One of the many points the Corinthians were dividing and striving over was which apostle they followed and identified as their leader. Some wanted to be known as followers of Paul while others called themselves followers of Apollos. While following a great Bible teacher and Christian leader is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, it becomes spiritually unhealthy when it becomes part of one’s identity and a point of division. At the end of the day, we should not be known as or claim our identity as followers of Paul or Apollos, Billy Graham or Louie Giglio, or any well-respected, biblically sound Bible teacher or leader. Rather, we must be known first and foremost as followers of Jesus Christ, for we are God’s.
Paul expounds on this concept in 1 Corinthians 3 as he explains that God’s servants are inconsequential in the raising up of healthy believers because it is God alone who gives the life and growth. Using the imagine of plants and gardening, Paul clearly outlines how spiritual growth works in the life of a Christian and who should receive the credit for all of it.
“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.”
~1 Corinthians 3:6-9
In the world of agriculture, it is necessary for someone to plant a seed and water it in order for there to be a harvest. However, no matter how perfectly and earnestly one plants, waters, or tends to the young, green shoots, if no growth happens all effort is futile. Therefore, the miracle of life is found in growth. But is the farmer or gardener able to make crops or plants grow? No! They are able to create an environment that promotes and fosters growth, but they have no control over whether or not the seedlings grow and mature into fruit-producing plants.
Likewise, our spiritual growth cannot be forced by human intervention or generated by human effort. While someone does need to plant a seed and share the message of the gospel, only God can give growth. A great and faithful Bible teacher can add water and create an environment that fosters and promotes growth, but that mere mortal has no control over how much or even if members of his congregation actually grow in their faith.
Only God gives the growth. He alone gets all the credit for any change, transformation, and spiritual growth that happens in our lives. The one who plants the first seed of the gospel and the one entrusted with watering and shepherding the flock are ultimately nothing without God, the Giver of life and growth.
The Church is God’s. Therefore, we should not divide along human lines. The field doesn’t get any glory for a thriving plant. The planter doesn’t get the credit for it. The one who waters is not lifted up as the savior or producer of the crop. God, the Creator of life, receives all the glory for the miracle of life.
Therefore, as Paul strongly exhorts here in 1 Corinthians, we should not boast or identify with a specific teacher or evangelist. For while God may use faithful men and women to plant a seed or bring water into our spiritual lives, He is the one who gives us life and grows us in the faith. Let us, therefore, remember that we are God’s. Period. Apart from Him, we will not grow or mature in the faith. So may we not get caught up in a celebrity culture that seeks to elevate the stewards of God, but may we always identify ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ alone.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”
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