A Good Steward of God’s Grace
By Dr. Tom Malone (1915–2007)
"As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." —1st Peter 4:10.
Down through the history of the church, men have sought to define the grace of God, the unmerited favor of God, the kindness and love of God, etc.
To understand about God’s grace and what the Lord is talking about when He speaks of us "as good stewards of the manifold grace of God," we have to know that grace is divided into two great sections or systems of truth: the grace of God as it applies to the unsaved and the grace of God as it is evidenced in the Christian.
First we consider the grace of God as it applies to the unsaved. The Bible has much teaching that we are saved by God’s grace. One example is Genesis 6:8, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Why Noah found grace and many thousands of others didn’t, we don’t know.
As far as our salvation is concerned, grace is the unmerited, undeserved favor of God to us. This is made plain in Ephesians 2:8,9:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Another verse on this is Titus 2:11: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men."
I am not primarily interested at this time in the grace of God in salvation but in the grace of God as demonstrated in Christians.
After we are saved by grace, God exhorts us to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2nd Peter 3:18).
While the grace of God in salvation is His unmerited favor, the grace of God in a Christian is God’s method of dealing with us, working in and through us to make us Christlike.
I found seven things true about God’s grace as demonstrated in His people.
1. The Grace of Holy Living
God’s grace in demonstration shows that He can not only save, but He can evidence His grace in a Christian’s living for the glory of God. A great verse on this is John 1:17: "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
Two great sections of the Bible are the dispensation of law and the dispensation of grace. Under law, only the good were blessed; under grace, the bad can be saved. Under the law, one was in good standing by keeping the law; under grace, we are in good standing by the favor of God.
Many are living under the law. The closing verses of Romans 5 and the opening verses of chapter 6 show how the grace of God can be manifested in holy, dedicated living.
In 5:20 we read, "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." In 6:1 Paul says, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Then Paul uses a statement he uses many times when strongly emphasizing something: "God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (vs. 2). That is what God is talking about.
Some may say, "If we are saved by grace and not of works, then under grace we are at liberty to do as we please."
That is true in a sense. You are not under law now, and you don’t have to live under law. But someone truly saved by the grace of God should long to do right. And that is what Paul is saying: "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Paul answers his own question: "God forbid." We are to serve God, love God, live for God because we want to, not because we have to.
There is a great illustration of grace in the Old Testament, grace in the life of a believer. In the Pentateuch God deals with every phase of the religious life, the social life, the spiritual life of His people.
Back in those days people had servants—slaves, if you wish to call them such—but God said in every sabbatical year (every seventh year), every slave owner was to free all his slaves and start over.
God knew that some slaves would not want to go free. In seven years they had learned to love their masters. In seven years their masters had provided for their every need. In seven years the masters had made the servants supremely happy. In seven years the slaves had found a blessed home with them. So God said if they didn’t want to go free when released, each master could take an awl, put the slave’s ear against a hard surface, and put a hole in the ear, marking the slave as his.
Spiritually speaking, every Christian should have his ear bored, meaning he serves God under grace because he loves Him and wants to serve Him.
A slave set free would say, "I love my master, and I am free because I am loved."
How true of a Christian! Under grace he is free in the Lord and is what God wants him to be because he wants to please God, not because he has to.
So we find grace for holy living.
2. The Grace of Surrender
Here is something that needs to be heard by God’s people:
"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." —Romans 12:3.
What is God saying? That no one should ever be conceited or high-minded about himself. Why? Because we are just old sinners saved by grace.
You may say, "I have lots of talent." But you are still just an old sinner brought out of sin by God’s grace. So don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think. Much heartache and trouble through the years have been brought on because people have thought too highly of themselves, forgetting God’s grace.
James 4:6 deals with it again: "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." There is no limit to God’s grace—"he giveth more grace." But God’s grace is given to the humble, not to the proud.
Here is a contrast that a proud Christian has to face. God says, ‘I resist him. I oppose him. I make it difficult for him’; but to the humble Christian—‘I will gladly give him all the grace he needs.’
We read in 1st Peter 5:5,6:
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."
Peter, who said this, surely knew what he was talking about. Being cocky and proud, high-minded, heady and self-willed, stubborn and unsurrendered—Peter had gone through it all.
There needs to be more preaching on the younger submitting to the elder. Respect gray hair. Just because someone has a little more knowledge than you, don’t call him square. Just because someone, through experience and heartache, has learned something you may not know, respect him. Submit to him. "Yea, all of you be subject one to another."
Some 113 times in this New Testament is the expression "one to another." God wants Christians to serve one another, to respect one another, to love one another, to honor one another; 113 times God tells us how to live with one another under grace.
"…be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."
Grace causes us to say, "Well, who am I? Nothing but an old sinner saved by grace. I ought to do right, think right, live peaceably with other people and show humility."
I heard of a young preacher just starting in the ministry. He hadn’t yet learned that sometimes when you get up to preach, your tongue is thick in your mouth and your brain, numb. He hadn’t yet learned that sometimes you aren’t able to think and that it is hard to preach. He didn’t know that, so he proudly paraded across the platform to the pulpit. He reared back like a Philadelphia lawyer and began his address.
Then suddenly the well went dry. He couldn’t think; he could not speak. The people got drowsy. Some even went to sleep, like people sometimes do.
This proud peacock of a preacher now thought, Well, I sure am in trouble! He felt like preachers sometimes feel: Oh, for a little button to push so an opening would swallow me up and I wouldn’t see anyone and no one could see me! I know; I’ve been there!
By the time this young preacher got to the end of his sermon, he was mighty humble! He didn’t march off the platform proud and cocky; this time his head was down, and his chin, on his chest. As he sneaked down off the platform, a dear saint was waiting to say, "Son, if you had gone up like you came down, you could have come down like you went up."
Oh, how much truth there is in that!
God promotes those willing to take a backseat. He promotes those to the top of the ladder who are willing to start at the bottom.
One principle in Christian living is the grace of surrender.
3. The Grace of Giving
Anytime there are seven points in one of my sermons, one will be on giving. Don’t you enjoy hearing what the Bible says about giving! Some of you do; many of you don’t!
Really, the grace of giving is just what the Bible teaches. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said:
"Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality."— II Cor. 8:1,2.
What is he talking about when he says, "…the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia"? You say, "Oh, they must have had a revival." No doubt they did, but that is not what he is talking about here.
"Oh," you say, "they must have seen many saved." No doubt they did, but that is not what he is talking about.
"Oh," you say, "they must have had a record Sunday school." No doubt they did, but that is not what he is talking about.
Then what is Paul talking about? "How…their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality." What is this grace of God poured out on these churches? Out of the abundance of their poverty they gave with joy an abundance to God. That grace should be evidenced in all our lives.
You can see God’s grace the first time tithing is mentioned in the Bible—Genesis 14:20: "And he gave him tithes of all," speaking of Abraham. Abraham had gone to war, and God had given him success. With four hundred soldiers, he had put to rout numerous kings and recaptured goods and people who had been stolen.
When Abraham came back, Melchizedek, a type of Christ, came to meet him at Salem and said, "Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself." Abraham said, "I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet… any thing that is thine." In verse 24 he said he wanted "only that which the young men have eaten…"—only food for his soldiers. The Bible says, "And he [Abraham] gave him tithes of all."
My friends, that was grace. The representative of Christ said, ‘Take it all.’ But Abraham said, ‘I will not. I owe God something.’
Tithing is under grace, not under law. No one can make you tithe; no preacher can preach you into it; no one can scare you to do it. Even God won’t make you do it. He may make you wish you had, but tithing is under grace. Giving is to be done with a free heart. No matter how little one has, he is to tithe and enjoy it.
Where did we ever get the expression, "Give until it hurts"? Not from the Bible. The Bible tells us, ‘Give until it feels good.’ If it is hurting, maybe you need to open up your pocketbook and give more. God loveth a cheerful giver.
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."—Luke 6:38.
Whatever vessel you use in which you give to God, that is the same vessel He will use in which to give to you. A lot of people run around with a funnel; and instead of having the wide end turned toward God, they have the little end up.
Friends, put your funnel under the windows of Heaven and let God prove Himself to you. God dares you to in Malachi 3:10: "…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven."
There’s nothing I despise any more than to hear some mossy-back, backslidden Christian say, "I’m so tired of hearing about money." You wouldn’t be if you were doing right.
Some say, "Don’t you get embarrassed talking so much on tithing?" No. I do see people get red in the face while I am preaching about it, however. When doing what God says, you enjoy it.
Some say they can’t afford to tithe. God says you can’t afford NOT to. This is a grace.
I read of it again in 2nd Corinthians 8:9 and 9:8:
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."
What more can anyone want when God said that always, in all things, you will abound unto every good work, having all sufficiency?
If God says to me, "If you will be a Christian in this grace, you will have all sufficiency," then there will never come a time when my needs will not be supplied—never. "God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."
How sweet that is! How wonderful that is!
A good brother handed me a check from that little church at Leonard, Michigan—my first week’s salary, fourteen dollars. We had no furniture, and it took nearly all that fourteen dollars to fire that big furnace to keep warm.
I will never forget a great decision in my life the first week I was there as pastor. I took that fourteen dollars, dedicated it to God, and told the Lord a seventh of it would be His every week. From then until now, I have never known a time when my needs were not supplied.
I grew up on a farm, and I loved tomatoes. (The Lord knows what we like to eat. I used to like chicken, but once I had it twenty-one times in seven days! I still like chicken, but not that well.) The Lord knew I liked tomatoes. I have never seen as many cans of tomatoes as folks brought in. Sometimes that was all we had—a box of soda crackers and a can of tomatoes. Open up tomatoes for breakfast and eat those crackers and drink enough water to make them swell a little, and you really feel full! Lunch time—no problem, no discussion about what to eat. But we never went without.
My wife and I prayed that our needs would be supplied. We would then look out the window and see coming some stoop-shouldered saint with a shawl about her. She would knock and say, "Brother Malone, the Lord sent me here today. Here is something to supply your needs." Or a fellow would pull up in a car and get out with a hundred-pound bag of potatoes and a hundred-pound bag of beans. Oh, we could look out the window and see the angels of mercy coming. I never lived better in my life! I have never had more nor been any happier. God made all grace abound.
We met again a sweet couple in Flint, Michigan. He was once one of our deacons. Back then I used to look out and see that long Buick—about a 1938 model—turn the corner. I would say to my wife, "We’re going to eat tonight!" That deacon and his wife would get out with a bag of food under each arm. Then his wife and my wife would get in the kitchen and, boy—hot biscuits, pork chops, thickened gravy, potatoes, apple pie! You can’t beat that. He makes all grace abound toward us!
Giving is a grace. Oh, how wonderfully God pours His grace into the lives of those who give!
4. The Grace of Achievement
I don’t understand it all, but the New Testament speaks of God’s grace in anything we achieve for Him.
Paul mentions this in 1st Corinthians 15:9,10:
"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
Paul says God’s grace bestowed upon him was not in vain. Every Christian should be able to testify, "By the grace of God, I am what I am." If you can sing, God gave you that voice. If you can preach, God gave you that gift. If you can teach, the grace of God helped you to achieve that.
Paul declared himself "the least of the apostles." Paul’s humility showed. Three times he made a statement about himself. Once it was, "I am the least of the apostles." Then Paul graduated deeper with God: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given" (Ephesians 3:8).
Paul first was the least of all the apostles. For many, that would be bragging. An apostle was one who had seen the Lord with his own eyes, touched Him, heard Him. They were a select group and few in number. So he wasn’t humbling himself much to say, "I am the least of the apostles."
Then Paul said, ‘I am the least of all the saints.’ He felt he was the most unworthy Christian who ever lived.
Finally we read in 1st Timothy 1:15, "…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."
Paul: "I am the least of the apostles." Then, ‘I am the least of all the saints.’ Then, ‘I am the chief of sinners.’
Oh, what the grace of God can do to a Christian who wants His grace manifested!
Paul—arrogant, brilliant, mean, cruel, persecuting the church, killing Christians, breathing out threatenings against them; but one day on the Damascus road the grace of God met him and saved him.
See Paul now—a mighty missionary, humbly walking across the dusty sands of earth telling the story of redeeming love. Finally, outside the walls of the city of Rome, he gives his life as a martyr for Christ.
God’s grace "from the gutter-most to the uttermost"!
See Peter, the one talking about being stewards of the manifold grace of God. One day the Lord came along the shores of Galilee. Some men were fishing. One, no doubt, was using some foul language. This cursing, swearing, rough, impetuous, impulsive, arrogant, hateful man was Simon Peter.
One day Jesus came along, and Andrew got saved. Then Andrew got Peter and said, ‘I want to introduce you to Jesus.’ Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus, and Peter got saved.
One day at Galilee while Peter was fishing, Jesus came along and said, ‘Peter, quit fishing for fish and start fishing for men. You will go to My school for three years.’ Peter did go, and finally Peter graduated.
Jesus died and went back to Heaven.
One day when the Holy Spirit was to come and baptize believers into one glorious body, God looked over the battlements of Heaven to choose someone to preach one of the greatest occasions of all this world. Multitudes were going to hear. Thousands were going to get saved.
Jesus chose Simon Peter. And that cursing, swearing fisherman became the mightiest mouthpiece for God and was the preaching on the day of Pentecost.
"From the gutter-most to the uttermost"! Oh, the grace of God!
5. The Grace for Suffering
All people must face suffering. In II Corinthians 12:9 Paul is speaking about a thorn in the flesh. He had asked God to deliver him. Three times Paul prayed earnestly, but no deliverance came. Finally God said, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
I am glad that is in the Bible. God will never put you in a place where you can’t quote it—never. God will never put you where you can’t reckon upon His grace—never. Here is why: "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
The Lord said to Paul, ‘I will not take that thorn away, but I will do something better—give you grace to stand it. That old thorn in the flesh is going to hurt. There will be sleepless nights, painful hours; but I will give you grace. I will give you power. And because of this infirmity, I will bless you as I have blessed no other man.’ Paul then said resignedly, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
Oh, each of us will be called upon to suffer. There will be a time when you will ask God to take something out of your life—your thorn—and God may say, "I cannot take it away. If I did, you would not be what I wish you to be. But I will give you grace to bear it."
Someday you will hear the flapping of wings of God’s Angel of Death as he hovers over your home. Yonder at the little crib he will snatch away that little body of flesh you love more than anything else on earth. You will pray, "O God, don’t do this! Bring her back!" God will say "no," but He will give you grace to stand it, grace to walk to the open grave, grace to go home and keep looking toward Heaven.
Someday the doctor will shake his head and say, "Your health is failing. You will never be well again." You will pray, "O God, give me back my health!" But God will answer, "I cannot do that, but I will give you grace in your hour of need."
A good Christian once said, "I would rather be in the will of God with poor health, than to be healthy and out of God’s will. I would rather be weak in body and have God’s power, than to be strong and without it."
I have experienced that. God once took away my voice. I prayed every day, "God, give me back my voice so I can preach." He answered that prayer. And I never preach that I don’t thank Him that He enables me to preach.
There is grace for suffering.
6. Grace for Godly and Righteous Influence
The only way to exercise a godly, righteous influence on others is by God’s grace. Colossians 3:16 reads, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
This applies to every realm of life. There is all the difference in the world in singing with grace in your heart to the Lord and singing because you want people to know you have talent.
When you sing, sing to bless hearts. I have heard people sing because they had talent, not because they had love. There is grace for a righteous influence.
"Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Colossians 4:6). Let your speech influence others for godliness. Christian, guard the door of your lips. Let your conversation be always with grace.
7. Grace for Dying
Down in the country where I was raised, one of the greatest things was to listen to those country people pray. What prayers—filled with truth, grace, love and devotion! You could feel the presence of God. Some of those dear people could really lay hold of the throne of grace. They knew how to talk to the Lord. They would pray, "Give us at last a home in Heaven," and, "Give us grace to die by."
God will never answer that prayer until it comes time to die. But when that hour does come, He will give all the grace needed.
I am afraid to die. Are you? Oh, I’m ready. Oh, Heaven is my home. I love the Lord. But I just don’t look forward to dying. I don’t like to be cooped up. Every night before I get in bed I loosen all the covers. I don’t want anything binding me. I don’t like the thought of being in that box and two fellows walking down like two judges and closing that lid on my face. I don’t look forward to it.
But I know this: whether it be today or tomorrow or at another time, the God I have walked with these many years will give me all the dying grace I need. "…that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9). Then we are comforted also by Hebrews 4:16: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." When that hour of need comes, God will give us the grace we need for it.
Stephen had no dying grace when he was a deacon, but he had it when it came time to die. At that time he said, "I see Jesus."
Friends, when the hour of death comes, the Christian will have all the dying grace he needs.
"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
—2nd Thessalonians 1:8
Ye Must Be Born Again!