I Am The Way, The Truth, and The Life

On a superficial level, the world’s religions may appear different from each other; but in fact they have in common a three-part framework. They each claim a way, a truth and a life.

I Am The Way, The Truth, and The Life

The three-part framework of religion

The way of a religion – the manner of living to which its followers conform – is what makes it most identifiable. Each belief system has its own practices, commands and routines that set the pattern of the follower’s life. These might include times of prayer or meditation, attendance at religious services, and may sometimes extend to restrictions on diet and clothing. To an outsider, these strictures may seem unnecessary, arbitrary impositions, but for the believer, they are the way to something greater. Short-term service and dedication lead to long-term reward. 

Underpinning the way of a religion is a concept of truth which is transcendent and immutable. Often it begins with a deity. Is there a god? How many gods are there? What are they like? It may also answer questions about humanity. How did we come to exist? What is our purpose? Only when the character of the deity and the divine expectations required of man are established can a person understand the way they can relate to their god.

Obeying the truth and following the way leads to life.

Depending on the religion, that life may be heaven, reincarnation, or oneness with the universe. Failure may result in condemnation, annihilation, or hell. But, whatever the variations in detail, most religions generally agree that beliefs and behaviour in the here and now will affect the life to come.

The secular framework

What about those who have no religious beliefs? This three-part framework still structures their lives. There will be ‘truths’ held as self-evident, irrefutable and vital, whether they be social, political or philosophical. Those ‘truths’ will lead into ‘ways’ of conduct and behaviour. And though many do not believe in life after death, there remains a sense of purpose in their beliefs and actions, and hope in a future reward, whether it be personal gain or the advancement of culture and society.

To some degree, we all have a way, a truth and a life influencing the patterns of our thoughts and actions.

The framework of Christianity

Christianity has its own form of this framework. So what distinguishes it from religion and secular thought? The answer is revealed in these words:

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’
(John 14:6).

This claim is unique. Many have sought to show the way, reveal the truth and promise some kind of life, but the Lord Jesus claimed to be all three. The framework of the Christian faith is not grounded in a set of teachings or values but in a person.

He is the way

Like many other religions and philosophies, Christianity acknowledges that we are all wayward by nature. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way’ (Isaiah 53:6). 'Going astray' implies there is somewhere we ought to be and yet have abandoned. Though God created us in His own image with an intention for how we should live, we have deviated and instead chosen our own way. This, the essence of sin, comes with disastrous consequences: ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death’ (Proverbs 16:25). We need a way back to God.

Jesus claimed to be the way, not one of many ways, to God: ‘no one comes to the Father but by me.’ This means no-one can have sins forgiven, peace with God or entrance into heaven through any means other than Christ Himself. As He spoke these words, it was only a matter of hours before He would go to the cross, fulfilling the work necessary for our salvation. 

This corresponds with the message the apostles preached after Christ's ascension: ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This is one of the fundamental areas where the Christian faith stands apart from religion: the way back to God is not through our good works but only through Jesus. 

He is the truth

What truth underpins the fact that Jesus is the only way of salvation? 

The Bible contains a moral law, teaching us how we should behave, but it also tells us that, without exception, we all fall short of this standard. This law, then, is not the means of salvation; rather, it exposes our waywardness and helplessness. The Christian's hope does not lie in law-keeping.

Our hope rests in the truth that Jesus Christ, God's own Son, came into this world to 'seek and to save the lost' (Luke 19:10). If He was not the Son of God, He would merely have been someone like us, with no power to forgive sins. His own critics acknowledged this: 'who can forgive sins but God alone?' (Mark 2:5). During His life, He consistently demonstrated His divinity by His miracles, His moral purity and teaching; even at the moment of His death, the soldier at the foot of the cross exclaimed, 'truly this was the Son of God!' (Matthew 27:54).

He is the life

Jesus claimed to be ‘the life’ while standing by the tomb of Lazarus, a man who had been dead four days. As Jesus commanded him to ‘come forth’, his life was miraculously restored, and he emerged from the tomb. This was typical of the miracles Jesus performed. He restored sight to the blind, peace to the storm-tossed sea, and life to the dead.

Through the ultimate miracle of His own death and resurrection, He offers us eternal life: ‘for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).

The claims of Christ make it impossible to divorce the man from His teaching. He is not a figurehead or religious spokesman, but the very one on whom the entire Christian faith rests. Many revered religious leaders are interchangeable because they are merely communicators of a doctrine. On the other hand, take Christ from Christianity and you remove the whole framework, for He uniquely is the way, the truth and the life. You would be left with a set of moral standards that are impossible to meet, having only the power to condemn. There would be no Saviour, no answer to sin, and no hope. 

Those who are saved are those whose faith rests in this man. The question He asked His disciples is the one we must all consider: 'what do you think of Christ?' (Matthew 22:42).