How To Win Your Crowns
Selah » Spiritual Life
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
So, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on
toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in
Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if
on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only
let us live up to what we have already attained. (Phil 3:13-16)
After you're saved, you have the opportunity to win rewards, or crowns, which
will be presented to you immediately after the Rapture. (1 Cor. 4:5) Jesus
Himself will make the presentation in what will be the biggest awards ceremony
ever in the history of mankind.
This awards ceremony is sometimes called the Bema Seat judgment, after the Greek
word for judgment, because of the similarity. In the ancient Olympics, judges
awarded ivy crowns (called stephanos) to the winners of the various events at
the "Bema Seat", or judges stand, just like they award medals in our time.
The New Testament lists five categories in which crowns will be awarded to
These crowns are identified as the Everlasting Crown (Victory) in 1 Cor 9:25,
the Crown of the Soul Winner in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thes 2:19, the Crown of
Righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8, the Crown of Life in James 1:12 and Rev 2:10, and
the Crown of Glory in 1 Peter 5:4.
The Everlasting Crown (Crown of Victory)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes
into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it
to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running
aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and
make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be
disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor. 9:24-27)
This passage most clearly defines the context in which crowns are awarded, so
it's a good one to look at first. The Crown of victory is also the one that the
Bible has the most to say about because it's one that every believer can win.
Paul used a sports analogy to help us understand the rules for winning so we
wouldn't be confused about how this works. As in events like the Olympics,
winning the Victors crown requires that competitors qualify and then compete.
For us, qualifying means being saved, because this is an event for believers
only. Then we go into "strict training" in order to increase our chances for
victory, because no Christian should be satisfied just to qualify, even if it
does mean gaining eternal life. That's just the beginning. We all want to win
crowns and get rewards. In going for this crown we're not competing against each
other, but against our old selves, also called "the flesh".
Achieving victory means putting the flesh to death; getting rid of our selfish
desires, our bad habits and attitudes, and any behavior that puts the Lord to
shame. One of the places where the Bible has much to say about what it takes to
win this crown is Ephesians 4-6. In fact every one of Paul's letters to the
Church exhorts us to compete for this crown, out of gratitude for what we've
been given. Gaining victory over the flesh is the best thing we can do to show
the Lord how thankful we are that He saved us.
As in all competitive events there's no penalty for losing, only a reward for
winning. And failing to win in one event does not mean that we forfeit rewards
legitimately won in others. But we have to win fair and square, (2 Tim. 2:5) and
more than anything else, our attitude has to be right. Any thought of
recognition or personal gain, or even of making points with the Lord will
disqualify us. The only acceptable motive is bringing glory to God. (1 Cor.
3:12-15 & 4:1-5)
If we're in Christ we're a new creation in God's eyes. (2 Cor. 5:17) We're now
royalty in training. Our challenge is to live up to what we've already become by
acting like who we are in Christ. Those who succeed will receive the Crown of
The Crown of the Soul Winner
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is
how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! (Phil. 4:1)
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the
presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our
glory and joy. (1 Thes 2:19)
Paul was happiest when he thought of all the people who had come to the Lord
through his teaching, writing, and church planting. And the harvest of his
labors has continued unabated through out the entire Church Age. Since there's
no number stated as a qualifier we don't have to be intimidated by Paul's
unbeatable results. We just have to make the most of every opportunity the Lord
brings across our path. And remember, we're judged here by our effort, not our
results. Each person bears the responsibility for his or her own choice
regarding salvation. So we don't have to be argumentative or coercive, we just
have to make a clear and concise presentation of the gospel and then pray that
it's received. This is the model Paul established for us.
The Crown of Righteousness
Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing. (2 Tim 4:8)
Since our righteousness is derived from our faith, this Crown is not for those
whose lives have been the most pure. You can't get purer than God, whose
righteousness has been imputed to us. When we long for the Lord's return we're
demonstrating our belief that He's coming for us. We're not afraid that we won't
measure up but are absolutely certain that when He comes for His Church, we'll
be among those He takes.
A person who depends on the righteousness of his or her own works can only feel
either arrogance or fear, not longing. Some are arrogant enough to believe that
they deserve entry into Heaven because of their exemplary life. Their pride
keeps them from longing for the Lord because they're getting so much
satisfaction from feeling superior. They're like the Pharisees who looked the
Lord right in the eye and chose to rely on their own works rather than His
Others live in fear that they'll be rejected at the last minute for some
forgotten failure. They don't long for the Lord because they're scared to death
of being rejected. Only the one who depends exclusively on Grace can long for
the Lord. Since they know we can never measure up, they long for the day when we
can no longer fail.
The Crown of Life
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the
test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love
him. (Jas 1:12)
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put
some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
This crown is for believers who've faced persecution and suffering for the Lord,
even to the point of death. We're familiar with the trials and tribulations of
the First and Second Century believers, but did you know that even in our time
several thousand believers die for their faith every day, and many more
thousands are evicted from their homes, incarcerated, or forced to live in fear
for their lives? They will win the Crown of Life.
The Crown of Glory
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's
sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: shepherds of
God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must,
but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but
eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples
to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of
glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
Only those called into ministry can qualify for this crown. The requirements are
clear, and many loyal shepherds of the Lord's flock will finally get the
recognition they so richly deserve. Others, who've lorded it over believers
entrusted to their care, or strapped heavy yokes of legalism to their necks will
be forced to stand to the side and watch as the Lord rewards those who've stayed
true to His word.
These are the five crowns listed in the New Testament. Some of us may receive
all five of these crowns, but every one of us can qualify to receive at least
one. And like I said above, there's nothing we can do that will bring the Lord
more pleasure. And after all He's done for us, it doesn't seem like too much to
ask, does it? Selah 05-26-07