1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV) … “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. Yet they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.
While each servant has various functions—Paul planted (originally brought the gospel message) and Apollos watered (continued in teaching)—each one was a team member with a common goal. Their goal was the same—to bring people into God’s kingdom and to see them mature in their faith. Yet, that being said, each servant is still individually responsible for his or her work—they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. For more on how God rewards our work, see 1 Corinthians 4:5. Paul will explain this comment in more detail in the following verses. For more on how God rewards believers, see 4:5; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:23; Hebrews 11:6. For Jesus’ words on rewards, see the chart in 16:27 in the Life Application Commentary Matthew.
Paul and the other preachers and teachers of the true gospel message worked together as partners who belong to God. Their ministry belonged not to them, but to God. For more on “partners” (sunergoi), see 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25; Colossians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:2.