Peninsula Community Church
Stewardship of the Gospel
June 22, 2014
Colossians 1:24-29 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
As we look at this passage this morning, I would ask that you stop for a moment and consider how it was that you came to know Christ. My guess would be that it happened by way of a personal contact with someone in your life. It could have been a parent, a teacher, a coach, a good friend, or a co-worker. Now I also understand that your actual conversion or acceptance of Christ may have occurred at a church service, a revival meeting, or as you were alone but I am sure that even in that case there was someone who played a pivotal role in bringing you to that place of decision. The fact is relationships play an incredible role in seeing people come to Christ. It is noteworthy that studies have shown that the average person requires 5 significant encounters before receiving Christ as their personal Savior. This does not negate the power of the Holy Sprit to convict, but He works through His people to bring the hope of the Gospel to others. The Holy Spirit is always at work, but we get to share in the joy of the process.
It is for that reason that Paul acknowledges that he had been called to steward the Gospel of Christ. His focus was to make the Word of God fully known to everyone he encountered. He recognized that the Gospel had not been presented for him alone, but that it must be shared with others. In particular, he was called to minister to the Gentiles who were considered nonbelievers in his day. To facilitate this, he presented three ways to make the Word of God known. First, there is proclamation which carries with it the idea that the message is presented as a herald, it is done so urgently and it is spoken authoritatively. Secondly, there is warning which is reproof intended to correct a behavior that does not align itself to the word of God. And, lastly there is teaching which deals with specific issues of ignorance and lack of knowledge in certain Biblical concepts and principles. The key here is to speak to one’s emotions but also one’s heart must be enlightened as well.
Paul also deals with sharing the gospel at the end of his letter to the Colossians. Listen to what Paul says in Colossians 4:2-6. Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
In this passage, Paul sets the example for us by praying for opportunities to present the Gospel. Paul proposes that the Colossians should pray for opportunities to share their faith with others. In particular, he requests prayer for open doors to share His faith. He knew that the God of all creation, who knows the hearts of man, also knows what they need to hear at any particular moment. So for that reason, Paul is asking for prayer that the need of the individual and the message will be united as led by the Holy Spirit.
Let me ask you a question? How often do you pray for opportunities to share the gospel? I can assure you that if you pray and if you keep your heart open to God, you will find many opportunities to speak to others about Christ. When we pray for open doors, we must then walk with an expectant heart, for there should be an expectation that God will open doors to share His word, if we ask Him.
The door of opportunity may include those who are battling issues in their life. It could be a next door neighbor who wants to talk. It could be having your friends and neighbors, who do not know Christ, in your home or at a restaurant, so that they get to know you better. It has been proven that most people today will not automatically come to church unless they get to know us first. I want to challenge you to consider to find a few friends, neighbors, or family members that you will share Christ with this year. Pray about having them at your home. Live out the example of Christ before them. Preach the gospel and when necessary use words.
Secondly, Paul tells us to walk in wisdom toward outsiders. First of all we don’t unload everything we know in one moment. We also attempt to ascertain the specific questions being asked so that we can answer the specific questions being asked. Too often, we are answering questions that are not being asked. I am convinced that if we sincerely answer the questions being asked by individuals that we will be given the opportunity later to ask the questions they are not asking. When answering questions, we must answer them in a way that points to Christ and to the Gospel as a means to secure their hope and the answers to life’s issues. We must recognize that there are many today who have no knowledge of the Scriptures. They do not have the anchor of hope found in the Gospel as most people, even believers, have failed to make the gospel a functional part of their life. It is for that reason that we must not assume that those we speak with have even a precursory knowledge of the Word.
We must also guard against always trying to a point. We do not share our faith with others to propagate our particular doctrinal nuance or even our favorite Scripture. Instead, we are to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of others. Through wisdom, in our everyday life, we have the opportunity to steward the Gospel in a way that honors God, that brings Him joy, and that expands the Kingdom of God. When we look at the needs of others we will see them in a different light.
Thirdly, make the best use of your time. When God opens a door, go through it. If it seems a door is open, then enter through that door. It is at that moment we do not have to pray about the open door, we simply go through but we never go beyond the level that the door is open.
Fourthly, let your speech be gracious. While we speak the truth in love, we must be careful and not be too quick to judge those we are speaking with. I have seen this illustrated personally for me. In 1981, I was doing inner city Bible fellowships in NYC and the five Burroughs. One the fellowships I led was in the Bronx. We were averaging 40 to 50 adults each time we met. It was a lively group and they seemed to be growing and maturing in Christ. All was well until my overseer came to one of the meetings. He did two things that set things into a tail spin. First, he began to push that the group should become a church. This was something the group was in no way ready to do at that time. Most of them were young believers who did not have a concept of church, and what little ideas they had about the church were negatively couched. The second issue was that he began to vehemently argue against alcohol consumption of any kind. To fully understand why this was a problem, 90% of those in attendance were Italian and they consumed a glass of wine or a beer at almost every meal. In fact, my overseer and two of the men who were key leaders in the group fiercely argued over this issue. It became quite heated. Needless to say, we never met again after that. My point here is that sometimes we major on things that we do not need to major on. Once a person matures and grows in Christ, they will come to these decisions on their own or by being lovely taught the truth.
Paul also admonished us that our speech should be and must be seasoned with salt. Salt is an amazing thing. Salt under applied makes the item seem bland. Without salt there is little taste. Too often, we present the gospel in a way that is bland and without excitement. But I am glad that the Gospel is alive and brings life to those who hear it. The Gospel presented correctly will move us and motivate us to joy. Salt also can be overused and the item we are tasting will be rejected, as it will be too salty. We must be careful also and not use a salt substitute. This does not mean that we cannot use philosophers and current thought to make a point but we must always point them to Christ. Paul was the master at this as witnessed by his encounter with the people of Athens. He found common ground so that he could speak into their lives. As he was meeting with them in the midst of Aeropagus in Acts 17, Paul does not condemn them. He notes that they are indeed very religious. He moved on their sense of self worth by way of the gods they worshipped. Then he was very wise as he found a way to turn the discussion to God. He commented that he saw that they had an altar set up to the “unknown god.” He used that as a launch point to tell them about the unknown god they worshipped. In the end, not everyone joined him but many did. The point is Paul began at a point of commonality and used that to bring them to a discussion about God.
In essence, Paul is saying let’s have a measured response to the questions being answered. To do this we must experience the Word of God for ourselves so that it is a supernatural natural response for us to give an answer because we have tried the principle and know that it works. We must love the gospel. We must Live the gospel. We must Give the gospel.
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Copyright 2014 © All Rights Reserved – Robert W. Odom