By Gerald Cowan
The preacher is too often given
credit, or takes it for himself, whenever a person
makes a positive response to the gospel, either to
become a Christian or to correct and improve his
relationship to the Lord, or grow in the grace and
knowledge of the Lord. It is not likely that such
credit is ever deserved. Many factors combine to produce the
response, and it is inappropriate to single out any
factor or person as being “the one” to which credit is
due. We should learn to attribute all positive responses to
the work of God (1 Cor. 3:6).
This lesson is drawn out
clearly in 1 Cor. 3:5-9. Paul was the first to proclaim the
gospel of Christ to the Corinthians. He planted
(compare 1 Cor. 2:1-5). Apollos watered (1 Cor. 3:6).
He exhorted, encouraged, and otherwise built upon the
foundation Paul laid (1 Cor. 3:10). There are often a
great number who do the watering. Not only by teaching
and exhortation, but also by praying for each other (1 Tim.
4:12, 1 Cor. 11:1, Mt. 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12). But the
planting and the watering will accomplish very little
without God who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-7). The
one who plants and those who water are one, one in purpose
and desire (1 Cor. 3:8), and are workers together with
God. The final product, building, fruit, etc. is the
result of God’s work. God is at work in and through those
who preach and teach, and those who admonish and
exhort (Rom. 10:15, 2 Cor. 5:20, 1 Cor. 3:9), and so
God is to be thanked for the increase.
Some may claim to be
“self-made” Christians. They see their conversion to
Christ and their growth in Christ as the result of
their own study and application of God’s word, and their
own obedience to it. But they should not forget the
debt they owe to those human instruments inspired by
God to record and preserve the gospel in written form.
Nor should they discount the evidence of faith in others
which reinforces their own desire to find the Lord.
All of us should heed the admonition to “work out your
own salvation,” but do not forget that “it is God who works
in you both will and do of his good pleasure”
Let us not discount any of
the contribution factors to conversion and growth in
Christian faith. We should certainly be grateful for
all who have a part, however small. But do not forget
that it is God the Father who is above all, through all, and
in all (Eph. 4:6). He is ultimately responsible for
the increase and He is to be thanked for it.
- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in
Dongola, IL. He may be contacted at