After all, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? They are [only] servants through whom you believed [in Christ], with each one doing what the Lord gave him to do.
But, as ministers of God, we [try to] commend ourselves [to others] in every way. [We do this] by [our] great steadfastness in troubles, hardships and difficulties.
Using the unearned favor shown to me by God [Note: Paul here probably refers to his apostleship and its attending spiritual gifts], as an expert building contractor, I laid the foundation [i.e., in starting the Corinthian church], and someone else is building on it [i.e., Apollos. See verse 6].
He has also made us competent as ministers of a New Agreement [i.e., between Himself and mankind]. It is not [an agreement] based [merely] on a written document [i.e., such as the law of Moses], but on the Holy Spirit, for the written document brings [spiritual] death [See Rom. 8:2], but the Holy Spirit brings [never ending] life.
He gave one servant five talents [Note: This 'talent' was a large sum of money in the form of a certain weight of silver. It was the equivalent of sixty years of a farm laborer's wages, or about $750,000 in income]. He gave two talents to another servant and one talent to another. He gave to each one an amount in keeping with his ability [to invest it wisely], and then left on his trip.
[that is, people] who were ministers of the word and original eyewitnesses [of these events], and who passed them on to us; [and since]
John replied to them, "A person cannot receive anything, unless it has been given to him from [God in] heaven.
[But] how can they appeal to Him if they have not [first] believed in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have not [first] heard [about Him]? And how can they hear [about Him] if there is no preacher?
And because of God's unearned favor shown to me [i.e., in appointing me to be an apostle], I am telling every person among you not to think he is more important than he really is. Instead, he should have a sensible estimate [of his gifts] in harmony with the degree of faith God has given to each person.
So then, it does not matter who plants or who waters, but [it is] God who matters, for He makes the seed grow.
So, a person should look at us as servants of Christ and property managers entrusted with the secret truths of God.
For if I preached because [I personally decided] I wanted to, I could claim a reward. But if I did not preach from a personal decision to do so, then it would be because I was entrusted with the task [by God].
Now there are a variety of [spiritual] gifts, but [they are given by] the same Holy Spirit.
Now God has placed some [ministries] in the church [as follows]: First apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then [those able to perform] miracles, then gifts [enabling people] to perform [supernatural] healings, [those able] to help the needy, [wise] administrators, [and] those able to speak in different languages.
You people show [i.e., by your conversions] that you are a letter from Christ, delivered by us [i.e., the result of our ministry], not written with ink but with the Holy Spirit of the living God; not on stone tablets [i.e., as in the case with Moses' ministry], but on tablets of the human heart. [See Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10].
For we do not preach ourselves, but [we preach] Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake.
But we have this treasure [i.e., the Gospel message] in clay pots [i.e., the mortal bodies of the apostles] to show that the [i.e., its] extraordinary power comes from God and not from us.
As workers together with God we urge you also, who have received God's unearned favor, do not allow it to be for nothing,
Are they servants of Christ? (I am really talking like a crazy person now). I am more [of a servant, than they are]. I have worked much harder. I have been in prison more often. I have been flogged more severely. I have been in danger of death more frequently.
I was made a minister [of the Gospel] according to the gift of God's unearned favor, which was given to me according to the working of His power.
I was made a minister of the church according to the task given to me by God to fully present His message to you.