(1 Corinthians 3:5-9)
As Christians we are called to walk with Jesus and to grow into maturity in and through Him. Growth is a crucial part of this walk as Paul writes here and he shows us that growth is not something any person can generate. Growth comes from God and only from God.
We do not and cannot come to Christ and stand still. Any Christian who stands still is effectively going backwards as we shall see in a moment.
Christ called us so that we would grow. All of the gifts God has given man were given to enable us to grow. All of the ministries given to man were given so that every condition would be conducive to growth for God does not expect His children to remain as babes in Christ. God wants and expects us to grow so that we are ready for the return of Christ and ready to live in the kingdom of God with both Father and Son.
God Gave The Growth
It is God who is most important in the process of growth as Paul shows here. Paul compares the work that both he and Apollos did showing where they were in the total scheme of things.
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 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. – (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)
It is evident from these verses that Paul was giving all the glory for the work of growing Christians where it rightly belonged.
Every person in ministry is in the same place as Paul or Apollos were. We are all simply servants being used by God to provide and impart the teachings, knowledge, assistance and so on to help those called by God to learn.
Those Christians who have ministry are like Paul and Apollos. We are merely servants to help and assist those whom the Lord is growing. God gives the growth, not man
Plants And Trees
Taking the analogy of plants, trees, grain, grasses and anything planted in the ground, it is easy to understand what Paul was driving at.
One man may plant the seeds and another may tend the seeds by watering, fertilizing, nurturing and so on. But none of these actions can guarantee that the plants in question will grow to maturity.
How many times have you planted something and the plant has failed? And I don’t mean failure due to neglect, but it just didn’t grow.
No man is able to make the plant grow because no man fully understands what it is that causes a seed to germinate and put forth shoots and shoot up from the ground and grow to maturity. Science understands the process at a high level, but they do not understand what causes a seed to go from dormancy to life.
To man this is a mystery. But to God it is not a difficult thing. All living things whether plant or animal grow not by the power of man but by the power of God.
And it is the same for a person who comes to the Lord. We are learning to grow into maturity in Christ. This is not a physical growth but a growth of the spirit so that we can stand mature in Christ.
Just as a plant needs the right conditions to achieve maturity, so too a Christian needs the right conditions to grow. And God has provided all that we need to be able to grow. He details the ministries He gave to the church and the purpose of those ministries in Ephesians.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. – (Ephesians 4:11-14)
All of these ministries have been given as gifts for the express purpose of nurturing Christians until they reach, “…mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
It is for maturing Christians that these gifts were given to the church.
But in spite of all the work that a minister can and must do, in the end it is ONLY God who gives the growth.
Paul recognized that and thus made the comments concerning himself and Apollos that they were to be considered ONLY as servants of the Lord. They were not special in any way but were servants.
And that is the same today for any who are in ministry. We are not to be considered as anything special for regardless of anything and everything we do, it is God who gives the growth.
God opens the scripture so people can understand it. God leads, guides and protects His people. God disciplines His people too so that they can learn right from wrong, good from evil.
And just as we do not know how a plant grows, and sometimes they do not grow, so too we do not know what God does to enable people to grow. He certainly uses His servants to bring the word to His people, but what He does in individuals that causes them to stop, think and learn is different for every person.
How you learn is different to how I learn. But God knows how both of us learn and thus teaches us in the way that works for each of us so that we grow. As a servant all I can do is put these words, explanations and the things the Lord has taught me out there so that others can read and question. It is my hope that sometimes the Lord might use something in all of this that allows someone to have an “Aha” moment. And then God grows them just a little bit more.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com taken by Jean-Paul Brouard)
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