Good Stewards of God's Varied Grace - 1 Peter 4:10-11

1 Peter 4:10-11 gives a word of instruction and encouragement for both speaking gifts and for serving gifts. God’s grace is given in a variety of ways, but God’s goal for all of His gifts is the same: that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

The great risks of failing to understand this are that instead of embracing this God-given variety, we will flatten everything out into a boring sameness, and instead of speaking for God and serving in His strength, we will speak our own words and serve in our own strength. The first error downplays the rainbow glory of God’s gifts into monochrome, and the second error fractures God’s glory into little bits that we try to claim for ourselves.

The first mistake shows up in a church when one or two aspects of Church life become What’s Really Important, while other things slide into obscurity: when everyone is encouraged to read big fat theology books, and no one visits widows, or when the elders are called away from the Word and prayer to fix the plumbing. But God wants speakers to speak and servants to serve. He doesn’t want the speakers to convince the servant to become speakers, or the servants to get the speakers to serve.

The second mistake happens when we forget that we are stewards and start to act like we own the place. That happens to speakers when we drift away from preaching God’s message and start to say things that could be spoken without God’s Word. It’s easy to avoid heretics who speak against God’s Word, but the Church has been plagued by those who speak in addition to God’s Word, whether their message is the oracles of self-help, practical life skills, the business world, or politics.

Of course, God speaks to all those areas of life, but His message is different than ours, because His thoughts are higher than ours. And so your elders all have plenty of thoughts and opinions about fantasy fiction, the Civil War, good coffee, and everything under the sun, but as elders, their main message must become nothing but Christ and Him crucified. If you remember a preacher’s thoughts, jokes, and opinions but not God’s main points, then that speaker has been a bad steward. You can find a million people to tell you to eat right and exercise, or to be nice to people and true to yourself. Only a Christian will tell you that God sent His Son Jesus into the world to save sinners by dying and rising again, and that this means that you need to repent and believe the gospel.

Likewise for those called to serve, especially deacons. They must serve in the strength that God supplies. They must not run on their own steam, powered by guilt or pity or a natural spirit of do-goodery or an inclination to be a busybody. God save us from servants like that! Instead, they need to be motivated by a deep sense of gratitude that Jesus came to live and die and rise again as a servant. They need to serve joyfully, not grudgingly, because the joy of the Lord is their strength. This means that it’s hard to discourage a deacon, because he isn’t serving for the sake of results, or for the approval of the crowd, or out of any grand illusions that he will be the one to save the world. He serves because he’s grateful and joyful over what God did for Him in Christ.

God’s great goal is to display His glory through Christ, by giving Christians gifts and graces for them to use in Christ’s name to love and serve one another. In the life of the Church, elders and deacons serve as the prototypes for these two kinds of gifts: Elders serve by speaking, deacons by serving. If a congregation is going to be healthy and strong, they need to be shepherded and served by men who are living and breathing examples of these gifts of grace put into action, dies cast in the mold of Jesus who can then in turn stamp Christ’s image onto others until the whole world is filled with Christ’s image-bearers, which is how God is glorified through Jesus Christ.

So people of God, don’t expect everyone to serve in the same way. Rejoice in God’s varied grace. And to those who have been given speaking gifts, especially elders: when you speak godly words, God is glorified in Jesus Christ. Speak the oracles of God. To those who have been given serving gifts: when you serve in God’s strength, God is glorified in Jesus Christ. Serve in His strength. As you have received a gift, use it to serve the Church as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

Posted on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 by CJ Bowen