Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:5-8)
God Gives The Increase
The church is filled with many people who are actively involved in teaching, preaching, sharing fellowship with others and working hard to build up and edify the body of Christ. Any congregation of God’s people would have noble hearts that are devoted to increasing the influence of the gospel in the community. These are special people because of their love for truth and willingness to give of themselves to the hearts of the lost. Paul and Apollos were great men in the early church that taught many people, through the preaching of the gospel saved many souls and helped to establish untold numbers of churches throughout the Roman Empire. The half has been told of their exhaustive work in establishing the early church as a force that is still being felt generations later. Paul’s exploits are preserved in scripture through the writings of Luke as the historian outlined the journeys of Paul in Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. Letters to many of the churches are given by the Holy Spirit as part of the divine canon that allows a man to know the mystery of the gospel and how to serve Christ. There is little doubt of the influence and presence of Paul the apostle in the first-century church but Paul the servant of the Lord realized that any work that was accomplished through his hands merely pointed men to the true purpose of his calling – Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Like Apollos, Paul was a great orator of truth and persuaded many souls with his powerful teaching and forceful messages. He could reason with kings and governors and the common man bound in a Roman prison or spiritually minded women by a riverside. There was no limit to what Paul could accomplish in teaching any man at any time in any place. Like his Lord, Paul knew the power of being a servant. When the day was done and the work was finished, all Paul could rest upon was the knowledge that if anything was accomplished it was because of the glory of God. He would plant the word in the hearts of men and Apollos would fortify his teaching with the same gospel but the increase would come from the power of the gospel finding its way into open and honest hearts. God gave the increase if there was an increase to be found. Paul and Apollos were nothing compared to the saving power of the Lord.
Paul and Apollos had something to brag about. They were movers and shakers in the early church. Men looked up to them, admired them and many considered them as eminent leaders in the early church. But this had no meaning to these humble men as they knew they were nothing compared to how the Lord God changed hearts. The work of teaching and preaching was a blessing for them to use for God’s glory and any effort they put forth was only answered by the grace of God to save men. They worked together to teach the same doctrine of a risen Christ but when the multitudes increased with disciples it was not something they could boast to other men of their own accomplishments. All of the efforts Paul and Apollos put forth to save souls came about because God was the one bringing the increase. As ministers or servants of the Lord, there was nothing they could appeal to for credit, acknowledgment or human praise in the work they did. Preaching was not about statistics but about sharing the gospel. Paul knew his place in the kingdom was a planter. Apollos was an efficient man who could nourish the teachings of Paul in the hearts of men, much like a man who waters a crop already established. If there was an increase in the work of Paul and Apollos, it would come from God. The focus was on the work of God not the work of man.
Pride can enter into the hearts of God’s servants who begin to think more of themselves and their efforts than the one giving the increase. Paul battled this pride and through a humble heart knew the best of his efforts would only be seen through the work of God in the hearts of men. The Lord will bless those who serve in His kingdom with any measure due them. Working in the kingdom is a wonderful blessing when seen through the eyes of Paul. What we do for the Lord is for His glory and His glory alone. If there are blessings, praise God. When the challenges come, give God the glory. All should look at the work of the Lord as serving as humble slaves to the King of Kings in the task given to each one of us. His work is done in His way with His reward given to those who serve His purpose. Whatever God has blessed a man or woman with should be used to the fullest extent of His blessing to share the gospel with others. Let God be glorified in all things.