It was not that Paul was unaware of who Apollos was and what his contribution to the work at Corinth had been; the question was asked for a far greater reason than that. Perhaps the question is just as important in 2016 as it was then, although we might need to replace the name with one that is current.
Apollos was an Alexandrian described as being ‘mighty in the scriptures’.1 He was also an eloquent man, possibly an orator, in the way that Paul was not.2 His gift had been recognized by others, as Luke tells us he was commended by the brethren to the assembly at Achaia.3 Equally, Luke tells us that his ministry there was of blessing.
In verse 6, Paul indicates the part that he had played in the work at Corinth. He had planted, that is, he had been used of God in the establishment of the church through the preaching of the gospel and the early teaching of the saints. Apollos ‘watered’ signifying that he had brought that which should have facilitated growth; he reinforced the message already given.
However, above all the effort of the Lord’s servants, Paul reminds his readers that ‘God gave the increase’. Neither servant could accomplish anything by himself; he relied wholly upon God. What Paul stressed was the fact that the vessel was unimportant. The nature of the service does not elevate the servant. There are no grounds for rivalry for neither form of service is greater than the other; both are wholly reliant upon God for the blessing.
It is worth noting that in the Greek the phrase ‘but God that giveth the increase’ has the word ‘God’ at the end of the sentence to give emphasis. Only the ministry of God can effect anything in the process of planting and watering!
How important to avoid the error of following men! However great the speaker, they are only men at best. Some might have followed Apollos because of his ability as an orator and rejected Paul for his lack of ‘platform presence’. Whilst we may all know of individuals whose ministry has had an impact upon our own spiritual life, we should never place individuals upon pedestals. That position and status belongs to God alone!
In this magazine there is an interesting mix of articles. We are grateful to brethren for their expository material. Equally, we have others to thank for ministry which is both practical and timely. There are articles dealing with lessons that can be learned from the lives of individual characters. There is also material of a doctrinal nature, reminding us of truth which is essential in understanding the work of the Lord. As always, it is our prayerful desire that there might be ample food for all the people of God.