From time to time in the New Testament the faith rooted in Jesus Christ, what will be known as Christianity is often called “The Way”.
- “If he found any belonging to the Way” (Acts 9:2).
- “But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way” (Acts 19:2).
- “That according to the Way which they call a sect” (Acts 24:14).
- “But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way” (Acts 24:22).
Such statements remind us of Jesus’ statement that “I am the Way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). They also remind us of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). We live in a culture that does not enjoy hearing about such a clear cut path with no other options. Our culture wants options, they want many different paths that are all equally viable. Yet this idea of a single, narrow way is not a new idea in the Bible.
The Narrow Path in the Old Testament
- With Adam and Eve and the temptation we learn that the alternative offered to Eve was not a viable path (Genesis 3:7).
- In Cain’s rejected offering, we learn that when it comes to acceptable worship, the path is not broad (Genesis 4).
- The text says that Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24), which indicates a closeness in following God.
- Only eight people were saved in the flood, there was only one way of escape (the ark). God offered only one avenue of deliverance.
- Abraham was told by God, “walk before Me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). Clearly, God was not offering Abraham a relationship with Him that allowed a lot of deviation from the path.
- When God gave His law to the nation of Israel, the language associated with that Law was, “So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left” (Deuteronomy 5:32).
The Handling of Scripture
As pictured by the above verse was a handling of the text that did not allow for deviation in one way or the other. To the right or to the left could include the ideas of do not add something to the path and do not remove something. Do not move more conservative or more liberal than the path or the text. Thus we find passages that warn us about not adding or to removing:
- “Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar” (Proverbs 30:6). In other words, God is not going to respect, honor or endorse your editing of the text. He is not going to sign off on your supposed “improvements” or “artistic license”.
- So of we are walking about saying things that the Bible does not say, then at the judgment we will be exposed as liars.
- “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).
Speaking of Left and Right
The presence of a correct and true way that has definite boundaries is also seen in the language that God used when people were no longer on that way. For example, God will speak of people:
- “Turning”: As in do not turn to idols (Leviticus 19:4).
- To “turn aside”: 1 Timothy 1:6; Deuteronomy 9:12
- “To deviate”: Psalm 44:18
- To “drift”: Hebrews 2:1
- To “stray”: Proverbs 19:27; James 5:19
- To “abide” and not to “go too far” or “beyond”, as in John’s statement, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9).
All of these terms admit the presence of a single path that has definite parameters, from which a person could depart, put to their own peril.
The Bible is not a naïve book, it knows that the world is filled with other faiths and ways of living, and admits both their presence and danger:
- “Beware… that you do not inquire after their gods, saying ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise’” (Deuteronomy 12:30). Observe, how the Holy Spirit reveals that the human curiosity about other practices or lifestyles is not always innocent, “that I also may do likewise”.
- “But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel” (2 Kings 16:3).
- “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners” (Psalm 1:1).
- The evil woman of Proverbs 5 is said to refrain from pondering the path of life and as a result her ways are unstable (5:6).
- “Do not learn the way of the nations” (Jeremiah 10:2).
The Definition of Sin
One of the Greek terms that the Bible uses when it comes to speaking about “sin” is the term hamartia, which is a frequently used term. The basic definition of the term means “to miss the mark”. Thus to sin is to be off target, to be off the mark, which assumes a correct path or goal. For, if there is no fixed goal or target, one could never be said to “miss the mark”. So in all of this what we have seen is that God has always had a correct path that has had definite boundaries. Thus, midway through the Old Testament as God speaks to call His people back to Him, He will say through Jeremiah, “Thus says the Lord, Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16).
“But there just has to be more than one way”
My respond to this question is, “Why must there?” When it comes to all sorts of other topics or truths is there more than one right answer? And if a person does not like the comparison between Scripture and mathematics, that 2 plus 2 is four just like faith plus baptism equals salvation (Mark 16:16). Then, I would ask in the following categories are their many paths of equal validity?
If I enter the marriage relationship and ignore the Bible’s emphasis on:
- Gratitude and Appreciation
While my marriage turn out find anyway?
Work, Business, Relationships, Life
If I ignore adopting the following virtues, habits or characteristics, will my life, business, etc… turn out just fine anyway?
So, we have really always believe that the path of the good life is narrow, so why not the path of the good life here and beyond?
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017