“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:30 ESV

As we looked at positional authority I am sure that many of you were surprised by the potential for positional leadership to go bad.

If we believe that God delights in humiliating us we will humiliate others. If we believe that God uses authority to beat us down we will use authority to beat others down. Our belief about spiritual authority is heavily determined by our belief in the kind of God we serve. To add to our difficulty the Bible makes reference to coming to Christ as that of slavery. Paul particularly uses this imagery of being a slave,

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to reach his Good News.” Romans 1:1 NLT

“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.” 1 Corinthians 9:19a NLT

Of course, our only understanding and reference to slavery in our time is that of oppression and degradation. The world is full of modern-day slavery all of which is horrific stain on our human condition. Why would Paul write about slavery to Christ in such a positive way?

Let me share what I have learned about this. I learned that there are two types of slave systems, there is a ‘slave-state’ and then there are ‘states with slaves’. Let me explain the difference:

A ‘slave-state’ is the type of slave system which we, at this time in history, are most familiar. A slave-state is where an economy (or business such as a brick kiln business) is dependent on slave labor in order to survive. For instance, in the United States the cotton plantations of years ago depended on free labor to make a profit. If the workers needed to be paid the plantations did not make any money. Cotton plantations were therefore a slave-state, dependent on slavery to continue. 42

Or, let’s consider present day slavery in India where human beings, many of them children, are forced to work in rock quarries, breaking big rocks into smaller rocks. This is an industry dependent on slave labor, another example of a slave-state. 43

Again, due to even these few modern day examples of slavery, we have difficulty reading the various passages that refer to slavery in the Bible, particularly those that say we are slaves to Christ. We imagine grinding poverty, oppressive regime, destructive degradation and more. How can a God who is just and good participate in slavery of any kind?

What we have not understood is that this oppressive slavery is not the context of slavery from which the New Testament authors were writing. Rather, they were writing from the context of a much different kind of slavery and system known as a ‘state with slaves’.

Let me explain. In a state-with-slaves the economy did not depend on slaves to survive. The economies were healthy and thriving and even though there were slaves, communities were not dependent on slavery. Therefore, slavery in the Mediterranean region at the time of Christ was much different than how we understand slavery today.

Imagine this:

You are the owner of a large farm. It is a prosperous farm that is developing and continually growing. Year after year the harvest is rich and abundant, and your farm produces the best in the land. You have worked hard and established a productive business and due to the growth you are looking for someone to come alongside and to help with the management and daily details.

So you ask around. Who is reliable? Is there one trustworthy? Is there someone who knows farming? Is there someone of expertise that can, not only sustain the successful business as it is, but help to take that business to the next level? You find that there is such a person available. In the next district there is one who is a slave of great worth to their present owner.

That one has just the qualifications you are looking for and so you go and visit and strike a deal. That person is now in service to you; a slave yes, of great value and price, and well worth the investment in retaining such a one.

Here we see that in a state with slaves, slavery is a completely different thing. Rather than a slave being as oxen, a beast of burden, oppressed and beaten down, a state with slaves acquired their slaves with much consideration of the person and the character and the expertise that the slave would bring to the family business. 45

It was like hiring an executive or manager to put in charge of one’s holdings and livelihood. One bought a slave not to abuse and mistreat but to enhance and increase the family business. This is the context of slavery that we find referenced in the New Testament. We might even say that God too, is looking for individuals of character and of integrity and of depth that will bring much to his family business. 46

This is the context, from which Paul writes,

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Romans 6:22 ESV

Recall that within the dominion of satan all our best efforts resulted in futility and were under the curses of death and destruction (slaves to sin and this is what we get), yet now, within the Kingdom of God, (slaves to holiness and righteousness), our efforts and work and intentions are inhabited with the light of Christ and we no longer walk in futility.

And so, keeping with the analogy of slaves, in order to acquire such individuals God must secure us as his own. This Christ did on the cross. Bringing all of heaven to bear in establishing us in light and life. We are now as slaves unto God and given important and meaningful roles within the Kingdom of God.

Then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” Proverbs 8:30-31 ESV

He declared us worthy in his extravagant love poured out on our behalf and we now have freedom to increasingly participate in Kingdom business alongside our Lord. No longer are our efforts given over to futility. God compels us to bring our expertise and our particular way of seeing the world, our personality and particular passions and gifts to the business of God. In this we are all enriched and developed and taken to that next level and so too, is God’s Kingdom.

He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship… to do every sort of work, by any sort of workman or skilled designer.” Exodus 35:31+ 35 ESV

We simply learn to orient ourselves to this new partnership, with the one who has redeemed us. We learn to bring the best we have to bear upon his kingdom, and within the context of the good work planned out and prepared for us at the beginning of time. 47

The gospel invitation is an invitation and opportunity to be restored back to our original place and role and responsibility within the Kingdom of God, back to the original creation as intended by God before sin entered the world. As we are redeemed by the King of Kings we are brought into partnership and service with the one who owns it all.

Let’s consider the story of Ruth for her story is this same extended gospel story.

*Take a few minutes to read the book of Ruth.

Here in a nutshell we find:

  • A foreigner with no way to provide for herself
  • All she could do was pick up the leftovers of those more powerful
  • Hers was the lowest rung on the ladder so to speak
  • Yet there is a man who can redeem her
  • This man is positioned to gather her unto himself
  • This man is wealthy
  • This man is honorable and with a heart of compassion
  • This man arranges to take Ruth, the foreigner, as his wife
  • The woman’s status is immediately elevated
  • Both her and her mother-in-law are able to live forever-after in safety and security and without want
  • The woman comes to be remembered all her days for her courage and her heart
  • She comes to be the mother of kings (and in the lineage of Jesus Christ)
  • She becomes a conduit of God’s great blessing here on earth

This is the gospel story in a nutshell. We, in our sin, left the Kingdom of God. We are living outside the castle walls so to speak and have been outside the Kingdom for so long that we cannot even remember what it is like to be on the inside; we became foreigners of God’s way.

Yet God in all his mercy and justice and compassion makes a way for us to come back, restored into the Kingdom. For God has a son, Jesus Christ, and this son is the redeemer who pays the price required to secure our rightful place within the Kingdom of our King. And because of this redeemer and our union with him we are now conduits of God’s great blessings of life and grace and forgiveness here on earth for the benefit of all we come in contact with.


This invitation and opportunity is open to every single person on planet earth. It is the gospel, the good news, to all mankind. 48 Most important, we must understand that within this good news there is no distinction between any of us; we are all standing on level ground at the foot of the cross all invited to partnership with the Lord and into relationship with our God.

“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27-28 NLT

Like Ruth the only thing we bring to the table of our Lord is our own heart of devotion and our honest need of a savior. We may have believed that our serving had to do with our salvation or our acceptance, but we now know that this is not the case. Psalm 3:8

Salvation and acceptance are established 100% by the heart of the Father through the work of Jesus Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit. Period. Nothing we do will ever add to this work and if we try to add to it, we in fact diminish the work. Psalm 62:7; Psalm 18:2; Galatians 5:1

You are deeply valued and profoundly loved. God has sought you, longed for you and delights in you. Jeremiah 31:3; Psalm 103:17

God takes us from our lowly estate and elevates us back to sons and daughters, co-heirs, regents, and stewards within the Kingdom of God. And as we come back into an awareness of this and begin living as sons and daughters of The King, a number of shifts begin to happen in our hearts and minds and lives.

  1. We Understand that God Owns it all
  2. We are no longer the center of our existence or life
  3. We realize that God owns us, he is the one in charge of our life
  4. We come know that everything we own really belongs to God
  5. We see that we are stewards of God

Stewardship:

Our lives are redeemed (once and for all in Christ and then experientially as that is worked out through our lives, Philippians 2:12) back into stewardship unto the Lord. Stewardship was always the plan and initiative of God to humans and the response of humans to God. We read in Genesis,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living this that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:27-28 ESV

If we were to continue reading we would see God continuing in his instructions. We would see that he has given to us all manner of plants and animals for our use and for our responsible oversight.

Right at the start mankind was given the task of taking care of this earth and all that is in it. Both men and women were called to be stewards, care-takers, of this great ‘estate’ owned by God. But we know that right near the beginning both Adam and Eve compromised their role as stewards when they agreed with the accusations of Satan. And because Satan is all about self we learned to be all about self. We lost the awareness of God as the owner of the land and our lives and we began to live with self as god.

Today, we think that the houses we live in are ours, we think the land we farm is ours, we think that the money we make is ours, we think that the ministries we run are ours, and so on. No longer are we partners with each other or stewards of God but we came to believe that we are owners. Now we believe we can own each other and that we are gods of our own empires.

Men think they own women and women also believe they are owned by men. And both men and women think they own their children and can treat them and do with them as they see fit. We have lost our holy fear of the Lord as the one to whom we will answer one day. We will all answer to God for the ways we treat each other.

We don’t have to look very far to see how badly things have become. The abuses towards each other and the passivity of our lives is evidence of this loss of the understanding of stewardship. We use our money for our own purposes, we misuse our wives and treat them as cattle, as something that is owned, and we abuse our children and have no awareness of how to grow and serve them that they might flourish in emotional and psychological health as they mature.

In contrast to this, stewardship restores to us our holy fear of the Lord as the one we will answer to, and stewardship restores to us our dignity and our awareness of each other. We come into a holy fear of the Lord regarding our treatment of people, of animals, of this creation, of the word of God, of our lives and work and influence, of our money and possessions — everything changes when we realize that God owns it all and that we are called to be stewards of what belongs to him.

Psalm 24
A psalm of David.


The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.

For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?  Who may stand in his holy place?

Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.

They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their saviour.


Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob. Interlude

Open up, ancient gates!  Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.

Who is the King of glory?  The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle.

Open up, ancient gates!  Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.
10 
Who is the King of glory?  The Lord of Heaven’s Armies — he is the King of glory. Interlude

As Stewards We:

Offer our lives in service. Romans 12:1
Orient our lives within this kingdom. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Mature and become trustworthy. 1 Peter 1:7
Are entrusted with more and more of the King’s Kingdom. Matthew 16:19
Become true partners and co-regents, stewards within the Kingdom of God. Acts 1:8

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 ESV

PRAYER

“God we come in worship today of your great restoration and owning of our lives. Thank you for being God who loves us and who delivers us, who heals us and teaches us. Thank you for growing our lives and hearts in you. Today God we come confessing that we have been mistreating the things and people that belong to you. We have not understood that these things are not ours but today we see this and we come sorry for our mismanagement of the people and priorities of your heart. Convict us God, deep within our beings, of our sin towards others and to your creation.

Show us how to take care of these things that are yours and may we become honest, faithful, kind, stewards of everything that you entrust to our care. It is an awesome and fearful thing to be in service to you God and we need your help each and every day. Lead us, teach us, convict us when we do wrong, and help us to make it right to the best of our abilities. Thank you for redeeming us and for restoring us back into your Kingdom and the amazing influence and impact and work that you have ordained for us before the beginning of time. May we live and work and have relationships that honor you as our Lord and Savior, we bless you Lord. Amen”

APPLICATION

In response to this teaching about stewardship and our role as representatives of our Lord, the best thing we can do to start is to come in repentance and confession of where we have not been good stewards.

Today, using the healing prayer model, the seven steps of Confession, Repentance, Renouncing, Breaking, Cancelling, Claiming, and Sealing, to come before God with all that we have done wrong as stewards.

Some of us have been abusing people. We’ve been using women, hurting children, neglecting the elderly, and fighting with each other.

Some of us have been using our position in the church to steal and rob from those in our congregations.

Some of us have been mean, hateful, condemning as a way of feeling big and good about ourselves.

Some of us have been lying and cheating and using dishonest means as a way to get ahead.

Some of us have been preaching false messages and have been adding rules and oppressions to the people of God under our care.

Each of these things and more (the Spirit will convict you), must be brought to the foot of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and relinquished there. We come to the cross with our sin and we say ‘no more’ to that sin and we commit to God and his ways in and through our lives. Do this today.

Invite the Holy Spirit to lead you in prayer to God, giving over your sin, confessing your wrongdoing as a steward in God’s kingdom and then dedicate yourself once more to service and stewardship unto our King of Kings in the way and manner that God would have.

Summary – REDEEMED

God has made every human valuable, with worth and in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27

We all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross. In Christ we are all equal. Colossians 3:11

We can all bring our lives to God and his kingdom. Colossians 3:1-17

Christ secured us by his sacrifice on the cross. 1 Peter 3:18

We now participate alongside Christ in the Kingdom of God. Ephesians 2:5-7

We are stewards in God’s kingdom. Ephesians 2:10

______________________________

42 NOTE: I am not condoning this in any way – I am simply stating what was at the time. Slavery is detestable and in North America we are still recovering from the atrocities and degradations that came out of hundreds of years of slavery.
43 And there are many other examples that we could list. To our great shame it appears that slavery is at an all-time high in the history of the world.
44 For instance: qualifications of integrity, knowledge of large estates, experience in running a big farm, wisdom about profit and loss margins, of being a good manager, and able to handle problems well
45 “Though himself a slave, he had the entire management of his master’s property and dependants, thus acting in the capacity of our steward” Anthony Rich, http://www.mindserpent.com/American_History/reference/latin/1849_rich_the_illustrated_companion.pdf
46 Note: Our role within God’s Kingdom is that of a steward, a person who is put in charge of the property and holdings of the owner. In ancient times a steward of a large estate was sometimes a free man and sometimes a slave — either one held much responsibility and authority. We will study more about stewardship as we continue through this course.
47 God also knows that your worst things in your life have given you much wisdom and perspective. He knows that due to His presence in the midst of your experiences you are uniquely equipped for specific tasks within His Kingdom. This, is why we go to the depths of our personal stories with the Lord, so that what the enemy intended for evil, is given over and 100% claimed for the glory of God. This takes the bad things in our life and removes them from the authority of the enemy and into the authority of our Lord. When even our very worst things are inhabited by God in this way, we walk and lead and live and minister out of profound strength, and the anointing of the Lord increases and becomes a rich place by which many are watered and strengthened.
48 The term mankind is to mean human beings both male and female. NLT says ‘mankind’ in verse Genesis 27.
Man was created by the immediate hand of God, and is generically different from all other creatures ( Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:27 ; 2:7 ) source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/man/

=> Next we will look at Natural Authority

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