Think back, if you will, to your school days. What was the one thing that your teacher would say at the beginning of a class one day, that would make you shake in your boots? The one thing that would cause you to break out in a sweat and wish you had faked illness that day so you could have stayed home and missed this fearful event at school today?
Well, truthfully, each of us could come up with different dreadful things which would cause those reactions.
But let’s focus on this one --- “Students, take a clean sheet of paper out. We are having a POP QUIZ! Or it might be an unexpected FINAL EXAM.
It is at that time that you realized that you didn’t complete the assignment the teacher gave you the day before for homework.
God uses His servants to build the Church and He is responsible for the growth of the Church, but He will judge the quality of each Christian’s work in the Church.
Like all the students who have to face a final exam in school, every Christian will someday have to face a final exam before God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 says: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” That word “recompensed” simply means we will be repaid for what we have done in the body, whether good or bad; it can be used in a good sense or a bad sense, depending upon, again, what we have done in the days of our lives.
Going back to the student in fear because of a final exam – he or she could have crammed the night before to be prepared for the exam. However, the final exam referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:10 allows for no night before cramming.
Now, why is that? Why can we not cram for that final exam? The pure and simple reason is this --- you are taking the exam right now, today, and every day of your life. You have been taking the exam every day of your life since you became a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ.
The Exam is about your daily service to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Every believer in Jesus Christ will give an account for his or her service as a Christian, and those who do the work of teaching will be graded more strictly than others.
James 3:1 says. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”
Remember “report card day” in your school days? Were you excited and proud to bring your straight-A report card home? Or did you enter the house with fear and trembling, knowing the reaction Mom and Dad would have seeing a report card that was below what they knew you could accomplish if you applied yourself?
Can you see the connection between pop quizzes and report cards along with the judgment seat as we stand before our Lord?
In this passage in 1 Corinthians 3:1-17, some of which we talked about last Lord’s Day, Paul uses three pictures to describe the church of Jesus Christ:
5:17 the church is a field 5-9 the church is a building; 16-17 the church Is a temple.
So, this morning we are going to look at the Church of Jesus Christ as a Field.
If you remember, last week we talked about the condition of the Church in Corinth. It was in trouble. They had allowed all kinds of worldly factions to come into the Church. They began to act more like political rivals than brothers and sisters in Christ.
They were choosing sides as to who they would follow – in verse 4 Paul writes that some were saying they were Paul's followers; others said they were followers of Apollos.
In the church today it would be like saying “I am of Gary, or I am of Robin, or I am of Aaron. Paul warns the Corinthian Christians in verse 21; “So then let no one boast in men”.
They were putting these men up on pedestals. And Paul sets out to set the record straight. Christian teachers are servants assigned by God. They do what they do because God called them to their specific tasks.
And, ultimately, these servants are first and foremost responsible to God who called them to that work. And, because He called them to this task, He will hold them accountable for the work they are called to do.
Paul states this responsibility clearly when he says in the next chapter - Chapter 4:1: “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and starts of the mysteries of God.”
In the Church, we are servants as well. We are servants who work together. In verses 3-5 again Paul asks the question: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul?” And his answer is this: “They are servants through whom you believed.” Notice he does not say, “IN whom you believed, but THROUGH whom – that is by their preaching.
They are instruments being used by God and each one has the specific work that God has assigned to them. They are doing what God called them to do.
Hear what Paul says in verse 6: I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. This is how God used His servants in the Church at Corinth. In saying this Paul is emphasizing this fact: he is reinforcing the image of planting and watering and the giving of growth to draw attention to the fact that we are all on the same team – we are all striving for the same goal in the ministry of the Church and the ministry of the Word.
We are all working to the same end – the same purpose. We are God’s co-workers. We are working in God’s Field.
God’s field – in verse 9 – refers to the local church at Corinth, and in Princeton, and in every other location where Christ is Lord and Christians are teaching the Word that is true to that Word.
The labors of Christian people in the Church of Jesus Christ are noticed and known by God. He takes notice of His fellow workers. And, as Paul says in verse 8: “each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”
In any line of work you may be engaged in or were engaged in during your working years you were given assignments of tasks that must be done in order for the company to survive and thrive. You were evaluated on your performance in completing those tasks or jobs. Sometimes that might mean a promotion, or, in the case of a poorly handled performance, it might mean unemployment.
In the same way, God gives us assignments of ministry. He evaluates the quality or the dedication to those assignments and apportions rewards accordingly.
God makes the assignments, and He gives the growth. How we serve does matter. What we do and why we do it does matter.
Our service to our Lord Jesus Christ is essential work. And it must be meaningful work.
We must think of God’s servants as people on a team, working together with one another.
In their writing one commentator put it this way: “Paul notes the essential unity between planter and waterer. They are one in the aim, result, and motivation power of their work. They are allies and not rivals.”
God is the Lord and He Gives the Growth.
The Lord’s servants do their part by planting and watering faithfully as they work in God’s field.
But they cannot make people grow spiritually any more than a farmer, on his own power, can make corn grow. It is God and God alone who gave the growth in Corinth, and in any other congregation established since that time.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 9:38: “ Therefore beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into HIS harvest.”
And, in John 4:34-38 READ
All of those Scriptures tell us loud and clear: God is the “Lord of the Harvest.”
And the bottom line there is this: Neither the one who plants, nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth is anything.
Someone has said: “To heap unqualified and exclusive praise on the sower is to focus too narrowly; to praise those who handle the irrigation and forget those who sow the seed is to be nearsighted. In any case, it is God alone who makes things grow. And shouldn’t He be praised for it?
Exalting a person to divine status is idolatry. It robs God of the glory that rightly belongs only to Him.
We should thank God for the service of His servants. We should praise Him for the growth in the field that only He can give.