The original founders of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement (RM) had known, understood, and preached Jesus Christ. However, from the second generation forward, Jesus Christ himself gradually faded from view as the primary subject discussed week after week from the pulpits of Churches of Christ, to be replaced by “the Lord’s church” (or “The New Testament church”) and “the plan of salvation.” In his book titled The Core Gospel: On Restoring the Crux of the Matter (ACU Press, 1992), the late Dr. Bill Love, a Jesus-man and Bible preacher of uncommon giftedness, painstakingly documented, generation by generation, this gradual but undeniable change in the message preached by the most influential preachers within the RM during its first century.
In his mercy and from time to time, God raised up various men to call the Churches of Christ back to their proper subject–Jesus Christ. One such messenger was a man named K. C. Moser (1893-1976), who led out with an article entitled “Preaching Jesus,” published in the December 1, 1932 issue of the Gospel Advocate, the major Church of Christ publication of influence east of the Mississippi River. Moser’s title came from Acts 8:35 which, in the older versions, says that when Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch, he “preached to him Jesus.” Philip did not preach a system of religion, or conditions of salvation disconnected from the atonement. He proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God who bears the sins of the world.
K. C. Moser simply pointed out that to do otherwise is to make grace void and to turn conditions of salvation into pure law. When Philip encountered the eunuch, Moser argued, he “preached not a plan, but a man.” That phrase, and its counterpart “the man, not the plan,” quickly caught on throughout the Churches of Christ among parties of both persuasions. “The Man, Not the Plan” remains the shorthand way of referring to this controversy among the Churches of Christ even today.
During the following year, 1933, Texas preacher R. L. Whiteside began a response to Moser’s teaching on Romans. Both men actively advanced their respective views in sermons, classes, and by every means at their disposal. Moser set out his Jesus-centered teaching on salvation in two influential books. The Gist of Romans was first printed in 1957 with a second edition in 1958. The Way of Salvation was issued some time later, and it was the catalyst that provoked publication of Whiteside’s commentary on Romans. Unfortunately, at almost every important point throughout Paul’s grand epistle, rather than explaining the text of Romans, Whiteside comes dangerously close to merely explaining it away.
Approximately a decade after that, my own first religious article to be published in a major brotherhood journal was a piece called “Emphasis: Christ,” Firm Foundation, LXXIV:45 (November 7, 1967). It was immediately attacked and denounced by articles in four or five other smaller journals. My crime, according to these critics? I was preaching the Man, they said, and not placing proper emphasis on the Plan. I thanked God that he had put me in the right place, and prayed that I would always occupy it. A few years later, I published a little book titled THE GRACE OF GOD, which was all about Jesus and salvation through trusting in him. I sent a copy to K. C. Moser, then still alive. To my enormous delight, he wrote back a hand-written note expressing appreciation for the gift, and stating that I was teaching precisely what he believed the Bible to teach.
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