Wk. 1: But God Judges
Wk. 2: But God Saves
Wk. 3: But God Preserves
Today we see that through everything we may be blessed with and every advantage that we have been given it is God who gives spiritual growth to the church.
In a day and age of the next best thing and celebrity it is easy to get lost in the reality of where or spiritual growth comes from, what is it that grows us spiritual as individual Christians and collectively as a community of faith.
Are numbers the true measure of spiritual growth?
Are emotional reflections the means by which we know we have grown?
Are moving lectures and amazing skits that make us think the means of God’s spiritual work?
Tonight, as we close our series on God’s work in the world that is contour to our expectations or observations, we see the last one in the realm of spiritual growth. Which takes us to the book of 1 Corinthians where we once again see But God appear….
So, flip on over and join me in 1 Cor. 3:5-9
1 Corinthians 3:5–9 ESV
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
2 things to set up for you in this chapter
First is the relationship of Paul & Apollos to Corinth:
In Acts 18 we get a picture of how the Corinthian Church came in to being through Pauls’ original ministry there, immediately followed up by the work of Apollos in Ch. 19:1.
18:1-17 We see the establishment of the church
18:24-28 we see the introduction of Apollos in Ephesus (as an eloquent and gifted orator) who is the fullness of truth and ministry by Priscilla and Aquila
19:1 We find Apollos in Corinth preaching (as a passing note)
Paul and Apollos begin their ministries in very different ways:
-Paul a pharisee; trained in the word by Gamaliel, persecuted Christians, converted by the work of Christ on the road, trained in Antioch then commissioned to preach the gospel over many years planting new churches along the way.
-States that he came to the Corinthian church not in powerfully language and rhetoric but in weakness and the truth of the Gospel (2 Cor 11:5-11)
-Apollos comes from Alexandria. In Church history we saw the importance of Alexandria for the growth of the church, but specifically it was the largest home to Judaism outside of Palestine.
-Apollos is a bold and eloquent speaker though also in need of further training
-Finds his Christian training at the direction of Pricilla and Aquilla, he is then sent out to be an evangelist and preacher
Second is the problem that Paul is Addressing:
In the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians Paul has been dealing with the Corinthian churches divisions over which Christian teacher is to be followed and who is the worthiest of their support.
1 Corinthians 1:11–12 ESV
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
It’s funny when we see these things rise up in scripture because they are still a reality, we experience today… We pin our understanding of God on teachers of the word rather than the word
What I mean by this is that we place final authority in that which is other than scripture. we bank our spiritual lives on other people telling us the truth of God.
There problem arises here as divisions form over who they should trust with growth them in the faith, who will make me a better Christian, who will fill me with the truth
Paul builds up to the truth found in chapter three of the true reality of where our hope comes from and that is God
that God Grows the Church spiritual through Servants….
I. Through Servants (1 Cor 3:5-6a, 7a, 8a)
1 Corinthians 3:5–8 ESV
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
Paul opens verse 5 with a stern phrase that can be summed up simply as who are Paul and Apollos. Of what matter and stature are they that you put them on pedestals.
His point in highlighting the servant’s nature of those who present the gospel is to show the futility of trying to claim allegiance to a servant. In a world driven by celebrity and prestige he points them to the truth that they are nothing in this world.
Pastors and ministers are nothing but servants to God. At the end of the day the best we can say for ourselves is we did as we were instructed. Paul highlights this fact. Their work was not for fame or followers, but for Christ and His name. They didn’t come here to get famous they came and labored for the cause of the Gospel. However, it is equally important to see that Paul Highlights their position so He can show them their functions. Who they are as servants…?
First, they are servants laboring for the church
A. Who Labor for You
They are servants of God with a mission from God to proclaim the gospel. Here, Paul shows them that they all came to believe in the same gospel through both of their ministries, but it was not the servants whom they believed in it was Christ.
This is key to our understanding of the Role ministers play in the lives of the church. We are servants of God pointing you to Him not ourselves. Our Labor is for your God, but it is ultimately at the direction of God. Also, there are many people who will minister to you in your life time. They should all be seen in equally the same way as servants given a mission to proclaim the truth of the Gospel.
Now while each one functioned differently in the life of the church their end was the same to be servants of God in serving the needs of the church. And it was God who drew people to faith not Paul or Apollos. their words were not salvific it was God, a servant is not greater than His master and it is from God that Salvation comes. So, each labored well for the church and it was God who used his servants labor.
Second their position is properly seen as being of nothing on its own
B. Who are Nothing
After describing the reality of the world that both he and Apollos contributed to the building up of the church He reflects on the truth that in light of the majestic work of God in bring forth salvation and life they are nothing, to be compared with.
I’ll give you a basic example. think back over the course of your lives How many pastors and ministers have you sat under….
I am 33…. I Michigan as a child I had at least 1 that I remember Pastor Corson. From 7-13 FBC Countryside with Pastor (Don’t remember his name), at 13 I began attending a church in NPR under Pastor tom Buck, also serving there at that Time were additional pastors who ministered to me Mike Hughes, Frank Dipronio, Keith Johns, In Seminary 2 churches 3 pastors: Steve Mckinion and Scott Hildreth followed by Tom Mercer, and then back to Florida under Mike Hughes and later now with Adam.
33 years with a minimum of 10 men, just who carried the titles many more without…. If we did a serve in this room, we would probably find similar results…. the point I want to make is not that they mean nothing but in the grand scheme of what God does in our lives they are servants who with joy and faith in Christ pass us from one man to the next because our faith isn’t in the men you are under, but in the God we worship.
So here the point I want to make, and Paul is making is do not hold so tightly to the men that you miss the truth, that it is God who works. It is He who transforms lives. Where are but blessed to be used by Him.
If ministers seek to build kingdoms for themselves and seek to build followings around their own personalities, they have lost sight of their master and have sought to become something.
Should one be led to a new place of ministry he should not be angry or bitter at the one who replaces for he is nothing, in light of the gospel.
The Task is key not the man
When we believe we are something more we are prone to fall, If you believe the mission is impossible without us you lose sight of the one who does the true work, which leads to Paul’s third reflection on the who they are in ministry and that is each servant is equal in rank before God
C. Who are equals
When Paul saws he who plants and He who waters are one is point is that their mission and purpose are one….they both seek to serve God, knowing it is only he along who does the work, and as such their position is equal before God, ones work is not more or less important.
One may think because Paul planted the Church, he was more worthy of honor and esteem. They should listen to him because he planted.
Or another could think well since Apollos has now been laboring here with us preaching, he is the one we should devote ourselves to.
So, into the fray Paul saws that true ministers of the Gospel are one in function, purpose, and status: servants seeking to do the work God has called them to do in instructing the ministers and proclaiming the gospel. No pastor or minister is of higher value and worth in the grand scheme of God’s plan, for each is sent to a task and each is meant to accomplish the work God has set before them… Ephesians 2: 10 is true for all believers….
So why start here as you might have notice I allude to the but God reality, but I wanted to ground us first in the reality that Pastors are servants of God and nothing more. As we will see they Labor well for the cause of the Gospel and the spiritual health of the church, but of their own accord they cannot accomplish the task. We cannot reach into your hearts and make you believe; we cannot make you walk in faith; we cannot bring people to faith.
This is Paul’s whole argument against celebrity pastors. He is against Pastors seeking to make themselves much and for churches to equally make much of them.
Because in doing so we miss the reality the but God statement that it is He who produces the growth….
II. Through His Power & Authority (1 Cor 3:6b-9)
1 Corinthians 3:6–9 ESV
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
A. That Produces Fruit
His hand is what produces faith and fruit in you. Paul uses the illustration of planting and watering to show that the servant does the work, but God is the only one who can produce fruit or maker the flowers bloom.
-Illustration……A gardener can do everything right and plants still die on the vine, you can do everything half way and they flourish. it is God who is brings growth:
Psalm 65:9–11 ESV
You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
the spiritual growth of the church is a work of God not men. If you believe that true spiritual growth only comes from being surrounded by the best of teachers and not from being surrounded by God, then you missed the whole point Paul is making.
Knowing god growing in his word, living out the faith all that we have covered in the last two weeks especially is key to your spiritual growth as God does a work in you, producing the fruit of faith and repentance, and bringing others to glory.
If you meet a pastor who believes their own power and voice will change the world you have a pastor who has lost sight of where the true spiritual fruit is derived.
I grew up in a church with the slogan: Building the next great church…… as a teenager it was a cool rallying cry but as an adult it leaves me sad and broken, because in retrospect it became less about the great work of God and more about ourselves….We were the pinnacle of Christianity and everyone else was just pretending. I am not perfect and this isn’t to throw stones it is to think deeply on the fact that a church of fifty with godly men serving the Lord and preaching the truth is just as valued in the kingdom of God as a church of 3000 preaching the gospel and laboring in the truth.
We are all servants of God, and it is by his pleasure and grace that we grow. So, if you think Adam or I teach you to rely on us alone and not on God then we have failed you. If we act and believe that there is no hope for Pasco without us, we have lost the truth. We are servants with a mission we must execute our mission that God has given to us, but at the end of the day God is responsible for the results, and we know he doesn’t fail.
B. That Never Fails
His Power and authority to grow us will never fail. He is stronger than any earthly power. As we have seen it is his work that transforms us from who we were to who we are, His mission never fails to accomplish its goals.
This is an encouragement to both ministers and hopefully the church.
Philippians 1:6 ESV
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
If our hope was in men to bring us to spiritual maturing and growth, we would be sadly disappointed and let down. You would be fully dependent on one other than God for your hope. Paul’s point that he and Apollos are nothing is because they are men who fail in comparison to God who ever fails.
They cannot ensure your spiritual growth, But God can.
They cannot hold you in their arms and bring you into the kingdom of God
But one who can be far greater and more powerful for he is the one at work in all of this. He is the one who never fails.
God through the work of the Holy Spirit that has sealed us and works in us will bring us to that point. He will grow us in him regardless of the failures of these around us, as we stay true to Him
Now don’t miss hear me God will use pastors and teachers. he will use mean and women to lead you in truth. He has called some to water, some to plant, some to prune, some to build, and others to do many tasks, the point I am making is at the end of the day the task will be done and God will be the source of the energy that lead them to build and he will be the source of the growth.
God never fails to lead us in his truth for he has given us his word and has called servants to proclaim that truth. The key is that we don’t mistake the servant for the master.
For the Servant labors for the Lord who will reward accordingly.
C. That Rewards
This is where I want to conclude our time in reflecting on the work of God that brings growth to the body and that is that it must be seen in light of eternity.
Paul speaks to the fact that he and Apollos labored well in the gospel for them, and that they did it as mere servants trusting in God to do the work of bringing them to salvation, and finally point to the fact that in the need God will judge and reward accordingly.
God judges here his saints according to the work they labor in accomplishing for the kingdom. God has given his church a mission and has called them as servants to go out into the fields and plant and water, not for their own popularity or fame, but for God’s good purpose in bringing sinners to Him.
What is key here is that the reward sis not based on human eyes or judgements they are based on the knowledge of God who has called us to the work.
A faithful laborer who goes everyday into a parched land and waters faithfully at his master’s direction and has faith in the Lord will be much more joyfully rewarded than a lazy servant in a field filled with plants who barley lifts the water can. While in our day and age we may think that one is greater than the other the Lord is the true judge for he is the true master.
So too in the growth of God’s church and our spiritual lives. We have been ministered too greatly, but it is too God we give glory. We have been blessed and it is to God we praise for doing so, we have been transformed and freedom from the wrath to come, and to him we bow our knees and pray.
Our lives from beginning to end are His, and he has made us to walk faithfully before Him in the truth of the Gospel. He has freed us from the wrath to come, saved us by His grace, preserved by through the storms of life and at times by these same storms, and in so doing reveled to us that it was He alone who has grown us into the image of His Son. He alone did the work, He alone empowered us to walk in the faith. He alone will see us through to our lasting home.