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Theology: September 19, 2004

Stewardship of God's Grace

Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it is serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. – 1Peter 4:8-9

Grace, the undeserved favor of God (blessing and good that is given to those who deserve the opposite), travels far above our expectations, it exceeds our ability to comprehend because it is given by an infinite God whose abilities are unbounded. Common grace flows from God to all men who, while deserving immediate punishment for their sin, are sustained and restrained. Saving grace, the joy of all believers, is the work of the Holy Spirit in breathing life into the corpse called man and causing him to turn in faith to Jesus Christ. But faith itself is the result of grace and justification and adoption can be considered nothing less than God's grace. Through grace we are sanctified and as a result of God's grace we will enter that eternal rest where we will explore the grace of God forever. Established solely as a result of grace and pointing directly to God, spiritual gifts serve for the edification of the body, building the Church of God and making visible the invisible rule of King Jesus.

This use of the word "grace" seems overly repetitive and it would be if it were not true that every aspect of man's life is the result God's matchless grace. The multiplying of grace in one's life is a treasure beyond compare because it was purchased by the sacrificial death of One who was perfectly innocent but chose to love us before we had the capability to love Him. He bore the infinite wrath of God in our place knowing that we do not have the potential for recompense. Yet He refers to us as beloved. For such vast and manifold wealth stewardship must follow (1 Peter 4:8-9).

Stewardship of God's grace consists of reflecting God's grace to others. For God's grace in our life invokes love. Jesus reveals that if we do indeed love Him we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). With respect to our neighbor, our brother and our enemy God commands love.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. -- Matthew 22:39
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. -- John 15:12

This love is not dependent upon my neighbor but rather is dependent upon God since such love will not exist without the storehouse of wealth that has accumulated on my account as a result of God's grace.

This message is clear in the command to love our enemies:

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:43-48

As God shows common grace to the evil and the good, the just and the unjust, we are exhorted to love those who do not love us, that seek our demise and have no intention of returning the favor. We do this not for anything our enemy has done for us. Love is not a "just reward" for those who are our enemy. Rather, we love them because we love Jesus Christ. This is grace, not "our grace" but rather Christ's grace on both our enemy and us. For the grace we reflect does not originate in us, but is God's grace transferred through us despite our flaws.

What is the limit to the storehouse of grace our Father has given us to dispense? In Matt. 18 Peter asks this question for us and was told the storehouse is infinite:

Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but upt to severty times seven." -- Matt. 18:22

The point is not only that there must be no end to the grace we confer to others, but also that this grace is but a dim reflection of the grace that was given to us. For Jesus continues in Matthew 18 with the parable of the slave who was forgiven by the king an unpayable dept of colossal proportions. The slave, however, did not forgive his neighbor a dept that paled in comparison. The slave failed to reflect in a lesser manner the king's grace as he was called to do. Therefore, the king cast the slave into eternal punishment (Matt. 18:32-35). If God has shown infinite grace to us, out of love, we must show grace to others.

The transfer of God's grace to another without expectation of reward leads back to ministry. For God's grace is the heart of ministry. Those ministered to receive a blessing from God that is independent of them. His grace is unconditional and arbitrary and extends to all segments, classes or groups that have been labeled because of their beliefs and behavior. From the wretched to the educated and from the poor to the wealthy. From those whose confidence in their religion is based upon 30 years of study to those who have served themselves through the pursuit of every forbidden pleasure.

Secondly, God's grace delivered through ministry does not depend on the messenger. Grace originates with God and is an irresistible consequence of His power and will. Therefore, the messenger of the gospel through ministry proceeds in complete confidence that his personal failure cannot impede God's provision to redeem an individual. The failure and weakness of the messenger serves only to demonstrate God's glory since grace triumphs despite the weakness and the self-consciousness of man. There can be no greater confidence for ministry than knowing that God's eternal plan will be accomplished despite the weakness of the means He has ordained.
Hospitality epitomizes grace, for it is the unmerited favor through sacrifice for the betterment of another without expectation of reward. Christ defined the target of hospitality not as the entertainment of someone who would return the favor but rather one who did not deserve the sacrifice of another:

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. 13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. -- Luke 14:12-14

This is the hospitality that Peter spoke about as the stewardship of God's manifold grace. There is inherent motivation to entertain a friend or someone who will benefit us. However, the love of a stranger can only be motivated by a love for God as a result of His grace to us. This command and motivation is clearly given in Leviticus 19:
33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. 34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:33-34

The stranger, someone at a decided cultural and economic disadvantage, an unknown, likely to make one uncomfortable has not proven himself to us. Yet God calls us to love the stranger and to count him as kindred. Not for who the stranger is but because "ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." Therefore, when we love the stranger, we are also loving God just as He loved us:
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. -- Matthew 25:34-46

Therefore, God's grace in our life is the underlying motivation, the source of confidence, and the master plan that should be imitated. Knowing that ministry depends necessarily on grace it is clear that
  1. True ministry can only be performed by one who has received the grace of God through salvation. You cannot give what you have not received.

  2. Ministry will flourish when the perception of God's grace is accurate. When we really understand at a deeply the personal level what God has paid for us, what our sins look like compared to the holiness of God, a broken heart results. Such a heart seeks ministry out of love and not out of recompense.

Posted by tim at September 19, 2004 3:37 PM

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