Every apple has five seed pockets – called carpals – containing one or more seeds. The exact number of seeds per apple depends on the variety of the apple and the health and vigor of the apple tree.1 Therefore, it is impossible to predict the exact number of seeds in any given apple – until you cut it open, of course. But once the apple is open, you can count – precisely and accurately – the number of seeds inside.
What can never be counted precisely nor predicted accurately is the number of apples in a seed. If an apple seed is planted in rich soil and receives the right nutrients in the right climate, allowing the plant to grow to be healthy and strong, over time that tree can produce an untold number of apples. From our perspective, it can seem like a limitless number of apples. Year after year, the tree will produce hundreds of apples – or more. Year after year, each of those apples will contain seeds, which can in turn be planted to grow more apple trees producing even more apples producing even more trees…You get the picture.
It is easy to count the number of seeds in an apple, but the true number of apples in a seed is impossible to know. Counting the seeds in an apple is pragmatic and simple – all it takes is a knife and a bit of patience. Even estimating the number of apples in a seed involves faith – will the trees grow up to be healthy? – and vision to believe that the seed is more valuable tomorrow than the apple is today.
Wonderfully, this whole seed/apple conversation gives us a beautiful picture of how discipleship is to work in a local church. Paul tells Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). Timothy was to take the gospel deposit he received from Paul (2 Tim 1:13-14) and share it with others. But his concern wasn’t to be limited to his church in his generation. He was to care just as much about other churches in other generations. These men (and women) to whom he was to entrust the gospel were to “be able to teach others also.” They were to be able to pass along to others what Timothy passed on to them. Essentially, each generation was to be a link in a chain of truth extending from Paul for an unknowable and inestimable number of generations to come.
Each generation was to be a link in a chain of truth extending from Paul for an unknowable and inestimable number of generations to come.
Compare that vision with the way Timothy could have measured the success of his ministry. He could have counted the seeds in his apple – and reported that there were more souls being pastored and fed than the year before. He could have been content with a healthy apple with lots of seeds. But Paul wanted Timothy – and us – to care more about the potential apples in the seeds than the seeds in the apple. It was imperative for Timothy to plant those seeds, to watch them grow up to be trees producing apples producing even more seeds.
True discipleship always means entrusting the gospel to others who will, in turn, entrust the gospel to others (who will, in turn, entrust the gospel to others…). Our work isn’t done when our apple has a lot of seeds – when our pews are full and when many have come to know the Lord. Our work is done when those people who have filled our pews are out investing in others who will invest in others.
Christian: The Lord has entrusted to you a priceless treasure – the gospel. To whom are you entrusting that treasure? What future disciple-makers are you making disciples of today?
1 I’m assuming this information is accurate. I did all my research online…what could possibly go wrong with that?