Distinct Giving of the New Testament Church
“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
The distinct church of the New Testament has been graciously entrusted with a stewardship (cf. Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:25; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10). The English word “stewardship” is translated from the Greek noun oikonomia. It literally means “house law”. According to context, however, it is used figuratively in the New Testament in reference to the cooperative management or oversight of the “household of God”.
As revealed in the New Testament, the ecclesia is the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 4:17). It is graciously managed and overseen by God in Christ. Concordant with divine grace, the members of the body of Christ are privileged to co-manage and oversee the New Testament church with God. Their co-management and oversight is fulfilled by grace through faith alone.
The Apostle Paul discloses that both he and the early church elders were entrusted by God with a specific stewardship (1 Corinthians 4:1; 9:17; Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:25; Titus 1:7). However, the New Testament clarifies that the stewardship was not only for the apostles and elders.
The Apostle Peter also reveals that every member of the New Testament church has been entrusted with an important stewardship (1 Peter 4:10). Relative to their stewardship, the children of God are considered stewards or “household managers”.
By New Testament definition, a steward is a servant who has no wealth of his own. He is responsible for managing his master's wealth. The steward cannot manage or oversee according to his own will, but only by his master’s will and direction.
Stewardship of Grace
The stewardship of the New Testament church is a stewardship of divine grace. The Apostle Peter stated, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). While Peter spoke in the context of spiritual gifts, he clarified that every believer is a steward of the manifold (poikilos - poy-kee'-los; various, diverse) grace of God.
Concordant with divine, unmerited favor the stewardship can be satisfied by God alone. The New Testament church cooperates by faithful submission to His indwelling life (zoe) (John 15:5; Romans 14:23b; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3:3-4; Hebrews 11:6).
The stewardship of grace is fulfilled by means of shared-life. When shared-life fellowship is faithfully elevated above all else, the stewardship of the ecclesia is satisfied by the flow and consequent overflow of divine life (zoe). Concordant with grace alone, God is both the cause and effect of the gracious stewardship of the ecclesia.