I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
— 1 Corinthians 3:6,7
When I was growing up, my pastor, Brother Post, was like a hero to me. He was a master Bible teacher who taught the Word of God with intelligence, conviction, and passion. His intense enthusiasm for the Bible deeply affected me, and I am certain that my love for the Word of God today and my desire to mine the Greek New Testament for these Sparkling Gems is directly connected to the way he taught me the Bible.
Wednesday night church services were my favorite because that was when Brother Post would dig deep into the Word and feed us richly! However, I must admit that I also loved Wednesday nights because our church hosted a supper for the entire congregation each week before the service began — and at those dinners, we got to eat Bobbie Jo’s awesome shiny, butter-covered rolls! Bobbie Jo was our church cook, and no one made bigger, better, or more delicious rolls than Bobbie Jo!
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Each week as Wednesday drew near, I grew so excited to think I would soon be eating those big fluffy rolls! I’d consume as many as I could before my parents would rebuke me for eating too much. Then I’d head across the street with a full stomach to the church building for the Wednesday night service where Brother Post would fill my spiritual stomach with masterful, thoughtful, in-depth teaching from the Word of God.
Brother Post was the only Bible teacher I personally knew until I attended college as a young man. There is no way to exaggerate the biblical foundation that he laid in my life. During my college years, I was exposed to other wonderful Bible teachers, and not long after I left the university, I took a position as an associate pastor in a large Baptist church under a godly pastor named Dr. Bill Bennett. This man was as knowledgeable as any person I’ve ever met in my life. He read Greek; he knew history; he had a doctorate of theology. In my opinion, he was and remains one of the most brilliant Bible teachers I’ve ever met anywhere in the world.
For several years during my earliest period of ministry, my chief role was to serve my senior pastor. I carried his books and traveled with him as his assistant. I relished every minute of this season because Dr. Bennett spent time speaking to me from the Word of God and helping me establish my thinking in sound doctrine. I tremendously respected his knowledge, his teaching ability, and the godly life he led. Working at his side and serving him as I did was one of the greatest honors that God ever gave to Denise and me. God used that man to set me on a solid biblical foundation.
When I look back at the roles Brother Post and Dr. Bennett played in my life, I can see that both were vital to my spiritual development. One planted and another watered my spiritual development — just as the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “I have planted, Apollos watered…” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
As an apostle called to the city of Corinth, Paul was responsible for starting the church in that city. However, he also served as their first pastor until God raised up another pastor to take his place. This replacement was a well-respected, highly educated man from Alexandria in Egypt named Apollos — and soon after Paul’s departure, he became the senior pastor of the Corinthian church. History tells us that Apollos was a gifted orator who was renowned for his eloquence.
In Paul’s absence, the Corinthian believers naturally began to compare the different speaking styles of Paul and Apollos. Some who had been in the church from the beginning and were extremely affectionate toward Paul apparently didn’t like the style of the new pastor. There were others in the church who loved Apollos and asserted that his preaching was superior to Paul’s. Yet the message Paul and Apollos preached was the same — they just had different styles.
When Paul heard of divisions forming in the church of Corinth over the issue of his and Apollos’ different styles of ministry he wrote to them and said, “I have planted, Apollos watered…” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Let’s take a closer look at the Greek in this statement to see exactly what Paul meant.
The word “planted” in this verse is translated from the Greek word phuteuo, which is a form of phuton, the Greek word for a plant, and it simply refers to the act of planting a plant. By using this word, Paul was metaphorically describing his role in Corinth. He was a planter. His task was to penetrate the darkness of the city and plant a church there. There is no doubt that this city had some of the toughest spiritual ground he had ever encountered. It was surely one of the most difficult places to minister in the ancient world.
Like a neglected garden overrun with pests and weeds, Corinth was infested with demonic powers. In order to plant the Gospel in people’s hearts and firmly establish the Church in that tough environment, he had to press forward and till the ground with the power of God; then he had to get on his hands and knees and pull the weeds. This was hard work! Yet for one and a half years, Paul poured his life into this pioneering job. When he finally left Corinth to pursue his apostolic call in another city, the Corinthian church had not only been planted — it was deeply rooted and producing good fruit!
Paul described his role in Corinth as a planter; however, he was fully aware where his responsibility ended and another equally important responsibility began. That is why he continued in First Corinthians 3:6, “I have planted, Apollos watered.…” The word “watered” here is from the Greek word potidzo, which most often means to water or to irrigate. It is the very word that would have been used to depict a farmer watering his garden to provide nourishment to his plants so they could grow. It can also be translated to imbibe, which in this context would convey the act of a field becoming soaked or saturated in water.
By describing Apollos’ role in Corinth with the Greek word potidzo, Paul actually gave Apollos a great compliment. It is as if Paul said, “Apollos didn’t just water you; he saturated you….” In other words, Paul acknowledged what a wonderful, vitally important job Apollos played in the Corinthian church! Paul had pulled the weeds, chased away the pests, planted the seed, and established the new growth of the young plant. Apollos then nurtured that plant, watering it regularly with the Word of God and thus contributing equally to the great increase that happened in that church. The roles of both ministers were absolutely vital. One was not better than the other; rather, each played a significant role in the spiritual development of that church.
Paul continued in First Corinthians 3:6 by saying, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” This word “increase” is the Greek word auxano, which means to cause to grow, to cause to increase, or to cause to become enlarged. By using this word, Paul was teaching us that we are always dependent upon God to provide growth and increase — even if we do everything right as we plant and water our crop. Or to put it another way: We can carry out our different roles of planting and watering, but only God can provide the sunshine and weather that allows it to grow. If God doesn’t intervene and provide His part, all of our planting and watering will be in vain. Therefore, as we carry out our roles as effectively and efficiently as we can, we must always be conscious of the fact that we’re not responsible for growth and success. If growth comes, ultimately it is God who gives the increase.
I am thankful for my first pastor, Brother Post, and for Dr. Bennett, the pastor whom I later served. One firmly planted the seed in my life, and the other watered that seed until I was saturated with the Word of God. Both of these men were vital to my early growth as a man of God — but, ultimately, it was God who made me grow. These two men were part of the process, and I’m so thankful to Him for what they invested in my life. But the One who caused me to grow was God Himself.
It’s right for you to acknowledge and thank the people who have played a major role in your life. But don’t make the mistake the Corinthians made and get so fixated on personalities that you forget that God is the One who really makes seed grow!
Also, as you play a God-given role in someone else’s life, let me encourage you to do the very best with what He has entrusted to you. Till the ground, plant the seed, and pour on the nourishment required to make the seed grow. God expects you to do your part. But never forget that He is your greatest Partner. You are completely dependent on Him to do the part you cannot do for yourself — increase and growth!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I sincerely want to take just a moment to say thank You for the people who have played such an important role in my spiritual development. So many people have helped me, corrected me, assisted me, and taught me. When I think of how many people have made investments into my life, I am amazed and grateful that You would love me so much. Holy Spirit, help me express my gratitude to these people whom You have used to develop me. Most of all, I want to thank You for providing all the other ingredients that no one else could provide. Even though others invested so much in me, I know that You are the One who is responsible for the growth, increase, and success I am experiencing in my life. Without You, none of this would be happen- ing today, so I want to say thank You!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that God is using me to play a significant role in other people’s lives. Just as others loved me and invested in my spiritual development, God is now using me to help others. I consider it a privilege to plant spiritual seed into other people’s lives. It is an honor to tend that seed with love and care and to nourish it with the water of the Word of God. All around me are people with great potential who need someone to help them. Because the Holy Spirit is working in my life and making me more like Jesus Christ, I am willing, ready, and desirous to be a blessing, just as key people have been to me. God has given me a role to play in the spiritual development of others, and I will faithfully do exactly what He has asked me to do.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Who are the people who have played the most important role in your spiritual development? In what ways did they affect your spiritual growth?
- Have you ever taken the time to call, write, or make a personal visit to those people who helped you along the way in your walk with God? Have you expressed how profoundly thankful you are for the role they played in your life? If you haven’t done this, why not? Don’t you think it is right to go out of your way to say thank you to someone who had such a dramatic influence in your life?
- Who are you helping spiritually develop right now? Are you planting seed in someone’s life? Are you watering seed that has already been sown in another’s life? God has a role for you to play in helping others, so take a good look at your life and ask, “In whose life am I making a difference today?”