CHAPTER 1 - The "Way" by Sir Robert Anderson

THE scene is laid in the court of a Roman procurator. The occasion is a public trial. The prosecutors are the religious leaders of the Jews. The accused is a man of their own race and creed. Once a true and zealous "son of the Church "- an honoured and trusted disciple of their strictest and most distinguished school - he has lapsed from orthodoxy and joined "the sect of the Nazarenes." Worse than this he is a ringleader of that apostasy, and has gone to such extremes of heresy as to teach that there is salvation for others than the elect people of God. "Away with such a fellow from the earth" had been their cry, "it is not fit that he should live." If only they were free he would receive short shrift at their hands; but he is under the protection of Roman law, and so they have to suffer the indignity of being compelled to bring him before a court of their Roman masters. But on what charge can he be arraigned? The figment that the Nazarene founded a new religion has not yet been invented. Else their task would be an easy one; for the Empire is intolerant of new religions.
And a mere lapse from doctrinal orthodoxy within a religion authorised by the state, no Roman magistrate will deal with. So they have instructed one Tertullus, a professional pleader, to represent them. And Tertullus, skilfully masking the real ground of the accusation, charges the prisoner with being a disturber of the peace, a public pest, and a man tainted with sedition. Thus it was that his co-religionists described the great Apostle of the Gentiles. Destined to do more to move the world than all the "Caesars" of history, he stood there, an ugly little Jew, not only friendless and hated, but despised. Oriental cruelty had a mode of execution more horrible even than crucifixion. Impaled upon a stake planted in the ground, the victim was left to a lingering death, in the public view. And such is the figure which, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle uses to describe the utter wreck of his physical being. He was "given a stake for the flesh." And thus impaled, as it were, he was "made a spectacle unto the world, o both to angels and to men." His face was battered and scarred, and his muscular frame wrenched and torn, by the stoning at Lystra, when, with arms nerved by religious hate, his cruel enemies had pounded him to death. Till then he had ranked as an orator; but now he articulates with difficulty, and his speech is deemed contemptible.
And he had his own “Gethsemane,” when thrice he put up the prayer that the Almighty power which God had permitted him to administer in healing others might be used to bring himself relief. But the answer came, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And so he had learned to glory in his infirmities. His hideous scars were "the brand marks of the Lord Jesus," whose slave he rejoiced to be.
Sufferings for Christ’s sake refine and humble a man, but they never humiliate or crush him. So with courage undaunted, and with all the dignity which becomes a servant of God, he confronted both his persecutors and his judge. And after traversing explicitly the charges of sedition and disorder, he rolled back upon his accusers their charge of heresy. We can picture to ourselves hig look and gesture as, pointing to those recreant Jews, he exclaimed, "This I confess unto thee, that according to ‘The Way’ (which they call a sect) so worship I our fathers’ God, believing all things that are according to the law, and that are written in the prophets."
"The Way." The expression indicates, as Lange tells us, "a certain mode of life and conduct"; or as Canon Cook, with greater fulness, gives it, "a definite and progressive direction of the inner and outer life of man." On the Apostle’s lips it means the true Faith, and a right life. And its occurrences in the Acts of the Apostles give proof not only that it was in common use, but that it was a phrase of the disciples’ own choosing.
What first led the Apostle to "separate the disciples" was that, after his three months’ ministry in the synagogue at Ephesus, certain of the Jews "spake evil of the Way." At Ephesus it was too, that, later on, the pagan idolaters "made no small stir about the Way." Nor was the word unknown to Paul in his unconverted days. The High Priest’s commission given him in view of his Damascus journey, was that "if he found any of the Way, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem." And referring to this, when now seized and charged by the Jerusalem Jews, he reminded them that he had "persecuted the Way unto the death." The last occurrence of the word is where we read that Felix, "having more perfect knowledge of the Way," refused to condemn the Apostle on the charges so cunningly devised against him.
At a recent sale of a bankrupt nobleman’s effects, it was mentioned that a beautiful little crystal goblet, which fetched four thousand guineas, had been lying for years unnoticed with articles of common glass, for common use. And so it is with this word "The Way." It has fallen out of notice, and lies neglected and forgotten. And yet it is not only beautiful but useful, for it has no synonym in our English tongue.