A Study of "Way" in Acts


     The Book of Acts is the implementation of the Great Commission (Matt. 28; Mk. 16; Lk. 24). In Acts, we read of how they went into the entire world and preached the gospel to every creature (Mk. 16: 15). Some have considered Acts as an expanded illustration of the "seed of the sower" (Matt. 13: 3-23). All types of soil or human hearts are seen in the recorded instances of people hearing the seed of the kingdom, the gospel (Acts 2 ff.). Acts is a supplement to the third gospel, the Gospel According to Luke, providing about thirty years of additional history (Lk. 1: 1-4 compare with Acts 1: 1-3). There are so many wonderful truths and themes to pursue in Acts, but in this study, we want to focus on how "way" is used in Acts. We shall divide our study into two sections, actually, how "way" is used in the Bible and how "way" is used in Acts.

    How "way" is used in the Bible. In the first place, "way" is used to suggest a course or path, a way of life that is definable and distinguishable. For instance, there is a "way of wisdom," the "way of the ant," and the "way to her house" (Prov. 4: 11; 6: 6; 7: 8). This usage of "way" involved the figurative.

     In this vein, we read of the "way of God." The writer of Psalms 119 wrote, "I will mediate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways" (vs. 15). To the converse, we read of the false way. "Through thy precepts I get understanding," he further declared, "therefore I hate every false way" (Ps. 119: 104). God's way or the way of the righteous leads to spiritual life (Prov. 12: 28). The Bible teaches the free moral agency of man (freedom of choice, cp. Ps. 44: 18, 119: 101). Man can elect to leave God's way (Prov. 15: 10). Regarding man, we read how man often rationalizes his way. This is expressed in the language, "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits" (Prov. 16: 2).

     Not a few today are influenced by the mistaken idea that the way of God is so mysterious that it cannot be understood. While others may concede the understandability of God's way, they contend that the way or righteousness cannot be understood alike; hence, true unity based on truth cannot be attained. "The way of the slothful man is an hedge of thorns," wrote the wise man, "but the way of the righteous is made plain" (Prov. 15: 19). Many centuries later, the inspired apostle Paul penned the following: "Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3: 4, compare 4: 1-6). While God's way is plain and understandable and capable of being traveled, it is narrow and confining. Jesus taught,:

     "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7: 13, 14).

     In New Testament terminology and concept, there is no doubt or question about "the way." Jesus emphatically and decisively said of himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (Jn. 14: 6). Therefore, all religions that deny Jesus and his Sonship, are not in the way that takes the traveler to God.

     The word and concept "way" as used in the Book of Acts. One would be remiss in a study of "way" to not consider how the word is used in the Book of Acts. In basic harmony with usage found elsewhere in the Bible, as noted in the foregoing, "way" is used by the writer of Acts to mean a course or path.

     The angel spoke thus to Philip: "Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert" (Acts 8: 26). In Acts 2: 28, "way" (Greek hodos) in the expression "ways of life" is spiritually or figuratively used. Thus, "way" is used in Acts both literally and figuratively.

     Saul or Paul rebuked a false teacher in the following manner: "And said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13: 10). We learn two things from this verse, the ways of the Lord are right and they can be perverted by man. Such perversion constitutes the "false way" concerning which the Psalmist said he hated (Ps. 119: 104). The Lord's way and man's way, then, do not intermingle or interchange. To seek to blend or merge them constitutes perversity.

     Another insight as to how "way" is used in Acts is seen in Paul's statement to the people of Lystra. "Who in times past suffered all nations to walk," Paul explains, "in their own ways" (Acts 14: 16). Consistent with the idea and concept of "way," we read of men walking or traveling. In this case, they are walking in their own ways as opposed to God's ways. Paul said there was a time when God had some tolerance for this matter, but this time was past (cp. 17: 30, 31).

     Of great significance, "way" is used in Acts as pertaining to the course that results in man's salvation. "The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation," said the women concerning whom Paul later performed a miracle (Acts 16: 17 ff.). One might say that a certain highway leads to a certain city. It could be that the particular road is the only way to arrive at that city. By traveling that road, one would end up at the desired destination. In a spiritual sense, this is precisely what is meant by "way of salvation" (odon soterias). The fact of the "way of salvation" not only shows salvation is obtainable, but the expression also indicates that there is a way that leads to salvation, a way that must be followed to arrive at salvation. This brings us to our next and final observation of "way" in Acts.

     It is in the Book of Acts that "way" takes on a new, special meaning and usage. Acts presents the concept of "the way." It was said of Saul, "And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem" (Acts 9: 2). "This way" is literally "the way" (tes odou). "The way" clearly distinguishes the way of Christianity apart from other ways and also suggests the exclusiveness of the way of Christ. The Jews at Ephesus "spoke evil of that way before the multitude," we are told. Again, the Greek is "the way." We also read, "And the same time there arose no small stir about that (the, dm) way" (Acts 19: 23). "The way" was despairingly called "heresy" by some (Acts 24: 14). We also read that Felix acquired "more perfect knowledge of that (the, dm) way" (Acts 24: 22). "The way" stands out in Acts as a strikingly different system. As seen, it was not only distinguished and singular, it also was separate and without any amalgamation.

     The lesson regarding "the way" in Acts is that Christianity is a course that can be defined and determined. It is a way that has perimeters and boundaries. It is a course that can be entered and traveled, having a definite destination, heaven. "The way" is a way that has many clear and readable road and directional signs in order that it can be safely navigated. There are many alleged roads or ways to heaven, but they in reality lead to hell (Prov. 14: 12, Matt. 7: 13, 14,). There are also many man-made roadblocks, detours, and barricades put in place by man.

     In closing, Isaiah of old prophesied of the way. Here him, "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there" (Isa. 35: 8, 9). The Book of Acts is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, as the new age, "The Way," was introduced in Acts chapter two. Knowledge of "the way" grew until it was said, "…verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10: 18). Two thousands years later, we continue to read and learn about "the way." "The way" is in just about every city and has been known throughout the world. "The churches of Christ salute you," Paul wrote (Rom. 16: 16).