Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. – 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Well the book of Romans may be packed full of theological deep water, but as far as I can tell there was only one water reference. Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth looks to be equally “dry” in terms of water references, only one. Do let’s run this reach and see what it has to offer.
This passage in the beginning of 1 Corinthians is about allegiances and appropriate following. Apparently the Church in Corinth has become factionalized with some following Paul and others following Apollos (and others). Of course all leaders are meant to lead while following Jesus, but in practice this can get hard, even after Paul’s lessons for leaders.
Paul equates the spiritual maturity of the followers in Corinth with children, calling them “infants in Christ”. Now on one level this is a compliment as Jesus directed all of us to be like children in our pursuit of Him. The difference here is that these spiritual “children” are pursuing the wrong person. Placing their trust in worldly leaders rather than the Holy Spirit that has been poured into them.
Paul uses an analogy to get his point across, a rare practice for Paul in my float so far through his writings. Paul uses a gardening analogy which I can relate to as a lifelong gardener. Paul says “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” God is really the gardener, we merely get to play cameo roles as the Holy Spirit leads us.
Paul’s point here is that the journey home for followers of Christ is about faithfully following God rather than any fallible follower. We all have roles to play in one another’s journeys, but we cannot lose sight of the real end goal, crossing the uncrossable river with the help of Christ.
We must allow ourselves to be “watered” by other followers without losing sight of our true water source. This can be tricky as the earthly irrigators sometimes seem more real and responsive. It is up to these leaders to be constantly pointing people toward the real water source even when they are helping to provide water for our thirst.
The take home message for me is that the Christian ecosystem is intended to be full of “gardeners”. Some plant, while others water, weed, and harvest. We must never lose sight of the “Master Gardener” who makes us all grow.
Prayer: God help us to help one another while remembering it is You that really makes us grow.