Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 3:5-17


In 3:6 and 7 Paul speaks of planting and watering: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God made to grow; so that neither is the one who plants anything nor the one who waters, but the One Who makes to grow, God.” To plant is to minister life and impart life to someone who is spiritually dead so that this person may become living. When life is imparted to a person dead in sins, he becomes a living plant. Because Paul imparted life to the Corinthians, he was their father in Christ. In 4:15 he says, “For though you have ten thousand guides in Christ, yet not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” Before Paul came to Corinth, the Corinthians were not plants. On the contrary, they were dead sinners. But when Paul visited them, he imparted life to them, and they became living plants. This is the first aspect of planting.

The second aspect of planting is to bring the living plants into contact with the proper soil and to place them in the soil. To be sure, the right soil in which the plants may grow is the church life. On the one hand, we need to learn how to impart Christ into sinners through the preaching of the gospel in life. When Christ is imparted into others, they become living plants. On the other hand, we need to put these plants into the proper soil, the church life. These two things together constitute the planting.


Planting, watering, and making to grow are all related to the matter of life. This indicates clearly that the believers are God’s farm to grow Christ. The ministers of Christ can plant and water. God is the only One who can make to grow. The Corinthian believers overestimated the planter and the waterer, but neglected the One who makes to grow. Hence, they did not grow in Christ as their life.

The Corinthian believers, under the influence of Greek philosophical wisdom, paid too much attention to knowledge and neglected life. In this chapter Paul’s aim is to turn their attention from knowledge to life, pointing out to them that he is a feeder and a planter, Apollos is a waterer, and God is the Giver of growth. In 4:15 he even tells them that he is their spiritual father, who begot them in Christ through the gospel. From the view of life, the divine view, they are God’s farm to grow Christ. This is totally a matter of life, a matter which is utterly missed by believers who are dominated by their soulish, natural life under the influence of their natural wisdom.

In verse 7 Paul says, “So that neither is the one who plants anything nor the one who waters, but the One Who makes to grow, God.” As far as the growth in life is concerned, all the ministers of Christ, whether a planter or a waterer, are nothing, and God is everything. We must turn our eyes from them to God alone. This delivers us from the divisiveness which results from appreciating one minister of Christ above another.


In the church life we must learn not only how to plant, but also how to water. Actually, watering others is very easy. Suppose a saint comes to you with a problem. Do not try to solve this person’s problem. Actually, we are not able to solve others’ problems. Do you not have many problems of your own which are not yet solved? Since you have not solved your own problems, how do you expect to help others with their problems? Thus, in watering the saints, we should forget about trying to solve their problems. According to my experience, the best way to water others is to pray-read a few verses with them. For example, a brother may present a problem concerning his job or family life. Instead of touching the problem, pray-read the Word with him. If you do this, both of you will be watered. You will know that the one who came to you has been watered by the fact that you yourself have been watered. Your consciousness of having been watered proves that you have watered him.

In our contact with others a great deal of time is wasted by vain talk. Problems cannot be solved by talking. Even if you are able to solve someone’s problem, this will not supply him with life or water him. Instead, it will kill him. I repeat, we should not try to solve the problems of others. The more we try to solve problems, the more problems there will be, and the more others will be killed by our efforts.

Instead of becoming involved with problems, we should be simple in our contact with those who come to us for fellowship. God is our Father, and eventually He will take care of all the problems. The crucial matter is the watering. We have pointed out that by pray-reading with another saint, we can water him. Sometimes it is sufficient simply to pray with that one. By praying the other person is brought to the Lord, and we are brought into the Lord in a deeper way. As a result, both parties are watered. This is a very practical way of watering the saints in the church life.

In verses 6 and 7 Paul speaks not only of planting and watering, but also of growing. Paul emphasizes the fact that it is God alone who makes to grow. The growth on God’s farm produces the materials for God’s building.

Since it is God who makes to grow, we must leave the matter of growth to Him. Our responsibility is to plant and water, not to help others grow. If we try to help others grow, we overstep our responsibility. It is beyond our capacity to cause the saints to grow. None of us can produce growth in other believers. Not even Paul was able to make the saints grow. He was very clear that we can plant and water, but only God gives the growth.

While we are planting and watering, we need to have the assurance with faith that God will make to grow. We need to believe that God is here and that He will cause whatever we plant and water to grow. If we have this assurance, we shall not try to help others grow.

If we try to help other plants grow, we may damage them and pluck them up. I once read of a little boy who was bothered by the fact that the grass near his house was not growing very well. Wanting to help the grass grow, he plucked up many blades of grass. As a result, instead of growing, the grass died. What this little boy did to the grass illustrates what some saints are doing in the church life today. The elders in some churches are not planting and watering; instead, in their efforts to help the saints to grow, they are plucking them up. But the more the elders help in this way, the less the plants grow.

It is important for us to have the full assurance that when we plant and water, God will make to grow. Thus, after planting and watering, we should be at rest and not try to help others grow. Growth is not of us; it is altogether of God. Through the church life and our watering, God will supply the plants and enable them to grow. As long as the saints remain in the church life and are watered, God will make them grow.