THE APOSTLES’ STEWARDSHIP OF GOD’S GRACE
The economy of the Divine Trinity became the apostles’ stewardship of God’s grace. Ephesians 3:2 says, "If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God which was given to me for you." The word for "stewardship" here and for "dispensation" in 1:10 is oikonomia. Oikonomia was first God’s dispensation, God’s plan, God’s economy. Then this economy of God became the stewardship which God gave to the apostle Paul. The economy and the stewardship are actually one. This means that what the apostles were doing is what God is doing in His economy. What we are doing should be exactly what God is doing today. We should be those who are carrying out God’s economy. The carrying out of God’s economy is the stewardship of God’s grace. Such a stewardship is for the dispensing of God Himself as grace to all His chosen people. Out of this stewardship comes the ministry of the apostles, and this ministry corresponds with God’s economy. The ministry we have must correspond with God’s dispensing of Himself into His chosen people for the producing of the Body of Christ. This is God’s ministry given to us as our stewardship. The ministry revealed in the New Testament is unique. God does not have two economies or two stewardships. God has only one divine economy and one divine stewardship. Out of this stewardship is the one, unique ministry of the apostles to dispense Christ as God’s grace into His chosen people for the building up of the church as the Body of Christ to be the organism of the processed Triune God for His full and eternal expression.
FAITH VERSUS THE LAW
We have pointed out that God’s economy is not in the law but in faith. Galatians 3 is a chapter concerning the contrast between the Spirit by faith versus the flesh by law. Many believers in the province of Galatia had been distracted by the Judaizers from the New Testament faith to the Old Testament law. The Judaizers were those who were telling people that in addition to believing in Jesus, they still needed to keep the law. This forced the apostle Paul to write his letter to the Galatians. Galatians 3:1-2 says, "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly portrayed crucified? This only I wish to learn from you, Did you receive the Spirit by the works of law or by the hearing of faith?" The Spirit is the unique blessing of the New Testament gospel, the consummated Triune God dispensed into our being. The Galatians received the Spirit by the hearing of faith not by the works of the law. Note 2 on Galatians 3:2 in the Recovery Version says:
Law was the basic term for the relationship between man and God in God’s Old Testament economy (3:23); faith is the unique requirement for man to contact God in His New Testament economy (Heb. 11:6). Law is related to the flesh (Rom. 7:5), depending on the effort of the flesh, and the flesh is the expression of "I." Faith is related to the Spirit, trusting in the operation of the Spirit, and the Spirit is the realization of Christ. In the Old Testament, "I" and the flesh played an important role in keeping the law. In the New Testament, Christ and the Spirit take over the position of "I" and the flesh, and faith replaces law that we may live Christ by the Spirit. To keep the law by the flesh is man’s natural way; it is in the darkness of man’s concept, resulting in death and wretchedness (Rom. 7:10-11, 24). To receive the Spirit by faith is God’s revealed way; it is in the light of God’s revelation, issuing in life and glory (Rom. 8:2, 6, 10-11, 30). Hence, we must treasure faith, not the works of law. It is by the hearing of faith that we have received the Spirit that we may participate in God’s promised blessing and live Christ.
In 1 Timothy 1:3-4 Paul told Timothy to charge certain ones not to teach things other than God’s economy. This economy is in faith, not in the law. It does not dispensationally belong to the law in the Old Testament. But it altogether dispensationally belongs to the New Testament faith, which is the contents of the entire New Testament. The divine economy in faith must be made fully clear to the saints in the administration and shepherding of a local church.
Our seeing of the divine economy is a matter of degree. Thirty years ago I saw something concerning His economy, His heart’s desire, but I did not see it then as deeply as I see it today. I believe that after another period of time, the Lord will show me more. Related to the depth of our seeing, the hardship is in our understanding. This is why Paul prayed that we believers would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17). We need the seeing spirit and the understanding wisdom. Whatever we do must be based upon the vision of God’s economy.
(Living In and With the Divine Trinity, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)