“For I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.”
Paul is speaking to the Corinthians believers and he is making the clear statement that he is compelled to preach the gospel. He is under compulsion. He must. “For woe is me (this can also mean ‘disaster’ or ‘calamity’) if I do not preach the gospel.” Paul has been called by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to proclaim the gospel (Acts 9:15). As a possessor of the gospel, Paul is obligated to tell others about Christ. Therefore, to not proclaim Christ is not an option. Paul does have the option as to HOW he preaches the gospel: willingly, and he will be rewarded with joy, or unwillingly, and he will be fulfilling his stewardship – but to not preach Christ is not an option. Paul has a stewardship that has been entrusted to him by the risen Lord Jesus and he will be faithful to that stewardship, no matter how he feels.
But as I thought about Paul’s stewardship, it occurred to me that, as in most of the New Testament, Paul here is serving as the model Christian for you and me. In his stewardship of the gospel, Paul is serving as our model, but he is not alone in being a steward of the gospel. In fact, every Christian is a steward of the gospel.
First, let’s consider what it means to be a steward. A steward is responsible to the owner and accountable to the owner for what has been entrusted to him. Having been entrusted with something of value, the steward is then responsible to the owner for seeing to it that the value is increased and multiplied. As long as the steward is managing the owner’s resources, he is under obligation to be a steward.
How does this idea of stewardship apply to the gospel? Paul had received the gospel, the gospel of his salvation, and was called to be a steward of the gospel as he proclaimed it to the Gentiles and to kings. But this same calling really describes every believer. Every believer has received the gospel and has been called to proclaim Christ. Consider Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Corinthians 5:20. Each of these verses applies to every believer of every age and thus we have the same options that Paul had. We can be willing or unwilling stewards and we can be faithful or unfaithful stewards, but we are and always will be stewards of the gospel.
Indeed, the Christian life is a life of stewardship. When we were unbelievers, we were not accountable to anyone but ourselves. (Consider Romans 6:20) We could do what we wanted to do with whatever stuff that was in our sphere of control with apparent impunity. It was our money and our time and our life and our fill-in-the-blank, and no one could tell us otherwise. But then Christ invaded our life and changed the course of our forever. We met the Lord and we beheld His glory and we bowed the knee and gave Him a blank check on our lives. Thus we became His bond-servants. And His stewards. And so now as followers of Jesus, we see that all that we have we have received from Him (1 Cor. 4:7). Since it is all His, we are accountable to Him. We are to take care of the valuables which He has entrusted to us and to see them increase and multiply. That is our obligation as stewards.
Now the gospel is the most valuable thing that God has entrusted to His people. Why do I say that? First, the gospel is the most important stewardship because it cost the most. The gospel cost the very death of the Son of God. To earn the salvation of His people (Isaiah 53:10-11; Acts 20:28), the Lord Jesus poured out His life-blood on the cross. All other costs pale into less than insignificance in comparison. Second, the gospel is the most important stewardship because it has the greatest impact. The gospel is “the power of God for salvation for all who believe” (Romans 1:16). The stewardship of the gospel means the salvation of multitudes of people “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev. 7:9). Third, the gospel is the most important stewardship because unless God’s people proclaim the gospel and are good stewards of the gospel, the nations will never hear. God’s people must be stewards of the gospel because God has entrusted His message entirely to us. God’s Plan A for reaching the nations is for His called people to proclaim the gospel to the nations, and there is no Plan B. We are stewards of the gospel because of the cost, the impact and the necessity.
With the apostle Paul, then, we have a stewardship entrusted to us, a stewardship of proclaiming the gospel until they have all heard. Let’s be good stewards of the gospel. SDG rmb 2/23/2016