"For we are God's fellow workers: ye are God's husbandry, God's building" (1 Cor. 3:9). The Corinthians had just been rebuked for their carnality as evidenced in the divided allegiance they held. Some said they were of Paul, others of Apollos (1:10-12). Paul reminds them: "What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him" (3:5). It seems that Paul wanted to emphasize the preeminent roll which God played in all their labors. It was God Who gave the increase, not men. It should be God, therefore, who receives the glory. Two times Paul declares, "It is God that giveth the increase." Recognizing that vital truth the question naturally arises, "What roll do you and I play in the growth of the church? Exactly how important are you and I in the work of the Lord?" While it is proper and fitting that God receive the glory for the increase of the body, we must not go to the other extreme and conclude, therefore, that we are of no importance; that we play a completely insignificant roll in the growth of the church. God does not want us to claim preeminence, or somehow credit the growth of the church to our various programs. But neither does He want us to feel so insignificant that we fail to become involved. Thus, under three illustrations, Paul explains how important we are in the work of the Lord.
First, we are God's fellow workers. The King James Version reads, "We are labourers together with God." Without us the job will not get done. Figuratively speaking, we are the "hands" and "feet" of the Lord. If we fail to "go" and to "plant" then God's work will not be done. There is a certain sense of pride in knowing that I am God's fellow worker. I am not in it by myself, but rather we are all in this together with God. That partnership makes up a powerful combination that can defeat the enemies of the cross and bring increase to the kingdom.
Second, we are God's husbandry. The American Standard foot note reads, "tilled land." This is a strange metaphor in view of the fact that the "seed" (God's word) is planted in the hearts of men thereby giving increase to the body of Christ. There is, we think, a reason why the Holy Spirit selected this beautiful metaphor. Imagine if you will a garden, carefully laid out and freshly tilled. The laborers in this garden go about planning seed that will eventually germinate and grow. It is in this garden that they concentrate their labors. When the garden comes to fruition those who observe the fruit of the husbandman's labors stand in awe at the wisdom of the husbandman. The application is simple. We are God's "tilled land," the church, the body of Christ. Consequently it is in the church that God gives the increase of saved souls. No wonder Paul (actually the Holy Spirit through Paul) wrote: "Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen" (Eph. 3:21). It is in the church that our God is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Eph. 3:20).
Third, we are God's building. We know that God is not confined to a building. The church is not the building that is situated at 3029 Handley Drive in Fort Worth, Texas. Why, then does Paul use the metaphor of a building? People come to your house to see where you live. If allowed to spend a lot of time at your house, to observe how you live at home, they would come to learn a lot about your personality, hobbies, and how much you care for your family. It is in that house that much of your personality unfolds in the sight of others. If people visit the church and see a well ordered, morally pure, friendly, loving people, they will see Christ living in us, and get a glimpse, a small glimpse, of what our Father is like. By telling us we are God's building, God's house, or God's temple, we learn that we are a part of the family of God and the recipients of His Divine grace and mercy. That speaks volumes about the church, does it not?
Perhaps it is knowing that we are God's fellow workers, husbandry, and building that encourages us to greater faithfulness and dedication in God's service. If not, it should! We may not be indispensible, but neither are we insignificant. "Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).
--by Tom Wacaster