Saturday, 26 April 2014
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6
Paul, like many of the writers, and of hundreds of instances in the Bible, uses an agricultural theme to present a spiritual truth. He has been discussing the division of the church based on individual preferences of one person over another. Some were following Paul, some Apollos, etc. However, Paul has already asked, “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13).
Such divisions are illogical because only Christ accomplished the work necessary to found the church. All the others did was help to relay the message. In his agricultural example, Paul begins with “I planted.” To this day, the term “planting a church” is used to indicate the starting of a new church in an area. When a farmer or a forester plants a seed, they are using something that already exists, whose original Creator was God –
“Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth’; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day.” Genesis 1:11-13
Like those agricultural things, God, through Jesus Christ, began the work of the church. Jesus alludes to this in John 12 –
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” John 12:24
Paul merely planted what Christ had originated, having gone to Corinth to tell the good news of the gospel. There he planted a church. Eventually, Apollos came into the area and continued to build up the church. He, in essence watered the seed that Paul had planted. What Paul established, Apollos tended to and cared for. The plant was being cultivated; the church was growing.
However, despite their work, and despite the work of any other who had come to assist in the process, it was “God who gave the increase.” God is the Creator of the tree with its seed. He is the Creator of the water. He is the One who continues to provide water. He is the One who sustains the life of the tree. God is the One to provide favorable conditions for growth – wind, temperature, etc. Every aspect of the tree is completely dependent on Him. And this includes having called Paul and Apollos and provided them with their abilities, the time they would live, the place they would live, etc. In the end it is all God’s doing.
And this is seen all the more clearly in the tense of the verbs Paul uses. The first two, “planted” and “watered,” are aorist indicative active verbs. They mark definite acts done at set times. However, the third verb, “gave the increase,” is imperfect indicative active. It reveals a continued activity which certainly encompasses the work of Paul and Apollos.
God is always the agency behind the worker and He is the agency behind all aspects of the growth or decline of any church which belongs to Him. However, there is also the simultaneous activity conducted by the devil to thwart the work of those in the church. This is seen in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. As Jesus says in verse 19, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.” Paul likewise speaks of the continued work of the devil in Ephesians 6:10-20.
Life application: To God alone be the glory for the church and all it does and continues to do.
Lord God, thank You for the church I attend and those I worship with. Thank You for having established us and for continuing to be with us. I know that any good thing which comes from it is ultimately from You. Use us then, to Your glory, and help us to be a light in our neighborhood and a continued source of fellowship, learning, and love. To You be the glory as we continue on in Your good graces. Amen.