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Frontline Ministries - The Doctrine of Stewardship in the NT



D. Massimiliano Lorenzini

I. Definitions

A. New Testament Words

1. oikonomos - (noun) primarily denoted "the manager of a household or estate" (oikos, "a house," nemo, "to arrange"), "a steward" (such were usually slaves or freedmen).

2. epitropos (noun)- is rendered "steward" in Matt. 20:8; Lk. 8:3.

3. oikonomia - (noun) is rendered "stewardship" in Lk. 16:2-4; 1 Cor. 9:17.

4. oikonomeo - (verb) signifies "to be a house steward," Lk. 16:2.(1)

B. Theological Definition - "Human responsibility to manage resources God has placed in one's care."(2)

II. God's Plan of Stewardship

A. Management assigned to humans (Mt. 25:14-30; Lk. 16: 1-13; Lk. 19:11-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-4).

B. Recognition of God's ownership (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 10:25-31; Eph. 2:10).

C. Christian values of stewardship

1. Life-style (Lk. 3:1-14; 12:16-31; 19:1-8; 1 Tim. 6:6-19).

2. Work (2 Thess.3:6-13).

3. Attitudes (Mt. 6:2-4; 6:19-33; 19-21-26; Mk. 14:11; Ac. 8:18-23; Rom.13:8; 1 Jn. 2:15).

4. Purpose of possessions (Mt. 4:8-9; Col. 1:16-18).

5. Sacrificial Giving (Mk. 12:41-44; 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15).

6. Giving in worship (Mt. 2:11; 5:23-24).

7. Expectation of the Master's return (Lk. 12:35-48).

D. Christian use of possessions

1. Care of family (Mk. 7:9-13; 1 Tim. 5:4,8).

2. Care of needy (Mt. 5:42; Lk. 18:22-24; 21:1-4; Ac 11:29; 20:35; 24:17; Rom. 15:26-27; 1 Jn. 3:17).

3. Service to God (Mt. 25: 31-46; 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; Lk. 7:40-50; 8:1-3; Jn. 12:1-8; Ac. 2:45; 4:32-5:11).

4. Support of the ministry (2 Cor. 11:8-16; Phil. 4:10-20; 1 Tim. 5:18; 3 Jn.5-8).

5. Payment of taxes (Mt. 22:21; Mk. 12:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7).

E. Stewardship of spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-31; Eph. 4:7-16; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).

F. Stewardship of opportunities for service (1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3; Rev. 3:8).

G. Stewardship of revelation (Mt. 13:1-23; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Eph. 3:2).

H. Stewardship of spreading the gospel (Mt. 28:19,20; Mk. 16:15; Ac. 5:42; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; 1 Pet. 3:15).

I. Response to stewardship reveals a person's true nature and standing before God as a believer to be rewarded or as an unbeliever to be punished (Mt. 13:12; 25:21; Lk. 6:38; 12:35-48; 16:1-13; Ac. 10:31).

III. God's plan for giving

A. From Genesis to Moses

1. Free-will giving (Gen. 14:20).

B. From Moses to Christ

1. Required giving - 23% taxation/tithe.

a. Levite tithe - 10% (Num. 18:21-32).

b. Festival tithe - 10% (Num. 29:39; Deut. 14:22).

c. Welfare tithe every three years - 3.3% per year (Deut. 14:28,29; 26:12).

2. Free-will giving - spontaneous, no amount stipulated (Ex. 35:21-29; Num. 7:2-28).

C. Giving in the New Testament for Jews

1. Required giving - taxation/tithe plus taxes to Rome.

a. Temple tax (Mt. 17:24-27).

b. Tithes (Mt. 23:23; Lk. 18:12).

c. Tax to Rome (Mt. 22:15-22).

2. Free-will giving (Lk. 21:1-4).

D. Giving in the New Testament for Christians. There is no reference to tithing for the church anywhere in the NT.

1. Required giving - taxation.

a. Government taxes (Rom. 13:1-7).

2. Free-will giving (see below).

IV. Grace giving

A. Rather than teaching tithing, the New Testament teaches Christians to practice purposeful, proportionate giving. In 2 Cor. 8-9, the phrases that relate to the matter of choosing an amount to give are very instructive:

- "as much as they were able" (8:3)

- "entirely on their own" (8:3)

- "according to your means" (8:11)

- "according to what one has, not according to what he does not have" (8:12)

The summary exhortation is found in 2 Cor. 9:7, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

B. Principles of grace giving(3)

1. God himself is the Model, Motivator, and Equipper of all Christian giving (2 Cor. 8:9; 9:8-10,15).

2. Giving one's money to the Lord is an extension of the prior gift of one's self (2 Cor. 8:5; Rom. 12:1-2). The donation of a portion of one's wealth is made in the recognition that everything the believer has belongs to the God (1 Cor. 4:7; 6:19-20; Lk. 19:11-27; 1 Chron. 29:14).

3. The ability and motivation to give to the Lord is a function of grace (2 Cor. 8:1-3, 6-7; 9:8-10). Grace is that work of God in the believer that gives both the desire and the power to fulfill God's will.

4. In God's eyes, the attitude of the giver is more important than the amount given (2 Cor. 9:7). Accordingly, grace giving is to be characterized by joy (2 Cor. 8:2), cheerfulness (9:7), liberality (8:2), sacrifice (8:2-3), eagerness (8:4, 7-8; 9:2), willingness (8:12), perseverance (8:10-12), and integrity (8:20-21).

5. Giving is a spiritual exercise in which all believers may participate, even poor ones (2 Cor. 8:2, Lk. 21:1-4).

6. The value of a gift is not determined by its amount but by its cost (2 Cor. 8:2; Lk. 21:1-4). The question should not be, "How much can I spare?" but rather, "How much can I sacrifice?" Not "How much can I give?" but, "How much can I give up?"

7. The believer is not expected to give more than he is able. Often, however, Christians find that they can give more than they thought they could afford (2 Cor. 8:3, 12).

8. The extent of spiritual "treasure" or "fruit" is either limited or expanded by the extent of the gift (Mt. 6:19-21; 2 Cor. 9:6).

9. The ability to give is granted by God, who gives even more to those who want to give more (Lk. 6:38; 2 Cor. 9:9-11).

10. The opportunity to give is to be viewed as a privilege, not a compulsory obligation (2 Cor. 8:4; 9:7).

11. The greatest threat to generous giving is not poverty but covetousness (Lk. 12:13-34; Ac. 5:1-10).

12. If a promise of financial support is made, every effort must be made to fulfill it (2 Cor. 8:10-12; 9:5).

13. The Christian's giving is to be regular, individual, systematic, proportionate (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

14. The results of grace giving will include:

- A harvest of righteousness (2 Cor. 9:10; Phil. 4:17)

- Further enrichment of the giver so that he can give more (2 Cor. 9:11)

- Thanksgiving to God (2 Cor. 9:11-12)

- The meeting of needs (2 Cor. 9:12)

- The praising of God (2 Cor. 9:13)

- Verification of the message of the gospel (Jn. 13:35; 2 Cor. 9:13)

- The offering of reciprocal prayers (2 Cor. 9:14)

- A strengthening of the bonds of fellowship between believers (2 Cor. 9:14)

V. Summary of Stewardship

"Stewardship is a way of living that involves one's daily activities, values and goals for life, and the use of all possessions. It begins with God and His plans for creation and purposes for humankind. The steward is God's responsible representative and manager of all creation."(4)

VI. Dispensations - God's Stewardship of Humanity

A. Definition

1. oikonomia - "management of a household," hence English "economy." A dispensation is an era of time during which man is tested [given a stewardship] in respect to obedience to some definite revelation of God's will.(5) Synonyms of dispensation: Administration, economy, stewardship, management, order, arrangement.

B. "Three important concepts are implied in this definition: (1) a deposit of divine revelation concerning God's will, embodying what God requires of man as to his conduct; (2) man's stewardship of this divine revelation, in which he is responsible to obey it; and (3) a time-period, often called an "age," during which this divine revelation is dominant in the testing of man's obedience to God.

"The dispensations are a progressive and connected revelation of God's dealings with man, given sometimes to the whole race and at other times to a particular people, Israel. These different dispensations are not separate ways of salvation. During each of them man is reconciled to God in only one way, i.e. by God's grace through the work of Christ that was accomplished on the cross and vindicated in His resurrection. Before the cross man was saved in prospect of Christ's atoning sacrifice, through believing the revelation thus far given him. Since the cross man has been saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ in whom revelation and redemption are consummated.

"On man's part the continuing requirement is obedience to the revelation of God. This obedience is a stewardship of faith. Although the divine revelation unfolds progressively, the deposit of truth in the earlier time-periods is not discarded; rather it is cumulative. Thus conscience (moral responsibility) is an abiding truth in human life (Rom. 2:15; 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 4:2), although it does not continue as a dispensation. Similarly, the saved of this present dispensation are "not under law" as a specific test of obedience to divine revelation (Gal. 5:18; cp. Gal. 2:16; 3:11), yet the law remains an integral part of the Holy Scriptures which, to the redeemed, are profitable for "instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16-17; cp. Rom. 15:4).

"The purpose of each dispensation, then, is to place man under a specific rule of conduct, but such stewardship is not a condition of salvation. In every past dispensation unregenerate man has failed, and he has failed in this present dispensation and will in the future. But salvation has been and will continue to be available to him by God's grace through faith.

"Seven dispensations are distinguished . . . [here]: Innocence (Gen. 1:28); Conscience or Moral Responsibility (Gen. 3:7); Human Government (Gen. 8:15); Promise (Gen. 12:1); Law (Ex. 19:1); Church (Acts 2:1); Kingdom (Rev. 20:4) . . . ."(6)

C. Selected bibliography for dispensationalism

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1947.

Couch, Mal. Dictionary of Premillenial Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996.

Ryrie, Charles C. Dispensationalism, Revised and Expanded. Chicago: Moody, 1995.

Sauer, Erich. The Dawn of World Redemption. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955

________. From Eternity to Eternity. London: Paternoster, 1954.

________. The Triumph of the Crucified. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952.

Scofield, C.I., ed. The New Scofield Study Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.

________. Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1896.

Showers, Renald E. There Really is a Difference! A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology. Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990.

Willis, Wesley R., and John R. Master, eds. Issues in Dispensationalism. Chicago: Moody, 1994.

D. Other resources from a dispensational position

Criswell, W.A. The Believer's Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville: Word Bibles, 1997.

MacDonald, William. Believer's Bible Commentary, Art Farstad, ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.

Ryrie, Charles C. Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition. Chicago: Moody Press, 1995.

________. Basic Theology. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986.

Unger, Merril F. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1988.

The King James Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988.


1. W. E. Vine, Merrill R. Unger, and William White Jr., eds., Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985), 599-600.

2. Johnnie Godwin and Roy Edgemon, eds., Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1988), 1738.

3. Gary Friesen, Cross Training: Getting in Shape for the Race of My Life, Rodney L Morris, ed. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1993), 76-78.

4. Disciple's Study Bible, 1688.

5. Merril F. Unger, ed., The New Unger's Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 310.

6. C.I. Scofield, ed., The New Scofield Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 3.

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