What then is Apollos? What is Paul? – The role we play in ministering to others on God’s behalf

Memory Verse 1 Cor 3.6

Yesterday we focused on what was hindering the Corinthians’ understanding (their jealousy and strife) and what it led to was not only the divisions in their church, but a misunderstanding of who people like Paul and Apollos were. Paul describes their problem and then turns attention to himself, and Apollos, briefly.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9

What do we learn about these two in this passage? Who are they? What is their job? How should the church view them?

First, we see that they are servants. Being a servant, obviously, means that they are not masters. The Corinthians had elevated them and thought Paul and Apollos were to be played off each other as though they were rivals, but they are both servants who in fact are co-laborers, working together.

Are you a gardener? I’m sure you then know that there aren’t good ways to compete over one plant. If one plants and one waters, you can’t do so with different aims. You have the same goal. Paul is not at odds with Apollos. They both want to see growth. They are both called by God to their task. They both serve for God’s glory.

We also learn that as much as Paul or anyone labors, they do not claim credit for the work that God accomplishes. He may have planted, but just as importantly, Apollos watered, but neither compare to the growth that God achieves.

If not for God, what would happen to the seed? If not for God, would the water do any good? It is as it says in Psalm 127:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.

Paul is not anything but a servant of God. He is a tool God has used. All glory should pass right through him and be directed at the only one worthy. He has had the privilege of being called to this people to minister to them, as has Apollos. But Paul is telling them that God was at work then, God is at work now, and God is the one who will continuously give the growth.

Memory Verse for 1 Corinthians 3:6 for iPhone


Giving Others Room to Serve

Acts 18 was the topic of this week’s focus passage, which I usually don’t then mention again in a post, but I think it bears repeating. Or maybe you’ll hear this for the first time if you don’t use those Bible study guides. If you don’t, feel free to look into them now. You’ll find them under “This Week”, as they are to be a weekly study for one passage to focus in on from the many chapters we read. There you can find any past weeks, as well. They are one of the things we use during our Reading Groups, but they can work for small groups or individual study.

Getting back to Acts 18, it is similar many stories of Paul as he goes around, preaches the gospel, and people believe. But what I found of great interest here was what happens once Paul leaves. He spent a year with Priscilla and Aquila, who were tentmakers like Paul. They urge him to stay, but he does not, and in doing so he leaves them in a position to fill the void. Onto the scene comes Apollos, a man “fervent in Spirit” and who is teaching about Jesus. But as accurate as he is, he doesn’t have the full story.

If someone with great charisma and skill in speaking were to come into your town, but whose teachings were not quite right, would you be quick to insert yourself into the situation and correct the errors? It can be intimidating to challenge anyone else, especially if that person is persuasive and if you do not have any sort of specific qualifications or expertise.

But Priscila and Aquila do just this. They go to Apollos to more accurately instruct him about Jesus Christ. (Kudos to Apollos for humbly listening to such correction, too). It is a great testimony to their conviction and boldness in Christ.

It makes me wonder, though, if Paul had stayed, would they have done this same work? Would they have instead called Paul for help, or referred Apollos back to Paul? Maybe Paul would have beat them to the punch? We don’t know and can only speculate. But what we do know is that after Paul had spent his time equipping the saints and teaching the gospel, he left creating a void. Into that space these disciples of Christ step in to continue the work. His leaving created an opportunity for more believers to join in the ministry.

If we never leave room for others to work, when will they feel that call to join in the ministry? If we can’t let go, if we can’t trust others to be used by God, what does that say about our own reliance on God and belief that truly he is the one at work?

Paul knew his ministry wasn’t only to proclaim the gospel, but to pass it on, teaching it to others who would in turn pass it on again (2 Tim 2). His was a ministry of equipping others and of sharing the work of the gospel. We can learn this from Paul, and also learn boldness from Priscila and Aquila, and even learn humility from Apollos, as they create a great scene of laboring together for the glory of God.