Friday, November 1, 2013

Do You Belong to "The Way?"

In Christianity today there is an emphasis on getting back to the worship that existed in the first century. I've even seen advertisements that claimed that this or that church was like a first century church. Acts 2:42-46 is usually cited as the correct model. Admittedly, this has been an elusive goal. Even with the Bible we don't have a clear blueprint of what that worship looked like. Yet, this does seem to be a commendable effort, since there appears to be a consensus in that the church today has developed through times and traditions very much unlike those of the early apostolic days. In other words church as been corrupted.

But in order to virtually go back in time we have to get the history right first. Initially, most all of the believers were Jews. They continued to worship in the Temple and in the synagogues. They continued to be Jews, although they had become believers in Yeshua. Then, following Peter's vision in Acts 10, the Gentiles were understood to be eligible for the same indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They became fellow believers grafted into Israel.

It is then at this point that the history becomes more murky and the assumption is generally made that the Jewish believers came to see that the Torah, the Temple, and the synagogue were no longer necessary to belief in Yeshua. Paul's writings, especially, have been used to verify this position. As the Gentiles began to outnumber the Jewish believers, the church eventually became totally distinct from Judaism.

This progression, however, is not validated by the historical record. The first believers called themselves, "The Way."

Acts 9:2 (KJV)
2 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 19:9 (KJV)
9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

From these two Scriptures we see that the believers were a part of "The Way." In Acts 9 Paul was sent to Damascus to the synagogues. At this point, obviously, these Jewish believers were still worshipping in the synagogues. In Acts 19 Paul had been preaching in the synagogues until trouble arose when he and the believers separated from the synagogue and went to the school of Tyrannus. Although this verse indicates that the believers had to move out of the synagogue, it must be seen that they started there and only moved because of trouble. This is long past Acts 10 and by this time most of the new believers were Gentile.

Acts 24:14 (KJV)
14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

In Acts 24 it is evident that "The Way" had become known as a heresy and no longer just another sect of Judaism. Yet, Paul stressed that even though "The Way" was considered a heresy, he worshiped the God of his fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and he believed all the things that were written in the law and in the prophets (the Old Testament).

Some have tried to say that Paul may have believed the Old Testament, but that he realized that the Torah no longer had to be obeyed. Apparently, there were others who thought that Paul had abandoned the Torah as well. Even in Jerusalem many thought this. However, when Paul had taken a Nazarite vow (Obviously, he still obeyed the Torah) and had gone back to Jerusalem to fulfill the vow, James counseled him to pay for four others to prove to his naysayers that he was fully supportive of obeying the Torah.

Acts 21:26 (KJV)
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Based on Scripture alone, the abandonment of Torah cannot be upheld. Stay tuned for part 2 where the evidence in the historical record after the writing of the New Testament is considered.


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