The gospel: the way of salvation
When you write an article or a book, you give it a name, and this name describes in short what the book or article is all about.
If we were to describe Jesus’ gospel in short, we could say it with many different words, but it is very interesting to see that in the early days, it was often just described as “the way”.
“She came after Paul and us, crying out and saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, who are giving you news of the way of salvation.” Acts 16:17 (BBE). This girl had an evil spirit that could predict the future. This spirit knew the truth and described it as “the way of salvation”. And in Acts 18:25 (BBE) it is written that Apollos had been trained in “the way of the Lord”.
“But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way.” Acts 19:9 (NLT). “About that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way.” Acts 19:23 (NLT). “I persecuted this Way up to the point of death …” Acts 22:4 (NRS). “However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect …” Acts 24:14 (NIV). “Felix knew all about the Way of Jesus. So he put off the trial for the time being …” Acts 24:22 (NIRV).
To describe the gospel as a way of salvation is very fitting. There was actually no “way” in the old covenant. They sacrificed and sinned, sacrificed and sinned, and didn’t make any progress. They didn’t stop sinning, they didn’t become more godly. (Hebrews 10:1-4.) What Jesus did, in a few words, was to “open up a way”, to make it possible to make progress, to become godly.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us …” Hebrews 10:19-20 (ESV).
Jesus Himself said that the way that leads to life is narrow. Usually believers do not think of salvation as a “way” on which they have to go. But they do think of “experiences”, blessings, and that Jesus paid for our sins - which explains why there is no development, no progress, and no growth.
Lost in the jungle
To understand how important it is that Jesus opened a way, imagine a group of people lost in the middle of a jungle not knowing the way out. At the start, they might argue about the direction they should go, what they should do, or who should be the leader. But if one of those who are in the jungle finds the way out, he calls out, and all of them receive hope that they can get out. Then all the arguing and confusion can stop immediately.
Paul says, “I know that good does not live in me - that is, in my human nature.” Romans 7:18 (GNT). Our sinful human nature can be compared to a large jungle. We are all bound by the sin in our nature, and don’t know how to “get out”, how to stop sinning. Paul writes further: “For when we lived according to our human nature, the sinful desires stirred up by the Law were at work in our bodies, and all we did ended in death.” Romans 7:5 (GNT). Only a few people have found the way out of this “jungle”.
James asks if we know where all wars and fights come from. “Aren't they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you?” James 4:1-3 (GW).
Christians have struggled and tried for centuries to get out of this “jungle” of anger, jealousy and confusion. They have read Jesus’ prayer that all those who believe in Him shall be one just as He and the Father are one. They talk a lot about unity, and they have tried create this unity by organising church services where many different religious churches come together, but this has not worked.
God had given Israel the law as a help in this “jungle”. It was a great help for them to keep dangerous “animals” (sin) at a distance, or to make it more difficult for them to sin. The law could punish sin after it was done, but the law could not give them rest and peace inside. The law was powerless there, because it could not help people to get rid of the sinful desires and thoughts inside their hearts and minds.
“What the Law could not do… God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like our sinful nature, to do away with sin …” Romans 8:3 (GNT). Only then did people receive true help in the “jungle”. God led His Son out of the “jungle”, and His Son was obedient. We read what Jesus learned when He was here on earth: “But even though he was God's Son, he learned through his sufferings to be obedient.” Hebrews 5:7-9 (GNT).
Most of the time, believers wait for a blessing—something wonderful to come over them—so they can get out of this “jungle”. They are waiting to be “taken up” just as Philip was, as we read in Acts 8:39.
But we must go on the way just as Jesus said: Take up our cross daily, say No to ourselves, and follow Him. (Luke 9:23.) “For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from [stopped with] sin.” 1 Peter 4:1-2. To “suffer in the flesh” is to say No to ourselves when we are tempted by the sin that lives in our sinful human nature. Then the result is that we stop with sin.
Finding the way out
Jesus didn’t go this way for us so that we don’t have to go the way ourselves. He opened this way for us. We now have a way to get out of sin. Jesus could go this way in the power of the Holy Spirit—and we can be baptised with the same Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13.)
By this Spirit we can continue to say No to the sin in our human nature when we are tempted, until that sin “dies”. Then there will be rest. This is called the “dying of Jesus”, which we can always carry within us. This “dying” makes an end to the sin in our human nature—the “animals in the jungle”—and the fruits of the Spirit will become visible in us. (2 Corinthians 4:10.)
Then we will have found the way out of the “jungle”: the way of salvation, the way where we bit by bit get saved from one sin after another. The first Christians were so enthusiastic about this new and living way and spoke so much about it that the gospel simply became known by all as “the way of the Lord”, “the way of salvation”, or “the way of God”. On this way, we must be led by the Spirit, and it is impossible to go on this way without being obedient to the Spirit.
This is truly a royal life, living the same life as Jesus lived, with a human nature in which nothing good can be found, in the midst of ungodly people. This is what Jesus did, and He has given us this promise: “To him who overcomes I will grant [allow] to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21.