By Jim Ward
Many years ago, numerous less conservative brethren began to urge that we preach the Man, not the plan. This plea implied that many gospel preachers were preaching the plan of salvation, but were not preaching Christ.
Today, that cry and accusation are even stronger. They have echoed recently from such books as The Cruciform Church by C. Leonard Allen and The Second Incarnation by Randall J. Harris and Rubel Shelly. Periodicals such as Image, Wineskins and Restoration Quarterly have taken up the call. But is it a biblical call, and is the implied accusation justified?
The Plan Alone?
I will make just two points here. First, in my fifty-four years I’ve heard and read after countless gospel preachers, and I’ve yet to come across one of these fellows who has left Christ out of the plan of salvation. Just where is this great host?
Second, if such preachers exist anywhere, they need to quit the pulpit and give up the pen. They’re heretics! Peter declared that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Salvation comes by believing in Jesus (Jn. 20:31) and by repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38). He who preaches any other gospel brings a curse upon himself (Gal. 1:8,9).
The Man Alone?
Now let’s turn to the real issue. Does God authorize men to preach Jesus without preaching baptism and the plan of salvation? Acts will give us the answer.
When Peter preached Jesus in Acts 2, and the crowd asked what they should do, how did the apostle reply? Did he offer them a snappy Man-not-the-plan slogan? No, he said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38). In verse 41, Luke tells us that those who gladly received his word were baptized. Does this all sound suspiciously like a plan to you a plan all wrapped up in the Man? It does to me.
Perhaps Acts 8, dealing with the Samaritans and the Ethiopian treasurer, is the most instructive chapter on this subject. The text says that disciples preached the word (v. 4), and that expressly Philip preached Christ (v. 5), the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (v. 12), and Jesus (v. 35). My question is this: In preaching the Man, as Philip obviously did, did he also preach the plan?
Let’s look at the case of the Samaritans first, specifically in verse 12: “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” Here’s another question for us. Did Philip preach the plan? If not, why were these men and women baptized? If preaching the Man doesn’t include preaching the plan, how did the Samaritans hear about baptism?
Now shall we think about Philip and the treasurer for a moment. Verse 35 says that Philip preached Jesus. The Ethiopian responded in verse 36 by saying, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Which prompts another question. If Philip was a Man-not-the plan preacher, how did the treasurer learn about baptism? Combing these two verses, we cannot escape the conclusion that preaching Jesus includes preaching baptism.
The Man and the Plan
In truth, the preachers in Acts didn’t separate Jesus from his plan. Peter at the house of Cornelius preached Jesus and baptism (10:47,48). And please note that baptism was commanded, not optional.
When Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to the jailer (16:32), they must have discussed baptism. Other-wise, we have no explanation for why he and his family were baptized (v. 33).
If Paul preached the Man not the plan, I understand why the Corinthians believed, but not why they were baptized (18:8).
Finally Acts 22:16 reminds us that sinners who are baptized to wash away their sins (the plan) do so calling on the name of the Lord (the Man).
I said earlier that men who preach the plan without the Man are heretics. But I want to state just as strongly that those who separate the Man from his plan are just as heretical. Such teaching is a spineless compromise with denominational dogma. It will not save sinners. Gospel preachers will have no part in either error.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 2 p. 5
January 19, 1995