Scripture refers to ‘crowns’ awarded to Christians. What does this mean?
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
Paul is speaking of athletes who master their own selves in order to gain a garland or wreath of victory at games. This wreath, made of freshly picked leaves, will quickly fade and die, so Paul calls it a “corruptible crown”. The crown, stephanos, comes from stepho – to wreathe or twine or to encircle.
The “incorruptible” crown given to Christians marks our exalted status in Christ. It refers to the many blessings we will know, given by God to those who are genuine in their faith and who strive to glorify God. The ‘crown’, then, is an eternal acknowledgment by God that we honour Him.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 asks “What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?” Thus, hope and joy, spiritual blessings, are equated with the crown. We could put it this way – in what do we rejoice? Hope and joy.
All who are righteous will be awarded a crown by God, when we meet Him face to face. It will be a sign that God approves of our righteousness: it is “a crown of righteousness”. (2 Timothy 4:8). It is “laid up” or put aside, for us. We can see, then, that the crown is for both this world (re above quote) and for the one to come, which links perfectly with the idea that we have one foot in Heaven though we still have the other foot on earth..
Those who stand firm and do not give in to the enemy or to his own desires will “receive the crown of life” promised to all who love Him. That is, when we are righteous we will receive acknowledgement of our life in the form of blessings – in this case “life”. It is to know abundance of spiritual joy in this life. A life lived in Christ is vibrant, full, active, joyful… the things we ought to experience, and is given to all who believe and obey. From the root, zao, it means we will know freshness, strength and great spiritual power.
When Christ returns, He will award those who are faithful a “crown of glory”… the blessing of knowing Him in His risen body and character, and of sharing eternity with Him in Heaven. The term “glory” also signifies that Christ has a good opinion of those who are faithful, and this is the basis for His award of a crown. In other words, He allows us entry into Heaven to be with Him.
The “crown of life” is also referred to in Revelation 2:10, and in Revelation 3:11 we are warned to beware of those who wish to remove our crown. This is because our crown is dependent on our own actions: if we dishonour the Lord in any way, then those who persuade us to do so effectively remove what God has given to us – His good opinion, peace and benefits.
Does all this mean Christians will somehow be given different levels of status in Heaven, or on this earth? No, it does not, because such a status would be contrary to the words of Christ, Who said we are all equal.
The crowns are awarded by God on a personal level, and I doubt anyone would be aware of them. Rather, they will live righteously, and so will be humble enough not to expect or notice crowns awarded by God!
The texts telling us about crowns are, then, reminders of God’s approval of lives lived for Him, in obedience. Perhaps one way of looking at it is if we hearken back to our days as children. If we were naughty our parents would disapprove and say so, but if we were good, they smiled a lot and showed approval. This made us feel happy and so we endeavoured to make them more pleased. Their approval and smiles were our ‘crown’, symbols of a joyous state between parent and child. A similar joy applies to all Christians whose lives are righteous.
If a man is righteous, it means he is already living a holy life, regardless of occasional slips into sin. The righteousness has an effect all its own, as it brings God’s love to us in a special way; we then respond to that by determining to be more pure. The love shown to us by God is the crown, and we wish to gain more of His love, so we use that crown as a spring-board, and continue to live righteously.
Some have many crowns, because God awards them to the believer whose whole life revolves around Him and His word. They see and experience many benefits and gifts from God, and so their lives whilst on this earth are filled with purity and holiness. Still sinners saved by grace, but with many crowns from God.
Our aim at all times should be to earn those crowns, not because it pleases us, but because it pleases the Lord. Is this your aim in life? It should be.
© April 2011
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