EXCERPTS FROM THE MINISTRY
LIFE-STUDY OF COLOSSIANS
THE STEWARDSHIP OF GOD
Scripture Reading: Col. 1:24-26
In 1:25 Paul says that he “became a minister according to the stewardship of God.” For the sake of the full expression of God, there is the need for the stewardship of God.
It is important to understand accurately the meaning of stewardship. The Greek word rendered stewardship here, oikonomia, is the same word rendered dispensation in Ephesians 1:10 and 3:9. The word also appears in Ephesians 3:2, where Paul speaks of the stewardship of grace which had been given to him. According to ancient usage, oikonomia denoted a stewardship, a dispensation, or an administration. At the time of Paul, many rich families had stewards whose responsibility was to distribute food and other supplies to members of the household. Our Father has a great family, a divine household. Because our Father has such vast riches, there is the need in His household for many stewards to dispense these riches to His children. This dispensing is the stewardship. Hence, a stewardship is a dispensation.
The word dispensation here does not denote an age or means by which God deals with people; it refers to God’s dispensing of His riches into His chosen ones. This dispensation is the stewardship with the dispensing ministry of the ministers of God. This ministry of dispensing is also God’s administration. Today God administrates by dispensing Himself into us. This stewardship, this dispensation, this administration, is God’s economy. In the New Testament economy of God there is the desperate need of the stewardship of God.
We have pointed out that stewardship refers to the dispensation of wealth in a royal or upper-class family. God’s royal family is rich in Christ. According to the Epistle to the Colossians, God’s family is especially rich in Christ as the all-inclusive and preeminent One, as the One who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, and the firstborn from among the dead. The riches of such a Christ, who is the full expression of the Triune God, need to be dispensed into the members of God’s family. This service of dispensing, which in 1:25 is called the stewardship of God, was the work of the Apostle Paul. It also should be our work today.
Not many ministers or workers in today’s Christianity carry out the stewardship of God. This means that not many are actually dispensing the riches of Christ into the members of God’s royal family. The stewardship of God is needed for this rich, all-inclusive, preeminent Christ to be dispensed into the members of His Body.
This stewardship is the ministry in the New Testament. The New Testament ministry is the dispensing of the unsearchable riches of the all-inclusive Christ into the members of God’s family. The Apostle Paul dispensed the riches of Christ into the saints. This is what we are doing in the ministry today.
The stewardship of God is according to the economy of God. With God it is a matter of economy; with us it is a matter of stewardship. All the saints, no matter how insignificant they may seem to be, have a ministry according to God’s economy. This means that every saint can dispense the riches of Christ into others.
The desire of God’s heart is to dispense Himself into man. This is the central point of the whole Bible. God’s economy is to carry out the dispensing of Himself into man. We share in this economy through our stewardship, our ministry of dispensing the riches of Christ. After the riches of Christ have been dispensed into us, we need to take up the burden to dispense them into others. With God these riches are His economy; with us they are the stewardship; and when they are dispensed by us into others, they become God’s dispensation. When God’s economy reaches us, it becomes our stewardship. When we carry out our stewardship by dispensing Christ into others, it becomes the dispensation of God into them. Hence, we have the economy, the stewardship, and the dispensation.
Those who bear responsibility in the local churches need to share in the stewardship of God. This means that the elders should be those who take the lead to dispense the riches of Christ into others. Although Christ is all-inclusive and preeminent, there is still the need for Him to be dispensed into the members of God’s family. This dispensation takes place through the stewardship. Hence, between the unsearchably rich Christ and the members of His Body, there is the need of the stewardship. All those who take the lead in the Lord’s recovery and have responsibility for the care of the churches need to realize that they have a part in such a divine stewardship. We are not here to carry on an ordinary Christian work. For instance, we are not concerned merely with teaching the Bible in an outward way. Rather, we desire to serve the riches of Christ to all the members of God’s family. In our conversation with one another, we need to minister the riches of Christ. Even when we are invited to the homes of the saints for dinner, we need to dispense the riches of Christ. This is the stewardship of God.
Every member of the Body of Christ has a part in this stewardship. In Ephesians 3:8 Paul refers to himself as “less than the least of all saints.” This indicates that Paul was even smaller than we are. If Paul could be a steward, then we also can be stewards and dispense the riches of Christ into others. In preaching the gospel, for example, we should not be concerned merely with winning souls. Rather, we should preach the gospel to carry out the stewardship of dispensing the riches of Christ into others. Day by day we need to fulfill our stewardship by dispensing the Triune God into man. Praise the Lord that we all have a share in this stewardship! We all have the privilege of dispensing the unsearchable riches of Christ into others. Therefore, we should not merely preach the gospel or teach the Bible; we should also impart the riches of Christ to others.
We have many opportunities to minister the riches of Christ to the saints. Suppose we are helping a family to move. We should not simply move the furniture, but we should supply the riches of Christ to the members of the family, especially to the sister. If we help in the moving without dispensing the riches of Christ, we may actually make things difficult for others. Our intention in helping a family move their belongings should be to dispense the riches of Christ. All our activity with respect to such a service should be with Christ.
Another opportunity to minister the riches of Christ to others is in giving or receiving hospitality. Both the hosts and the guests should minister the riches of Christ.
May the Lord open our eyes to see that we all have part in the stewardship of God. In every aspect of the practical church life, even in such things as ushering and cleaning the meeting hall, we need to dispense Christ into others. Firstly, we need to be filled with Christ and then minister the riches of Christ to others. This is our stewardship.
(Life-Study of Colossians, Chapter 11, Section 1)
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