Tag Archives: The Way

Sect of “The Way”, “The Nazarenes” & “Christians” : Names given to the Early Church

As followers of Christ, we are known as Christians around the world. But few Christians know that the believers in the first century were known by other names, as well as being called a sect amongst the prevalent beliefs of the time. Even though “Christianity” today, clearly differentiates between the Jews, and sometimes goes to the extent of having nothing to do with the Jewish people, the 1st Century believers moved about, mainly amongst the Jewish people. (Not to mention that the majority of the believer were Jewish). They worshiped at the Temple of Jerusalem, and attended the Synagogue on the Sabbath.

In this short study we will look into the 3 names which were used to refer to the believers in Christ, mentioned in the New Testament writings.

Christians
The term “Christian” is a Greek term (G5546 – Χριστιανός – Christianos) that means “Like The Anointed” or “Follower of The Anointed”. (Christ meant “The Anointed one”). Even though this name became the most popular term to refer to the “believers”, it is only mentioned thrice in the New Testament.

Act 11:26  and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Act 26:28  And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”
1Pe 4:16  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

The Way
The name which was widely used for the believers, and is most unknown to Christians today would be the title “The Way”. Probably originating from Christ Himself, who called Himself “The Way”(Joh 14:6), this name was used widely in the Book of Acts. The below verses prove that they were known more widely as “the Way”, than the “Christians”, especially as Paul introduces himself as a follower of “the Way” to the Governor, and not as a “Christian”(Acts 24:14), even though they were known as “Christians” by Acts 11:26.

Act 9:2  and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Act 19:9  But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
Act 19:23  About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.
Act 24:14  But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,
Act 24:22  But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”

The Nazarenes
Another name which was used to refer to the early believers was “the Nazarenes”, originating from Yeshua, the Nazarene (Yeshua is Jesus’ true name) as seen in Mat 2:23.

Act 24:5  For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

The early believers were also known as a Sect
The word “Sect” meant “a group of people with somewhat different religious beliefs (typically regarded as heretical) from those of a larger group to which they belong”.

Act 28:22  But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
Act 24:14  But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,
Act 24:5  For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

Conclusion
The point of this study is not to ask anyone to start calling themselves “The Way” or “The Nazarenes”, but to point all “Christians” to see how things were, and how they are today. The Early Church was firmly planted in and amongst Jews. The very people that Messiah came to save(Mat 15:24) are now discarded by the Christians as Strangers. The very body He wanted to unite, wants to clearly separate themselves from each other. “Judaism is for the Jews” and “Christianity is for the Gentiles” has outweighed the words of Yeshua who said “there shall be one Flock” (Joh 10:16) and the words of Paul who said “there are no more Jew or Greek” (Gal 3:28). 2000 years of separation from the roots of our faith, has made “Christianity” into a Religion which is far from “The Way” which was preached by a “Nazarene”. This is a call to start really reading the Scriptures with eyes and spirit wide open. We must know where we come from, to know where we are headed.