Stewards of the Gospel
Introduction. It’s good news! It’s the gospel! And it is a battleground. We fight over the meaning. We debate the theology. We argue over its implications. But we apply it only rarely. In the midst of battles that divide the church, we brawl over law and grace. We call each other names, form our exclusive clubs, and isolate ourselves in our theological palaces, comforting each other that we are right.
Meanwhile, thousands struggle with lives of quiet desperation—seeking to do what is right and hoping to find someday the peace Jesus promised. The average contemporary Christian has a brain full of information but a head full of confusion and a heart full of pain. Never before has so much been written and debated about the gospel. And never before has the gospel, the “good news” of salvation, been more needed.
A new reality.
Stewardship, as the human side of the lordship of Jesus Christ, is based on the gospel. It is the process of integrating the gospel into every area of life. In a day when the world seems to have lost hope, the gospel is still “good news.” In lives desperately seeking understanding and hope, the gospel still brings a new reality. Where sin binds human hearts and lives, the gospel still has the power to shatter the shackles that chain our souls. And we are stewards of this “good news.”
Paul states, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2).
Among these mysteries, Paul includes Christ (Colossians 2:2, 1T 3:16) and Christ in us (Colossians 1:26, 27), as well as the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).
So our stewardship includes how we manage or deal with the gospel—the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. While the gospel can be defined or stated in many different ways, with many different theological nuances, for me the simplest is the best. The gospel is the good news that Jesus has solved the problem of sin in our lives—past, present, and future. He has done everything necessary to save us.
Knowing is not enough. Simply knowing the concept of the gospel is not enough. Even the devil knows the theory. Being stewards of this mystery of the gospel means we must go beyond the words to understanding, accepting, and integrating this incredible “good news” into our daily lives.
The term mystery implies there is something about the gospel that transcends human understanding or explanation. We cannot know the fullness of God’s love or the depths of His pain in saving us. We cannot comprehend the incredible wonder of heaven descending to earth—God made flesh. We can only accept it by faith. Yet, we can experience the reality of salvation. We can know eternal life the moment we believe (1 John 5:13).
There are several areas in which we manage or are stewards of the gospel:
1. The first is our own walk with God. Accepting Jesus as Savior is only the first step. Each day we must choose to submit to His eternal reality. Accepting Jesus as Lord, living within us (Ephesians 3:16-19) is the way we “apply” Him to daily life. Each issue is a choice—to live on our own or in Him. Each moment is a choice—to live in the reality of a sinful world or the certainty of God’s kingdom. Choosing to seek His kingdom puts everything else in the right perspective (Matthew 6:33). By faith, we accept the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14) and learn to listen to God’s voice guiding our lives and making the gospel real in the details of living. Will we live by faith (our relationship with God), or will we choose to live by human reason and effort?
2. The second arena for stewardship of the gospel is in the way we confront the world and its attractions. Again Paul leads us into the mystery of the gospel: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Here we are faced with the choice of the world or Calvary. We can daily choose to die, to be crucified in Christ. One of the most profound truths of the gospel is that we have died in Christ and been raised to a new life in Him (Romans 6:1-14). We are participants in His death and partakers in His life. Are we willing to accept the reality that we are crucified to the world? We can choose to move forward in faith, serving God and His kingdom. We are in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-18). Thus, we invade the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of God (Matthew 24:14). We proclaim the gospel through lives lived in the presence of the King of Kings.
3. The third arena where we are stewards of the gospel is in our relationships with those around us. As we experience the authenticity of grace, we can choose to integrate the gospel into the way we accept and treat others. Once again we are faced with the choice to live by faith. We can choose to see others in the light of the gospel. Because they are the focus of God’s love, we can choose to love others, even when they are unlovable. While rejecting the sin, we can choose to accept the sinner. We can choose to forgive as we have experienced forgiveness. Only the one who has experienced the gospel can extend that gospel to others. Those who cannot extend grace to others have not truly experienced grace themselves. For the gospel experienced leads to the gospel extended. We faithfully function as stewards of God’s mysteries as we share it with those God places around us.
Then how can the gospel attain this power in our lives? How can we reach this experience? It all begins with accepting it ourselves—accepting by faith the reality of Christ dying for us and Christ loving us. Listen to Paul’s words:
That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).
Benjamin C. Maxson served as the director of General Conference Stewardship Ministries. This article was previously published in the April-June 2002 issue of Dynamic Steward magazine. All Bible quotations in this article are from ESV, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.