God grows His Church. As People of God, we do the work of God. But God alone is the One Who, through this work, brings forth growth. The Apostle Paul emphasizes God’s role in the growth of His Church, which gives us more understanding about our role in the process.
Paul plants, Apollos waters, and God gives the growth. There are a couple of points that Paul implies with this statement. First, he implies that each of God’s people contributes differently to God’s work. We each have different, equally important tasks to do. Second, Paul implies that there are different stages at which each of God’s people contribute to this work. For example, Paul’s planting of seeds must happen before Apollos waters. Likewise, Apollos may water frequently, while Paul’s task of planting might be a one-time event. Third, God brings forth the fruit of the labor that His people put forth. While God is able to succeed in bringing forth growth independently of His workers, His workers are completely dependent on Him to reap fruit from their labor.
How do God’s people work together to grow God’s Church? Here, Paul shifts from the metaphor of the garden to the metaphor of a building to explain how we work together. As God’s workers, we are called to build by God’s design upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. We build upon the work of the faithful saints who worked before us. Likewise, the work we do will be built upon by others as God sees fit. The materials with which we build must be the best we have to offer, lasting work that will outlast great testing, like that of fire which burns or melts away what is useless to God.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians cause us to examine our own individual work for the Lord, and our work together as a Church today. We must ask ourselves: Are we contributing to God’s growth or trying to grow the Church ourselves? Are we building His Church with everlasting truth or with temporary treasure that can be destroyed? Most importantly, are we building upon the firm foundation of Jesus Christ? As we continue in God’s work with these considerations in mind, we must do so with diligence, all the while trusting in God Who brings forth the growth of the Church.