As we have been looking at various aspects of Christian stewardship, we touched on a number things. First, every single born again believer is a steward of the good things God has given them. Remember what we established:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

So, no matter who you are, what your income or your profession, if you are born again, God has given you “good and perfect gifts.” Those gifts take many forms, and while they may appear to come from other sources, like your employer or family or the government, if it’s “good and perfect,” it came from God. This means you have to be a steward of those gifts.

Second, if you are born again, you have been given another gift: the gift of salvation. It’s not something you earned or even deserve. God saved you out of mercy and grace. This means you have to be a steward of your salvation; it’s the one gift that the Giver wants you to give away. Being a steward of salvation means being an active soul-winner. It means sharing your faith with the lost. It means adding souls to the kingdom of heaven.

Lastly, we discovered that stewardship is really good management. Stewardship is shrewdly, cleverly, prayerfully, and deliberately managing the “good and perfect gifts” God has given us. As it relates to material things, it is carefully finding ways to glorify God with our finances and material blessings. Christians aren’t under the tithe, we aren’t obligated to give a certain percentage of our income to the church, but God wants us to give what we are able to give, after budgeting, planning and praying about it. Being good managers of what God has given us takes work and practice. It’s much harder than simply giving 10%; it’s giving from the heart, and it reveals just how serious you take your relationship with Jesus Christ and your commitment to the Body of Christ.

Good stewards live life with both feet planted firmly on the ground. They are aware of the world around them because they are always on the lookout for ways to glorify God in meeting a need or planting a seed. But good stewards, while they live in the present, are looking forward, to the future. This is the last phase of Christian stewardship.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he covers the full range of issues confronting the Church. He covers issues of personal and moral responsibility, answers liturgical questions about worship, and deals with the proper place and demonstration of the Spiritual gifts within a congregation. Near the end of the letter, Paul settles on a very important topic for discussion: doctrine.

Some Christians hate the word “doctrine.” That’s because they don’t understand that in a very real sense, the Church is an outward manifestation of the doctrines it holds. Any time a Church corrupts Biblically orthodox doctrines, it corrupts the Body of Christ. It presents a distorted image of Christ to the unbelieving world.

Paul begins his letter by stating the foundation of all his teaching and preaching:

but we preach Christ crucified… (1 Corinthians 1:23)

And he ends his letter by declaring the resurrection of Christ to be climax of that same teaching and preaching.

1. Corinthian stewards

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (verses 1, 2)

The Corinthian church was a real diamond in the rough. Here was a large body of believers, excited about their faith, full of enthusiasm but lacking some direction and maybe some discretion. They were surrounded by pagans and heathens worshiping false gods. New converts filtered into the church constantly, sometimes bringing their unorthodox beliefs and practices with them.

They had received the Gospel of Jesus Christ at some point in the past. This was the Gospel that brought about their salvation. Paul wanted them to remember that. No matter what other smooth-talking teachers were peddling, the Corinthians needed to remember the first things first. No doubt some in the church had entertained some false teaching and it had caused them to doubt the Gospel, or at least question it.

But the majority of the believers in Corinth had “taken their stand” on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That powerful phrase means that these Christians had not only believed in the Gospel, but they had been good stewards of it. They had been proclaiming it in Corinth and other places. As Paul received the Gospel from Jesus, he passed it on to the Corinthians, and they had been passing it on to others.

For what I received I passed on to you… (verse 3)

And the Corinthians had been following Paul’s example. Good stewards all.

Part of the Gospel is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some in the church were struggling with that aspect of the Gospel; they found the resurrection hard to swallow. Paul makes it clear that when it comes to believing the Word of God, it’s not like a buffet, where you can pick and choose what you want to eat, or in the case of faith, what you want to believe. When it comes to the Gospel and the Word of God, it’s an all or nothing proposition. We believe it all, or we are wasting our time.

2. Remembering the resurrection

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (verses 3, 4)

What Paul first taught the Corinthians didn’t originate with him, but came right out “the Scriptures.” Notice that phrase is repeated; the Corinthians, intellectual and well-read, needed to know that the Gospel, including the part about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, did not come out of his imagination, but from the Scriptures, ancient writings that had stood the test of time. Since the New Testament hadn’t been written yet, Paul was referring to the Old Testament, and probably had in mind passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 16. The Greek in these verses is almost poetic. The verb “was buried” is an aorist, meaning a finished, completed act in the past. The verb “was raised,” though, is in the perfect tense, indicating a continuing process. Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, is forever, continuously central to life. His resurrection two thousand years ago is still an event that impacts the world of men today.

The Corinthians needed to remember this fact. The resurrection of Jesus was not some fairy story. It has its roots in the eternity of God and in the history of God’s people as far back as Genesis.

…and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (verse 5, 6)

Not only did the Scriptures teach the resurrection of Christ, but the risen Christ actually appeared to some pretty important people. Pillars of church, men who would have been well-known to the Corinthians and respected by them, all saw Jesus alive after He had died. Peter and the Twelve—the fathers of the Christian church and its leaders all saw Jesus with their own eyes. But it didn’t stop there! Over 500 hundred other men saw Jesus, and most of those eye witness were still alive, just in case anybody in the Corinthian church wanted to check on Paul’s claims.

Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (verses 7, 8)

Paul mentions James, the half brother of Jesus and stalwart of the Church and all the apostles as being eye witness of the risen Lord. Last, Paul mentions himself. He also saw the risen Lord. This is significant, for he did not believe he saw Jesus in a vision, but that he saw the risen Lord, in Person, in all His glory. Paul was the last human being to personally see the risen Christ, and he refers to himself as “one abnormally born.” That’s a curious phrase, which refers to an abortion or an untimely birth. What does he mean by this? Paul came to know Jesus Christ as Savior suddenly, violently, while he on his way to do harm to the Church. The 12 apostles, on the other hand, traveled with Jesus, they were taught and trained by Him, and finally commissioned. They were disciples (learners) before they became apostles. Paul was confronted by Jesus, converted by Jesus, and commissioned by Jesus all at once.  Even though his experience was completely different from theirs, he saw the risen Lord just as surely as they had. The resurrection of Jesus, and Paul’s vivid memory of it, propelled Paul in his ministry.

3. Clear-headed service

The resurrection completely turned Paul’s life on its head. He never forgot it, and he always remembered to preach it. But he also remembered what he was when he met Jesus:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (verse 9)

Paul knew he could never outrun his past, and he probably knew some in the Corinthian church questioned his apostolic credentials. Rather than hide his past, Paul used it as a way to glorify God. He, like any sinner, deserved exactly no mercy from God. Thank God, He doesn’t treat us as we deserve to be treated, rather, he treats us with mercy and grace. Paul had no inflated view of himself, but that didn’t stop him from getting on with the work to which God had called him.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (verse 10)

What a great attitude Paul had! No matter what his past—from a student of religion in Jerusalem to the days he spent persecuting the Church, to his life as an apostle and missionary to the Gentiles—it is by God’s grace that he was he was. God’s grace flows in the lives of all who serve Him. And because he was faithful in his service to God, Paul could say that not a drop of God’s grace had been wasted on him! As God poured His grace into Paul, Paul yielded himself to the Lord in humble service. As he lived, traveled, worked, and preached, he did so by the grace of God.

In fact, Paul thought he personally worked harder than any of the other apostles! We have no idea what they were doing since the New Testament doesn’t tell us. Is Paul bragging here? Not really. Paul was making it clear to any doubters in Corinth that he never shirked in his responsibilities to God. The other apostles worked hard, but he worked harder! He was just as committed to the cause as they were, and then some. But it wasn’t him, it was God’s grace working IN him.

4. A view ahead

Some believers in Corinth doubted the whole idea of resurrection, Jesus’ or ours. Paul made it clear to them that it was seeing the resurrected Christ that changed his whole life; it was what motivated him to do the good work. But resurrection is more than looking back, it’s looking ahead.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (verses 51—52)

In that last day, when the Lord calls believers to Himself, the dead will be resurrected! The perishable (the dead) will be turned into imperishable. The mortal (the living) will be turned into immortal. The idea is that at some time in the future, all believers, those who have already died and those who are still living, will be changed when Jesus returns. In the case of the dead, they will be resurrected. The Corinthians needed to know that the resurrection of the body is all part of the Gospel. Remembering Christ’s resurrection and looking forward to our resurrection is a power motivator in serving the Lord!

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (verse 58)

Because we have this sure and certain hope, the Corinthians could stand firm, or “steadfast.” Nothing in this world should have been able to move them from their faith in the Gospel. That phrase, “stand firm” means “to stick to it” and refers to personal faithfulness. To be “unmovable” suggests faithfulness during the hardest of times, even in the face of opposition and false teaching. If the Corinthians, and all believers, could maintain their faith in the whole Gospel, from salvation to resurrection, then they would be able to remain faithful no matter what. Not only will believers remain rock solid in their relationship with Jesus Christ, but they will be workers—good stewards for the Kingdom of God. To be “given gully to the work of the Lord” means going way, way beyond the minimum requirements; gladly doing more that is expected.

As far as Paul was concerned, then, a good steward is a Christian who, (1) believes in the whole Gospel from start to finish, (2) stands firm in that faith come what may, and (3) serves God “above and beyond” because they know what’s at stake here, and what will be waiting for them in the day the Lord calls them home.

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