For Your Consideration
From Conversation to Inspiration to Edification
So many good conversations yesterday (Wednesday) at CCC. So, I went home and ruminated over what I heard and decided to address the issue of “crowns.” Stefanoz, or crown was literally a wreath of palm branches. The translation of crown also yields prize or reward that was awarded at athletic contest.
While there may be a tendency to interpret each crown given to Christians based on their performance in the contest of the Christian life (and this may be a worthy interpretation) I would ask the simple question: which one of these crowns do not describe a person who is privileged to spend all of eternity in the blissful presence of holy God?
1) The Imperishable Crown – (1 Corinthians 9:24-25) 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable; Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5).
What Christian inherits a reward that will fade away? In other words, can a Christian lose his salvation? Or, if he/she receives the crown, once in heaven, do they fear loss of the crown and expulsion from heaven? The Bible makes it clear that there is no such thing. The crown we inherit is imperishable, undefiled and will not fade away because it is protected by God’s power. The imperishable crown is that which finally fits us for heaven. We haven’t received it yet, but it is in production!
2) The Crown of Rejoicing – (1 Thessalonians 2:19) “19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? In this verse the crown of exultation is actually people. In a sense Paul says one of my rewards is seeing the people I have influenced for Christ in the presence of the Lord when he comes and he takes us to heaven.
Will there be any Christian who has not influenced someone or encouraged their spiritual life? I suppose that depends on your definition of “Christian” but my definition is simple: A Christian is a follower of Jesus. If you follow Jesus you influence people for heaven and you will see them there. They will be your crown.
3) The Crown of Righteousness – (2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12) “8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. We inherit this crown through the righteousness of Christ. He imputes (Rom 3:21-26) to us His righteousness. It is His righteousness in us which enables us to work through pain, discouragement and suffering.
So what Christian has not been made righteous in the eyes of God? What Christian will not be made righteous in the eyes of God? What Christian does not look with loving anticipation the future appearing of the Lord? Can it be said that this does not apply to some Christians?
4) The Crown of Glory – (1 Peter 5:4) 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. If this just applies to elders, does that mean that the above verses and truths are omitted or deleted? Is an unfading crown of glory reserved only for elders? NO!
We have established that the crown for all Christians will be unfading; that is, it will not diminish in the radiance of its truth and beauty of holiness. So what is this business of glory? The crown of glory is a verbal reflection of the dominant figure in the verse, the Chief Shepherd. And what about the Chief Shepherd? He will appear! The idea is that when Jesus appears there will such a radiation of the glory of God present that Christians will not just wear that glory or witness that glory, but also participate in the glory of God.
Would a natural reading of this text omit any Christian who is present at Christ coming? Will any Christian who basks in the presence of God not experience the glory of God?
5) The Crown of Life – (Revelation 2:10) 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
This crown is for all believers, but is especially dear to those who endure sufferings, who bravely confront persecution for Jesus, even to the point of death.
Concluding comments. As I said at the beginning of this article, each crown may in fact reflect some measure of individual reward. I am unsure. But I am sure that the overriding message of crowns is that the life Christians will inherit is a life of royalty. Royals wear crowns! How did we make it to royalty? Using Paul’s analogy of the competitive games, we faithfully compete for the prize. And such competitive spirit requires a disciplined approach to practice and training. Uh Oh…so we earn our crown by self-effort and a can-do spirit. Yes, the Christian is a winner! We are overcomers. We have persevered and won. We are winners and have shown our medal enough to qualify to be royalty!
But…Our ability to live this disciplined life is a work of the Spirit in our life. Galatians 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
So… God chose us, Ephesians 1:5; gives us the faith to believe, Ephesians 2:8; imparts kindness which leads us to repentance, Romans 2:4; grants us the repentance to repent, 2 Timothy 2:25; and enables us to be faithful and disciplined in our walk so that we qualify to be crowned! Wow…how absolutely gracious of God. The throne crowned brow of the Prince has won an eternal royal crown for all Believers. We are/will be Princes and Princesses in the Kingdom of God. And yet Revelation 4:10 states that we will cast off our crowns in honor of the King of Kings, because we know we are really just His servants.