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Circling the Square

Church on the Way

Posted by Bill Lovell on

In the book of Acts, the author Luke uses the words “the Way” six times to talk about those who seek to follow Jesus. If you check, you will find "the Way" (Greek, τὴν Ὁδὸν) used in this fashion in Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, and 24:22, with possible echos in Acts 16:17, 18:25, and 18:26. 

In Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus, Dr. David Pao points out that Luke's expression "the Way" hearkens back, first, to the book of Exodus and, then, specifically to the prophet Isaiah's use of Israel's exodus as a metaphor for the life of God's people as we await, and prepare for, the unfolding of God's eternal purposes. 

As I mentioned on Sunday, in my sermon on Acts 19, this manner of speaking about the apostolic church has great significance to us at Christ Church Carrollton. I'll even suggest that being a "church on the Way" sums up pretty much exactly what our church is called to be and to do:

Way  God's people in the book of Exodus followed God "in the way," as he led them through the wilderness. In the book of Isaiah, God commands his people, in a time of exile, to "make a way in the wilderness," and that is precisely what the book of Acts describes: a people who move with God, who camp with him, whose . May our defining image at Christ Church Carrollton be the Tent of Meeting in the desert. May we seek not static maintenance but dynamic mission. 

Word  In Exodus 13:21-22, God led his people by pillars of fire and smoke. According to Isaiah, however, in the future, God will lead his people through his word: "[Y]our ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.." That is the message again and again in Acts. May God's sovereign word always be central at Christ Church. 

Where  In Exodus 3:8, as God led his people out of captivity in Egypt, their destination was Canaan, "a land flowing with milk and honey." In Isaiah 65:17, God's people are promised that their ultimate destination is not Canaan, but "a new heavens and a new earth." The book of Acts closes paradoxically in pagan Rome, with Paul facing death, but busy doing gospel work, filled with gospel hope. May Acts' glorious vision of the church's ultimate destination form our church's horizon in the Christian life--not health and wealth here and now, but security, hope and gospel confidence in God's glorious eternity. 

Witness  In Isaiah 43:10, 43:12, and 44:8, God declares to his people: “You are my witnesses." Of course, Jesus says the same thing of the apostles (and the church) in Acts 1:8, and the apostles explicitly accept this responsibility in Acts 1:22, 2:32, 3:15, 5:32, 14:3, and 26:16. Just as the apostles were called to be witnesses, so are we at Christ Church. In spite of hardship, we are to be witnesses to Jesus Christ, in word and in deed, here in Carrollton and around the world. 

I have been enjoying this year's in-depth study of the book of Acts. I can truly say it has been the most exciting and captivating series I have ever preached. I am very much indebted to David Pao's analysis of the influence of Exodus and Isaiah in the book of Acts. With the Holy Spirt's loving help, I am eager to live out our call to be a church "on the way," a church seeking humbly to submit ourselves to God's life-giving word, a church focused on eternity, and a church that seeks to witness to the love of Jesus.