Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Stewards of Grace

October 19th, 2008 by Vic

Bible Reference: 1 Peter 4:10

This morning we will take time to look at only one verse. This verse has 14 words in the Greek manuscript. Each word is packed with meaning. In verse 10 and 11, Peter summarizes the major principles about spiritual gifts and assumes the controversy regarding the misuse of gifts is settled.

Ecstatic utterances are last mentioned in I Corinthians 14. If we carefully study Paul’s discussion of the charismatic controversy in Corinth, we would understand why none of the other NT churches had that problem. He argued for a better way.

Did you know that 400 years before this was written, some Greek mystery religions considered speaking in tongues to be the height of their religious experience? They assumed that if they did not know what they were saying, it must be the language of the gods. Plato did not allow his disciples to speak in tongues. It is also interesting to me that Peter is writing now 15 years after the problem in Corinth. He assumes the problem is settled. Peter summarizes the charismatic issue in 2 verses. It is important what he says and may be just as important what he does not say.

The second word (kathos) in translation comes first and is often translated ‘even as’ or ‘just as’ or ‘since’. Wuest says this adverb suggests a comparison of quality or quantity, so he translates this one word with the phrase, “In whatever quality or quantity…”

This little word introduces the principle of stewardship. Peter is going to tell us that we are responsible to minister by the standard of what we have received and in the manner we have received. This word gives us the standard for our stewardship. We minister according to the quality or quantity we have received. You can’t give what you don’t have.

This little word is introducing a comparison. It suggests a variable. The standard is not the same for everyone. This is not a law that says everyone must be a good steward and minister 2 hours a day. Peter does not say to be a good steward you have to be a missionary for 2 years. Peter does not say you have to give 50% of everything you have to the church. Peter says, “Just as…” This is the standard by which God measures your stewardship: just as each one has received.

And the first word (ekastos) means ‘each one’ or ‘each person’ or ‘each individual’. This word is only used one other time by Peter in 1:17 when he talks of God’s judgment. Peter is writing to churches not individuals; he sees groups of people in his mind as he writes this letter. He is writing to some lonely, alienated, and suffering people. He does not know them personally. However he is trying to emphasize a point, so he varies from his norm. Each one is different. We are not clones according to Peter. We did not all receive the same thing. He starts the verse with this word to emphasize it.

However, Peter’s norm is contrasted with Paul’s use of this word 23 times in I Corinthians. This word only occurs 60 times in the NT outside of I Corinthians. Do you see the difference? The Corinthian church was full of individuals. Paul was addressing specific problems. Everyone was doing his own thing in the Corinthian church without regard for the welfare of one another.

But Peter is different. He has been writing to the whole church, but here he deviates and focuses on the importance and privilege of each individual. No one that he is writing to is left out. Who is he writing to? Believers. Every Christian is included in this principle. “Just as each individual has received…” Everyone is different; everyone is important.

The first word gave us the standard for stewardship. (In whatever quality or quantity) The second word identifies who the stewards are. (each one) Now the third word tells us we have something.

The third word (elaben) is the verb, ‘has received’. The grammar suggests I have received the whole thing. Whatever it is that each individual has received, he has received all of it. And in whatever quality or quantity he has received it his stewardship will be measured.

Let’s ask HOW we have received it. Peter does not answer that question, but in 5:5 Peter says, that God gives it to the humble. And in II Peter 1:3 he says again we have been given everything we need for life and godliness.

So there is no hint that you had to pray and fast 40 days to receive it. You did not receive it because of your church attendance. You did not receive it because of anything you did or anything you will do. Peter simply says, “Just as each one has received…” Just by becoming a Christian you have received it. Not because of what you did, but because of what you are.

That suggests that each one may have received it differently and may have received a different amount. I do not have what you have. I cannot be a Christian like you and you cannot be a Christian like me. Each individual has received and Peter is going to challenge you to be a good steward of what you have received.

Peter’s principle is that God requires us to minister in the quantity and quality of which we have received. You cannot give what you do not have, but you are responsible for what you do have. Peter said, “Such as I have, give I unto thee.”

Now WHAT have we received? The 4th word in this sentence is charisma. To understand this word you need to understand ‘charis’ and ‘chara’. Charis is used 153 times in the NT and is usually translated ‘grace’. Chara is used 59 times in the NT and is usually translated ‘joy’.

In the Greek literature, grace and joy are closely related. Grace may be something, someone, or a situation causing joy. It is something beautiful, like a gift of the gods that causes pleasure. Grace is something given by one who has something to one who has nothing. A beautiful lady was said to be full of grace because she gave pleasure to an observer. When we have spiritual grace we give pleasure to God.

The NT church gave this word a broader meaning. Grace is used of the gospel, the Spirit-filled man, a state of man, thanks, a greeting, salvation, something from God.

But the word we have here is ‘charisma’ not ‘charis’. The ‘ma’ ending on a Greek word suggests it is the result of something or the act of doing something. So literally ‘charisma’ would be the result of grace and used in the Christian context it would be the result of God’s grace. Each one has received a result of God’s grace. Some translators call this a spiritual gift. Charisma is the result of God’s grace or it is the act of God’s grace. God has charisma; His nature is charis.

As we have seen in the Greek literature, grace seemed to emphasize outward beauty. In 4:11 Peter summarizes the grace we have received as our ability to speak and serve. These are visible abilities we have to minister to the Church. That is why in II Peter 1:5-8 Peter tells us there are some attitudes that needed to be added to the grace we have received. We say a man is charismatic or has charisma when he is outwardly flashy or attractive. That is consistent with the normal Greek usage of the word, but the NT makes ‘grace’ much more. Grace is the nature of God. Jesus came full of grace and truth.

The Corinthians were defining grace like their culture and Paul was refocused the emphasis to the unseen.

Again today in many churches there is visible/cultural focus on the word ‘charisma’. In the Corinthian discussion of gifts, Paul makes a distinction between this word ‘charisma’ and the word ‘pneumatikon’, both usually translated as spiritual gifts.

A literal translation of Peter is, “Just as each individual has received ‘charisma’ unto one another it be ministering.”

The focus turns to “…unto one another…” The preposition ‘unto’ denotes direction; therefore, what we have received is to be directed toward ‘one another’.

This whole phrase reads, “unto one another it be ministering”. The ‘it’ is the result of grace we have received. It is singular in form. That means that Peter sees this result of grace thing as a whole. We received a package of grace.

These first two words are also used in 4:8 where Peter says literally, “unto one another be having love”. In verse 8, Peter is saying we have love, but in 10 he says we minister grace to, toward, unto, one another. The object of our ministry is one another. I think it significant that Peter used this parallel idea only twice in his writings and they are separated by only 14 words. He is concerned about the believers building up one another in church.

The 8th word in this verse (diakonountes) is translated ‘be ministering’ or ‘keep on serving’. According to Vincent, this term is applicable to any kind of service, official or not. It is significant that the grammar of this participle is plural in form. So Peter is saying, ‘All of you keep on ministering unto one another.’ Each one has received a charisma, but what each one has is for the whole group of believers.

Gifts are to be directed toward the believers in the church, not to the individual, not those outside the church. Gifts are for the building up of the body of Christ, not for any personal benefit. A good steward will never use what he has received to edify himself. The grace each one has received must be directed toward one another.

“Just as each one has received a result of grace, all of you keep on ministering it unto one another…” God made the church like a body so we need each other.

The next 3 words (hos, kaloi, oikonomoi) can be translated literally, ‘as noble stewards’. This is the common word for ‘as’ which Peter used in 1:14 also.

There are 2 words for ‘good’ in the NT. This one means intrinsically good by its nature while the other word (agathos) means simply beneficial. That’s why I chose ‘noble’ to translate this word here. I Thessalonians 5:15 says, “follow after that which is ‘agathos'(beneficial)” and 5:21 says, “hold fast that which is ‘kalos'(good by nature).” The English translates both words as ‘good’.

The word for ‘steward’ is a combination of two Greek words which mean literally, ‘house’ + ‘law’ or ‘arranger’. The steward is the one entrusted with the treasures of the whole house. It could be translated ‘administrator’, ‘manager’, or ‘economist.’ The only thing required of a steward is faithfulness.

As a church, we are a group of stewards. Peter says we are to function as noble stewards. We receive as individuals, but we function as a group, for the group. He said that in chapter 2 also.

Now Peter gives us a little more information about what we have received, about what we are to be stewards of. First he said it was a result of grace and it was a singular gift, a package we received as a result of God’s grace. He suggested that each one received a different quality and quantity. Now he definitely identifies this grace as God’s and emphasizes its diversity.

The last phrase in this verse is, “…of the variegated grace of God.” Not the variegated graces, but the variegated grace. God’s grace is one, but the manifestations are variegated.

Peter is emphasizing the varied grace of God which manifests itself in many different ways. The emphasis is not on the amount or number, but on the character and nature of the grace. There is a unity in Christ, but not a sameness. Through the Holy Spirit there is a freedom and flexibility to use the particular colors of grace we have received.

This word for variegated (poikilos) literally means many colored. Peter uses it one other time in 1:6 to describe the trials that each one has. We have many-colored trials and many-colored grace.

This is well illustrated by the nature of light. Jesus said the world will know we are Christians by our love and by our unity. Think about it. When all the colors get together there is a pure white. When we all work together as designed we will reflect the true Light. White is a reflection of all the colors. The world will see Jesus in our church. When there is no variety in the church, where there is no color, there is darkness. Darkness is the absence of any color. White is the reflection of all colors.

In an old photography book I read some facts about light that may intensify Jesus claim to be the Light of the world. God is the Father of lights and we are the children of Light.

Peter suggests that God’s grace is a prism which projects many-colors. The word ‘poikilos’ (I Peter 4:10) suggests that we as Christians are many-colored because of Light flowing through grace.

In the field of photography it has been found that almost all colors can be matched by mixtures of red, green, and blue or by subtracting 2 of the 3 subtractive colors: yellow, magenta, cyan. If 3 projectors are used to project the 3 additive colors on a screen so they overlapped, the point at which all 3 overlapped would be white because the eye sees all colors equally. For all practical purposes, white light can be thought of as a mixture of red, green and blue light in the proper ratio.

When the many-colored graces of God are blended together in the Church, the world sees the Light of Jesus. When all of our lights are seen together, people should see Christ.

The illustration can be taken further. Where the red and green lights overlap, yellow appears even though no light of that wave length is being projected. The eye perceives yellow when an equal amount of red and green receptors are stimulated.

Maybe this local church is small and no one has a yellow grace. If those with the red and green function properly, many colors can be seen. The world can see Jesus in any sized group.

Also in photography subtractive colors are used. If a primary color becomes too dominant, a subtractive color can be introduced to correct the balance. If a yellow filter comes between you and the white light, you see only yellow. If the yellow comes between you and red or green, nothing happens. Yellow transmits green and red. However, yellow absorbs blue so if yellow comes between you and blue light, it appears black. A magenta (pink) filter transmits blue and red, but makes green appear black. A cyan (turquoise) filter transmits green and blue, but makes red appear black.

I think there are some people in the church that cannot complement others in a one on one situation. In the right position they reflect Christ to the world, but in the wrong position the world will see only darkness. Any 2 of the 3 subtractive colors will block out all the light. There may be someone you have trouble working with. Does that mean one of you is right and the other is wrong? No. God made you different and maybe you are not supposed to work together. You must still respect and love one another, but recognize you do not have complementary colors.

It is also interesting to note that with paints or water colors, no combinations can be made to produce white. You must have the light shining through your color to make a contribution to the many-colored grace of God. The Church functioning properly will reflect the white light of Christ to the world, not because we are pure white in and of ourselves, but because of the grace of God shining through us as we function properly, building one another up to the glory of God. The world will see unity in the church, not because we are all the same, but because Christ uses our diversity to reflect Him.

Isn’t it interesting what 2 or 3 filters can do to color! Isn’t it interesting how much authority Christ gives to 2 or 3 witnesses (Matthew 18)! We will only reflect Jesus if there is unity in our diversity.

The last word for grace in this verse is charis not charisma. Grace is one of those majestic words in the NT. And that great grace of God has been given to us. Because of God’s grace we have received charisma, a result of God’s grace and that charisma is for the edification of the church. The command is to use it.

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