Before Jesus ascended, he laid out the job description for the Christian Church. John records part of our Lord’s incredibly moving prayer to his Heavenly Father, wherein Jesus said: “As you have sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (17:18; see also 20:21).
Obviously, this requires a second reading on our knees. Could he possibly mean what he said? What Jesus was sent into this world to do, so he sends us to do! Could it then be that, in some important aspects, the plan of salvation depends on his disciples’ doing faithfully what he did so faithfully! And if they do not, they would be his followers in name only! And some day such followers will hear those dreadful words, “I never knew you [for what you said you were]” (Matt. 7:23).
When I read this job description, I see God as our Heavenly Franchiser. He has something special to offer everyone who would “buy” from him. He offers these franchises freely to all who will commit themselves to represent what he stands forfaithfully, clearly, day in and day out.
His market plan is to set up franchises with everyone who is convinced that what he is selling is the most important enterprise in which anyone could invest.
Franchises in the normal business world are often taken back because local franchises did not live up to the name and expectations of head office. They did not faithfully reproduce the Master Pattern or the Master Recipe.
Jesus is the Divine Franchiser who offers local franchises to men and women in every generation. He has had many takers. Some wanted his name but not his quality control. Some wanted his power but not his Spirit. Some wanted to capitalize on his advertising but not his character.
But Jesus has always found some, in every generation and in all lands, who get the point. They discovered that working for the Heavenly Franchise became their life! Nothing was more exciting! These local franchises know that they are not as perfect as their Head Office. But they also know that if they would keep listening to Headquarters, and stay close to company representatives (who are always on their side to help them reach all expectations), their local franchise will increasingly reflect the original pattern of the Divine Franchiser.
Now, hours before Calvary and only a few weeks before his ascension, Jesus was putting Franchise Plan C into action. Franchise Plan A failed when Adam and Eve walked out of the Garden. Franchise Plan B failed when Israel missed its opportunity to be God’s faithful franchise. Israel’s privilege and mission, as God’s “chosen people,” was his church in their time.
And now Franchise Plan Cthe Christian church! Men and women of faith would become his divine franchises throughout the world, building the case that God can be trusted, that he is fair with his laws, that he is merciful beyond words, and that his grace melts our hearts and empowers weak wills so that his will can be done on earth even as it is done by joyful, enthusiastic, compliant angels in heaven (Luke 11:2).
Surely the Christian church would get the point! “Don’t make Israel’s mistakes!” “Don’t create a gap between belief and life!” “Learn the lessons of Israel!”
In Plan C, we have the same mission and purpose for the church that God had for Adam and Eve and for the Jewish nation: “Through His people Christ is to manifest His character and the principles of His kingdom. He desires through His people to answer Satan’s charges by showing the results of obedience to right principles.”1
Plan C is a task not only for the corporate church. These “right principles” in contrast to satanic principles “are to be manifest in the individual Christian. All are to be symbols of what can be done for the world. They are to be types of the saving power of the truths of the gospel. All are agencies in the fulfillment of God’s great purpose for the human race.”2
This connection between God’s commission to the churchthat the Christian’s reflection of his character and principles would be his “witness” to the world, and that the return of Jesus depends on when this “witness” has been faithfully doneis neatly summarized in these words:
It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth. Those who wait for the Bridegroom's coming are to say to the people, “Behold your God.” The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them. The light of the Sun of Righteousness is to shine forth in good works in words of truth and deeds of holiness.3
This is an amazing statement. Frankly, very unambiguous! It simply amplifies our Lord’s prediction: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14).
Witnesses in any court do not repeat hearsay! They can speak only of what they personally know. God’s faithful in the endtime will be personal witnesses to what the gospel has done for them and what it will surely do for all those who also “come and see.”
Some may ask: If Jesus beat Satan at every turn, if all heaven and unfallen worlds saw Satan unmasked when Jesus died, why isn’t the war over? If Jesus vindicated the character and government of God, what more is needed in order to end the great controversy? If Jesus settled everything in his life and death, why does God stand by and permit the horrors and sadnesses of the past two thousand years? Was there something still unfinished after the cross?
In becoming a man “in every respect” (Heb. 2:14, 17), Jesus led the way in shutting down Satan’s accusations. But he also made it clear that more was yet to be done by those following his example. He set up local franchises to continue doing throughout the world what he did for thirty-three years in a very limited area, east of the Mediterranean Sea.
What does this mean within the big picture? Ellen White sharpens our focus: “Satan was not then destroyed [at the cross]. The angels did not even then understand all that was involved in the great controversy. The principles at stake were to be more fully revealed. And for the sake of man, Satan's existence must be continued. Man as well as angels must see the contrast between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness. He must choose whom he will serve."4
Philip Yancey captures the mystique of the Book of Job as well as the Big Picture:
The contest posed between Satan and God is no trivial exercise. Satan’s accusation that Job loves God only because “you have put a hedge around him” stands as an attack on God’s character. It implies that God is not worthy of love, in himself, that people follow God only because they get something out of it or are “bribed” to do so. The book hinges on the issue of integrity. Job acts as if God’s integrity is on trial. The opening chapters of Job, however, reveal that God staked a lot on one man’s wickedness or righteousness. Somehow, in a way the book only suggests and does not explain, one person’s faith does make a difference. Job reminds us that the small history of mankind on this earthand, in fact, my own small history of faithtakes place within the larger drama of the history of the universe. We are foot soldiers in a spiritual battle with cosmic significance. God’s plan to reverse the Fall depends on the faith of those who follow him.5
Our Lord’s divine franchises, representing the quality and spirit of Home Office, became the arena where “the principles at stake were to be more fully revealed.” In God’s infinite wisdom, he put himself at risk again when he gave to Christians the mission of completing the controversy between him and Satan. The Christian church is God’s Plan C “in the fulfillment of God's great purpose for the human race.” 6
Notes and References
1. Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1955), 296. 2. Ibid., 296, 297. 3. Ibid., 415, 416. 4. Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1941), 761. 5. Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 4667. 6. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 297.
Herbert E. Douglass is a theologian, retired college administrator, and author of twenty-two books who currently lives in Lincoln, California.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/377