Scripture Text: 1 Peter 4:7–11
Good Stewards of God’s Grace (MP3)
Good Stewards of God’s Grace (Sermon Text)
Last week we looked at a passage in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In that passage, we discovered that it is not the pastor, the deacons, or the other leaders in a church who do all of the ministry in the church. God has equipped all of the members in a church to do the ministry of the church. Good Hope Baptist’s mission statement conveys this idea of equipping one another for the work of ministry. We are God’s people who are preparing each other to do what God has called this church to do. We have emphasized that the church’s work is not limited to any one person, or group of people, but is shared by everyone in the church. Just as a sports team requires the whole team to play ball, so too, the whole church needs to be involved to fulfill the ministry of the church. Only by working together will we accomplish the mission God has given us.
Live Like There Will Be No Tomorrow
Jonathan Edwards once wrote a sermon in which he encouraged his congregation to use the time they had because it was precious. He wrote, “Time is very precious, because when it is past, it cannot be recovered.” We are not promised tomorrow and we do not know how much time we have to accomplish what God has called us to do. Peter wrote in this passage that the end of all things is near. This did not mean that the end would be during Peter’s lifetime, or ours for that matter. It just means that we are living in the last days and Jesus could return for His Church at any time. What this means for us is that we should live with the end in mind. We should live out our Christian faith with a view of God’s promised end of all things. We should love and serve one another as if there will be no tomorrow, for we are not promised another day. The rest of this passage describes this way of Christian life where we love one another earnestly and serve one another graciously. It could just say “love one another by serving one another.”
Love One Another Earnestly
Another thing Good Hope’s mission statement says is that the place where God’s people at Good Hope meet will be a loving place. We desire for Good Hope Baptist to be a place where His people love and are loved. I think all people want to be loved and we want this church to be a place where that happens. I encouraged you last week to pay attention to your relationships with one another. Are you loving each other as you should? Are you helping to build up this church in love for Christ and in love for one another? Love is central to the Christian life. Deep, constant love for others testifies that we are living in light of the future God has promised us. Where love is lacking, prayer is hindered. It is difficult to pray effectively when we harbor animosity or hatred towards others. Peter reminds us in this passage of the importance of love.
1 Peter 4:8 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Above all, or most importantly, believers should love each other deeply. This means that constant, unfailing love for each other is more important than anything else we can do for one another. In fact, this type of love will motivate us to the kind of service we need to be doing. The reason Peter called for this intense love is because love “covers a multitude of sins.” Certainly God’s love covers all sins, but that is not the love Peter was saying here. Peter was not writing about God’s love, but our love for each another. The passage reads, “Keep your love for one another constant, because love covers a large number of sins.” How can this be? How can our love for one another cover our sins? One person explained that when people love one another, offenses are frequently overlooked and quickly forgotten. I do not know if that is true. I am sure we remember offenses even of those we love. I also do not think offenses should be overlooked. We need to deal with sin. What I think this means is that love repeatedly forgives. We ought to love one another, because love forgives and removes the substance of strife.
We have to be careful, though. People today have the wrong idea about love. Love has been redefined as tolerance or acceptance of people’s sinfulness. It is not loving to reject truth. Paul wrote that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6) One of the nation’s largest mainline denominations, the Presbyterian Church (USA), with 1.8-million members recently passed resolutions at its General Assembly to recognize same-sex marriage and allow their clergy to conduct same-sex weddings. They also approved an amendment to the denomination’s constitution to define marriage as between “two people” rather than the biblical meaning of “a man and a woman.” I am sure they may think that this is the loving thing to do. They may think that this is what loving Christians should do, but it is not. God has already told us in His Word what is true regarding sexuality and marriage. It is not loving to suppress the truth of God’s Word in the guise of love, tolerance or acceptance. We have to remember that loving one another does not mean loving one another’s sin.
As the Church of God, we have a responsibility to be faithful to God and to speak His truth lovingly. Sometimes, we go astray by speaking the truth so harshly, though, that we demonstrate hatefulness to others. On the other hand, we also go astray when we refuse to speak the truth to others because we do not want to offend them or because we think it is not our business. If someone in this congregation is committing adultery, it is our business. If someone in this congregation is struggling with lust or pornography, it is our business. If someone is being arrogant, rude, disrespectful, greedy, hateful or whatever sin you pick, it is our business. It is the Church’s business to hold each other accountable and rebuke sin when it happens. Love is not having warm and fuzzy feelings toward each other. We love one another by genuinely and deeply caring about the spiritual condition of each other, and forgiving each other when wronged.
Serve One Another Graciously
In this passage, Peter described several ways to demonstrate our deep love for one another. First, he told his readers to offer hospitality to each other and then to serve one another with the gifts God had given them. Look at verses nine and ten.
1 Peter 4:9–10 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
Hospitality was particularly important for the early Church when lodging could not be afforded. The mission of the Church depended on the willingness of believers to provide room and board for those traveling. Showing hospitality can be very stressful on people, though. It can also be a challenge to be hospitable when it is difficult connecting with others. One reason we do not show hospitality to one another is because sometimes others are not like us. We do not get along with them very well. Not only are we to show hospitality to each other, though, we are to do it without complaining. You could be thinking, “I might show hospitality to another, but I sure won’t do it gladly.” We are exhorted to be gladly hospitable, not to begrudge our charity to others. This of course is a heart issue, which is why we need to pray that God gives us the right attitude.
In a related issue, Peter wrote that believers can also demonstrate deep love to each other by using their spiritual gifts to serve one another. Last week, we read that the purpose of God giving us spiritual gifts was to serve and build up the Body of Christ, the Church. (Ephesians 4:11–12) Peter reiterated that same concern here. All believers have received at least one spiritual gift from God. We are not to hoard those gifts but use them to serve others. I think of the child who has been given a really cool toy and is told to share it with his or her friends. Why do parents say this to their children? The natural inclination for many children is to keep that toy to themselves. They do not want to share what they have with others. That is being stingy. God the Father has given certain gifts to each of His children and He expects us to play nicely in the sandbox.
In verse eleven, Peter divided the spiritual gifts generally into speaking and serving gifts. Those who speak might be pastors, teachers, evangelists and others who preach and teach God’s Word. Those who do this must not speak their own ideas but faithfully declare God’s words to others. Likewise, those who serve must minister to the needs of others and not themselves. They should also not depend on their own strength to serve others but draw their strength from God. The verb that is translated “serve” here is related to the word for “deacon” or “servant.” Peter may have been referring to the service that deacons provide the local church and its ministries. However, I would argue that “serving” is done in a variety of ways: providing meals to others, visiting others (especially those who are shut-in or in prison), providing financial support to someone, helping others in a particularly difficult time, or in many, many other ways.
Last week, I said that there should not be a dividing line between those called “ministers” and those who are not. The saints of God are actually the ones equipped to minister. If you are a saint of God, if you have trusted in Jesus Christ and are following Him, you are a minister of God. You are His servant. You should be equipped and encouraged to find opportunities where you can serve the Church with the gifts God has given you. The Church has an enormous responsibility — to make disciples in all nations. That great mission involves evangelizing, baptizing, preaching, teaching, mentoring, giving, nurturing, serving and a lot of other tasks. No one person can do it. All of the saints of God are needed to fulfill this mission. Whether it is teaching, or caring, or hospitality, or leading a small group, or leading in music, each of us serves the church with the gifts God has given us.
In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul connected the idea of serving one another with both love and freedom.
Galatians 5:13–14 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Both love and liberty are connected to service. As you celebrate the freedom we have as Americans this week, think about the freedom you have to serve each other in Christ. What are you doing with your freedom? The point of having these gifts is not for our self-esteem or for our benefit, but for serving and helping others, for strengthening the church. We are to faithfully use our gifts to serve others because we are “stewards of God’s varied grace.” A steward is someone who is entrusted with someone else’s property. You might recall Jesus’ words about the faithful and wise manager. Jesus said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager (or steward), whom his master will set over his household? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. (Luke 12:42-44) Christians are not owners, but only stewards of God’s possessions. Those spiritual gifts belong to Him, just as we belong to Him. What are you doing with the Master’s gifts? What are you doing with what God has entrusted to you?
In closing, the reason we do anything whether speaking or serving in various ways is to bring glory to God. The last verse of this passage says the following:
1 Peter 4:11 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The grace we receive from God and the gifts we receive from God are never about us. God does not give us things so that we stay in the sandbox and play by ourselves. He also does not give us things so that we show off what we have, so that we make much of ourselves. The reason for all that God does is for us to return worship to Him. God receives the glory because He is the One who has provided the wisdom and strength to do the ministry we are called to do. The Provider and the Giver is always the One Who is to be praised. Let us, therefore, be good stewards of what God has given us in order to make much of Jesus Christ. Let us love each other and serve each other, and in so doing, build up God’s Church here at Good Hope Baptist for the glory of Jesus Christ. Remember, we should live, work and love as if there will be no tomorrow, for we are not promised another day. So, let’s get on with the work He has called us to do. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.