A couple of weeks ago, we began a discussion concerning church growth. We noticed that Paul mentions the “equation” for growth in 1 Corinthians 3:6 when he says, “I planted. Apollos watered. God gave the growth.” Last week’s point of emphasis is that we as the church need to be watering (through teaching, encouraging, etc.) those who have received and obeyed the gospel. Both planting and watering are a necessity on our end.
As a reminder, here’s how we might simplify Paul’s words into an equation:
([Paul]p + [Apollos]w)Lord = growth
(planting + watering)Lord = growth
The third portion of the equation is that which is most important in the process of church growth: the power of the Lord.
Paul says in our text, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Just as God causes physical seeds (corn, cotton, etc.) to grow when conditions are right, He too causes the growth of the church from the spiritual seed of the gospel.
As we’ve noted in the past couple of weeks, we certainly should be doing our part by planting and watering. However, we should be humbly petitioning the Lord for the success of our efforts; we should give Him all glory and praise for the growth and obedience that occurs; we should continue to turn the lost to Him, not “our” church.
Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul shows that the power of the gospel doesn’t depend solely on man, but on the efforts of God:
In Romans 1:16, Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Catch that? The gospel is the power of God for salvation for believers. It’s the good news of the death, burial, resurrection of Christ that enables us to have complete salvation from our sins. We too, like Paul shouldn’t be ashamed of the gospel; we, like Paul should acknowledge the power of God alone to save man from sin.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul uses an everyday item to demonstrate the power of God. There he says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” We are jars of clay (or earthen vessels) that contain the supreme power of God.
A little background into the 1st century culture really makes this illustration come alive. People in the 1st century would often hide their most valuable possessions in plain-looking clay pots. They did so in order to keep any intruders from stealing what was most valuable to them. That’s us, folks! We are “plain” and “unworthy” vessels that contain the treasure and riches of our God…in order to show that the power is His alone. If we were attractive and extravagant vessels, it would be more tempting to give ourselves the glory than our deserving God.
As we think about the growth we’ve experienced here at Midway over the past several years and months, I hope we understand that many faithful Christians have contributed to that growth. More importantly, I hope we all understand that God has been working among our actions and deeds to cause growth in our hearts and within the kingdom.
May we never forget the role of God in the growth of the church. May we always give Him the thanks. May we do what it takes to bring others to that all-surpassing power.
Have a great week!