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.1 Corinthians 3:5-6
One of the most fascinating things about being a follower of Jesus Christ and participating in the Kingdom of God is that God has decided to co-labor with us to bring about His Kingdom on the earth. The apostle Paul saw himself as a cultivator, a farmer, of the Kingdom. He planted the seed of the gospel and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. There is a partnership between our work and the work of God.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
God has always wanted this kind of partnership with humanity. We see it in the Garden of Eden. God gave humanity responsibility as co-workers and co-rulers of His creation. He told them to “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over… every living creature that moves on the ground“(Genesis 1:28). God never wanted to just sovereignly make everything happen. He’s always wanted to co-labor with humanity to bring about His goodness and His purposes in the earth.
So when people say, “God’s going to do whatever God’s going to do,” it’s sort of a half-truth. Yes, there are times when God acts sovereignly. He sometimes tells humanity to get out of His way and follow His lead. But there are other times that God chooses to only work through people. And if people don’t obey, it doesn’t get done. This is the weight of responsibility we carry as co-creators and co-heirs of Christ. Romans 8:17 says of followers of Jesus that, “we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”
When Jesus fed the 5000 with a few fish and loaves, He handed the food to the disciples and essentially told them, “You do it.” (Matthew 14:19) When Jesus sent the disciples out ahead of Him two by two, He essentially told the disciples, “Go do what I’ve been doing.” (see Matthew 10) After the resurrection, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples essentially, “Now you do it. You go and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19)
I don’t know why God would entrust so much of His work to us. I don’t know why He put Himself in a position to be dependent on our follow-through. Maybe that is what love does; it depends on people when it doesn’t really have to. Like when parents ask kids to clean up their room as much for the kids’ sake as for their own. It would be 10 times faster and cleaner if we did it ourselves, but then our kids would never become who they were meant to be. Maybe we are invited in to co-labor with Christ so that we can become who we are called to be. And God is willing to risk failure for the sake of our growth.