Watch the video or read the lesson … or both.
Mark 16:15 Matthew 28:18-20 Acts 1:6-8 Colossians 1:25-29 1 Thessalonians 2:4
As we embark on this Bible Study on Stewardship & Money, we will develop a pattern which will be used in all the lessons to follow. We will first consider the question of whether we created the object or topic being discussed. Then, if we determine that we did not create it, we will look for our response and work towards defining our responsibility. If we are stewards and God created the object we are discussing, then what does He expect of us?
The Bible and the gospel message are the starting point. This is an easy one for us because it is obvious we did not create the gospel. The gospel message as we have it came through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross. We are not going to review the cross here but note it to answer the question of creation.
We also know that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and again, although it was transcribed by human hands, it did not come from us.
Knowing this, what is our response? What does God expect of us?
In Mark 16:15, Jesus instructed us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. This is our starting point. We have an obligation when it comes to the gospel message, and that is to preach it. Now, not everyone is a preacher or a pastor. Few of us are missionaries who go into foreign lands. Is there an exception for those of us who are not missionaries or pastors?
I don’t see one. We must, then, evaluate our responsibility with the Bible and the gospel message. We can share the gospel with our neighbors. More than this, however, I see this verse commanding us to live it out. We are to seize on opportunities. Living out the gospel message is going to create opportunities to then share the gospel verbally. We can do this with our family members, neighbors, co-workers, and others with whom we come in contact or are in our sphere of influence.
During a time of tragedy or great loss and suffering, as an example, a committed Christian can demonstrate to others that we’re resting on a bedrock which has its foundation in Jesus Christ. This is living out the gospel message, and a living witness is a contagious witness.
We see a similar instruction in Matthew 28:18-20, except here Jesus instructs us to make disciples. This ties directly into the last paragraph. A disciple literally is a student. We are to make students of Jesus Christ. A student is one who seeks to learn but also emulates the instructor. That is, we are not to be students only but to embody or live out what we see Jesus do and what we learn from Him. Our role is to help, encourage and teach others to live out who Jesus is.
Once again, in Acts 1:6-8 we find this instruction to be a witness. In the Old Testament, the word witness means just what the word conveys. A witness is a mirror, if you will, a person who tells what they have observed or experienced. In this sense, a witness must be truthful and faithful to the original message. A mirror, for example, always tells the truth – whether we want to accept it is another reality. A faithful witness only speaks what is true – nothing more and nothing less.
In the New Testament, the word “witness” takes on a new meaning. The definition is a martyr. In that sense, a martyr is a witness to the gospel by giving up his or her life for the sake of Jesus Christ. In other words, a witness lives out the gospel to the point of death and even in death is a witness. Whether we live or die, both our life and death are to be a witness to Jesus Christ in the world. This makes our witness a way of life.
In Colossians 1:25-29, we can pull out several truths relating to our stewardship of the gospel. We will pull out this phrase, “we proclaim Him,” and consider what instruction is being given to us. First, we have this instruction to proclaim, admonish and teach, so that we can present people complete in Jesus Christ. This is to be the object of our teaching and our witness.
At the end of life, we should desire to stand before Jesus Christ and present to Him the people we have brought with us by our witness and our lives.
The other truth wrapped up in “we proclaim Him” is what we proclaim and how we proclaim it. A witness must be faithful and true to the original message. We proclaim Jesus Christ. We are not permitted to proclaim anything that we do not find in Jesus Christ. We proclaim Jesus Christ as we find Him in Scripture. How are we to proclaim Him? We are to proclaim Him as He instructs us. He instructs us to make disciples, to preach, and to be witnesses.
This means that we must have a firm grasp on Jesus Christ and the gospel message as we find it in Scripture. The object of this lesson is not to lay out all that this means, but the object is to direct our attention to the responsibility we have over the gospel.
Lastly, we will look at 1 Thessalonians 2:4. Here, we find the instruction that we are stewards of the gospel. Paul writes that we are “entrusted with the gospel.” This is a very definite statement of our stewardship. “Entrusted” is a word connoting stewardship. God has entrusted to us His gospel.
Paul continues along the lines of Colossians 1 by instructing that as we are entrusted so we speak. We speak not as pleasing people but God. This is where it gets hard. We would prefer to present a gospel that is palatable or non-offensive to others. We should be able to convey a gospel that is easy on the ears and attractive to many people. We would prefer a gospel that is tolerant and accepting. We are not given this option, however. As we have been entrusted, so we speak. We are charged with speaking the gospel as we are given it in Scripture.
This does not necessarily mean that we preach harsh judgment. It does mean that we cannot gloss over the hard things or hide the things about Jesus we are afraid people might reject. In that moment, we are putting ourselves in the shoes of the other person and deciding for them what they hear and believe. This is not a role we are given, and it is not a role the other person knowingly yields to us. We are not permitted to water it down or twist its meaning to be agreeable with human nature. We must present the gospel as we have it and give them the space to choose. Ultimately, we are not responsible for their choice.
We would rather water it down because we want their offerings on Sunday morning or we like having larger attendance on Sunday morning. These things make us feel important and as if we are part of a bigger movement. However, whatever is there is empty.
We are warned that God will hold us to account, and that He will examine our hearts. If there is a reason to be a faithful steward, it is that we do not want to disappoint the Lord. More than this, He gives us fair warning that His judgment has teeth.