Some of Jesus’ contemporaries indeed believed that God’s work, by definition, excluded any human involvement. We want to put it, catagorically, however, that this is a false conception that cannot but be detrimental to the Church. The Bible speaks with a disarming candor here:
-The disciples are seed (Matt 13:38) and at the same time laborers bringing in the harvest (Matt 9:37-38);
-they are members of the flock (Matt 10:16; Luke 12:32; John 10:1-16) but also shepherds (Matt 10:6;John 21:15-17);
-they are in need of absolution (Matt 19:23-27) but can also give absolution to others (Matt 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23).
-God has revealed to them the “secrets of the Kingdom”(Matt 13:11), yet they have to seek the Kingdom (Matt 5:20;6:33;Luke 13:24).
-They are God’s children (Matt 17:26) yet have to become that by loving their enemies (Matt 5:44-45).
-They have received eternal life (John 3:16-17;11:25-26) yet still have to go through the gate that leads to life (Matt 7:14)
-Because they have done what Jesus expected of the rich young ruler, they are “perfect” (Matt 19:21; cf. Mark 10:28), yet they have to keep watch and pray so that they will not fall into temptation (Matt 26:41).
-The believers must work out their salvation in fear and trembling, for (!) it is God who works in them (Phil 2:12-13).
Therefore Paul can, quite un-selfconsciously, call them “God’s fellow-workers” (1 Cor 3:9). The key to these apparently complete paradoxies lies in the New Testament expession “in Christ:” “By God’s grace I am what I am, nor has His grace been given to me in vain; on the contrary, in my labors I have outdone them all– not I, indeed, but the grace of God working with me” (1 Cor 15:10)
–David J. Bosch
Witness to the World
(Perspectives manual p. 62)