Stewardship of the Gospel

I had the privilege of speaking at my church one Sunday morning back in April of 2016.  Below are the notes I wrote up (it’s not an exact transcript) on the topic.  I hope this is both a challenge and an encouragement to all who read through it.  We will all certainly be held accountable for what we do with the Gospel of Christ!

Scripture:  I Corinthians 4:1-2

Over the past few weeks leading up to Easter, we have talked a lot about Christ’s suffering. About all of the events leading up to Him paying the ultimate price for sin.

We learned about the agony Christ went through both spiritually and physically, from His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane through the series of brutal punishments and torturing leading up to His death on the cross.

We talked last week in detail about His burial in tomb, and about His rising from the dead early on the third day.

As hard as it is to ponder the brutality of Christ’s sacrifice, what He did giving Himself to die on the cross opened the way for us to have eternal life. There is so much in all of this to be thankful for and to give glory to God for.

For believers, giving thanks for His sacrifice was really the focus of Easter that we celebrated last week.

But it doesn’t stop there, as important as it is for us to be thankful.

Our responsibility in regards to the Gospel doesn’t stop at us simply honoring God in our own lives for the benefits we receive from Him.

Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:15 that “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

To live for Him implies a great many things, but this morning I want to take just a few minutes and consider the idea that as believers we are stewards. Stewards of the good news of the Gospel.

We don’t use that word “steward” very much these days, but simply put a steward is a person who is entrusted to manage something that is owned by someone else.

We see many examples of stewards in the Bible:
-Abram had a steward named Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2).
-King David of Israel had stewards responsible for managing the property and livestock belonging to him and his sons (I Chronicles 28:1).

But one of the best examples can be found in Joseph. Turn in your Bibles to Genesis chapter 39 and let’s look at the first 6 verses or so.

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of theLord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.”  -Genesis 39:1-6a

Here we see that Joseph was made an overseer, or steward, of everything in Potiphar’s house. Joseph was responsible for managing literally everything in his home and even outside his home in his fields.

No doubt given Potiphar’s station as an officer of Pharaoh, this meant Joseph was in a very powerful position, overseeing many other servants, large sums of money, and many valuable possessions.

However, using Joseph as a great example, it is made clear in Scripture that a steward is still a servant accountable to his master. No matter how much Joseph was entrusted with to manage, he was acting as a servant of Potiphar.

He did not own the valuable possessions. He was not to spend the vast sums of money he may have managed on himself. He was not put in charge of the other servants to make them do what he wanted.

No, he was trusted to manage all of these things in a way that brought honor and profit to Potiphar and his home.

In the same way that Joseph was a servant and steward to Potiphar, we are stewards to the Lord.

Consider Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” -Genesis 1:1

This verse is the foundation of Christian stewardship. As believers we recognize God as the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in them.

Since He created everything, it necessarily follows that He owns everything. Paul reminds us:

“for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains.” -I Corinthians 10:26

When we normally talk about stewardship, we tend to think of three T’s: time, talent, and treasure. And to be sure, we are all accountable as stewards before God for how we manage those blessings in our lives.

But there is a 4th “T” we will also be called to account for as stewards – TRUTH.

Turn with me to I Corinthians 4 and look at what Paul writes in verses 1 and 2

“Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” -I Corinthians 4:1-2

“Stewards of the mysteries of God” – Paul uses the term “mysteries” 21 times throughout his letters in the New Testament.

Every time he does, the mystery involves a declaration of spiritual truth that has been revealed to believers through the Holy Spirit that previously was concealed.

When Scripture talks about something being a mystery – that should be a key for us to stop and say “hey this is something I need to understand”.

To a believer, these mysteries are no longer hidden but are revealed, core spiritual truths about Christ.

Do you remember how Christ spoke often times in parables?

Turn over for a moment to Matthew chapter 13.

In this chapter Christ begins to speak to the multitudes in parables. Verses 1-3

Then down in verse 10, His disciples came to Him and asked Him why He was doing this. Look at His answer:

“And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.’” -Matthew 13:10-11

As a believer, what is concealed from the ability of a lost person to understand is made plainly understandable to you.

He goes on in verse 16 and 17 to say

“But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” -Matthew 13:16-17

Have you ever stopped to think about that? For nearly 4,000 years of human history, the truths of Christ that we have plainly laid before us in Scripture were not plain, even to prophets and righteous men that desired to understand them! Let that precious blessing, that awesome gift, sink in for moment.

The insight into the person and character of Jesus Christ revealed to us in the Gospel is something that for all that time men; righteous men; longed more than anything else to see.

As Paul penned his letter to the Colossians, one of his foremost desires was that “hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” -Colossians 2:2a-3

When the Bible says that we are stewards of the mysteries of God, it means the Truth about Christ has been placed by God into our care.

He has given us the Gospel – the way to eternal life. But – just like Joseph managing Potiphar’s things – as stewards we don’t just do what we want with the blessings of His Gospel.

Going back to what Paul said in I Corinthians 4 verse 2 – what did he tell us was required of stewards?

That we be found faithful.

How can we be found faithful stewards of Christ’s Gospel? In the time we have remaining this morning I want to share with you some important things we need to be doing in order to be found faithful stewards of the Gospel.

First – we need to know the Truth.

We need to be filling our minds with the knowledge of God constantly.

  • We need to be reading the Bible daily
    • Remember the Bereans in Acts 17 who searched the Scriptures DAILY
  • We need to be memorizing Scripture
    • Remember David in Psalm 119 hiding God’s Word in his heart so that he could avoid sin.
  • We need to be learning about the Bible together as a church, like we’re doing this morning
    • Remember Paul in Ephesians talking about the church as the body

Remember what Peter said in his first epistle:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” -I Peter 3:15

We cannot be equipped to do this if we are not making time in the Word a priority.

Second – We need to understand how precious the Gospel is.

One of the most heartbreaking stories I have read is in John Piper’s book “Don’t Waste Your Life”. He says,

“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”

At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.

Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.”

Think about our own life in this country. We live in a nation where access to Biblical truth even now is so unhindered and so free – it’s literally everywhere for FREE!

The Bible in every translation I know of is freely available online. On your smartphone. On the radio. On TV.

There are study aids from over 2000 years of church history and writings of incredibly God gifted wise men available all around us. You can go down the street to LifeWay and find commentaries galore that walk you through understanding the Bible.

Am I saying it’s easy? No – please don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to belittle the depth of Scripture – it is challenging at times even to the most learned of men.

What I am saying is that it is accessible.

There are Bibles sitting in the back of this sanctuary – don’t leave without one today if you need one and don’t have it.

Please don’t lose sight of just how ABnormal what we all have today in regards to our access to Scripture is!

In the entire course of human history, to have this much information about God, His character, His Son – this open and accessible to a culture and people, is unheard of.

None of us, myself included, sitting in this room today will have any excuse when we stand before God almighty for not treating the Bible as precious in our lives. For not making the effort – seeking help however much is necessary – to read and understand this precious Truth.

Just take a glance outside the borders of this country and you will instantly see how rare and precious what we have is.

When my wife and I traveled to India in 2013, we had the opportunity to give complete Bibles to some of the people there in their own language.  The Bibles only cost around $2.50 a piece to have printed – a small amount for most of us here today.  But to see those people in India receive a complete Bible for the first time, and how it moved them to tears and shouts of joy.

Grown men literally hit their knees and praised God, holding so precious the Truth they received.

Compare that with so many people here, who will live their entire lives with Bibles laying around their homes, complete and in their own language just an arm’s length away, and not caring enough to open them, study them, read them.

Oh I cannot even begin to describe the magnitude of the judgment that will be faced for having that kind of attitude towards so great a gift as this Truth we have direct from the heart of the Creator of the Universe!

As the scripture says to whom much is given much will be required. I can promise that to all of us here in this room today, MUCH truth has been given. There will be much required of all of us in regards to our stewardship of it.

The Third thing we need to do to be found faithful stewards – Knowing how precious these things are, and just how much we have been blessed having what we have in this church particularly – we need to not only know God’s word, but also be applying the Truths of Scripture to our own lives.

Paul tells us to

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15

We don’t read the Bible, memorize scripture, or come here to church to gain knowledge as if we’re studying for a test at school, or going through some religious meditation to check it off a daily task list.

As believers we do these things so that God will speak to us, as He has promised to do, through His word transforming us into His image.

Solomon says in Ecclesiastes

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” -Ecclesiastes 12:13

I spoke to the youth Wednesday before last about the Fear of God and what that meant. Fear of God for the believer involves understanding who He is. Understanding just how much He hates sin. And how, just like a loving parent disciplines a child, God deals with sin in our lives even now.

When we claim belief in Christ, we believe God is who the Bible says He is, and that proper understanding of who He is and what He desires (that healthy fear) that comes from knowing his Word is what guides us in our daily lives to live obediently to Him.

The fourth thing is that to be found faithful stewards of the Gospel, we need to be proclaiming it to others.

This message – this truth – that we have been so blessed with, is a message that is to be shared with others.

In Mark 16:15 Jesus tells His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

At the end of the book of Matthew, He tells them to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”

Just as Adam and his children in Genesis were told to be fruitful and multiply physically, so we as children of Christ are to be fruitful and multiply spiritually.

It is not enough to get saved and go live a moral life and never speak up and say anything. If we believe in Christ, and we pursue a relationship with Him, His desires will begin to be our desires.

The desire He has to see the world come to salvation will begin to drive us. Out of a compassion for those around us that are lost we will speak up.

It is not enough to live by example alone – did Paul go anywhere that he didn’t verbally speak up and engage? No – to the contrary it was Paul that reminded us in Romans 10 that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

To be a faithful steward of the Gospel, we have to share it with others. There are lots of ways to do this, but the key thing to remember is that it is not by silent example.

No person has ever been saved by following the moral example of another.

Every person that’s ever been saved has gotten saved because he or she had the Gospel communicated to them, the Holy Spirit then used that to open the eyes of their hearts, they believed in it, and they repented of their sin.

As pastor and author David Platt said, “To be a disciple of Jesus is to make disciples of Jesus.”

When Jesus Himself said in Matthew “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”, He didn’t say He might do it. He said “I WILL” do it.

Sharing the Gospel is not always easy, but Christ has promised not only to give us the desire to do it, but as we grow in our knowledge of Him through His Word, He has promised to equip us to do it.

To be faithful stewards, we must follow Christ’s command in the Great Commission, and share His Truth.

As we bring this to a close this morning, I know we have covered some things that may give some of us pause to stop and examine ourselves.

I know studying to bring this message today, there are some things I have had to ponder about my own priorities and please know that I share this to you today with a humble heart.

Most of what I’ve said today has been to believers to remind us of the great responsibility we have in regards to Christ’s Gospel.

I hope that everyone here today knows Christ as their Lord and Savior, but I do want to take a second here before we go and make an important distinction.

If you are here today, and you ponder these things we have discussed, and cannot see a desire within yourself to do these things, there is reason to be concerned.

We can’t share with others what we don’t have ourselves.

We cannot be a steward of the Gospel if we have not been made a servant of its Author.

If you find that you can neglect the Scriptures, and are without the discipline of a loving father, I would encourage you to do some deep self-examination and see if today you really belong to Him.

The Bible is clear that God disciplines those He loves. Can you constantly ignore the Word of God, and yet are without discipline?

If you are here today and don’t know Christ as your savior, you have only one responsibility in regards to the Gospel – to yield yourself to it, and to the Savior of which it speaks.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:10 “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth”

There will come a time when each and every one of us will stand before Christ.  On that day, when you stand before Him, will you bow to Him as your loving Savior, or will you bow before Him as your righteous judge?

If you would like to talk to someone about your relationship with Christ myself and others will be here. Or if you just need to pray at the altar as we sing a closing hymn, please feel free to do so.

Don’t leave this place today without acting on the Holy Spirit’s leading.