The Particular PathSeptember 15, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Do You Know the Way? | 9 Comments
Tags: Christ the Way, close-minded, exclusivity of Christ, exclusivity of Jesus, intolerance, Jesus the Way, John 14, open-minded, The Way, tolerance
Do You Know the Way? (John 14)
I. The Prepared Place (John 14:1-3)
II. The Particular Path (John 14:4-11)
Previously, I argued that there are not degrees of exclusivity in Heaven. However, it is important to know that Heaven itself is an extremely exclusive place. By this I mean that there is only one particular path that leads all the way into it. Jesus is the only “Door” – the only entryway – by which to get into Heaven.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
In our modern Western society there are very few things that are truly offensive any more. Flagrant, egregious sin used to be criminalized. Eventually, it came to be frowned upon, although no longer aggressively attacked. Later, it starting actually becoming accepted. To say that it is tolerated now is a vast understatement. All manner of wickedness and perversion is no longer just tolerated. It is celebrated and praised and glorified. The day is coming soon when it will be mandatory. The only thing that a wicked society truly condemns is “intolerance,” but “tolerance” has taken on a very specialized meaning. It now means openly affirming and accepting everything except that Jesus is God and that what He said is true.
The Bible pronounces a curse of “woe” to those who call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20), and that prophetic day of woe is upon us. If you put on a silver suit and black Nikes and drink the poisoned kool-aid while you wait for the comet to take you away, we can’t say that’s “crazy” because such a comment would be insensitive and offensive, and we must tolerate your beliefs. If you want to murder an innocent baby in the mother’s womb, I might be able to meekly mumble that such a thing would not be my personal preference, but I need to tolerate and support and celebrate your right to do so. If you are a man burning with lust for another man, I might feel disgusted on the inside, but I need to be understanding about the parade we’re going to have to honor you for doing it. The highest ranking officials in our nation don’t have time to speak out on behalf of American citizens (who also happen to be Christian pastors) illegally locked up abroad, or about Muslims torturing women in the Middle East, because they’re too busy celebrating professional athletes and calling them “heroes” because these athletes have decided that they want everyone to know that they like to fornicate with others of their own gender.
What Jesus said in John 14:6 does not, under these false premises, seem very tolerant, but it is nevertheless true. Jesus is the exclusive way to Heaven. The exclusivity of Jesus, is, in fact, one of the key elements of the Gospel (Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5). So, when we announce this soul-saving fact, we are going to hear objections:
–I’m tolerant and you’re intolerant.
–I’m progressive and open-minded, and you are a narrow-minded bigot.
–You think your way – only Jesus – is the only right way, but I think there are many different ways for all the diverse people that I celebrate.
–You think only one road leads to God, but I think all roads lead to God. (Actually, there is some truth to this statement. All roads do lead to God – in the sense of going to see God one day – but all roads except for Jesus are going to require a U-turn when you get there.)
Regardless of the objections, Jesus is the one and only particular path that leads to acceptance with God.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
After Jesus had attempted to soothe the hearts of the Disciples by giving them His Word about Heaven, the prepared place, Thomas still had questions.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Thomas was concerned about logistics. He wanted a map or at least directions, but Jesus had a bigger concept of “The Way.” We use the word “way” to refer to a path, but we also use it to refer to a manner of conduct.
“What is the way to your house?”
“Turn right at the oak tree, go half a mile and look for the three legged dog.”
“Why do you guys say ‘y’all’ and eat crawfish and carry shotguns in the back windshield of your pickup trucks?”
“That’s just the way it is in Louisiana. That’s just the way we are.”
Now, Jesus had an amazing way of communicating a vast amount of truth in a few simple words. He was the greatest teacher of all time, so all His statements are worthy of being studied, examined, looked at from all possible angles, explored for all eternity.
John 14:6 is an excellent example. It starts off with the statement “I am,” which in itself is a claim to deity. When Jesus said “I am,” He was claiming to be God. “I AM” is the Old Testament name for Yahweh – Jehovah – I AM THAT I AM. It was the name by which God set Himself apart from all the false gods. It is the name which says, “I AM the eternal, self-existent, immutable, all-powerful, exclusively true God.” Any respectably religious person Jesus encountered would have gasped to hear Him say it in Aramaic or Greek – Ego Eimi – because it was an unmistakable claim to be God.
He said I AM “the.” “The” in John 14:6 is what we call the “definite article.” It is an important word. For example, I wouldn’t say, “My wife is A girl for me,” because that would imply she could be one of many. Instead, I say, “My wife THE girl for me,” because we have an exclusive relationship. I don’t say that, “Open Door Baptist Church is A church I belong to.” I say, “It is THE church I belong to,” because it’s the only local church fellowship of which I’m an official member. It is a claim of exclusivity.
In John 14:6 Jesus was saying that He is something truly unique. He is the only real way, the only right way, the only possible way to be accepted with God. Let’s say you read that and you think, “How intolerant, how bigoted, how arrogant!” My response is, “So what?” Let’s assume for moment you’re right – that Jesus doesn’t meet your definition of open-mindedness and tolerance. Still, the fact remains, if it’s true, it’s true. I don’t necessarily like being called narrow-minded, but I have no choice if I am a Christian. I must be exactly as narrow-minded as Jesus when it comes to the truth claims of Christianity.
Now, let’s consider an even deeper element of Jesus’s statement. He is THE Way, but, that means, logically, He must also be A way. So, Jesus is eloquently expressing two great truths in four short words: “I am the Way.” The first one we’ve already discussed. Exclusively He is the ONLY way to acceptance with God. “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” No one will be acceptable to God apart from Jesus. No one could be forgiven, adopted by, justified by, allowed in the presence of, or even allowed to live before God – except for those who come to Him “in” Christ Jesus alone. There are – in this sense – no other ways, no shortcuts, no backdoors, no other sincere forms of faith that “just haven’t heard He’s called Jesus,” no alternative means to escape God’s wrath, nor to be accepted as His child. That is a great truth, and that is the truth that every lost person in this world needs to hear and believe.
But there is another great truth that Christians need to hear and understand, and that is that Jesus is also A way. He is the only Way to God, but He calls himself a “way” because He cares about our conduct. Because He won our freedom, and because our freedom is to be used to serve Him. If I claim that I am in the Way, but I am living nothing like the Way Himself, we must question whether I am really in the Way. Those who confess Jesus as the Way are supposed to be passionately interested in His “ways” – How He lived, How He led, and how He loved. And we are supposed to be emulating His ways.
The way of Jesus is honesty and purity and holiness and temperance and kindness and graciousness and forgiveness – and love. If I know the way, it means I need to go the way. Jesus is a Person. When He said follow ME He was not just espousing an an ideal or a concept. He was also advocating a path: FOLLOW Me. Jesus is the Way, but He is also a way. He is both a Person and a Path. He wants us to walk how He walked – to observe His ways and learn of Him. He is a Particular Path, and His path is likewise particular.
Next time, we will learn about the power of prayer (John 14:12-14).