The Way
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - Introduction

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me'" (John 14:6).

"Saul... went to the high priest, and asked letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem" (Acts 9:1-2).

"Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, 'These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation'" (Acts 16:17).

"But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples" (Acts 19:9).

"About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way" (Acts 19:23).

"And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons" (Acts 22:4).

"But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers" (Acts 24:14).

"But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off" (Acts 24:22).

The Lord Jesus said of Himself that He was the Way. Almost immediately after He had gone back to heaven and the events of the day of Pentecost had inaugurated the new era, Christianity became known as "The Way". Christ, Who always had to speak in a kind of parabolic way without giving explanations because the Holy Spirit had not yet come as the Interpreter, meant that He was the Pathway. Just simply, undefined, unexplained, He was the Pathway. Christianity took that up, but by the Holy Spirit embodied all that Christ meant by that, but did not explain. Christianity became the fulness of the meaning of Christ as the Way. These two aspects, then, Christ's own simple statement as to Himself, and Christianity becoming the full expression of what He meant, just resolves itself into several quite simple, but quite important things: firstly, what the Way is; secondly, what Christ meant as to Himself, and thirdly, what Christianity was at the beginning, and was always intended to be. Those things will be the ground of our consideration and enlargement at this time.

What the Way Is

Firstly, what a way is. A way is that which links together a desire and its realization, a goal and its attainment, a beginning and an end. That is perfectly simple, almost too simple, and yet there is a profound fulness in that simple definition when it comes to the Lord Jesus. The goal, according to His statement, was and is, the Father. The object is coming to the Father. "No one comes to the Father but through Me."

That implies two or three things. Firstly, that implies a closed way. It says to all men - "no man". "No man comes." So that all cannot come. The way is not open that anybody and everybody can just come or go to the Father willy-nilly, anyhow; that they will all get there sooner or later. "No man" means that there is a closed door; it is a governed door or way.

Then, it implies an exclusive way - "but through Me". That is exclusive, that is the only way. It is selective, it is discriminating: "But through Me".

But then it also has its positive side which shows that there is an open way. "I am the way." So much, then, for what a way is.

What Christ Meant as to Himself

Now as to what Christ meant as to Himself. Here we will just state the thing in broad outline and spend more time on it later. What did Christ mean when He said, "I am the way"?

a) The Representative of people whom the Father will receive

Firstly, He meant that there is a kind of person who alone could be received by the Father. There is a particular and special kind of person who will get to the Father and no one else, and Christ meant that He was that kind of person. He set forth in Himself what kind of people will be found with the Father, who the Father will receive and have with Him. It is a particular kind of people, and Christ is the representative of that people, because He is speaking about people coming to the Father. He is not saying that no one ever will get to the Father. But what He is really saying is that those who get to the Father will be of a special and particular kind, and He is that kind, "It will be when people take on My character and My nature and My likeness that they will be with the Father." That is simple and we will spend much more time on that presently.

b) Christ removes the reason for the closed way

Then He meant that the reason for the way being closed was dealt with and removed by Him. "No man" - that is a closed door. That door closed at a certain time. There was a particular point in the history of man when God closed the door and man could no longer pass through to God. We know the whole story. But the Lord Jesus has dealt with all that, and because He has done that, the way is open, but it is open only in Him and through Him. The first thing that we said as to the kind of person that gets to God, has to do with the Person of the Lord Jesus. The second thing as to the ground of the closed door being taken away has to do with His work.

c) The way is a Person

The third thing that He meant - and I am quite sure that those of you who know your Bibles at all will be able to see that I am not speaking out of myself, I am speaking closely according to the content of the Word of God - and the third thing that He meant was that the way is not a thing, the way is not a system, the way is a Person. The Person is representative of God's mind and inclusive of all those who, through faith, are in Christ. He is a great representative Person and He becomes a great inclusive Person. That again further awaits our fuller consideration.

d) Sonship the basis of coming to the Father

And fourthly, what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, "I am the way... no one comes to the Father but through Me" clearly indicates the basis of this coming to the Father. The very word that He uses, and uses carefully, He uses every time knowing what He is doing; not casually, for later in the Gospel by John He made the statement, "I have manifested Your name" (John 17:6). The basis of coming to the Father is sonship. The condition is being begotten, because it is coming, though it is not said here, to God. Here it is not a matter of getting to heaven or getting into the church; it is a matter of getting "to the Father" and that determines the basis of any kind of standing in the presence of the Father: begotten of God, children of God, sonship.

Well now, that is broadly what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, "I am the way."

What Christianity Essentially Is

Then we come to what Christianity essentially is. Christianity is not a system; Christianity is not a religion; Christianity is not a form of teaching or practice or procedure. Christianity is first and last a Person. Christianity is a Person Whose constitution and nature and essential being becomes the Way. Christianity takes on the values of the Person. It is not Christianity's business to preach doctrines, to set up systems of practice; Christianity's whole business is to set forth Christ, to bring Christ livingly into view, to register Christ as a living Person upon the world. It is that that makes Christianity the Way. You can have all the other and people never find God and people never come to new birth to become children of God, and therefore, after all, Christianity may be failing in its ultimate responsibility of bringing about a vital union between man and God as the Father.

You may have all the other and fail. Christianity is a Person in expression, a Person in revelation, a Person in impact. It is Christ Himself in His church, His Body, making Himself and His presence known. If Christianity is the making real of Christ as the Way and so embodying all that Christ is and has done to bring to the Father, then Christianity must take up into itself those things which were true of Christ, making Him the Way.

Christ Provides God with Perfect Satisfaction

The door is closed when God is not satisfied. There is no way through. Somehow God has got to be satisfied. This One, the Lord Jesus, has provided God with perfect satisfaction; God is satisfied. Christianity (or the church, it is the same thing in the mind of God, for our purposes we are using the term Christianity) must be characterized by God's satisfaction. That is, Christians must be living wholly in the good of God having been satisfied. They must be a satisfied people. There is no testimony, no registration, no value, no influence unless there comes through Christians the impression that they are a satisfied people, that their satisfaction rests upon God's satisfaction. Into their hearts there has been born the fact that God is satisfied.

It is a fundamental thing which Satan and all the evil powers are evermore seeking to upset. It is one of those focal points of the enemy's assault and pressure to rob us of that inborn witness that God is satisfied. You see, it is here that we are to take our character from Christ, what He was and is. He said, "I will give you rest"; "you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:28-29). What did He mean? Well, just this quite simply. Here were a people in anything but rest, labouring and heavy-laden, and that does not mean that they were toiling in the work of this world of everyday vocation. They were labouring under the heavy load of the exacting demands of the Law as it had been developed into thousands of meticulous points by tradition and by the rabbis, so that it was an intolerable strain to try to live up to that standard, demanding an instant watchfulness lest you should slip up and make a mistake.

Life became a burden and a toil under that legal order. The meaning was, 'God is far from satisfied; He is a most dissatisfied, discontented God, and anything and everything that we can do will not please Him, will not satisfy Him. He keeps us all the time, every moment of our lives, on this ground of readiness to condemn, readiness to judge. What a discontented God He is, what a dissatisfied God He is, and therefore how hard it is to love this God, to serve this God. How difficult this kind of God makes our lives! There is no rest in this life.' The Lord Jesus said, "I will give you rest." How? Because in Him God had found His satisfaction representatively. He is the representative of those who will come by faith in Him to the Father, and then just take what is true of Him into their own hearts; what is true of the Lord Jesus, that God is satisfied, that God can look at His Son and say, "My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matt. 3:17). Then these through faith in Him can be accepted in the beloved One. God is satisfied with them in Christ, and so they come to rest, the whole burden has gone, the whole strain has gone, the whole intolerable labour, laboriousness, has gone. "Rest for your soul". So Christ is the way to the Father because He is the satisfaction of the Father.

Now Christians can only minister Christ, be here as expressing Him as the Way, and in effect being the Way (that is that vessel, instrument, channel and vehicle, of Christ to others) insofar as Christians themselves are living in, and enjoying, God's satisfaction. To put that the other way, our helpfulness, our usefulness, our serviceableness for the Lord to men will depend entirely upon the measure of God's satisfaction and rest in our own hearts. Hence the enemy will seek to destroy our usefulness, destroy our testimony, destroy our serviceableness, be constantly attempting to upset that rest and bring us again in some way to feel that God is a very dissatisfied God where we are concerned. That is maligning God, undercutting the work of the Lord Jesus, and setting at naught the very meaning of His Person. It is again closing the way to men.

It is very practical, this matter of the Way. There is no theory about this. You see, the Lord Jesus brought men to God not officially, but spiritually. The thing that drew people to God through Jesus Christ was that this Man has rest, this Man knows what rest is, this Man somehow or other speaks altogether of satisfaction, God's satisfaction. There is no strain in this Man's life. Rest is the secret of labour. Labour without rest, and your labour is for naught. Have rest, and your labour is fulfilled. The Lord's servants must know what it is to be in the enjoyment of the Father's satisfaction with the Son and with them in Him.

Christ's Sense of Sufficiency

The Lord Jesus was wonderfully independent in the right sense, wonderfully independent of this world. There is about Him, as you study and watch and follow, a sense of sufficiency, being cared for, being looked after. He had nothing in this world, and probably deliberately so, in order that having nothing in this world, He might prove that God can look after people who have nothing in this world, and that they need not suffer any lack. Interpret that spiritually, and you see that wonderful confidence and assurance in Christ's life. He was never fretted about things. He said "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!" (Matt. 6:30). "So don't worry about tomorrow" (Matt. 6:34). A carefree life in all those realms; that was the Lord Jesus, and He spoke to people who were so burdened with care about everything, whose lives were such a strain.

Now that, of course, has an application in temporal things, but for the moment I want to keep on the spiritual side. That name "Father" was used by the Lord Jesus with the object of indicating that people who came to Him through Jesus Christ would be well looked after. "Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (Matt. 6:32); "Your Father"; "How much more will your heavenly Father...?" (Luke 11:13). It was because the Lord Jesus knew God, (if I may put it this way, not forgetting the facts of Deity and Trinity, but as Man here), in such a real way as Father that He had a life of such sufficiency, such assurance, and freedom from fret and anxiety, that people were drawn to the Father. If they came to the Father at all in His day and afterwards, they came because they saw that this was the way of deliverance from all their worries and burden of care. Here again Christianity must take its character from Christ if it is going to bring people to God, if it is going to serve in the capacity of the Way, if it really is going to live up to that original definition and designation - the Way. Christians must enter into that which was true of the Lord Jesus, that His Fatherhood means - and it cannot mean anything else - it means that they will be looked after. They may be tested, they may be tried, but they will be looked after. That is very simple, but "Father" means sufficiency - it must mean that.

Life in Christ

And then how much was one word upon the lips of our Lord, that word 'life'. "I came that they may have life" (John 10:10). When the Lord Jesus uses that word it means something more than existence, something more than just managing to get along. Life with Him is a quality of life; it is a great life, it is a wonderful life; it is a life no one knows anything about but those who have it. It is so different. You may have everything that this world contains and can give. When you come to have this Life that is in Christ, you discover you have something more than ever the world could possibly give you, and it is not just something more, it is something different. The difference is found in its contrast.

Those who have this Life do not have their circumstances made easier. Indeed, it very often seems - and I think it is quite true - that the Christian life, so far as circumstances are concerned, is a much more difficult life than anyone else's. We seem to be let in for something, a lot of trouble, when we come into the Lord Jesus, trouble that would never come our way otherwise. We meet a new world of opposition, and yet is it not true that, with all the suffering and difficulty of the Christian life, the true Christian would not give up that life for all that the world possesses? That is the Christian's testimony and that testimony is wrought out on the anvil of suffering. It is moulded in the fire, it is hammered out in affliction. The strange thing about Christians is this, that whereas they suffer so much, they cannot contemplate giving up Christ.

It has always been that, that has drawn people to God in true Christianity. Christianity becomes the Way, in effect, as Christ was the way, when it embodies that blessed spiritual reality of Christ - a life that is different, transcendent, more blessed and precious than any other life.

Well, all that is but introductory, indicating something of the meaning firstly, of Christ as the Way and then of Christianity being called the Way.

Five Main Features of Christ as the Way

From that point we have to go yet more fully. There are five main features of Christ as the Way. I have indicated some characteristics of Christ, but there are these major features of Christ as the Way. I mention them now, and leave their consideration for later on. These five features of Christ as the Way are the meaning of His birth, the meaning of His baptism, the meaning of His anointing with the Holy Spirit, the meaning of His walk here on the earth, and the meaning of His sufferings. We will consider them one by one in greater fulness.

The Meaning of His birth

But we may begin with the first - the meaning of His birth, and by that I mean His humanity, His manhood. God's normal way to man is by man. God's normal way for man to Himself is by man. Even in those extraordinary visitations in the Old Testament when God Himself came in what are called theophanies, men saw men, and afterwards said it was the Lord. It would be perhaps speculating, and certainly not very convincing or conclusive or profitable to say that that is probably how God walked with Adam in the garden - in a theophany, in the form of a man, just as He came to Abraham, and Abraham afterwards realized that it was the Lord. And so with others.

There have been, of course, independent speakings of God to men without any personal form being taken, but God's normal way to man is by man, and for man to Himself through man. Manhood is God's means and method of communication. Bear that in mind. God has so often refused to act independently of man. He has made Himself so largely dependent upon man. He has so largely committed Himself to man. In a very real sense God has put Himself into the hands of men. That is a very solemn truth. But remember that it is man in union with God who is God's instrument and means of bringing others to Himself, being His Way. That is, it is a certain kind of man: man according to God.

So we are brought to the fact of manhood. God never has and never does really commit Himself to a system. You may say that the Old Testament contradicts that. No, it does not. God never really committed Himself to the Old Testament system. The Old Testament system which God used was not the truth, it was not the reality, it was only a figure. If God had really committed Himself to that system and been really a part of it, He could never have allowed it to perish, He would have gone down with it. But when that system in any way failed God, God could wash His hands of it, He could desert the tabernacle in Shiloh, leaving it an empty shell. He never really committed Himself to a system, and He never does; He may use things, but that is as far as He will go. A system is not the truth.

When the Lord Jesus, pointing to the temple in Jerusalem, and then pointing to its counterpart in Samaria, Mount Gerizim, said, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth" (John 4:23), He was drawing a broad line of distinction between these objective, outward, temporal means, and the reality; saying, 'This is not the real thing, this is not the truth. I am the Truth, and I am the Way because I am the Truth.'

The fact of manhood is that God's way to Himself and God's way to man is by personal representation. Get hold of that: personal representation. "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). That is God in representation. Man was made to be representative of God. I am keeping the clear distinction between humanity and Deity. I am talking about manhood. Man was conceived and made on the principle of representation. "Our image, Our likeness". That man failed, but another Man came and said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). That is the whole principle of manhood where God is concerned - God brought near, God brought into view, God brought present in man-form. "Immanuel... God with us" (Matt. 1:23). God's likeness seen - representation, mediation, a two-way union, one hand on God, the other hand on man, and the Man of the hands bringing the two together, standing to mediate God to man and bring man to God. "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). Why did the Holy Spirit see to it that the apostle put that in? "The man". And again, "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:21). As through man sin, and through sin death, so through man righteousness and through righteousness Life - that is the argument of the letter to the Romans, but the emphasis is always upon this word 'man'. God's way.

So the birth of Christ or the incarnation is a master concept. God has solved this whole problem in manhood, manhood after His own mind, His own heart, and that manhood is exclusively realised and revealed in Jesus Christ. Christianity does not become in that identity Christ, but Christianity is supposed to be the expression of the truth that there is a new creation, there is one new man; that in union with Christ we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bone. There is a spiritual manhood brought into being with the church and so the church fulfils the function of Christ to bring God present where two or three are gathered into His Name, to reveal what God is like. Oh, how we fail! But this is the original concept of Christianity. This is exactly what it means that Christianity was called the Way. What is God's way? God's way is man according to His own mind, expressing Himself, embodying Himself; that is God's way. That is God's way for man to Himself, and that is God's way for Himself to man - by man.

What is the point? The majority of us take the name "Christian". We are in this thing called Christianity. But you see, Christianity originally, initially, was called the Way, which meant that it took its character from Him Who declared Himself to be the Way, and therefore Christianity is supposed to be that which by Christ, because of Christ, brings God into view. God cannot be seen in a world like this except through men and women. It is the world that we are thinking about. What God is like in His own realm of heaven we do not know, how He is seen there and heard there we do not know. That is another order. There will have to be a whole new set of faculties for seeing and hearing God nakedly, so to speak, in His own realm. When in a world like this, because this world is constituted on the human basis, the only way in which God can really be seen and known and understood is through man.

Christianity is supposed to be that collective man in Christ, Christ in it. It is a challenge. The next chapter will bring us very closely up against that challenge. But here is the statement of fact. What are we as Christians? What is the very idea of Christianity? What is its concept? What is its nature? What is its purpose? Oh, Christianity has become so many things! Christianity has taken on so many features. But let us get right back to the beginning. What was it? And how simple is the way in which it is put forth - the Way - and that meant a kind of person that comes to God, and a kind of person that is able to bring others to God. It is men, it is manhood, it is humanity, and Christianity can be gathered up into that wholly and solely, that it is a human expression of the Lord, an expression of the Lord in a world of human beings by a kind of people that are different from all other people. The difference is that they show forth the excellencies of Him Who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).

You will see that the Lord's purpose is really to get down to the nature of Christianity and to get back to its true essence - the Way. The Lord help us to see it, and the Lord do something in us that others will be able to come to Him and will come to Him because they see the Way in us.

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