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Sun, Mar 09, 2003

50 - Rewards: Crowns

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 8 mins 24 secs

Rewards; Crowns 1 Corinthians 9:24-27


If the athletes at the Isthmian Games were willing to discipline themselves, give up so much, and to impose this regimen on themselves in order to achieve simply this temporal crown, how much more should we do this for an imperishable crown. The word used for "crown" is STEPHANOS [stefanoj]. This introduces us to the doctrine of crowns and there are two different crowns in the Scripture. There is the STEPHANOS crown  which is the victors crown, the crown that is given as an award for successful achievement, e.g. as an athlete for victory in the Olympic Games. It would also be applied for certain awards and decorations in the military for bravery in combat, and at times it would be given as an award to someone who had achieved a certain level of standing in the civic community because of what he had done for society.

The doctrine of crowns

1)  There are two types of crowns in the New Testament. The first is called a STEPHANOS crown; it is a victor's crown. This is a crown that is earned and only believers receive this crown. It is a term that was used to describe the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus' head, and that was to indicate the victory that He would have over sin. Mark 15:17 NASB "They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him." This is also stated in Matthew 27:29; John 19:2. Other passages also suggest this, e.g. Revelation 3:11 related to believers: NASB "I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown." Again, the idea of perseverance is encouraged here. It is very possible for believers to lose their rewards. Cf. Revelation 4:4; 14:14.  

2)  The second crown that is mentioned in the DIADEMA [diadhma] crown. This is where we get our English word diadem. It is a crown of royalty, one that is not necessarily earned but one that is bestowed upon a king that is his right of inheritance, his right of aristocracy. Revelation 12:3—diadems indicating political power; 13:1; 19:12.

3)  Each STEPHANOS crown that was won by the athlete also included a monetary reward. He received a certain amount of money as part of the prize. He was also given freedom from all taxes for the rest of his life. His children were all educated at public expense and a statue of the person would be erected in the town square. So this kind of crown is used by analogy for the greatest kind of honor that God can give to believers.

4)  To understand the nature of crowns we must understand the cultural imagery of the Games which lies behind this metaphor. It is in this metaphor that the believer is compared not only to the athlete but also to the soldier. 2 Timothy 2:4 NASB "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." The point is learning to prioritise, learning to decide what you are after, what your goal in life is, and then excluding from your life all those things that distract you from achieving that end. [5] "Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules." We have to operate according to the protocol mandates of the spiritual life in order to advance to spiritual maturity.

5)  The Games in the ancient world were well known and they developed early in Greece during the sixth century BC. Under Rome they never gained the original glory they had during the golden years of Greece but they had been restored and they had become more and more popular. The Games focused primarily on track events such as racing, throwing the javelin, and discuss throwing, as well as more physical events such as wrestling and boxing. Only free-born Greeks were eligible to participate and their ten months of training was called the AGONIZOMAI [a)gonizomai], emphasizing the strict discipline that was necessary in order for them to advance.

6)  Paul goes on to say that as believers we are not to live our Christian lives aimlessly but for the goal of winning the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:26 NASB "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air." In the ancient world they didn't box as we do today, they punched with what was more like a round-house punch and their punching was done by swinging their arm like a windmill, so if there wasn't anything there for them to connect to it had the idea of someone just standing there flailing their arms in the air. This is the image that Paul is using here.

7)  There are four crowns that are mentioned in the New Testament.

The first is the crown of righteousness—2 Timothy 4:6-8 NASB "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7]  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; [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." Those who love His appearing is not simply someone who is looking forward to the Lord coming back, but someone who is motivated by the fact that Jesus Christ is going to come back at any particular moment. This is the idea that John has in 1 John 2:28 that we should not be ashamed at His coming, His appearance. We are motivated by His appearance. This is the believer who is motivated by the fact that Jesus Christ could come back tomorrow and, are we ready? Are we prepared to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, have we been keeping our spiritual growth our number one priority. When we grown and mature as a believer God the Holy Spirit is going to produce righteousness in our life. The crown of righteousness does not refer to positional righteousness but to the practical or experiential righteousness that is developed in the believer's life through the application of doctrine and spiritual growth. This is the divine good produced in the believer's life which develops capacity for life and capacity for happiness, both now and in eternity. As the believer advances toward spiritual maturity he is going to spend more and more time in fellowship, he is going to be applying doctrine. As a result of this the Holy Spirit produces in the believer production righteousness. This is what is stated in Ephesians 5:9 NASB "(for the fruit of the Light ["Spirit" in the Majority Text) {consists} in all goodness and righteousness and truth)." The result of this, if you reach spiritual maturity, is you receive the crown of righteousness. 

The second crown is the crown of life. This is described in Revelation 2:10 NASB "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." James 1:12 NASB "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved [dokimoj], he will receive the crown of life which {the Lord} has promised to those who love Him." Once again, love for God the Father is characteristic of the mature believer. You don't learn to love the Lord until you have a certain amount of doctrine in your soul. This is related to eternal life. There is a quality of life associated with the believer who stays in fellowship. The quality of life that we are promised, this extra capacity for life that will be ours in the eternal state, comes as a result of spiritual growth based on abiding in Christ. This crown of life is related to the believer's success in enduring adversity and testing without yielding to temptation. In some cases this may involve physical persecution and even martyrdom.

The third crown is the crown of glory. This crown is awarded to pastors who faithfully study and communicate Bible doctrine to their congregation. The pastor must be faithful in his preparation for the ministry. He must be faithful in his own spiritual growth and his own spiritual advance, his congregation will never advance beyond his own spiritual growth and life. Finally, a pastor-teacher must be faithful to feed his congregation and to give them solid food so that they may grow from that. 1 Peter 5:1 NASB "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as {your} fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, [2] shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to {the will of} God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; [3] nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. [4] And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."

The fourth crown is the crown that is the subject of 1 Corinthians chapter nine is the winner's crown, for the person who has mastered himself (the crown of self-mastery or the crown of self-discipline), for the winner who faithfully runs the race.