Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Last month we dealt with how God creates Christian stewards. We discussed that stewards are made by the power of the Gospel as God works to recreate us who are born in the corruption of Adam, the fallen steward, into the image of His Son. The relationship and stewardship that was lost in the Fall are restored by the death and resurrection of Jesus, applied to us in Baptism. We are now God’s Baptized, restored, renewed, recreated children and stewards. Born anew by the power of the Gospel.
Yet this doesn’t mean that we now get to leave the law behind, as though we don’t need it anymore. When we talk about stewardship we must always speak with both law and gospel. It’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit always works through both law and gospel. In the law, the Holy Spirit kills our ungodliness and worldly passions and instructs us on how to live the Christian life and be stewards. In the Gospel the Holy Spirit raises the new man in Christ, restoring us in the image of Christ who receives the instruction that is given in the law, loves it, does it. What else would the new man in Christ do in the face of such a free and joyous gift but give a free and joyous response?
Why does it have to be both law and gospel? Why can’t we leave the law behind us? Because as Christians it should be very apparent to us that we live in a fallen world and creation, and that our flesh is very much a part of that fallen creation. In this life we still struggle with sin and do wrong and need the law as both the spotlight that shows us our wrong so that we can start to avoid it and do the right, and instruct us on what is right.
We see this kind of struggle most clearly in Romans 7:15-25, where Paul speaks of himself in two very opposite ways, yet both of them are true. He speaks of himself as both sinner and saint. Paul is baptized, he’s a new creation in Christ, yet he finds that his old self, the sinner, is always with him. While the new man knows what is good, wants to do good, and loves doing good, his flesh is still part of this old creation. It’s sinful and so does sin and evil. So bad is this kind of split personality (if you will) that Paul doesn’t even understand what he’s doing. He knows what’s right but doesn’t do it. He knows that there’s nothing good that dwells in his flesh. Paul’s last hope, then, after all this is to fling himself upon Christ and the mercies of God. His hope is that Jesus kills the old man in Baptism & through repentance and forgives Paul for his failure and enlivens the new man in Christ to want to do good and have the strength to beat the flesh into submission to do it.
What does all this mean for us? It means that our lives, and our lives as stewards, are marked by a daily return to Baptism and the identity given to us in Christ. It means having our sin revealed to us in the law, having the old Adam squashed and drowned in Baptismal waters each day through repentance and receiving the forgiveness of Christ through faith. It means that every Sunday is a Stewardship Sunday. It means that every time you hear the voice of your Shepherd, in the Word read and preached, in devotions, in your Baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is at work creating and refining His stewards.
Stewardship is all God’s work. We can’t do this dying and rising, only Jesus can. Yes, we do our best to instruct, proclaim and exhort with God’s Word, but only Jesus Christ can Jesus Christ us in Word & sacrament. Meaning that only God, working through the Holy Spirit can cover us with Christ, put us in Christ, and recreate us in Christ, make us His stewards and cover our lives with Christ so that they become our worship and visible confessions of our faith.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Tim Schneider