Tuesday, 29 April 2014
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9
In one verse, there are three clauses given by Paul in rapid succession. In each of them, “God” is emphatic. He begins with his continued use of agricultural themes found in the previous verses with “For we are God’s fellow workers.” Two possibilities come to mind:
1) We are synergistically working with God towards a common end; God does something and we cooperate with Him in producing the desired effect.
2) We aren’t working with Him as a partner, but rather we (those below Him) are fellow workers with each other. He then is the Director of the operation and those who are involved in what He has directed are working together for that desired end.
Based on what he has said about himself and Apollos in the previous verses, the second option is certainly what is intended. Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase because He is the Initiator, Planner, Sustainer, and Overseer of the process.
The second option is correct, but it could be looked at in one of two ways as well:
1) That God is conducting the labor through us at His will without our choices in the matter. It would be comparable to a farmer using a tool to do his work. The tool is directed solely at the farmer’s will.
2) Our volitional choices are involved in the process.
The second option is certain. All we need to do is look at the conduct of those in Corinth, or at the conduct of any other Christian person. Peter, for example, was the Apostle to the Jews and yet at times his actions were not in line with the gospel as Paul notes in Galatians 2:11-16.
If the first view were true, we would be limited to ascribing only the appropriate actions to God. However, Peter’s failures (and those incorrect actions of the congregation in Corinth which necessitated this epistle) have been used by Paul as instruction in his letters which are now included in the Bible. As The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes – “He regards them as responsible beings, responsible to Him for the work they do. But the results are still God’s and God’s alone.”
Continuing on in his tri-fold thought, Paul next says that “you are God’s field.” He retains his agricultural theme to indicate that the work being conducted by him and any other instructors is being worked out in a larger context, inclusive of all believers. And this context has continued on for 2000 years. The ministers of the gospel are laboring in a field to raise good crops; a crop which belongs to God. Having said this, he suddenly moves from agricultural to architectural… “you are God’s building.”
This is not happenstance or an attempt by Paul to simply make a fine sounding repetition, but it is an intentional change to substantiate the thoughts considered above concerning his first two statements. A building doesn’t build itself. It requires an architect, materials, and a host of competent workmen who have a wide variety of skills.
In many other passages of the Bible, a builder, or the concept of building, is used in a moral sense. It indicates edification and exhortation in proper understanding and conduct. Therefore, like the parable of the sower and the seed which Jesus gives in Matthew 13:1-23, and the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, we can know that God’s building only includes those who were selected by Him beforehand and who where properly fitted into the structure. God knew in advance all the materials that would be needed for His building and He knew what would be discarded as worthless material in advance as well.
Interestingly, in His great building, the greatest Stone of all is the one that was rejected by those who are outside attempting to build their own structure; it is Jesus. As the Bible proclaims –
“The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:22, 23
One final side note concerning this verse. The word for “field” is the Greek word geōrgion. It has been noted that the high use of the name “George” within Christianity is a result of Paul’s use of this word here. If you know someone named George, you have now have something fun to share with him.
Life application: We are responsible to God for our actions and we will be held accountable to Him for the life we live. Work for heavenly rewards which never fade rather than earthly gain which perishes.
Lord Jesus, direct the steps I take, the things I choose, and the desires of my heart so that they will be pleasing to You, suitable for the things that edify others, and worthy of note and commendation when I someday stand in Your presence for my evaluation on the life I have lived. Keep me away from the earthly pursuits which fade away and direct me towards that which is lasting and good. Thank You Lord. Amen.