5 Rewarding Crowns for the Christian
There are eternal rewards. These rewards are given to every Christian. It is interesting to see that each of the five crowns listed in the New Testament is related to each of the five purposes for the Christian (which are described in the books by Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, and The Purpose Driven Church.)
1. The incorruptible crown – The crown of DISCIPLESHIP
“Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown.” (1 Corinthians 9:25, CSB)
The first crown that a champion Christian can receive for running in the game of life is about discipleship. Here, the crown is a crown that will not be destroyed. It is an imperishable, immortal crown. Paul makes the connection between exercise and winning. In life, athletes exercise or practice their sport as a form of discipline. They have self-control. They don’t splurge, over-eat, or do other things that detract them from winning. They have determination. For the Christian, discipleship is a spiritual discipline. Exercising self-control is part of the discipleship process. Exercising self-control leads to having Spirit-control, or being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Athletes exercise with physical objects to have bodily self-control in order to win the sport. Christians exercise self-control with spiritual disciplines to have self-control in order to win in life.
2. The crown of rejoicing – The crown of MISSIONS
“For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, CSB)
“So then, my dearly loved and longed for brothers and sisters, my joy and crown, in this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.” (Philippians 4:1, CSB)
The second crown that a Christian can receive for running and winning in the game of life is the crown of missions and evangelism. Paul describes the people in both the Thessalonican and Philippian church as his crown. It is a crown in which he will take joy. In both of these verses, the crown is a crown of joy, but the crown is about people. What is going here? Paul recognizes that this crown is about evangelism. When we engage in missions and people come to Jesus Christ, we receive a crown. Jesus will give us this crown at His return for the work of missions.
3. The crown of righteousness – The crown of WORSHIP
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7–8, CSB)
The third crown that a champion Christian can receive for running and winning in the game of life is the crown of righteousness or the crown of worship. The crown of righteousness is given by Jesus. Jesus gives this crown to those who finished the mission. The mission is a good fight. The mission is a race. The mission is lived by faith. Christians love the appearing of Jesus because Jesus will only appear when the mission is finished. What will they do when that mission is finished? They will worship. This is why this crown is given when Jesus returns. Christians, who look forward to the return of Jesus, look forward to renewed worship with their King. These Christians look forward to renewed intimacy with Jesus. The only Person to worship when Jesus returns is Jesus Himself.
4. The crown of life – The crown of FELLOWSHIP
“Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, CSB)
“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10, CSB)“My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death,” (Philippians 3:10, CSB)
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3, CSB)
The fourth crown that a champion Christian can receive for running and winning in the game of life is the crown of fellowship. The crown of life is the crown of fellowship. The crown of life is associated with Christian persecution. That is true, but Jesus called us to join Him in His sufferings. Fellowship means to identify with someone. Normally, we consider that to mean that we have a happy time with other people. We have a community. We eat. We share stories. But fellowship also means to identify with someone during the hard times as well. This makes the crown of life a special crown to receive.
5. The crown of glory – the crown of SERVICE
“Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:2–4, CSB)
The fifth and final crown that a champion Christian can receive for running and winning in the game of life is the crown of service. The crown of glory is the crown of service. Some say this crown is reserved for pastors, elders, people who serve and lead the church. But I think this is the crown of service for people who serve the church. I don’t think this is exclusively for pastors. I believe that people who serve others for Jesus Christ will receive this crown. The verse after this describes people who follow the example of these servants, these pastors, overseers, and elders.
“In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, CSB)
So it is not the position of being a pastor that gets you a crown. Instead, it is the act of service that allows you to receive a crown. You serve and you will be rewarded. Pastors lead by serving. They are examples. But they are not the only examples. Incidentally, I believe that if you lead by serving, then you qualify for this crown. You step up to teach and lead Sunday School. Someone steps up and lead an event. Another person steps up to serve others, you will receive this same crown.
You may say: “Jim, you are wrong, this is clearly about pastors.” I think that the key here is whether one is a servant. I believe that those who learn to be servants will receive this crown. They may not all be pastors. There may be some deacons and some teachers and some people in the church who served, who were humble. These are the people who will receive this crown.
Sermons that address the five purposes of a Christian include: