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


Psalm 145, with bonus video

Psalm 145:3-8

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty–
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works–
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

In reading through the Bible we can’t help but see the greatness of God that is still so hard to fathom even though it is throughout the scriptures. But even though he is so good, we at times fail to take that next step of sharing his goodness with others. We do not witness to his mighty acts, passing on such good news from generation to generation.

In taking this year, I pray that it has been time to “meditate on [God’s] wonderful works” and may that spur us on to tell of his power, proclaim his great deeds, and celebrate. Our God is so gracious and compassionate that we ought to rejoice and sing praise to him.

As a bonus, enjoy this video by Shane and Shane based off this Psalm.

The HESED of God in Psalm 136

  • NIV – his love endures forever
  • KJV – his mercy endureth for ever
  • ESV – his steadfast love endures forever
  • MESSAGE – his love never quits
  • NLT – his faithful love endures forever
  • NASB – his lovingkindness is everlasting
  • HCSB – his love is eternal

All these are translations of the phrase, kiy l’olam hesedo, which creates the refrain of Psalm 136.

It is hard to take a robust word like hesed and condense its meanings to one word in the English language. There are parts of the word with which these different translations do well. Hesed involves kindness, and surely when it is described of God, his kindness to us, a sinful creature, must involve mercy and we know its motivation is his love for us. There are examples of its use in the Bible that relate to its enduring quality, which is fitting here given that it is coupled with the word olam, which means everlasting or without end.

It is kindness, but it is more than that. It is love, but more. There is more than just the action and orientation, it brings in a commitment, such as the covenant God has made with us. When speaking of God it conveys the steady faithfulness he has to his undeserving people, and is descriptive of one who has done so much to save and shepherd his own. We could never remain faithful as he has, nor could we maintain the covenant. But God, with his great hesed, goes beyond what we deserve to forgive us and lavish his love upon us.

Music from the Psalms – Psalm 130

Several months ago I bought an album by Indelible Grace that leads off with the song “From the Depths of Woe.” It is a long song that builds from its mournful opening to a confident and hopeful end. I had heard it played a little differently before, but this is a powerful version that I was eager to share with you. But since it is a song based off of Psalm 130, I had to wait until this week when it falls within our readings.

Quick bit of history: It was written by Martin Luther way back in the 16th century. Not the psalm, of course, someone else wrote that. But he paraphrased it into German. If you didn’t know it yet, Luther was not only an accomplished nuisance to the church and great reformer, but he was a man of many talents, such as writing hymns.

If you enjoy playing the music, as well as listening to it, here is the music for it. (The links are on the right).

A look back at Psalm 119

Psalm 119 Screenshot

Better late than never, right? This would’ve made for more sense a couple of weeks ago when we looked at the very long psalm, Psalm 119. If you were at our church, you would’ve heard a sermon that said a great deal about this unique psalm, but I did not include anything on it here on the site. And maybe you’re more of a visual person.

I found this some months back and it emphasizes the acrostic nature of the poem (how each line of the stanza begins with the same letter, with the proceeding stanzas moving along through the Hebrew alphabet). It also points out the place that God’s Word holds throughout the psalm. The way this site puts it is this:

Psalm 119 is telling us that to know the Creator God you must know His law, ordinances, word, commandments, statutes, precepts, decrees, testimonies, ways, and faithfulness.

I’d really encourage you to go take a look at this, and maybe skim down to the end first, as it has a word of explanation that helps make sense of the rest.

Basics of the Bible – Psalm 119 (It is pretty big, so it may take a moment to load).

A supposedly more friendly mobile version is here.

Christ in Psalm 118

We talked about this psalm briefly in one of the Reading Groups as a member brought our attention to it. It is hard not to see a picture of Jesus Christ in these words, words which are quoted in reference to him in the New Testament.

I love to see the way in which the whole of Scripture points us to Jesus. The Old points us ahead and the New Testament draws our attention back to him. As we celebrate Christmas it is also good to see such connections and remember that Jesus was no backup plan. Before the world was even created, the plan has been to save the world through him. Like we read in the beginning of John, Jesus may have entered the scene in one way when he was born to Mary, but Jesus has always been on the scene since the very beginning. Christmas is the beginning of a big reveal, but the suspense had been building for a long time.

Psalm 118

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Welcome to Week 4 of this Fall Quarter

William Blake’s illustration of Job

If you’ve made it this far here’s what I have to say–Well done, everyone. Jeremiah was a long, full book and you’ve finished it. But if you were hoping for a short and light read to follow it, you’ve come to the wrong place. We get the ancient book of Job with all the challenging questions about suffering and God’s sovereignty. We’ll also begin Hebrews, which I’ve really enjoyed in the last few years. It teaches us, among other things, just how perfectly Jesus fulfills the Old Testament.

Don’t forget that this week we’re back into the Psalms, so get back out your third bookmark for this week.

Send your questions my way and enjoy the week.

David’s Psalm from 1 Samuel

Psalm 57 begins with words that are always fitting in our approach to God, “Be merciful to me, O God…” as David then goes on to write of his need for God’s help and provision. This Psalm is described as one written when “David fled from Saul, in the cave,” which is certainly a time that would call for such a prayer.

We read about these events from 1 Samuel this week. David has been pursued by Saul, angered and jealous of David, and David’s life is in great peril. He hides with his men hoping Saul passes by along with his army so that they may live another day. But as fearful as David may be, he is also God’s anointed, and he knows God has a plan and purpose for him. David will be King. Having confidence in this fact is comfort for David and it gives him perspective. The darkness of the cave is perhaps seen as the shadow of God’s wing, under which he takes refuge. The armies of Saul are the storms of destruction David desires to move on. His hope rests in God who has a plan for him and “who fulfills his purpose for me” (Ps 57:1-2b).

Without such an understanding surely David would have done as he was encouraged to do by his men when Saul enters the cave to relieve himself. Saul was completely vulnerable and it appears as though God may just be delivering David’s enemy into his hands. This is how his men understand the situation. But David resists and as he approaches Saul he settles for a corner of his robe. He knows the plans God has for him and declares to Saul outside the cave that God may avenge David against Saul, but David himself will not raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed.

From sunrise to sunset we should offer gratitude to God

For God’s continued deliverance and guidance David gives praise to God, as he continues the psalm. Even though he is in the midst of lions and his enemies lay before him traps, he is kept safe by God and his heart is steadfast. Does he take pride in his good fortune? No, David knows from whom such blessings comes, and he calls for God to be exalted above heaven and over all the earth. As he ends David has a great description of how he will sing his thanks and praise. He says, “I will awake the dawn!” I don’t claim to be an especially poetic person, but it seems to me that he is describing the exuberance of his praise. He says he’ll sing out for God, calling the harp and lyre to awake, and nothing will come before this action and posture before God. In his desire to praise God his songs will rise up so early that they wake the sun from its rest, calling forth the day. His life is defined by his gratitude and praise of God, and all the nations will hear of it. When God’s mercy is set so clearly before our eyes, as it was for David, what can take priority over giving God the thanks he so fully deserves?