by Richard Mansel
For years the rhetorical question has been asked, “should we follow the Man or the Plan?” The meaning of this sound-byte is to discredit the following of a plan in the New Testament and instead direct people to follow Jesus exclusively.
The fact that no one in the church actually thinks we should follow the New Testament instead of Jesus is obviously immaterial to those making this charge.
The answer is that we do not have to choose between the man or the plan since both are essential and work perfectly together.
Jesus is the everlasting Son of God, possessor of all authority (John 1:1,2; Matthew 28:20). He is the Savior who died on the cross, his blood cleansing man from his sins (Romans 5:6-9).
Faith in Jesus brings justification before God, meaning we have no hope of being saved without him (Romans 5:1). We require his grace since our meritorious works are insufficient (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Jesus leads us to God and calls us to follow him. “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34, NKJV). In him we find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus is the way to God (John 14:6). We must seek to live our lives following Jesus who will lead us to heaven for all eternity (John 14:1-4).
Jesus is known through the Bible. Jesus always directed men to the word of God (Matthew 11:10; Matthew 21:13; Matthew 10:34).
As we follow Jesus, how should we conduct ourselves? This is the key question as the man and the plan are inextricably linked. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Paul said all Scripture is inspired and able to make us complete (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
It contains all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The plan is all that the New Testament has given us in matters of worship, service, salvation, relationships, the church, etc.
Following behind Christ is a very helpful illustration as we try to understand salvation and service to God. The good shepherd walks before us. He is our guide through the paths of life (Psalm 23). As we walk behind him, our task is to stay close and bring glory to him (Ephesians 3:20,21).
We bring glory to Christ by doing what will make him look good. We submit our wills to him so he is “magnified in our bodies” (Philippians 1:20).
We worship and serve him as he has told us to in his Word, and we live strong moral lives as prescribed in Scripture. The Lord has asked us to conduct ourselves in a certain way as we follow him to heaven.
We must be distinctive as we follow him so that men, who are outside of the path, can see us glorifying Jesus. Men will see Jesus in us when we resemble him.
We cannot do that if we do not absorb God’s Word into our daily lives. As we do so, we will develop a certain sameness in our Christian walks.
Some rebel against this concept of sameness because it violates their rebellious nature. They don’t like being told what they must do. In these instances, they are simply appearing to follow Jesus while actually magnifying themselves.
Seeking to differentiate themselves from Christ, they ask men to admire their goodness, not the greatness of Christ.
The only way we can properly be in his body is to enter through the plan of salvation given by his Word (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 10:9,10; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3,4).
God’s grace is the only way we can follow Christ. We cannot merit such an honor. We humbly follow him and proudly wear his name. Therein, unity will occur as we all focus on Christ.
What a wonderful plan!