In all the years we’ve been doing this “Women of the Way”, I don’t believe I’ve ever explained out loud the reason for its name.
Why are we called “Women of the WAY“?
The first gathering of believers in Jerusalem after Jesus death, resurrection and ascension called themselves followers of The Way. Luke makes reference to this when describing Saul’s persecution of believers in Acts 9:2. Also, The Way is mentioned in Acts 19:23 when talking about a riot in Ephesus. Finally, in Acts 22:4 as Paul describes his own conversion, he told about his determination to arrest and even kill followers of The Way.
Because they were still Jews, they continued to perform the Jewish practices of the day by worshipping at the temple and synagogues and maintaining the rules and customs of the ritual law. Increasingly though, the Jewish leaders were not happy with these followers of Jesus. They began to arrest them and try to stop them from talking about Jesus. Just like they stamped out Jesus, they were determined to do the same with His followers.
Why were the followers of The Way such a threat?
They were passionate about their mission to share Jesus Christ.
The fire that filled them on the Day of Pentecost gave them such a power that ignited their passion like never before. They preached about Christ in the streets and at the temple. They were not timid in their witness to share about the Good News. And when the pressure started heating up, they prayed for more boldness and passion just like it says in Acts 4:24-35….
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.”
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
These first faithful followers were devoted in their practices of following Jesus Christ.
They met in homes for worship, ate meals together as the sacrament of communion was developed, and they met the needs of those around them as well as each other’s needs. They were devoted to prayer and worship, and loved each other deeply. Their earnest desire to follow Christ, to serve Him, and to share it with others was evident to all. The Way wasn’t just a trendy, new Jewish custom. The Way was a way of life!
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Act 2:42-47 NIV
It didn’t take long, however, for the grip of persecution to begin bear down on the followers of The Way. Increasingly, the Jewish leaders arrested them and threatened them to stop their preaching. The Pharisees mistakenly thought they had stamped out Jesus and could easily do the same with His foolish followers. This pressure only deepened their resolve, and they celebrated the fact that they were being treated just like their Lord.
The stoning of Stephen was the match that set the whole thing ablaze! Believers were forced to flee Jerusalem in order to escape being killed or imprisoned. That fanatical Saul was now out for blood trying to wipe out The Way so many of the believers scattered. The true beauty of their escape, though, was that the Gospel was spread in so many new places. Churches were started in many different communities which is what God had intended all along!
When I developed this local women’s gathering, I not only wanted it to include all kinds of church denominations, but I also wanted us to follow the same ideals as Christians in the early church to be passionate, devoted followers of Christ. We may worship at each of our churches differently. We may have slightly different interpretations of Scripture, but we can be united under the same banner of Jesus is Lord just as those first Christians were.
I want us to be passionate and bold to share the Good News of Jesus with those around us. I want us to pray, without hesitation, for someone right where we are or to give generously as people have needs around us. I want us to serve the community with overwhelming generosity…..
I want us to be fully and utterly devoted to Jesus Christ. I want us to be women of prayer, women of worship, and women of study so that our lives are defined primarily by our relationship with Christ and not by simply what we do or where we live or what we have.
And finally, when faced with the possibility of persecution, I want us to feel so honored to be treated like our Lord that we do not waiver in the least to proclaim the Good News even when it’s not easy. I want us to stand, resist, and infiltrate the enemy’s territory to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Lastly, we would support our fellow brothers and sisters around the world who are facing true persecution for The Way as we pray for them an financially support them.
In this, we can be like those original followers of The Way.
How can you be more like them?
What are you already doing to be passionate and devoted for Jesus? What needs to change so that you are filled with passion? What do you need to do to be more devoted to Christ?
Stay tuned for more as we discover the women throughout history and the women we know as passionate, devoted follower of Christ!
In the meantime, would you like some ideas on how to connect with other believers who want to be more like the first followers of the Way?