As I studied this aspect of stewardship, I came to realize that this is probably my least consistent area. There are components to being a good steward over our ministry. We each have one. Some of us have more than one. But I will focus primarily on the ministry that each one of us has as a Christian, which I’ll get into in a moment. But first, Paul, in 1st Corinthians 4:1-2 says this: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” This is a good starting point. Remember this verse and what it says about faithfulness for later.
In 2nd Corinthians 5:18-20, Paul explains that we have all been reconciled to Christ, and therefore we are all ministers of the reconciliation of Christ (vs. 18). Then he explains what the reconciliation involved in verse 19. Finally he reveals to us the truth that we are ambassadors of Christ (vs. 20). In other words, God reconciled the world to Himself through the person and deity of Christ. Once we understand this and experience salvation based on that reconciling work, we are charged with taking that message with which we are now entrusted, as saved and regenerate people, to a lost and unregenerate world.
This leads us to Matthew 28:18-20, that portion of Scripture known as the Great Commission. The Lord charged His disciples, saved and regenerated people, with going into all the world preaching the gospel, baptizing converts, and making disciples out of other people. It was their ministry now, as Christ Himself was about to ascend into Heaven shortly. It had always been the plan from the beginning as is revealed to us from Christ’s prayer in the Garden in John 17, where he prayed not only for His disciples, but for the fruit that would come from them. He fully expected the disciples to get a return on the investment Christ made in them…unlike the steward in Matthew 25 who buried his talent and did not use it to get any return on his master’s investment.
Long after Christ had charged His disciples at the end of Matthew, Paul implored the church at Ephesus to remember that great commission and focus on their role as well: “Whereof I was made a minister (speaking of the gospel) according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working power…that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:7-8). That of course went for everyone in the church at Ephesus and obviously pertains to us as well. Therefore, preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ, not the least of which is His atoning work on our behalf on the cross, is Christ’s expectation for us as Christians.
This is indeed echoed again in 1st Thessalonians 2:4, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust of the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” Paul reminded the church in Thessalonica that he was entrusted with the gospel to share it with others. Remember that being a steward is managing what was entrusted to you. Here is the plainest statement made to that case…we were allowed by God to be entrusted with the gospel. Not to hold onto it…but to share it…with others…the same way we would share our time, money, gifts, technology, etc. All of that sharing is meant to be to the benefit of others while the Master is away. And when it comes to salvation and the gospel, the Master is returning to gather the “talents” we’ve been able to gather…if we don’t keep our talent to ourselves by burying it in the ground.
Now in 2nd Timothy 4:5, Paul tells young Timothy to make full proof of his ministry. Now Timothy was a minister by vocation, but what Paul exhorted him to do (make full proof of his ministry) very much pertains to us. Paul does not necessarily tell Timothy point by point in a list how to make full proof (fulfill his role) of the ministry, but Paul let’s Timothy know how he himself did it over all those years. What Paul goes on to tell Timothy should be of help to us today as we try to fulfill our role as ministers, specifically as stewards of the gospel.
As Paul was about to reach the end of his time on Earth, he told Timothy that first of all, he had fought the good fight (2nd Timothy 4:7). Paul did not take any part of his ministry lying down. He did not approach any of his charge with a passive attitude. Paul said he fought. That proves two things: First, it’s not easy to minister the gospel. Second, it takes work to minister the gospel. Because he fought it tells us that Paul actively stood his ground in the face of numerous opposing forces. Fighting implies that he was not willing to back down or retreat from his charge in the Lord’s Army. He was a soldier who would not only launch an offensive, but would also stay and fight for as long as he was able, using the truth to reprove, rebuke, and exhort (2nd Timothy 4:2).
The second thing Paul told Timothy was that to fulfill the role of a minister of the gospel of Christ, he had kept the faith (2nd Timothy 4:7). Paul held on to sound doctrine and never wavered from the Word of God. Paul had just finished warning Timothy that a time would come when people would not endure sound doctrine (4:3-4). Therefore, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is the same for us…to be good stewards of the gospel of Christ, we must be strong in the doctrines, principles, and precepts of the Bible, and stand firm on them. In that way we won’t be moved, much the way the man who built his house on a rock’s firm foundation wasn’t moved (Matthew 7:24-25).
The final thing that Paul tells Timothy to remember as he fulfills his role as a minister of the gospel, is that all men forsook him (2nd Timothy 4:16). Many times, Paul was left alone, deserted by those who once were his friends. His commitment to the truth did not make him popular with his peers, especially as he rebuked, reproved, and exhorted. So, we can’t expect to be popular with others if we take our role as a minister of the gospel seriously, the way Paul did. That’s probably the hardest part for all of us charged with taking the gospel to a lost world…the ridicule and resentment we sometimes face. It’s hard for us to remember that Jesus said it’s truly Him they hate, and not us (John 15:18).
It’s this aspect that is the hardest thing for me to get past. It’s so difficult to say a word of testimony in fear of the response sometimes. I’ve tried to remind myself so often that even though these people may be vile and rude, and full of ridicule now, just like the rich man in Luke 16, they will have a totally different view of the message I wanted to bring, but they rejected. But even reminding myself of that Biblical truth often does not make it any easier…and sometimes I down right fail. But, as we all know, one of the Biblical truths is that obedience brings blessing, and Paul let’s us in on a promise related to the abandonment of others.
Paul stated, “Not withstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his Heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2nd Timothy 4:17-18). God gave Paul the strength to preach the gospel at his trial, until it was continued, and he averted danger at that time. Also, just like last week we spoke about not doing anything that would tarnish our testimony and reputation, well Paul knew that God would be the one to not only give him strength to preach, but also keep him from ruining his testimony as his death loomed. God would keep Paul from recanting, or denying Him, or from being a coward, or from any other type of moral breakdown (Bible-Believer’s Commentary: MacDonald).
If we can only learn to trust God to take care of us as we do His will as it relates to preaching and sharing the good news of the gospel, we could make great strides in evangelizing the lost world. God promises to give us strength and boldness like He did to the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts. He promises to not only give us the strength to boldly state with conviction what we believe, but also, what exactly we shall say (Luke 12:11). It’s easy to intellectually look at that and say to yourself, how can I go wrong? Yet it so often does. But God expects way more out of you and me, especially in light of the fact that He protects us and provides for us, and equips us for the task of being faithful stewards of His gospel.
Remember that in 1st Corinthians 4:2 it states that a steward must be found to be faithful? Now look at Paul’s charge to Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season…” (2nd Timothy 4:2). We should be ready at a moment’s notice to share the gospel and to do so with a sense of urgency. This is what God wants…a faithful servant ready to witness under the aforementioned circumstances. If we’re willing to minister at every open door, we will then be a faithful minister of the gospel…otherwise we can’t be considered faithful…therefore calling ourselves good stewards of the ministry of the gospel is a stretch. I speak of myself here way before anyone else. I envy the ease with which others can minister the gospel at a moment’s notice when God opens doors. I have begun praying not only for open doors, but also the ability to recognize the open doors, and once I recognize the open door, I then pray for strength from God to effectively minister the way He wants me to at that time. It has been helpful, but I still fall woefully short.
I guess, as we close out this series on stewardship, any and all of the previous aspects of stewardship we studied can go toward spreading the gospel in some sense, though indirectly. Stewardship of our ministry of the gospel is the direct spreading of the gospel to others, and all who are Christians have been equipped with the knowledge to spread the gospel, and we’ve been promised the power and protection of God to faithfully deliver the gospel when called upon by Him to do so. Giving money to missions or posting Scripture on Facebook® can make us good stewards of our money and technology. Loving your spouse and raising godly children can help in others seeing the change God can do in people’s lives, and God may use your family to draw others to Himself. Also, a good stewardship over our character, testimony, and reputation will make or break our witness to others, as we will either have credibility in the eyes of others, or we won’t. And all the other aspects of stewardship play a role in evangelizing as well, but none more directly as the stewardship of the ministry of the gospel of Christ.