By R. W. McAlister
I Cor. 3:6-7: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”
The work done by Paul and Apollos was that of planting and watering the Word of God. This is the preaching and teaching of the Word. You’ll recall that Paul exhorted Timothy, “Preach the Word” (II Tim 4:2). Paul and Apollos engaged in that work with all diligence.
The planting of the good seed is the laying down of the truths of the Word of God, setting the doctrines of the Bible before sinners. It includes not only expounding the Word but also applying it to the cases of those to whom it is being preached so that they may benefit spiritually. The watering of the seed sown is the nurturing of it so that there will be, in due time, first the shoot, then the stalk, then the full ear of corn. The watering, therefore, is something other than laying down the seed; it’s the further expounding and applying of the Word, especially with regard to the spiritual needs of the Lord’s people.
We must notice that the planting and watering of the seed - the preaching of the Word - is God’s appointed means of bringing sinners to salvation. Paul said in Rom. 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Also, it is mainly the preaching of the Word by which the Lord’s people are sanctified - by which they grow in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The prayer of Christ was: “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:7). It follows that by the preaching of the Word, the Church of Christ is both established and built up. By the preaching of the Word, the Lord’s Church was established in Corinth, and by the preaching of the Word it was built up. Therefore, we must ever comply with that all-important command of the Savior, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
“God gave the increase,” said Paul. Those of us who work or have worked the land know that, however hard-working you may be at planting time, it’s all in vain if God doesn’t give the increase. The Psalmist wrote, “Thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it” (Ps 65:9). The increase is due to divine power.
Consider what happened in Thessalonica. When the gospel came to that pagan city, sinners turned from idols “to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven” (I Thess. 1:9). What was the cause of that turning? Yes, the Apostle Paul labored night and day – preaching & making tents, but there was also this element: the powerful Gospel (I Thess 1:5).
We see then that it’s only by the Word of God that sinners are transformed into followers of the Savior. The Word of God was thus fruitful in Jerusalem: “The number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
What about the Christian advancing in holiness? This also takes place by the use of the Word. The Savior, in interceding for His disciples, prayed, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). When the Word is important to the people of God, it’s effectual to their growth in grace. They increase in knowledge. They increase in love, as they ought to do: to “increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men” (I Thess 3:12). The Word is effectual in increasing their estimate of the One whose name is above every name, and also in decreasing their estimate of themselves. “He must increase, but I must decrease” declared John the Baptist (John 3:30). It is God alone who gives the increase. May we always be about planting and watering, and pray for God to give the increase.
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/