God Gives the Increase
In many team sports the idea is for team A - to take the ball to the opposing team's side – team B - and score by having the ball go inside a basket, goal line or area. Team B is supposed to prevent team A from scoring. In this context team A is the offensive team, and team B the defensive team. However, when team B takes possession of the ball it takes the ball to the opposite side to try to score. Team A now tries to prevent team B from scoring. Team B is now the offensive team, and team A becomes the defensive team. And, they continue to alternate through out the game. So, the same team will score and prevent the other team from scoring. The team that scores most wins. So, since the same players play defensively and offensively, the get to reap the reward of their efforts.
American football is an exception to this. Yes, the one team has to score on the opposite side with the opposing team preventing them from scoring. But, they actually have an offensive lineup and a defensive line up. The defensive lineup prevents the other teams' offensive lineup from scoring. Once, the offensive team scores or the defensive team takes over the ball, the game pauses, so that the alternate lineups come in the field. For example, team A is on the offensive, so their offensive lineup is on the field. Team B is on the defensive, so their defensive lineup is on the field. If team A either scores or loses the ball, then they pause the game, so that they leave the field and their counterparts come in. They continue to alternate like this through out the game. Like most other sports the team that scores more wins; but only the offensive lineup typically scores. This implies that it will be very rare for the defensive team to score, and for the offensive team to prevent the other team from scoring. Both sides are important parts of the game. But, the one will not be part of the accomplishments of the other side. So, only the offensive team gets to reap the result of the team's effort.
Farming can have a similar pattern. Those that till the soil, sow the seed, water the field, and harvest and gather the fruit need not to be the same people. Very often they are, but they need not be. They are all important. They have different roles, therefore different contributions. One team may or may not see what the other team does. This is why Paul makes his comment to the Corinthians, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase"1(Corinthians 3:6). This implies that neither Paul nor Apollos may reap the harvest of their work. This would mean that others would reap what Paul and Apollos worked on. Neither Paul nor Apollos will baptize those with whom they work. So, when one person says that they have baptized however many, they are reaping on the work others have made. They cannot really take the credit. Paul was clear that baptizing was not his mission, but preaching the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1: 17). Besides as Paul says, "…God gave the increase". It is not a result of man's effort that brings people to Christ, it is Christ in them. When Paul spoke of how hard he worked preaching the Gospel, he added, "… yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1Corinthians 15:10). So, the laborers are really instruments. Paul explains,
1Corinthains 3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
1Corinthians 3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God:
Paul says that the laborers are nothing. It is God doing the work through them. Does this mean that the work of the planter or of the one that waters are in vain. Do they simply work for others to reap the benefit? Paul denied this. He says that, "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." The truth is they have already received their reward. They have Jesus and live by the promise that Jesus would come back to take them with Him. This is not the fullness of the reward. But, it is enough to keep them going with the hope that one day, they will receive the reward in full (Hebrews 11: 13).