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Not a sect – the way!

the-Way-LogoWhere does Christianity fit in the grand scheme of world religions?

Are we merely a branch - though perhaps the truest branch - in the family tree of "Abrahamic faiths"?

Are we a part - though perhaps the most faithful part - of a broader "Judeo-Christian" consensus?

Do we have one take - though perhaps the most complete take - on OT interpretation?

When Paul is before Felix, he makes a fascinating distinction between Christianity "a sect" and Christianity "the Way":

I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets  (Acts 24:14).

Paul's opponents want to understand him as part of a Jewish sect.  Paul rejects that understanding.  He follows the Way.  The Ancient Way - the Way of the Law and the Prophets.

In front of Agrippa, Paul unpacks a couple of things from that quote.  First he shows what a sect is.

...according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.  (Acts 26:5)

This is what Paul means by sect: a small part of a greater whole (in modern usage it has the added meaning of a part that claims to be the whole.)

Pharisaism is a good example of a sect within Judaism.

But Paul insists, Christianity is not a competing sect within some broader category of Abrahamic faith.  Christianity is not a smaller, more specific kind of OT faith that just happens to follow the Messiah.  Messianic faith is the Way.  The Way of the fathers, the Way of the law and the prophets. The Way it's always been.

How can Paul say this?  Well, Paul simply explains what the law and the prophets have always testified:

I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen--  that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles."  (Acts 26:22-23)

This is Christianity - the Ancient Way.  The Way of Moses and the Prophets.  This is not a sect within a larger entity called Judaism but the one way of the suffering, rising and reigning Christ - the way the fathers have always travelled.  According to Paul you cannot and must not understand Christianity as a smaller part of a broader Scriptural story, for then you misunderstand the law and the prophets themselves.

Paul says explicitly that he has not put a Christian gloss on a pre-existing sub-messianic revelation.  He is simply following the Way of Moses.

If someone does not follow the suffering, rising, reigning Christ they are not following the Way of Moses.  And, note well, this is not a new state of affairs according to Paul.   This is not Paul reading messianic meaning into Moses.  Paul is saying nothing beyond the original meaning and intention of the Prophets and Moses.

Anyone, in any age, who is not trusting in the promised Messiah is not part of the Way.  They are the sect.

That's Paul's understanding. Is it our understanding?  Or do we think of the Law and the Prophets as part of a broader religious movement into which Jesus fits?

No, Jesus - our suffering, dying and reigning Messiah - is the Way.  The Ancient Way.  And there has never been any other.

4 thoughts on “Not a sect – the way!

  1. Cal

    I use to think, like a lot of folks, that there is Judaism and Christianity that was a splinter off. It may be the true splinter off, but it is a fragment itself.

    Now I do believe that there is a substantial break in that Israel, all the promises, covenant and Law are mere shadows that re-form around the True Israel, True Promise, True Covenant and True Law that is the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One of God, Savior, Lord and God.

    However, I've recently been convinced by just the reality of today's Rabbinic Judaism that Christianity is not the child of Judaism but rather they are sibblings. That is they both are roads diverging from the Law and the Prophets. The question isn't is this the right moment to splinter? (which is dispensationalism), but rather, which is the correct way forward?

    Christianity, that is to say Jesus is Lord, is the continuation of what Moses and Elijah saw. Who Abraham and David knew. Rabbinic Judaism is a claim at the same legacy but I think they're incorrect. The question that split Israel is: Is Jesus the Messiah? Those who said No had to reconfigure: some fused to Gnosticism and became Kabbalah, others tried to put together something based around their teachers(Rabbis) and thus modern Judaism.

    Suffice to say, you're right Glen. It's the Way!

    My two cents :) ,

  2. theoldadam

    The Jewish people remind me of the guy waiting down at the dock, bags packed, for the ship to arrive and take him on a wonderful trip.

    But, in reality, the ship has already come and left the dock.


    The great thing is, that by the grace of God, it may come back and pick up that guy. St. Paul seems to say that it will.

  3. A3B7A29B44 BW 4,6 some part of me with 1 Adam

    "'Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?' And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem....Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, 'Peace to you!'....'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?'....'Touch me, and see.'.....'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everyting wriitten about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' The he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and the third dat rise from the dead, and repentence and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay inthe city until you are clothed with power from on high.'"-------------I seem to remember hearing an excellent sermon by you, explaining Emmaus' Road. P

  4. Pingback: Whos your prophet? | Mind and Matter

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