4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
are you not carnal? (v.4) — should be “are you not men?” — acting on a purely human level — not being spiritually discerning
ministers (v.5) = servants
as the Lord gave (v.5) — salvation is from God, not from ministers
planted/watered (v.6) — past tense
gave (v.6) — imperfect tense indicating ongoing action
one (v.8) — one in interest and goals — not rivals
God’s fellow workers (v.9) — the reason for their unity in verse 8
master builder (v.10) — not an architect but the principal builder
I have laid the foundation (v.10) — Mark well, Paul does not say that he had been building on the foundation which another had laid, e.g., Christ as Messiah and King of Israel (Matthew 16:16-18). He says distinctly, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. A new dispensation was ushered in with the raising up of Paul, in which Christ was presented, not as King of Israel, but as Lord over all. — Stam, page 80.
Apollos did not consider himself a rival to Paul, nor Paul to Apollos, but Apollos was indeed a great man of God, eloquent … mighty in the Scriptures … instructed in the way of the Lord … fervent in spirit … teaching diligently the things of the Lord” (Acts 18:24-15). Thus it was that the Corinthian believers had begun expressing their preferences for the one over the other, come boasting that they were followers of Paul and others that they were followers of Apollos.
In 1 Corinthians 1:12 the apostle had rebuked the Corinthians with the words, Now this I say … every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ, but here in Chapters 3 and 4 he mentions only Apollos and himself, evidently because Apollos was, in the eyes of the majority, Paul’s chief rival. And he was, as we have seen, a forecful preacher. We first find him at Ephesus where he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ (Acts 18:28).
Apollos’ true greatness, however, lay in his humility, for we read in Acts 18:26 that he had allowed Paul’s dear friends, Aquila and Priscilla, humble tentmakers, tho show him the way of God more perfectly. They could explain to him the further revelation committed to Paul: the gospel of the grace of God. Evidently Apollos accepted this both humbly and gratefully, and this made him a still greater preacher of the Word. If Paul had any thought of rivalry, he surely had a formidable rival in Apollos not, for this eloquent man, mighty in the Scriptures, bold and diligent, could now do more than convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ; he could preach Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25). By this time, however, he had left Corinth again and was with Paul, evidently at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8-9) — Stam, pages 75-76.