ALL OF THE ACCOLADES FOR SPIRITUAL MINISTRY SHOULD GO TO GOD WHO CAUSES THE GROWTH — NOT TO THE PARTICULAR SERVANTS LABORING TOGETHER ON GOD’S BEHALF
Paul is not saying that we should refrain from expressing appreciation and rendering respect and honor to those who minister the Word of God and perform the servant work of evangelists and teachers and under shepherds. But God needs to get all of the credit since the work is ultimately His. He deserves the loyalty and dependence – which would be idolatrous if placed on any Christian minister. He warns against ascribing ultimate credit or building loyalty at the level of the individual Christian minister.
You would think that it would be impossible for believers to lose focus and put Christian workers up on a pedestal. But that is exactly what had been happening in Corinth. The problem had not been the fault of any lobbying for popularity on the part of the ministers, but the people themselves were looking at the messenger rather than the Lord Jesus who was being faithfully proclaimed.
5 REMINDERS OF THE UNIQUE, SOVEREIGN ROLE OF GOD IN CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
We need these same reminders today.
I. (:5) REMINDER #1: CHRISTIAN MINISTERS ARE ONLY SERVANTS
“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.”
Don’t forget the crucial distinction between the Many Ministers and the One Lord over all
Should servants get the glory? Obviously not.
What happens when spiritual leaders get too big for their britches?? Study 1 Samuel
What happens when the flock gives too much attention to a particular Christian preacher? The strength and depth of faith and dependence on the one Good Shepherd is undermined. Churches which focus the public ministry of the church in just the giftedness of one individual are especially susceptible to putting that person up on a pedestal. But even in the context where multiple ministers exist there can be a fleshly tendency to align oneself with the individual personality rather than with the corporate body of Christ.
A. Reexamine Your Perspective Towards Your Christian Ministers
1. How do you view the erudite preacher Apollos?
2. How do you view the gifted Apostle Paul?
Lenski: The Corinthians are making party heads of these men and each party glorifies its man to the detriment of Christ and the gospel.
B. Recognize Their Role as God’s Servants in Guiding Us to Faith
C. Refocus on the Primacy of the Lord who Gives Opportunities to Minister and Blesses the Results of Such Ministry
God gives the giftedness and grace and opportunity and fruitfulness to each minister as He intends. Ministry is a distinct privilege and comes by way of divine appointment so that no man can boast.
II. (:6) REMINDER #2: ONLY GOD CAN PRODUCE SPIRITUAL FRUIT
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”
Don’t forget the crucial distinction between the secondary role of the exercise of a variety of spiritual gifts and the primary role of God who alone can initiate and develop spiritual life and growth
Are planting and watering necessary? Yes . . . but not anything apart from the behind-the-scenes work of God.
A. Secondary Role of the Exercise of a Variety of Spiritual Gifts
1. Role of Evangelists / Church Planters
2. Role of Teachers / Preachers / Under shepherds / Disciplers
B. Primary Role of God
III. (:7) REMINDER #3: ALL OF THE GLORY BELONGS TO GOD
“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
Don’t forget that all of the glory and credit and loyalty and dependence belongs not to the many secondary ministers but to the One Sovereign Lord
A. Christian Ministers are Nothing in Themselves
B. God is Everything – when it comes to producing spiritual fruit
IV. (:8) REMINDER #4: STRESS TEAMWORK NOW; REWARDS WILL COME LATER
“Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”
Don’t forget that all Christian ministers labor on the same team but their individual reward will be dispensed equitably by God rather than by man
Not a time for competition, envy, strife, etc. But still each minister must be careful and diligent how he labors … as developed in the next section (vv. 10-15).
A. One Team . . . Many Gifts / Functions
– teamwork is the emphasis for now – one Master; one goal
– variety of different gifts are still essential
B. Individual Rewards – Dispensed equitably by God after the job is finished
– ministers are not looking to the people for accolades and rewards; not serving as man-pleasers
V. (:9) REMINDER #5: GOD OWNS IT ALL
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
Don’t forget that God owns it all – whether the agents of Christian ministry or the product of that ministry
The local church is God’s church – He owns it all.
A. God Owns the Agents of Christian Ministry
B. God Owns the Product of that Ministry – 2 Analogies
1. From Agriculture – The Farmer cultivates the crop – “God’s field”
Emphasis on life and growth
2. From Construction – The Builder constructs the building – “God’s building”
Emphasis on effort and cohesiveness
Hodge: Union and fidelity in labour are required of those engaged in tilling the same farm, or in the erection of the same building; and they are no less required in those engaged in cultivating the vineyard of the Lord, or in erecting his temple. The apostle drops the former, and carries out the latter figure. [into the next paragraph]