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  • Writer's picturePaul Cottington

There is Only One Way to Do This!


“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the

Father except through me.” John 14:6

Today, I want to look at another of the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus Christ, which are recorded in John’s Gospel. Last time, we considered the claim that Jesus made to his friend Martha, when her brother Lazarus died. Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’. He proved that his words were true. Jesus raised Lazarus back to life. Truth and life are two of the themes in our verse today. Jesus states that he is both of these things. He is also, ‘the way’.

As mentioned before, John has much to say about ‘life’ in his writings about Jesus. Three of the seven, metaphorical, ‘I am’ statements, where Jesus uses a figure of speech to compare himself to other things, contain this word, ‘life’. It appears at the end of each of the three statements. It is a bit like a sum that we might do at school. The result is at the end. We might do, ‘4 + 5 = 9.’ Nine is the result of four and five added together. In the same way, ‘life’ is the result of the resurrection power of Jesus. Resurrection is raising something from the dead. When Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’, it is as if he is saying, ‘I’ (Jesus), + ‘resurrection’ power = ‘life’.

The result is eternal life for those that believe in Jesus Christ. We have a similar thing in John 6:35, where Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life’. Jesus + bread (or his ability to continual feed the spiritual need of his people) = life. Because of this, believers can be confident that their life of faith won’t die out. And here, in John 14, ‘life’ is the result of Jesus being ‘the way and the truth.’ Today’s passage is a record of what took place shortly before Jesus was put to death. He was informing his disciples of what must take place in the near future. They were troubled by this. Jesus comforted them with the ‘truth’. In verse 1, he says, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.’ He tells them that he is going to leave them to go to prepare a place for them in his ‘Father’s house’. I mentioned this a couple of messages ago, when we looked at the ascension of Jesus into heaven. We considered the promise that Jesus gave to his disciples.

When Jesus left earth for heaven, there wasn’t going to be an empty void. Yes, the disciples would no longer have the wonderful words of Jesus being spoken to them face to face. But he was going to send the ‘Spirit’ to earth to speak on his behalf. In verses 16 & 17 of today’s chapter, Jesus says, ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth.’ The Holy Spirit is called the ‘Spirit of truth’. This is significant in the context of the claim of Jesus that we are considering today.

In Romans 8:9, the apostle Paul refers to this Spirit, but uses the title, the ‘Spirit of Christ’. The apostle Peter uses exactly the same expression as well (1 Peter 1:11). In the titles that God’s Spirit has, he is both the ‘Spirit of Christ’ and the ‘Spirit of truth’. ‘Christ’ and ‘truth’ are interchangeable. We can swap one for the other and still be referring to exactly the same thing! This is because Jesus Christ is the truth. In him there is the very essence of truth. The substance of his character was truth. That is why he can make this substantial claim, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’

Jesus clarifies this statement. He wants us to be clear in our understanding. Jesus adds this, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Jesus is absolute and definite. Jesus is not saying that he is ‘a’ way to God. Jesus is not saying that he is one way to God, among several other ways to God. Jesus isn’t even saying that he is the best way to get to God. Jesus is saying that he is ‘the’ way. He is the only way for us to reach God the Father, and enjoy relationship with him. There are no alternatives.

This seems very exclusive. In a sense, it is. This is an accusation that is often made against the claims of Bible believing Christians. If we were to tell people that we had discovered ‘a way’ to God, through Jesus, I don’t think it would cause much offence. But to tell people that Jesus is ‘the way’, the only way to God, can really offend. People want the freedom to choose. They may say things like, ‘I don’t want to go the same way as you to reach God. I am content to go another way. Why can’t I reach God my way? I think that living a good, moral life will be enough for me.’ Or, ‘I prefer to follow the path to spiritual enlightenment that another religion provides. It isn’t fair to say that there is only one way to reach out to God. It excludes choice.’

But is this so? Essentially, what is the ‘truth’? That is what really matters. I’ll give an illustration. What is a ‘way’? What does the word mean? The dictionary describes it as ‘a road, track, or path for travelling along.’ In 2019, I did a walk with my wife of around 70 miles. It is called, ‘The Wakefield Way’, because it allows you to travel around the border of the wider Wakefield area. It is really beautiful throughout. I really enjoyed it. But let’s suppose that I now have to travel to Sheffield. My wife asks me if we are going to go our normal route, along the M1 motorway and then the A61. What if I say, ‘No’? I tell her that I really enjoyed the Wakefield Way and I want to go that way to get to Sheffield. I suspect that she would tell me that this would be impossible. The Wakefield Way doesn’t go to Sheffield. You can travel along the Wakefield Way for as long as you want to. But you won’t ever get to Sheffield. Is this view exclusive? No, it’s just the plain truth. Likewise with this claim of Jesus. You are free to choose other ways to reach God. But the truth is that not one of them will ever get you there.

Peter expanded on this theme. In Acts 4 we have the account of him and John being brought before the ruling council of the Jews. These two disciples had been preaching this, apparently exclusive, message about Jesus. The Jewish, religious leaders were definitely offended. These were people that believed that the way to God, and to Godliness, was found in doing your best. They were proud of their efforts. They studied the covenant that God had given to the Israelites through his servant Moses. This contained many commandments. They believed that if they did their very best to follow these commandments then God would look upon them favourably. They would be safe. But Peter told them that they weren’t safe. If their hope of safety from God’s judgement was based upon their own efforts, in their own lives, then they would fall short. God demanded a life of perfection. This is impossible to live ourselves, because we are so prone to what the bible calls, ‘sin’. Often, we do the opposite of what God wants. Our only hope is to put our confidence elsewhere, in the life that another man has already lived. This is the ‘obedience’ that God wants from us.

Romans 5:19, tells us that ‘through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous’, which means right with God. When Peter spoke to these religious people, he confronted them with truth. He said, ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’ Jesus is the only way to be safe. Jesus is the only way to God. This truth is exclusive. There is only one way. But it is also very inclusive. There is a danger that, as Christians, we can make it appear less so. Acts 17 records Paul in the city of Athens. We are told that he, ‘was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection’ (v.18). He told his audience that ‘God... commands all people everywhere to repent’ (v.30). ‘All people’. That sounds very inclusive to me.

And the Bible’s truth of the gospel is inclusive. Colossians 3 (v.11) and Galatians 3 (28), say very similar things when describing the make-up of the church. It was truly diverse. You could come from a religious background, or your upbringing could be quite the opposite. You could be a native of the place where you lived, or you could be a foreigner, perhaps speaking a different language to those around you. You could be someone considered important in human society, or you could be someone struggling in poverty, not even on the bottom rung of the social ladder. Being male or female was not important. ‘All people’, all types of people, were found in those beautiful descriptions of the early church. And all of them were one. ‘You are all one in Christ Jesus’, says Paul (Galatians 3:28).

To belong to Christ’s church, you do not have to change your language or adopt a different culture. You don’t have to take elocution lessons so that you can speak like other people. You don’t have to change your clothes so that you look like some made up view of what a churchgoer should look like. The thing that is important is that we are clothed with Christ. Paul, looking on at that early church said this, ‘for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ’ (Galatians 3:27). All of you have, because it was vital that all of you did.

While we are considering the early church, there is something quite striking about one name that was given to this emerging group. As people we find it helpful to give names to things, so that we all know what is being referred to. The beginnings of the early church are described in the book of Acts. Many of those at the start were converted to Christ from a background of traditional Jewish belief. From reading the Old Testament writings, the Jews believed that God had promised to send someone into the world who would serve God and lead God’s people. When Jesus came, his message was that he, himself, was that promised person. Those that believed this message did not reject the Old Testament teachings. Rather, they believed that the teachings of the Old Testament law, spoken by God through his prophets, like Moses and others, were all true.

In truth, these writings all pointed towards ‘the truth’ which is only fully revealed by the coming of Jesus Christ. The law was like a faint picture, an outline of human failure and consequent need. The law revealed the need of mankind to be rescued from sin. The law pointed towards God’s way of rescue, which was to be fully revealed in the future. But when Christ came, everything changed. In Colossians 2:17, Paul talks about the religious ceremonies that were practiced under the Old Testament law. He says, ‘these are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.’ John 1:17 says this, ‘For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ The law contained a message of solemn truth. But Jesus was ‘truth’. Jesus was saving truth. In John 8:31-32, Jesus said this to ‘the Jews who had believed him’, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

So the first believers in Jesus, also believed that the Old Testament was true. But they differed from those Jews who didn’t believe the message of Jesus. Those Jews believed that Jesus was not the person who God had promised. They believed that this promised person was still to come. The followers of Jesus believed that this person had come, and that this promised person was Jesus himself. Both these groups had the same Old Testament foundation to their belief about God. But they had reached fundamentally different conclusions. Onlookers wanted to be able to distinguish between these two groups. Six times in the book of Acts, the church is referred to by a particular name, which seems to have been commonplace. The name given was ‘the Way’. I find this a wonderful thing that the followers of Jesus were called ‘the Way’. Because they were the people that were on ‘the way’. They were the only people, who were following the only way, which truly leads to God.

In Acts 24, the apostle Paul has been arrested. The unbelieving Jews had stirred up trouble for him with the authorities, because they hated his message about Jesus. Paul had once been like them. He once was a devout Jew. He had also hated the message about Jesus, and had despised his followers. He had got permission from the authorities to arrest and imprison them. Paul was on another way. He was on a road which led to the city of Damascus. Actually, Paul was on a pathway that led to destruction. Paul was on the road to hell. But God sovereignly, mercifully, reached into that man’s life. Paul changed his mind. His life was transformed. Paul left behind his previous way of ‘murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples’ (Acts 9:1), and the church heard the amazing report that ‘the man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy’ (Galatians 1:23).

When Paul was arrested, he appeared before the Roman Governor, called Felix. Acts 24:22, tells us that Felix ‘was well acquainted with the Way’. He knew about the church and he knew this title that had been given to it. Paul confirmed to Felix that he wasn’t seeking to undermine the Jewish Old Testament foundation. Paul said ‘I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets’. But he also said this, ‘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). Are we willing to be accused of belonging to a ‘sect’ called ‘the Way’? Because the church is called to be ‘the Way’ still. Just as side roads feed traffic onto the main road, so we are to lead others to Jesus. He is ‘the road that leads to life’ (Matthew 7:14). He is the life-giving way that we must lead others to.

The book of Hebrews talks about this ‘living’, or ‘life-giving’ way. It shows the great contrast between two different ways of trying to be right with God. The first way is the way of effort. ‘Hebrews’ looks at the hard and fast rules that governed the Jewish practice of sacrifice, and worship of God, in the old setup. Under that religious law there was something referred to as ‘the Most Holy Place’. This place was initially within a large tent-like structure called ‘the Tabernacle’. The Most Holy Place represented the presence of Almighty God. It was painstakingly difficult to enter that place and not die. Very strict regulations were in force.

Hebrews 9:8 (NLT) says this, ‘By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use.’ What does this mean? It means that God was shut off. Access to him was out of bounds to sinful people because of their sin. There was no way to freely reach him. This was the problem with that old way of trying to reach God through effort alone. It is representative of every single way of trying to reach God by effort. It is a broken way at the beginning and becomes worse the further we travel on it.

Can you imagine if you had to make a journey along a ruined path, and someone told you that the path that you were on didn’t actually get to its intended destination? Then they told you of a new route that went straight to where you wanted to go. What would you do? I trust that you would get onto the new route quickly! Jesus is ‘the way.’ Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT) reminds believers that they are on a new route and the conclusion is as glorious, as it is bold: ‘And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.’

Without Jesus, the presence of God is off limits. With Jesus, the opposite is true. I want to finish with that most extraordinary exhortation given to believers in Jesus, who was and still is, the way and the truth and the life. ‘Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.’


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