What does 1 Corinthians 3:6 mean?
ESV: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
NIV: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
NASB: I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
CSB: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
NLT: I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.
KJV: I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has described the Corinthian Christians as infants, still living in the flesh despite being given access to the power of the Holy Spirit. Now he is explaining to them, as if to children, why it is so foolish to divide themselves into factions based on which Christian leader they are loyal to.

In the previous verse, Paul wrote that he and Apollos are both merely servants of the Lord. God used each of them to bring the Corinthians to faith in Christ, but they should not be the focus of that faith.

Now Paul adds something that is helpful in this context but is also valuable in our understanding of how God's work is accomplished on earth. Paul uses an agricultural metaphor. Paul planted the gospel; he introduced the people in Corinth to the message of the forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ. This parallels Jesus' description of gospel evangelism as sowing of seeds (Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23). Paul describes Apollos as watering this seed. Likely, he means Apollos provided additional teaching, helping the seed of the gospel to take root in the hearts of the Corinthians. It might also mean Apollos was there to begin guiding the believers of Corinth in their discipleship.

Both men served God by doing the tasks given to them. God, though, is the one who caused the seed to grow. As Paul described in the previous chapter, God gave to the Corinthians the ability to believe the gospel through the Holy Spirit. In the end, God's work among the Corinthians is the work that mattered most.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 3:1–9 describes Paul's rebuke of the Corinthian Christians as infants in Christ. As a contrast to a spiritually-indwelt believer, Paul uses the concept of being ''merely human.'' Such persons are not ready for solid food, still behaving as immature, undeveloped believers. Instead of following Paul or Apollos, or some other human being, they should follow God, the master of all. Different leaders might be called to different tasks in God's will, but none are ultimately more important than others.
Chapter Summary:
Paul cannot call the Corinthian Christians ''spiritual'' people. Though they are in Christ, they continue to live to the flesh. They are spiritual infants, not ready for solid food. Divisions among them prove they are still serving themselves, picking sides in a senseless debate between Christian teachers. Paul insists that both he and Apollos are mere servants of the Lord and co-workers. They are not in competition. Those who lead the Corinthians must build carefully because their work will be tested on the day of the Lord. Christian leaders who build the church will have their work judged by Christ to see if they have built on the foundation of Christ. All human wisdom will be shown to be futile and worthless.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 3 follows Paul's teaching that only spiritual people can understand the wisdom of God. Paul cannot fully call the Corinthian Christians spiritual people, though, because they continue to live of the flesh, as if they were still infants trapped in an immature condition. Evidence includes the divisions among them. Paul insist that he and Apollos are both servants of the same master. The Corinthians should follow God, not them. Those whose work is worthless will suffer loss, but they will be saved. After this, Paul will expound on the idea that believers ought to set Christ as their example, rather than being defined in terms of their earthly leaders.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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