Sometimes we react negatively to labels which are attached to people or groups of people. There are limitations and disadvantages to labels especially when they are inaccurately applied. But accurate labels clarify the beliefs and practices of a group of people. In the book of Acts, there are a couple of instances where Christian believers are called “followers of the Way” or described by similar phrases.
Acts 9:1,2 says this about the people Paul persecutes before his conversion,
“Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
John 14:5,6 says this,
“5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way? 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Jesus calls Himself the Way to God, and later on in John 14:9 He says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Jesus is the way to God, the only way to God because He is truly divine as well as truly human. With this in mind, it is understandable why early Christians were known as followers of the Way. They were followers of Jesus who believed in Jesus as God and the only Savior of our sins.
Acts 5:41 says that Peter and John were imprisoned for proclaiming Jesus as Christ and Lord, “they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Early Christians found their identity in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and were willing to suffer for the sake of His name. Notice also they were committed to preach Jesus as the Messiah whether it was in a public setting such as the temple or in a smaller setting such as home gatherings. Notice that in the case of Saul in Acts 9, he changed from being a persecutor of followers of the Way to being a follower of Jesus as the Way. Saul was influenced by the followers of Christ whom he persecuted. Saul was a witness to the trial of Stephen and consented to his death (Acts 8:1). The Lord Jesus confronted Saul on the way to Damascus and asked him why Saul was persecuting Him (Acts 9:5). While Saul was persecuting Christians because of their commitment to Jesus Christ, he was also persecuting Christ. God used the witness of other Christian believers in bringing Saul to trust in Jesus as the Christ. May God strengthen us to be faithful in our witness to Jesus as God’s only Son and our Savior and help us to bear witness to His holy Name.