“Yeshua said, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life …” (John 14:6).
With so many different world religions and Christian denominations, what is ‘The Way’ that Sha’ul (Paul) mentions in his letters? ‘The Way’ is crucial to faith in the God of Israel because the earliest followers of Yeshua of Nazareth, both Jews and gentiles, did not call themselves Christians. They didn’t enjoin themselves or convert to some new religion called Christianity. In fact, the word Christian is only found three times in the new testament and ‘The Way’ at least six times in Acts alone. The first-century Messianic community referred to themselves as ‘The Way’ and followed ‘the way’ of the Messiah and the Hebrew Scriptures.
Before Sha’ul had the veil removed from his eyes, he persecuted those who followed ‘The Way’. He believed the false witnesses. He believed that those following ‘The Way’ blasphemed against Moshe and against Adonai. He was among the elders and Torah teachers who became stirred up and brought the ‘guilty’ before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:11-12). He stood at the stoning of Stephen and approved his murder. When he realized ‘The Way’ was growing throughout the region, he wanted to arrest anyone who belonged to ‘The Way’, especially those Jews living in Damascus.
“And [Sha’ul] asked him [the high priest] for letters to the synagogues in Dammesek, authorizing him to arrest any people he might find, whether men or women, who belonged to “the Way,” and bring them back to Yerushalayim” (Acts 9:2).
“I persecuted to death the followers of this Way, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison” (Acts 22:4).
Sha’ul had a one-on-one encounter with Yeshua as he headed to Damascus. He was blinded by a light from heaven and was accused of persecuting Yeshua himself. Spending three days in Damascus blinded and in darkness, Sha’ul fasted … and waited.
In Damascus, a disciple of Yeshua named Hananyah was commanded to go to Sha’ul. Hananyah feared for his life because he knew Sha’ul wanted followers of ‘The Way’ returned to Jerusalem to be judged and imprisoned. Yet, he obeyed the command, and when he laid hands on Sha’ul, “something like scales fell from his eyes” (Acts 9:18). Sha’ul immediately got up, was immersed into the Name of Yeshua, received the Ruach HaKodesh, and then ate food. He began his journey in ‘The Way’ by proclaiming in the synagogues that Yeshua is the Son of Adonai.
The word for ‘way’ in Hebrew is derech and means ‘road, distance, and journey.’ ‘The Way’ is a road or path you walk along, it’s long, and it’s a journey. Derech implies constant movement forward and takes a lifetime to reach the goal.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Way – derech or דרך
ד Dalet – A Door means ‘path.’
ר Resh – A Head means ‘highest authority.’
ך Kaf – Back of the Head means ‘what is behind.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for derech: what is behind the path of the highest authority.
‘The Way’ of the new covenant Jew and gentile builds on ‘The Way’ found in the Hebrew Scriptures and includes the doctrines of righteousness, self-control and the judgement to come (Acts 24:25). ‘The Way’ is defined in the Hebrew Scriptures as obeying the commands of Adonai found throughout Torah.
“For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of Adonai and to do what is right and just, so that Adonai may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19).
“You are to follow the entire way which Adonai your God has ordered you; so that you will live, things will go well with you, and you will live long in the land you are about to possess” (Deuteronomy 5:33).
“The blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot of Adonai your God that I am giving you today; and the curse, if you don’t listen to the mitzvot of Adonai your God, but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow other gods that you have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:27-28).
“Let the wise understand these things, and let the discerning know them. For the ways of Adonai are straight, And the righteous walk in them, but in them sinners stumble” (Hosea 10:14).
As the ‘son of David,’ Yeshua would also have used the Psalms in his teachings. King David understood the value of Torah and wrote about ‘The Way’:
“Let the wise understand these things, and let the discerning know them. For the ways of Adonai are straight, And the righteous walk in them, but in them sinners stumble” (Psalm 18:21-22).
“How happy are those whose way of life is blameless, who live by the Torah of Adonai! How happy are those who observe his instruction, who seek him wholeheartedly! They do nothing wrong but live by his ways“ (Psalm 119:1-3).
Yeshua used the Hebrew Scriptures, the only Scriptures he had, to show ‘The Way’ which includes behavior that is either approved or disapproved by Adonai in Torah. It is ‘The Way’ of righteousness, shalom, and joy in the Ruach HaKodesh (Romans 14:17). Those enjoined to ‘The Way’ walk straight and live blameless lives.
According to Yeshua, ‘The Way’ is also narrow. The Hebrew word for ‘narrow’ is tsar and means ‘tight’ and ‘absolute.’ The Greek word for ‘narrow’ is stenos and means “the closely-defined path God ordains to travel on to gain His approval.” According to Yeshua, few find this closely-defined and absolute pathway leading to life; most choose wider undefined paths –– paths that are not in Torah –– that lead to their destruction. King Solomon in his wisdom wrote: ““Level the path for your feet, let all your ways be properly prepared; then deviate neither right nor left; and keep your foot far from evil” (Proverbs 4:26-27).
In the Hebrew, the ‘narrow path’ is called the ‘narrow gate.’ In order to enter the Tabernacle and have fellowship with Adonai, there was only one gate. Once through that gate, ‘The Way’ to the Father was already delineated from the Altar of Sacrifice to the Bronze Laver to the Golden Menorah, Bread of Presence, Altar of Incense, and finally through the veil into the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant rested, the shadow of Adonai’s throne room.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Narrow – tzar or צר
צ Tsade – A Fishhook means ‘to draw towards.’
ר Resh – A Head means ‘highest authority.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for narrow: to draw towards the highest authority.
Those Jews or gentiles who became followers or disciples of Yeshua making up the Messianic community belonged to ‘The Way.’ They were immersed into the Name of Yeshua and received the Ruach HaKodesh. They lived a empowered way of life centered Yeshua, followed his example of living out the Truth of Torah in ‘The Way’ Adonai, his Father ordained. They understood that Yeshua fulfilled at least 300 prophecies about Messiah, Israel, the Jewish people, and the message of salvation that was to go to all nations and were willing to wholeheartedly follow him without counting the cost.
‘The Way’ also included making disciples One example of discipleship was with a Jewish man named Apollos from Alexandria. He knew of ‘the way’ of Adonai and had a thorough knowledge of the Torah, Prophets, and the Writings. He even taught accurate facts about Yeshua, but had not been immersed into his Name. Though he spoke out boldly with what he knew, he needed a fuller understanding of ‘The Way’ (Acts 18:25-26). Priscilla and Aquila, both Messianic Jews who lived in Rome, discipled him. They are known to have helped Sha’ul grow the first-century Messianic community in Rome.
“It was at this time that a major furor arose concerning the Way” (Acts 19:23).
Sha’ul spent most of his ministry to gentiles in the synagogues of Asia persuading those who would listen about the Kingdom of Adonai. After 3 months in one synagogue, some Jews began hardening their hearts and refused to listen. They began defaming ‘The Way’ before everyone. They could not comprehend that Adonai accepted all men from every nation by faith in Yeshua alone. They wanted control; they wanted converts to Judaism so they accused Sha’ul of teaching against the Jewish people, against the Torah, and against the Temple (Acts 21:28).
Sha’ul withdrew from the synagogue, took the disciples of Yeshua with him, and began holding daily discussions in a local yeshiva or Jewish school. He stayed in Asia for two years so everyone could hear the message of Yeshua (Acts 19:8-10). Throughout his ministry, Sha’ul was attacked and persecuted by Jews who did not put their faith in Yeshua as the Messiah and did not support this new sect of Judaism that followed Yeshua of Nazareth.
Eventually Sha’ul was called by the Sanhedrin to give his testimony to Felix, the Roman governor of Judea, that he was part of ‘The Way,’ a sect of Judaism. He first stated that he had committed no offense against the Torah, against the Temple nor against the Emperor (Acts 25:8).
He continued to explain that this sect called ‘The Way’ still had its foundation in the Torah and the Prophets. He maintained his heritage as an Israelite, a Benjaminite, and a Pharisee, and never mentioned converting to another religious system. Even Felix, who had a Jewish wife, had a detailed knowledge of things connected with ‘The Way’ and some time after Sha’ul’s testimony, Felix along with his wife Drusilla sent for Sha’ul. They listened to him as he spoke about trusting in Messiah Yeshua (Acts 24:22-24).
“But this I do admit to you: I worship the God of our fathers in accordance with the Way (which they call a sect). I continue to believe everything that accords with the Torah and everything written in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14).
From what the Hebrew Scriptures and Acts reveal, ‘The Way’ began with faith in the work of Yeshua: his life, death, and resurrection. After faith, immersion into the Name of Yeshua brought forth the power of the Ruach HaKodesh. With the power of the Spirit, the derech continued with the sanctifying truth of the Torah giving fullness of life now and hope in the resurrection in the coming Kingdom. For gentiles, ‘The Way’ began the same as with Jews, it continued with the four requirements from the Council of Jerusalem followed by the transforming Spirit of Adonai as they learned and embraced the holy, righteous, and pure teachings found in Torah.
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