With these words, Paul calls those in Corinth to remember the days when they first came to Jesus Christ. Paul was the first to bring the gospel to Corinth. Many in Corinth came to Jesus through the words of Paul. But, according to Acts 19:1, Apollos spent some time in Corinth, too. Surely, some of the Corinthians came to faith through his words as well.
Many believers were loyal to Paul, because he was the one who led them to Jesus. Other believers were loyal to Apollos, because he was the one who had a great impact upon them. But, Paul set things straight, saying that he and Apollos were “only servants, through whom you came to believe.” Paul didn’t lift himself up as some mighty apostle who deserved undivided attention. Nor did he lift Apollos up as someone special, either. Instead, Paul told the people that he and Apollos were servants of Christ who brought the message of the gospel to Corinth, and the people believed.
I. WE ARE SERVANTS OF THE GOSPEL(VERSE 5)
That’s all we are: We are servants through whom others may come to faith. In this way, we are like Paul. In this way, we are like Apollos. As believers in Christ, we are the tools that God uses to bring people to Himself. And this is by design.
When Jesus left the earth, He gave His disciples a mission. He said it many times in many different ways, but His aim was clear: We are His servants, entrusted to share His gospel with others. We can read it at the end of every gospel account (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 22:46, 47; John 20:21).
God doesn’t simply use the leaders in the church; He uses us all. And all of us have a responsibility to share the gospel. Some—with giftedness, opportunity, and God’s blessing— have more fruitfulness, but all of us have the responsibility to be servants of the gospel.
There are people in your life who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ from you! Perhaps it is in your workplace, in your neighborhood, or in your family. You may be the only voice in their world who has the gospel to share with them.
So, let’s be servants of the gospel. When you have an opportunity to serve those outside the kingdom, jump at the chance.
II. WE PLANT AND WATER (VERSES 6, 7)
This gives us a great perspective of our duties to the unbelieving world around us. We are to plant and water. It’s not our responsibility to convert people—that’s God’s job. I would encourage you to find ways to plant and water the gospel. It takes work. It takes effort. It takes intentionality. It’s not just going to happen; you have to plan and carry out the plan.
Church family, we have people outside and right here in our midst who need to be reached. Reach out to them and plant and water the gospel! People come in and visit the church. Meet them and greet them. Reach out to them. It’s a fearful thing to come to a new church, so when you see a visitor, do what you can to help make him or her feel comfortable at church.
III. GOD CAUSES GROWTH (VERSE 7)
For those who think that evangelism is a partnership where we do our part and God does His part, verse 7 puts it straight. We plant and water. God causes the growth, which is everything. God uses us to accomplish His work. He does everything.
Throughout the entire New Testament, it is clear that God is the One who changes people. First Peter 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope.” God causes us to be born again.
When speaking with Nicodemus, Jesus never commanded him to be born again. If you look carefully in the text in John 3, you hear words like this: “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again” (verse 3). “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (verse 5). “You must be born again” (verse 7). Jesus is merely putting before Nicodemus the requirement of entering into the kingdom— the new birth! But Jesus never commanded Nicodemus to “be born again” by himself, as if he had the ability to do this. Rather, Jesus emphasized the necessity of being born again to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Ellen G. White comments, “Nicodemus was converted as the result of this interview. In that night conference with Jesus, the convicted man stood before the Saviour under the softening, subduing influence of the truth that was shining into the chambers of his mind and impressing his heart. . . . Jesus told Nicodemus not only that he must have a new heart in order to see the kingdom of heaven, but how to obtain this new heart” (Letter 54, 1895).
Just as you had no say in being born the first time, neither do you have control of being born the second time. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going; so it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). There is no controlling over the wind. There is no controlling over the Spirit. But when the Spirit comes and changes a soul, it’s like being born all over again! And God is the one who does it. He opens the eyes to see the light of the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). He opens the heart to believe (Acts 16:14). He opens the mind to believe (1 Cor. 2:14). That’s why Paul says that it is “by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30).
God converts. God causes growth. What does that mean? It means that we need to pray. It means that we need to plead with God to give life to those who are apart from Christ. Plead that God will move in their lives. As Charles Spurgeon said so well, “The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you.”
It is God’s plan to cause growth in the church. He moves us to have a heart to reach out to others. We need to grow in outreach. May God give us the strength to do so. May God give the growth.
General Conference Ministerial Association