5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. I Corinthians 3:5-8
In my previous post, I addressed the issue that the abandonment of God’s Word as the source of both theology and methodology by modern evangelicals does not represent a shift in the historical church polity/planting/growth paradigm; it represents their abandonment of God. If that is the current pattern then how do we break out of it?
In the Paul’s epistle to the church at Corinth we find them in a similar state; they are finding their identity in an individual and placing a higher value the oratory finesse of these individuals than they are placing on the content of their message. Within this passage, we also find the solution to breaking free from this cycle.
What is Man?
Paul refers to himself in the third person and asks, “Who am I?” “Who am I that you would follow me?” “Who is Apollos that you would follow him?” The Corinthians had been arguing with regard to who they followed (1:11-12). Paul answers his own question and informs the Corinthians that they are all mere men, servants of God, whom God has sent to them. There is nothing about Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or any one else that should warrant the Corinthians’ attention except that they were sent by God.
We too must gain a proper understanding of who man is. No matter how compelling, charismatic, passionate, or sincere someone may be the only thing that warrants our attention is if they serve and are sent by God, namely the preaching of and submission to God’s Word.
What is the Seed?
In verse six, we find that Paul planted something and the Sunday school answer would be that he planted the Gospel and in I Corinthians 2:2 we find that to be the case; “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Paul decided to know nothing except the Gospel while he was in Corinth. It is imperative that we note that this means the entirety of Paul’s life was governed by and consumed by the Gospel. Paul’s theology was founded upon the Gospel, his evangelism was fueled by the Gospel, his service was encouraged by the Gospel, his endurance was sustained by the Gospel, and his methodology was formed by the Gospel.
We too must realize that the seed is the Gospel and this Gospel seed determines how, where, when, and why we plant it.
What is the Water?
In verse six, we find that Apollos watered something and once again, the Sunday school answer would be that he watered with the Gospel. In Romans 1:15 Paul writes that he is, “eager to preach the gospel” to them. This is the church in Rome and they would not be the church apart from the hearing of the Gospel; why then does Paul desire to preach it to them again? The answer is found in both verse thirteen where Paul says, “in order that I may reap some harvest among you” and verse eleven where he says, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.”
We too must understand, like Paul that the Gospel seed is watered by the Gospel to bring about spiritual birth (justification) and the continuation of this watering then brings about spiritual growth (sanctification). We must never tire of the Gospel, it is then message by which we are saved and by which we grow.
What is God?
God is the only one worthy of any admiration in this entire story. Paul and Apollos are called by God, send by God, bearing a message from God, and delivering it in the way in which God has specified. God then takes this Gospel message and causes it to grow. No amount of sowing and watering can cause the Gospel seed to grow apart from divine intervention.
We too must recognize that it is God alone who causes the Gospel seed to grow. If a church is truly growing, it is not because of the leadership or the church growth program; it is because of God. Now we must not assume that leadership and church structure are unimportant. Just as the Gospel shaped Paul’s theology and methodology, we must do likewise if we expect God to cause what has been sown and watered to grow. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).