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1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

After asserting two different works(sower and planter) Paul goes further to say they shall receive rewards according to their labor

1Corinthians 3:8 ESV

8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor

Further on Paul speaks of some labor enduring the fire whilst the other will be burnt

1 Corinthians 3:14 ESV

If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Seeing that they will be rewarded according to their labor as well as some works burnt up, does this entail different rewards between sower and planter?

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  • If by "entail" you meant first-order logical entailment (⊢), then the answer is no :)
    – Tony Chan
    Nov 16, 2021 at 16:15

2 Answers 2

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Don't stretch the metaphors too much. While other passages such as 1 Timothy 5:17 do indicate that the ministry of some people is of a higher status than others, what Paul is saying here in 1 Corinthians 3 is that despite differences in our ministries, we're all one team, and it is ultimately God's work, not ours. Both planting and watering are essential works, and we should not look down on someone's 'unfruitful' ministry just because in God's private wisdom he assigned some of his workers to planting and other workers to watering.

And indeed, often we don't know what the effect of our ministry will be. I've heard it said that on average someone hears the gospel 7 times before coming to faith. We usually won't know if we're telling someone for the first time or the seventh. And while it is much more exciting to be there when someone's eyes are opened and they repent and turn to God for the first time, God doesn't consider that person higher than those who shared the gospel faithfully before then. That preliminary ministry might not be exciting, but it's vital, and if we remember that it's God who gives the growth, then we'll feel neither shame nor pride at the fruit of our gospel work.

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Possibly. That depends largely on the quality of their labor. The phrase "will receive his wages according to his labor" will make sense to you if I insert more words between the words to and his. (Not that I'm adding words to holy writ, but those added words come from other passages that do use those words. In other words, they come from the hermeneutical principle of "the analogy of Scripture," according to which interpreters get a more complete interpretation of a passage by incorporating the teachings of other passages into their interpretation that deal with the same or similar subject.)

He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to [the quality of] his labor.

The quality of the Christian's labors is what determines the extent to which the Lord rewards him or her. What determines the quality of that labor, whether it is planting, watering, or reaping is the laborer's attitude or motive. Put differently, the attitude or motive of the laborer is ultimately the basis for reward.

In a passage you quoted from 1 Corinthians 3, Paul also said the following:

11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames (my bolding).

Motives and attitudes are very important to God. In his judgment of believers he recognizes whether the work done by his planters, waterers, and reapers is top-quality work or not. Baser motives for those works could include such things as pride and the desire for recognition; the desire to have bragging rights; and a competitive spirit and a desire to outperform another believer, to name but three baser motives.

Will two planters, for example, receive different rewards? Yes. That is not, however, because some works or ministries are more important than other works or ministries. The most important criteria for God's judgment of believers at the bema are how good and how faithful their works were.

“. . . [the servant's] master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’" (Matthew 25:14 ff., my bolding).

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