Jesus.’”[3]

Early Christian life was not just a system of belief, but a transformed way of life by which Christians became known. Murray tells us that James 3:13; 1 Peter 3:2, 16; 2 Peter 3:11 give us insights into character traits that would become a part of a life of the Way. “This is to say that the manner of life which Christian faith demands and produces is one of goodness, purity and holiness.”[4]

Paul uses the term “walk worthy” to describe transformed and transforming character that should be a distinctive part of Christian behavior. Colossians 1:10; Philippians 1:27 and Ephesians 4:1 are all texts that paint a picture that our lives ought to radiate distinctive behavior.

Jesus tells his disciples that their distinct behavior would result in them being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus speaks of the influence that the transformed attitudes of Matthew 5:3-12 will lead to, and the illumination that transformed lives will generate.

The Way became well-known according to Acts 24:22. Luke gives no indication of how Felix became well acquainted with the Way, but his overall narrative has suggested that Christianity was making significant progress in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, so that its beliefs and practices could be in some measure understood by those in high places.[5]

Christians did not influence or transform their culture by political activism. They did not influence through status or wealth. It becomes clear that the primary way of influence was through transformed behavior coupled with transformed attitudes coming from lives transformed by the Gospel. The Gospel changes people. This transformation makes them winsomely different from people of the world.

Have you become a person of “the Way?” Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? If not, see my earlier post titled Great News for 2021. Has the Spirit of God taken the Word of God and transformed your life by obedience of faith to the Gospel? Is your life growing more distinct from the world around you? Be a part of a community of believers that spurs you to growth helps you change. If you have questions, email me.

[1] Darrell Bock, Acts: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Baker Academic. 2007, p. 50.

[2] John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics, Eerdmans, 1957, p. 12.

[3] David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, PNTC, Eerdmans, pp. 544-545. See footnote 73 for more information.

[4] John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics, Eerdmans, 1957, p. 11.

[5] David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, PNTC, Eerdmans, p. 638.

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