1 Corinthians 3:6: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
In the book of Acts, specifically chapters 18 and 19, we see that Paul initially started this church in Corinth. But then Apollos followed up the work of Paul. Paul often preached where no one had preached before. Apollos then worked in the established church, teaching, encouraging, and strengthening. The planting and watering go hand in hand.
My parents have a big garden. My dad does a lot of planting. And a few summers ago, my parents were gone for a week on vacation, and so they asked that I water the garden while they were gone. Dad did the planting, I needed to water it for this one week.
And so one evening during that week, I watered, and took care of the dog, and picked whatever vegetables needed to be picked and then left. Two or three days later, I went back out to take care of it again, and as I walked up to the garden, I see that the handle to the spigot was still up. The water had been on that entire time. I took one step into the garden and my shoe immediately sunk into the thick mud.
I had been given one job, for one week, and it was to water. And man, did I water. Thankfully, they live in the country and are on a well. I thought for sure I’d ruined pretty much all that Dad had planted. Thankfully, it did not ruin things, but boy the peppers were big that year, and the grass that was downhill from the garden was lush.
The planting AND the watering matters. Whether we’re talking gardens and fields, or we’re talking the Kingdom of God.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
What an incredibly encouraging reminder! As God’s people, we plant and water, but then we trust God as the One who will cause the growth. Our job is not to give or cause the growth with our skill or so called power. Our role is to plant and water, which has much more to do with faithfulness than with skill.
Paul planted the church at Corinth. Apollos came along afterwards to strengthen and encourage the church. Without the watering, the Corinthian church probably doesn’t survive. But with the planting and the watering together, it doesn’t just survive, it thrives. It grows because God is at work and uses the planting and watering to expand His Kingdom. As God’s people, we must keep planting and watering. And then I love the next verse, because if we would be tempted to make it about us, Paul quickly puts that idea to bed.
7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
At the end of the day, compared to our God, we are simply a servant of the Lord Jesus. We are simply a table waiter. And our labor and work are only worth anything because God gives the growth. We are working, serving, giving, sharing, showing, telling, investing to make much of Jesus, not us.
That verse almost gives the impression that if you’re a planter, or waterer, you’re not anything. But then you remember a verse such as Ephesians 2:10, which tell us that we are God’s craftsmanship. His workmanship. His masterpiece. And we’ve been created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. So this is not saying that those who serve are less honorable. But compared to God, their role is nothing. God is shining through them. It is the “but God” in verse 6 that makes all the difference.
Paul said this in Acts 20:24 in speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church…But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
I pray the attitude that Paul speaks of, could describe our shared attitude and heart here at Crosspoint. That our goal, at the end of the day, at the end of this life, however long we have here, is to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.
Verses 8-9: 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
So there is not greater honor given to one or the other. Instead, the one who plants and the one who waters are one in purpose, in mission, in love, in truth, and in relationship. We might have different roles, but those roles are focused on the same purpose. Like a team of oxen, we are pulling, alongside one another, in the same direction, toward the same mission, the same vision of seeing a community of people growing to be devoted to Jesus, dedicated to one another, and driven to reach people.
He who plants and he who waters are one
That sounds like the same teaching and principle that Paul gave us in 1 Corinthians 12 that tells us there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. Different parts of the Body, but the same mission of the Body. The Body called to be in unity with one another under the Lordship of Jesus as our Chief Shepherd.
Verse 8 is also a reminder that when we plant and water in the name of Jesus, and through His power, none of it is a waste. It is all worth it, even if we don’t see the growth. Our role is to plant and water, but God gives the growth.
And at the end of this life, if we’ve been faithful to plant and water in the way that God has called us to, we will be rewarded. Not according to our success, but according to our faithfulness. That we might hear in the end, from our Lord, well done, good and faithful servant.
So this week, wherever the Lord has called you to. Your school, your home, your neighborhood, your workplace, your circle of friends, your church…may we be people who faithfully plant and water, and then trust God for the growth! For it is for His glory, not ours.