Agonizomai: 1Cor 3:5-9 - Credit Where Credit is Due

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

1Cor 3:5-9 - Credit Where Credit is Due

5-9 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Once more, then, we are not to give our allegiance to men, who are but the servants of God, to do His will. We are to give all credit to God and to follow Him alone - though God has purposed that He uses men as means to communicate the gospel. This is a wonderful and deliberate design. God, Who is the Truth has chosen to communicate Himself through men to other men - and the men themselves are vessels, repositories, propagators, recipients - they are active but it is God alone Who is in it for good. This is all accomplished because the Holy Spirit is active in both the preacher and the hearer. God sends the message and God opens the ears and hearts of the hearers. Paul developed all of this in earlier chapters dealing with the nature of spiritual understanding.

We do render honour to whom honour is due, thanks to whom thanks is due, and so on. The human agencies of God’s grace are to be thanked for their yielding even though they yield because God is at work in them and through them. But our hearts and minds know this last truth - that were God not at work in them, they themselves could do nothing. And we do thank and honour even unbelievers, who can still be the means of grace to us though they are not yielded to God’s Spirit in the process.

But Paul is clear. The messenger is nothing. The labourer is nothing. God is everything. He is in all and through all. No results can spring from any amount of human effort unless God purposes and effects it. Christ is not just another preacher. He is not like Paul and Apollos and Peter. He is a man - but infinitely more than a man; He is God incarnate, dead, resurrected and taken back up into glory. Whoever has seen Him has seen the Father, since He and the Father are One. This is the God Who gives the increase. This is the God Who accomplishes all His will and chooses to use men for that purpose.

So when Paul speaks of us being "fellow workers" with God He doesn’t mean that God needs us, or that the results depend in any way upon us, our talents or our efforts. We are fellow workers in that God has granted, entirely by His grace, for us to participate in what He is accomplishing. We are coat-tailers. He sits us down in the sand with a little plastic bucket and shovel and bids us build sandcastles; and He proceeds to build a towering palace over us while we dabble. Then He credits us with working on the palace because some of the sand passed through our hands.

Yes, human agents work. Yes, they perform. Yes, they are accountable to God and their works will be judged. But it is to be a kind of judgement that we should never imagine with our fallen minds. It is the judgement in which God gets the credit from us, and from all the principalities and powers, both holy and evil, for all that is accomplished (because it was wrought in Him) and we get the blame for all that does not last (because it was not a product of faith in Christ).

The church is God’s field and His building. And what did Christ say? That He would build His church upon the rock (of the confession of Jesus as Messiah) and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. He would build it. He would use men of faith walking in the Spirit - but He would be the builder. He owns the field and the crop - He brought the seed and purposed how, when and where it would be sown. He sent the rain and the sunshine. He provided the minerals. He decided what to prune and how much and at what time. He said when to put in the sickle. It is His barn, His threshing floor, His wind that separates the grain from the chaff and so on. Do we get it yet? God is God and He is the source and the mover of all good things according to His good pleasure and purposes and we are creatures entirely dependent upon Him in all things.

We are, then, fellow workers with God. But putting finite, mutable, weak human beings still struggling with their sinful nature beside the holy, omnipotent, omniscient God - when the shoulder goes to the wheel and the load moves, who do you think moved it? We all got behind the load but were mere fleas pushing against a mountain. Yet the mountain moved. Shall we, then, take any credit?


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