Col.1:24-2:5 THE STEWARDSHIP OF THE WORD (For Your Sake) – Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on May 11, 2014. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Col 1E.
We Have Been Entrusted with the Stewardship of the Word for Your Benefit.
We Have Been Entrusted with A Stewardship from God: “25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God… the mystery… which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”
The gospel ministry is a work entrusted to us by God. Those who enter the ministry do so because they have, in some sense, been called by God and gifted by God. No one can or should enter the ministry who has no sense of calling (belief/conviction that this is what God wants them to do), or gifting (some ability to understand and communicate and pastor). The gospel ministry is not a job that one decides to do–it is a stewardship, entrusted by God to a servant.
This stewardship which is entrusted to us by God is a stewardship of preaching the word, counseling, encouraging, admonishing (to warn or reprimand sternly), witnessing, helping you to understand and enter into a mystery, which is the life of Jesus Christ going on inside of you–that is how Paul expresses it.
We Are Working to Lead You Into The Mystery of Christ in You: The ministry of preaching the word is both a process which is mysterious and obvious at the same time. On one hand, the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God who came down from heaven and died on a cross to redeem the world and human beings from the curse of sin. We are called to repent and believe–which is not a hard thing to understand. We know what the Bible requires of us.
However, on the other hand, the idea of forming Christ in you is mysterious. We have no idea what it will take to create maturity in a given person. Our goal and our hope is that you would come to love Jesus Christ, and that your actions and words and heart attitudes would be guided by a loving reverence for Jesus. But how can we persuade you to love Jesus Christ? How can we persuade you to act lovingly towards the people in your family, at work–to practice kindness and forgiveness and gentleness–to be joyful in faith and hope?
We Are Preaching The Word of God to You Because the Word Can Change Your Hearts: The fact is that we cannot and should not try to change you by our persuasiveness or intelligence, or by manipulation, or by force. Our hope is in the word of God which God has entrusted us to explain to you, admonish you with, counsel you with. The word of God is, we believe, powerful to challenge and change your hearts.
We are Willing to Labor and Suffer to Carry Out this Calling.
We Labor Over You in Christ: “29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. 2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf…”
The stewardship of the ministry of the word is laborsome! As ministers we know that the human soul, because of sin, is often not comfortable in the presence of God. Human beings prefer to be left alone to live their lives as they please–that doesn’t change just because you became a christian. Human beings do not want to take up their cross and follow Jesus Christ… “We enthrone the crucified Savior in stained glass, wood, and stone–and in doctrine. To the cross we look for salvation. But we want the cross not at all. Indeed we would have it the chief business of religion to keep crosses far away. We want a Christ who suffers that we may not have to, a Christ who lays himself down that our comfort may be undisturbed. The call to lose life that it may be found again, to take up the cross and follow, remains mysterious and offensive to us.” (1 John Bright, The Kingdom of God. p.155)
The job of the the ministry of the word, whether through preaching or counseling or encouragement or confrontation, is to apply the word in such a way that, like the fingers of a physician and the scalpel in surgery, it cuts in to remove the rot of unbelief and sin in your souls. That mysterious work is the work of God–but it is through our stewardship. We labor to communicate it to you. We long for you to hear the word and be healed. We know the human heart is full of envy, lust, bitter resentment, greed, pride. We know that God wants to implant in you, through the word and through his Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness.
We Suffer for Your Sake: “24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
The stewardship of the word of God on behalf of the church necessarily leads to suffering. Paul rejoiced in this suffering because he believed that his sufferings were a sharing of the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and that they were producing godly character in him, and that they would lead to great honor and glory for him after this life.
There is no question that the true ministry of the word leads to suffering. We suffer, as I have already mentioned, under the burden of wrestling over your souls. We suffer with your sorrows and fears and sometimes your apathy. Every minister comes to be very well acquainted with his or her own failings and inadequacies, with which we are constantly confronted as we try to serve you and the word. And in the ministry of the word, if we are being faithful, we suffer the rejection of those who reject Christ and the word.
So That You May Reach Maturity in Christ.
Maturity In Receiving and Giving Encouragement: “2 that their hearts may be encouraged” One of the ways that spiritual maturity becomes evident in a person is that they begin to encourage. The one who encourages others to believe, to love God, to follow Jesus, does so because they have received encouragement from Christ and they have become an encouragement giver. This is evidence of a vital relationship with Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, the person who has only irritations and accusations to share, who can only see what is wrong with the church, shows how little grace they themselves have received from Christ.
Maturity In the Practice of Love: ”having been knit together in love” The ability to love those, particularly those with whom we do not naturally get along–who are different from us–the love of enemies–is another evidence of the active grace of God in a person’s life. Those who are able to love the unlovely show that they themselves have received the love of Jesus–have understood their own unloveliness.
Maturity In the Assurance of Understanding and Knowledge: ”and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.“
There are those who think they believe, but who, if questioned, show no understanding of Christianity at all. There are those who believe, yet who have many questions and insecurities about what they believe.
Maturity is not merely about knowledge, but about what knowledge produces. A mature knowledge of the scriptures and what they teach about Christian faith leads to an assurance–a conviction regarding what we know, and that we believe it to be true.
Maturity in the Stability and Discipline in Your Faith: “4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.”
Finally mature faith is both stable and disciplined. Without discipline in basic spiritual practices such as prayer and fellowship, worship, studying and hearing the word, there is little hope of reaching maturity. But a disciplined faith will grow up into a stable faith.
Mature faith is Christ’s calling for you–and the goal of our stewardship on your behalf.