Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Crowns of a Believer!

Crown Him with Many Crowns

The Lord has given you a gift and a chance to earn some incredible prizes.

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

This verse from the old hymn obviously refers to the Lord in His position as King of Kings. But did you know that you may also receive multiple crowns? There are five crowns mentioned in the New Testament and they’re given to believers immediately after the Rapture. A hint of this is found, right after the promise that we’ll be kept from the coming tribulation, in Rev 3:11. “Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown.”

The crowns are identified as the Everlasting Crown (Victory) in 1 Cor 9:25, Crown of the Soul Winner in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thes 2:19, Crown of Righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8, Crown of Life in Jas 1:12 and Rev 2:10, and the Crown of Glory in 1 Peter 5:4.

And You Thought the Emmys Were Something

The Award Ceremony described in 1 Cor 3:12-15 clearly distinguishes these crowns from the free gift of Salvation by sequence and purpose. The Gift of Salvation is granted at the moment of belief (Ephe 1:13-14) before any behavior, good or bad, has occurred and marks the beginning of our new life. The events of 1 Cor 3 take place on the Believers’ Judgment Day, and reflect the fruits of our life after salvation. It’s important to realize that everyone involved in this ceremony is a believer (vs. 15). Simply put, salvation is the gift at the beginning that makes it possible for us to earn the crown at the end.

I Want One Of Those

The requirements are explained in 1 Cor 4:5. If the motives of our hearts are pure when we perform certain “acts of righteousness,” we may be earning one or more of these special prizes. But if there’s any thought of personal recognition or of earning some special credit for ourselves, we’re disqualified. The Lord told us in no uncertain terms; if we perform for the praise of men, we’ve gotten all the credit we’re going to get. If we keep our good deeds secret He who sees all things will remember and reward us (Matt 6:1-4).

Matters of the Heart

The only permissible motive in earning these crowns is what I call an “attitude of gratitude.” Selfless acts of love performed for no other reason than to express the gratitude we feel for the free gift of salvation we’ve received. Both the reactions of others and the immediate outcome are irrelevant. It’s the one area of our life where we’re not held accountable for results as long as the motive of our heart is pure.

I’m persuaded that our Lord’s ways are so different from ours, and our motives so difficult for us to discern, it’s impossible to tell what we may be earning. And the minute we try we’ve probably disqualified ourselves anyway. Hence the admonition in 1 Cor 4:5. “Judge nothing before the appointed time.”

The Gift and the Prize

Understanding the difference between the Gift (Salvation) and the Prize (Crowns) gives you great advantage in interpreting scriptures that speak of these things. The words themselves hold the clue. One doesn’t earn a gift. It’s freely given out of love with no strings attached. And it’s never taken back. So it is with our salvation.

A prize on the other hand is something you qualify for and work to earn. It’s a reward for behavior, and if it’s later determined that you violated the rules and should be disqualified, it can be revoked. So it is with our crowns. “Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown.” (Rev. 3:11)

When you understand that the Bible is God’s Word and therefore can not contradict itself, you know that if He says even once that our salvation is guaranteed, then its guaranteed. He can’t say it is in one place and then say it isn’t in another. If it appears that way, He has to be talking about two different things. And sure enough, He is. When He speaks of the gift of salvation, it’s unconditional irrespective of behavior. (2 Cor 1:21-22) When He speaks of the rewards we can earn, He’s speaking of our crowns. (Phil 3:13-14)

Where’s My Crown?

By the way, what do you suppose we do with these crowns, once we get them? According to Rev 5:10 we immediately turn and, bowing before His throne, place them at His feet. In so doing, we acknowledge that even our acts of service were made possible because of His gift to us.

If you’re working to earn the gift He’s already offered for free, you’re wasting your time and your life, and missing out on the joy of service. If you’re working to enhance or preserve His gift you risk offending Him, saying His effort was not sufficient. If you’re overwhelmed by the fact that He has accepted you just as you are, and just can’t restrain yourself; passing His love along every where you go with out any thought of reward, then one day soon He will crown you with many crowns.

More On Our Crowns

Q. I don’t know about you but I feel like I’m going to be the only Christian without a crown. I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything without some sort of hidden selfish motive. Even when I think I’m being selfless, just thinking that suddenly ruins everything. I guess I’ll just be grateful finally being with the Lord. That will be my reward. Being sinless and being with him is reward in itself. I can’t wait!!!

A. You’re just like the rest of us. I think what we considered to be our greatest accomplishments will get burned up in the fire, and the things we don’t even remember doing will earn us crowns. Remember 1 Cor. 4:5 says,

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

This applies to the way we judge ourselves too. And please note the word “each”. Each will receive his praise from God. It doesn’t say “some” or “many” or even “most” but “each”. To me this means that the Lord will find something good in each one of us.

Crowns For Believers, Literally?

Q. My question concerns crowns and the meaning of the term. I know the Bible mentions a crown of rejoicing, a crown of righteousness, a crown of life, etc., but are these literal crowns to be eventually awarded the believer, or are they metaphors for something else? The old hymn says “Crown Him with many crowns..” so maybe Christ is the only one worthy to be crowned? Thank you and God bless your ministry.

A. There’s no reason to think of the crowns symbolically. Rev. 4:10 says that as soon as we receive them, we lay them before the Throne at the Lord’s feet, signifying that He is the only one who is worthy to receive them. That would be hard to do that with a metaphorical crown.

The hymn you quoted refers to Rev. 19:12. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

Rewards At The Bema Judgment

Q. Hi, I love your website. My question is on what works are our Rewards at the Bema Seat based upon? Is it our obedience to the Lord’s commandments on a day to day basis, struggling to be obedient in times of Temptation, etc. Or are they something different, like seeing a starving person on the street, and getting them a sandwich to eat, or giving someone some clothes that are in need? Or is it a combination of both?

A. In Matt. 6 Jesus warned us to perform our “acts of righteousness” in private, as well as our prayers and fasting, to avoid getting immediate credit on Earth at the expense of future credit in Heaven. He also said the be careful not to store up earthly treasure, but use our earthly substance to build up treasure in Heaven.

In rewarding tribulation believers at the 2nd Coming, He said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40) By this He meant protecting and caring for other believers, especially Jews.

In 1 Cor. 4:5 Paul said that the random acts of kindness we perform have to be done with pure motives, expecting no recognition for ourselves.

He also spoke of crowns for the Church as rewards for certain kinds of behavior. These crowns are identified as the Everlasting Crown (Victory) in 1 Cor 9:25, Crown of the Soul Winner in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thes 2:19, Crown of Righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8, Crown of Life in Jas 1:12 and Rev 2:10, and the Crown of Glory in 1 Peter 5:4.

The Crown of Victory is for believers who overcome the temptations of this world and live a victorious Christian life. The Crown of the Soul Winner is for those whose evangelistic endeavors bring others to salvation. The Crown of Righteousness is for those who long for His appearing. The Crown of Life is for those who persevere under trial, and the Crown of Glory is for those who are shepherds of God’s flock, elders, preachers, teachers and mentors of the young.

It seems clear that to qualify for all these rewards our motives have to be expressions of gratitude to the Lord for what He’s done for us, and cannot be for the purpose of earning any sort of recognition, position or favor.

Eternal Consequences For Believers?

Q. I just read ‘Best Of Both Worlds? Not!’ and came across this:

‘And when they stand before the Bema Seat judgment (1 Cor 3:10-15) with their salvation intact but absent any rewards, this will become most obvious to them as they experience eternal consequences for a few years of rebellious behavior.’

What do you mean by eternal consequences? As in restrictions placed on us in eternity? The more rebellious we were on Earth, the more consequences (like what?) we have in eternity?

I held the view that all the Church would be equal in eternity, with no class structure. How do you see it?

A. In 1 Cor 3:10-15 Paul wrote about the works of believers being judged. He used the analogy of subjecting them to the fire to see if they’d survive. Those of gold, silver or precious stones will withstand the heat, but those of wood, hay,and stubble will be consumed. It’s a test of the value, if you will, of the things we do with our life after becoming believers. In chapter 4 verse 5 he said that the basis for establishing the value of these works is the motive of our hearts when doing them. He made it clear that the judgment wouldn’t affect our salvation, but would determine the rewards we’d receive.

In other letters he called these rewards crowns. There are five of them listed in Scripture, the Everlasting Crown (Victory) in 1 Cor 9:25, Crown of the Soul Winner in Phil 4:1 & 1 Thes 2:19, Crown of Righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8 , Crown of Life in Jas 1:12 & Rev 2:10, and the Crown of Glory in 1 Peter 5:4. Here’s a link to a more detailed study on Crowns.

In 1 Cor. 9:24-27, using an Olympic analogy, he wrote that no athlete is satisfied to just qualify for the race. They all want to run in such a way as to win the victor’s crown. In the same way, no believer should be satisfied with just being saved. We should all want to live our lives in such a way as to win crowns too.

Jesus also hinted at some kind of reward system. In Matt.6:19-21 He advised us not to work to accumulate treasure on Earth, but to store up treasure in Heaven. The idea is that things we do here may have value for us when we get there. It’s another take on the judgment of 1 Cor. 3:10-15. In the Parable of the 10 Minas (Luke 18:11-27) He tells of giving His servants rewards commensurate with their effort on His behalf.

Some believers by their ongoing sinfulness fail to produce any fruit in their lives. Others take their salvation for granted and never do anything to express their gratitude for being saved. I took the position in my answer that they’ll probably fail to qualify for these rewards. There are several theories on just what our rewards will be, and in my limited understanding, none is conclusive. But if we all achieve exactly equal status in Heaven, then why these teachings?

One final note. Doing good works just to earn recognition for ourselves disqualifies us for any further reward.(Matt. 6:1) Our motive has to be purely that of expressing our gratitude to the Lord for what He’s done for us.


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