My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow. - 1 Corinthians 3:6
The Church’s mission is to spread the gospel. This has been done with varying degrees of effectiveness through the centuries, but recently more attention has been given to communicating the Good News to different kinds of people in ways that they will understand and embrace. Jesus had something to say on this subject.
Middle Eastern farmers of the first century sowed their seed as they walked up and down their land with a basket of seed on their hips, scattering seed in a sweeping arc. The seed would fall on all kinds of soil. Some would flourish, and the rest would never produce at all. Jesus used this common occurrence as an illustration of what happens when the Good News of the kingdom is spread abroad by his disciples.
God’s word is like seed. When it is presented to men and women, it meets with a variety of responses. Some hearers are so well prepared that they eagerly respond. They receive the message, believe it, and embrace it, and new life begins to show (13:23). But sadly, other hearers are so hardened—perhaps disinterested or antagonistic—that the truth is quickly lost on them (13:19). Some hearers respond shallowly with intellectual assent and even a glad acknowledgment of the truth that hides an unchanged heart (13:20-21). Others fail to recognize the unique significance of the message, its importance lost among all the other things that clutter their lives (13:22).
What does this mean for the disciple who is eager to propagate the Good News? First, he should have confidence in the power of God’s word, just as the farmer has confidence in the ability of his seed to produce. Second, the disciple must recognize that he is responsible to communicate the truth, but he cannot control the response. The farmer is responsible to sow the seed, but he cannot ensure a good harvest, no matter how much preparation he makes. Third, the disciple will meet people who want to evaluate the message, while in fact it is “evaluating” them! The soil doesn’t “evaluate” the seed—it’s vice versa! Fourth, the disciple must remember that people by nature are spiritually blind and deaf—they need God’s miraculous intervention in their lives (13:12, 15).
Paul got it right when he said, “My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6). We are responsible for the sowing, but God is responsible for the growing.
For Further Study: Matthew 13:1-23
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