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04-11-07 - Kingdom Workers -1 Cor 3.5-9 - NSB

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You may recall that on April Fool’s Day, I spoke to you about pulling weeds or getting the weeds out.

Tonight we are going to talk a little bit about planting and watering.

Take your Bibles and turn if you will to 1 Corinthians 3:5-9


The church at Corinth was fascinating to me and frustrating to the Apostle Paul.

            He had laid the foundation of Jesus Christ there in his preaching .

            And then another pillar of the faith named Apollos had come along after him.

But the church at Corinth was carnal and one of the demonstrations of their carnality was that they had begun to argue over who was really responsible for the successes the church had seen.

            One group said it was Paul

            And one group said it was Apollos

And it turns out that both groups were wrong

Someone was responsible for the kingdom growth that had taken place but it was not Paul or Apollos.

            Both of these men were merely, Kingdom Workers.

Stand with me if you will and let’s read 1 Cor 3.5-9


1 Corinthians 3:5-9 says:
1 Corinthians 3:5 - 9 (KJV) 5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?  6I 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.  8Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.  9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 

The first thing we want to see is…

I.  The Apostle’s Identification

            A.  From their supporters view – each other’s view – God’s view

There was disagreement…with each group saying that one was…

                        1.  Better than the other

And it seems as if they were not only disagreeing but they were disagreeable

MR DeHaan said

We need not all agree, but if we disagree, let us not be disagreeable in our disagreements.

In other words…

There is no such thing as my converts and your converts.

            Paul could not claim any converts and neither could Apollos


            Like the fellow that came out of the store drunk

The first half of verse 5 is not written to emphasize Paul or Apollos but it is written to emphasize ministers, which is better translated as, servants.

And, even though the KJV begins with, “who” it is actually better to read it as, “what.”

            What is Paul?  What is Apollos?

And so one group would point to Paul as….

And the other group would point to Apollos as…

                        2.  The “Great” Apostle or Pastor/Teacher

Paul had started a work in Corinth and Apollos had gone there later.

            He had added to the work that Paul had done there.

And they had been building God’s church

            Where there should be unity.

But what we discover is that it is possible to be in union with one another without being in unity.

For instance if you tie two cats tails together and throw them over a clothesline, you have a union but you will not have unity -

Harry Ironside said about this passage…

            “Imagine a household divided over servants!”

So the supporters view was one thing – But…

            B.  From each other’s view

                        1.  Servants

In the oldest mss. that we have, Paul lists Apollos before himself.

            He did not view their relationship as a competition.

Not only are you and I to be servants - but we are to be servants who complement one another; not servants who compete with one another.

And then, as we will see part of their view of themselves was that they realized that…

Servants are limited in what they can do.

            Adding to God’s kingdom requires a miracle.

            Neither Paul nor Apollos were capable of producing miracles on their own.

                        2.  Filling God’s role for them

One was called to be an Apsotle and a the other was called to be a pastor/teacher.

So…it is important to realize that the ministries of both Paul and Apollos were given to them by God

Ephesians 4:11 (KJV) 11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 


What that means is that they were not the source of their ministry – They were simply the means by which God was going to grow His kingdom.

            The were kingdom workers.

Now look at verse six…

Paul didn't try to play down his role

            We need to unapologetically accept the role God has given us.

            I DID plant - Apollos DID water BUT God gave the increase!!

And then they viewed themselves as…

                        3.  Laborers together

The church was divided over human leaders, but Paul said that was not right.

We are to be united in purpose and heart; as, “Laborers together.”[1]

When we think of one another in these terms – as planters and waterers then it makes it easier to see that we are not in competition with one another.

Think of a garden where it is your job to water and my job to plant.  There is just no place for competition between us because what we both desire is the increase.


Paul saw Apollos as a partner and not a rival.

            God just has not made provisions for rivals in His kingdom work.

            You and I are partners.

            C.  From God’s view

Well, whether it is Paul or Apollos or You…

You need to understand that…

You have an important role but it ain’t about you.

            Verse5 – The Lord gave opportunity

            Verse 6 – God was causing the growth

            Verse 7 – God causes the growth

            Verse 9 – God’s workers – God’s field – God’s building

Everybody has a place in the Lord’s harvest, and all are doing His work (John 4:34–38).

There is no room for competing or comparing, as long as there is a need for compassion and sharing.

Don’t worry God sees YOU and will reward YOU but…

 It makes no difference who the servant is so long as Jesus Christ is Lord of the harvest.[2]

II.  The Servant’s Occupation

            A.  Planters and waterers

Relatively speaking, the sowers and the planters are unimportant.

            B.  Not the possessors of the miracle

Paul and Apollos were giants in the young church.

                        They were the Dwight L. Moody, they were the Billy Graham.

                        But it wasn’t about them.

The difference between your role and God’s role is that it IS about Him

Without Him there can be planting and there can be watering but there cannot be increase.

And the miracle in adding to the kingdom of God is the increase that God does.

I should not be jealous of you – You do not have the power to bring forth life.

You should not be jealous of me – I do not have the power to bring forth life.

Acts 2:47 (KJV) 47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

III.  The Lord’s Exaltation

            A.  The workers were equipped by Him

John 15:5 (KJV) 5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 

                        1.  Spiritual Gifts

Our differences are among our greatest assets

Ronnie and I went to visit a fellow on Monday night and when we told him who we were, all he said was, “forget it!”  And he shut the door.

Now, he was not receptive to us but since we are all different there may come a day when you run into this fellow and he will be receptive to you.

He rejected me and Ronnie but so that our egos would not suffer, I assured Ronnie that He and I were two of the nicest people I know.

But we all have different gifts.


            B.  The growth was provided by Him.

                        1.  Miraculous

The miraculous part of kingdom growth takes place in God’s hands.

You can bring people in and expend a lot of energy but apart from the redemptive regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, there will be NO addition to the kingdom of God.

Lewis Sperry Chafer said:

Salvation is the work of God for man; it is not the work of man for God.

One thing I can guarantee you is that…

If a church is not growing, it is not because God can't give the increase.

            We will have to look somewhere else for the problem – We cannot blame God.

                        2.  Exclusively His Role

Men and women are used to accomplish specific tasks in the economy of God, but in the process, God is giving the increase. While men can be used to plant and cultivate things, only God can make things grow.[3]

Christ is a substitute for everything,
but nothing is a substitute for Christ. – HA Ironside

That is why…

We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord – 2 Cor 4.5

Now, this does not mean that you are unimportant to God.

            But because He is sovereign…

He has included you as a kingdom worker

But is does remind us that God is everything.

You are to plant and water and then trust God for the increase.

I can give you the message of the death, burial and resurrection, but ONLY GOD can give you eternal life.

            C.  The opportunity was given by Him

Here is the key to this chapter in verse nine – All kingdom work is about God.

God is the One to whom we are all responsible.

                        1.  His Co-Workers

                        2.  His field

                        3.  His building

IV.  New Salem’s Expectation

Where do these truths put you and put our church?

God has intended for us to be kingdom workers and He has equipped us to that end.

            Different people with different gifts that God has brought together here

And in verse 5, Paul showed us what the ministry of our church is to be.

We are servants whereby other people may believe.


Between now and Sunday…some of you may plant and some of you may water


                        You will not be required to perform any miracles.

                                    That is God’s Part

                        You will not be required to be perfect.

That is God’s part.

You are called to be the earthen vessel that contains the treasure.


2 Corinthians 4:7 (KJV) 7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

We are like clay water pots carrying water to thirsty people

That is why on Monday nights if someone closes the door in our face we do not get mad.

            Man, I have just brought you some water

            If you do not want it then I will take it to someone else.

            But, when you do get thirsty – the water is available.

So, there is great news here tonight from the Apostle Paul

We should praise God for using us.

And realize that all we have to do is to…

Be faithful where God has put us.

You have abilities and gifts that I do not have.

I have gifts and abilities that you do not have

Don't waste your time trying to be like me and I won't waste my time trying to be like you.

            You do what God has gifted you to do



Just as the farmer cannot give physical life to the plant –

You or I or Paul or Apollos cannot give spiritual life


If you will just plant or water, God is quite capable of giving the increase.



[1]Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1997, c1992), 425.

[2]Warren W. Wiersbe, With the Word Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1991), 1 Co 3:1.

[3]KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1994), 2287.

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