There is a great difference between the doctrine of Salvation for the lost and the doctrine of Rewards for the saved. I have heard some say that a reward system cheapens or takes away from the Christian walk. That people may be doing something for the reward rather than for the Love of their Lord. Fortunately God did not feel this way. There are over 300 verses of scripture where God either directly or indirectly (through a messenger or prophet) says that if we do this or that, He will do this or that for us, 300 verses. How many times does something have to appear in scripture before it's true? Again this is not salvation, it is rewards.
Salvation is "the gift of God, not as a result of works" (Eph 2:8,9)
Salvation is received by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:36)
Rewards are according to the works of the believer (Mt 16:27)
Salvation comes by belief while rewards come by behavior. The two must never be confused. Jesus paid the price for our sins and has bestowed this gift upon us free of charge (for that is what a gift is). Rewards on the other hand must be earned. Rewards can be earned, but can be lost as well. The loss of rewards does not however, effect our state of salvation.
Whenever Paul talks about works, he is referring to the "works of the law" · Circumcision · Animal sacrifice · Keeping the feasts · Keeping the ordinances · Keeping the commandments These things could not save or else there would have been no reason for Christ to go to the cross for our sins. We can do nothing in and of ourselves concerning salvation, it was already done for us.
Romans 3:20 "because by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight"
Romans 3:28 "for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law"
Ephesians 2:8-10 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a results of works (of the law) that any one should boast (I am circumcised or a son of Abraham etc.) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them".
Colossians 1:10 "so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in every respect, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God"
James 1:17 "even so faith, if it has no works, is dead being by itself . But some may well say, you have faith and I have works, show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works"
A most revealing scripture on rewards is found in 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 · All are equal laborers in the field (as to salvation, we are the same) · Each will be rewarded (receive crowns) according to his labors (works) · We are fellow workers with God · Jesus laid the foundation - we are to build upon that foundation (labor in service) · We must be careful how we build upon this foundation · We must begin with Jesus (the foundation) and build from there · If we build with gold, silver and precious stones; we are using heavenly materials · If we build with wood, hay and straw; we are building with earthly materials · Fire (testing) will make evident how we build · If we build with the heavenly (that which will last) we will receive a reward (crown) · If we build with earthly materials (that which will burn up) we will suffer the loss of rewards (crowns) but we will remain saved.
So as we can see from these verses, our works does not determine our salvation, but our rewards (which are stressed) are determined by what we accomplish. 1. We are never commanded to work towards salvation; this has already been accomplished by Jesus 2. We are commanded to work towards receiving rewards; we can still be saved without them, but why would you want to be.
The parable of the talents is a good example of those who worked with what God gave them (well done good and faithful servant) and the one who did not (you lazy and wicked servant)
Some believers will be ashamed at the Judgment seat of Christ (1 John 2:38)
Rewards are called crowns or wreaths in the New Testament and Revelation tells us what we are to do with those crowns before the throne of God (Rev 4:9-11) "And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne and will worship Him who lives forever and ever and cast their crowns before the throne saying, worthy art thou our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou did create all things, and because of thy will they existed, and were created". The casting of our crowns at the feet of Jesus shows our honor and glory to Him who created all things. Woe to those who have nothing to cast at the foot of the throne of Christ. They will give an account on that day!
God has created us to respond to rewards and also to respond to the loss of rewards. Some would say that love for Jesus should be enough, but God set up this system and we are not to question His plan for our lives. We see this hundreds of times in scripture. God has said many times that "if man does this, then I will do that" or "if man fails to do this then I will do that". It's all about incentive. He wants us to have certain things and He wants us to strive for them. If you do not think incentive works:
A man came to his minister one day and was looking pretty down. The minister asked the man what was wrong and the man answered; I am over 300 lbs and have not had a date in over 5 years. The minister could see this was not an exaggeration and told the man he could help. Be at your house tomorrow at 8AM and be ready to go. Go where the man asked? Where am I going? Just be there said the minister, you'll see. The next morning at 8AM sharp there was a knock at the door. When the man opened the door, he was astonished to find the most beautiful woman standing there in a skintight jogging outfit. The minister sent me the woman said, and if you can catch me you can date me. With this she took off and began running down the street. The man didn't even wait to put on shoes, but immediately began to chase the woman. This went on for six months. The man had lost over 124 pounds and was looking pretty good. "I almost caught her today" the man said, "tomorrow is the day I finally catch her, and we can go on that date". The next morning at 8AM sharp there was he familiar knock at the door. The man was totally ready, but when he opened the door, there was a 300-pound woman. Can I help you the man asked? Yes, she said, the minister sent me. He said that if I can catch you, we could go out on a date. You see it is all about incentive!
Lets look at God's incentives for us:
Stephanos (translated crown) primarily that which surrounds or encircles.
Denotes · The victors crown (taken from the Olympic games) · The symbol of triumph in the games (the prize) · A reward or prize · A token of public honor for distinguished service or military service · Nuptial joy or festive gladness
It was woven as a garland of oak, ivy, parsley, myrtle or olive and placed on the head of the winner of the race or game.
Examples 1. The winner of the Olympic games would receive a laurel of leaves placed on his head as a crown (equivalent to our gold medal in the modern games) 2. A citizen being recognized for outstanding service would receive the same as above at a public ceremony (equivalent to distinguished service medal today) 3. The bride and groom would exchange laurel wreaths as a sign of love and devotion (similar to our weddings bands or rings today).
This is different from the Greek word diademo also translated crown. This diademo or diadem is used for the kingly crown of gold and/or jewels worn by monarchs.
"Stephanos" crowns are always earned. This is not always the case with "diademo".
Allusion to the Olympic games is evident in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 "And everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath (stephanos or crown) but we an imperishable. Therefore I run the race, as not without aim, I box in such a way as not beating the air, but I buffet my body, and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (lose my reward). Paul was not afraid of loosing his salvation, but loosing his rewards. Never confuse the two. Paul knew his salvation was intact, but by not striving for the finish line or goal he could end up without any rewards. He trained as an athlete so as to make sure he was always in shape for the work ahead, that God planed for Him ahead of time.
Conclusions · We should compete or be in the race not just observers (live the Christian life of service, not just attending church service) · Be in the best possible shape for the test; spiritually strong (be totally prepared knowing Gods word and will for our lives) · We do it to receive the imperishable; heavenly gifts (crowns God will give us, not the accolades we receive from the world) · Set your course and stick to it; be steadfast and faithful (Jesus said anyone who takes the plow and looks back, is not fit for the Kingdom) · Fight with a purpose; to achieve the crowns God will give (the purpose is already set by God, all we have to do is stick to it) · Have control of your flesh; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (we will tire, but we can draw from His strength) · Finish the race you start; do not fall short or be side tracked (remember Israel in the wilderness, they came right to the border, but never entered the promised land)
You can see that the games of his day were fresh in Paul's mind as he likens it to the Christian way of life. The goal is to receive the imperishable crowns that God gives His servants.
But not all will receive the same crown or reward. There are different crowns or rewards depending on the service we perform in our Christian walk., just as I believe there are different levels of heaven depending on how we served the Lord. Lets look at them.
Crown of Righteousness
2 Timothy 4:5-8 "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 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 me, but also to all who have loved His appearance".
This crown is awarded to all those who, as Paul says, "loved His appearance". Those who are thankful for what Jesus has done in their lives and want to pass it on to others by the way they live their lives (witnesses). This is not someone who casually drifts along, but rather someone who has competed vigorously and endured all the hardships that go along with a fulfilled ministry. The faithful Christian who endures hardship for Jesus' sake, shares the word, lives as a witness and are steadfast will receive the crown of righteousness.
Crown of Glory
1 Peter 5:1-4 "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 received. 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; Nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of Glory."
This crown is awarded to the faithful Elder/Pastor of Gods Church and flock. The Elder/Pastor who serves as God intended, unselfishly, with Christ-like oversight and with a love and eagerness, and one who feeds the flock of Christ will receive the crown of glory.
Crown of Victory
2 Timothy 2:3-5 "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 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. And if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize (stephanos), unless he competes according to the rules".
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 "And everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath (stephanos) but we an imperishable. Therefore I run the race, as not without aim, I box in such a way as not beating the air, but I buffet my body, and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified".
Although the word crown is not in our English translations, the original Greek word "stephanos" clearly shows that those who are involved in active service (suffering, soldiering, an athlete, one who competes, runs, boxes, buffets etc. all active words) and not just spectators, for the Lord, those who triumph over the flesh will win the crown of victory
Crown of Joy
Philippians 3; 4:1
The entire chapter of Philippians 3 can be summed up in the words the good life. Paul talks about our "joy" in Christ and the "joy" living a Christian life brings. Paul could see this in the Philippian church and so writes in chapter 4 verse 1 "Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord my beloved". It is clear that Paul considered these Christians his crown of joy as he expressed it in chapter 4 verse 4 "rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice". God does not want long faced, miserable looking followers, He wants joyful believers. Those who have labored for the Lord and rejoice in the result, no matter how difficult, rejoice in the Lord also and His church, and will receive the crown of joy.
Crown of Exultation
1 Thessalonians 2:18-19 "For we wanted to come to you - I Paul, more than once - and yet Satan thwarted us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy".
This crown is called the crown of the soul winner. The extent of this crown depends on our work in helping to bring lost souls to Christ. The evangelist, the soul winner and those who witness to the lost will receive the crown of exultation.
Crown of Life
James 1:12 "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him".
Revelation 2:10 "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life".
Revelation 3:11 "I am coming quickly, hold fast to what you have, in order that no one take your crown".
Here we have the crown for those who are persecuted and remain faithful, it is sometimes called the "martyrs crown". Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Jesus has a very high regard for those who suffer for His namesake as He suffered for them. To these faithful is the crown of life.
When Jesus (the owner of all things) returns, and He asks his servants (that's us) what they have done since He has been away, what will you say?
Will you be like the good and faithful servant, who doubled what He has given you? Will you be able to show an increase?
Will you be like the lazy and wicked servant who did nothing with what he was given? Will you have something to show Jesus? Will you have a crown to cast at His feet before the throne?
Christians will not be judged. Their sins have already been judged at Calvary.
Christians will be held accountable. They will be asked what they did with what He has given them while He was away.
A minister and a cab driver die on the same day and go to heaven and appear before Saint Peter. The cab driver goes first to Peter and as Peter looks in the book, he hands the cab driver the keys to a palatial mansion overlooking the crystal sea and the throne of God. Wow, the minister thought. If this guy received that beautiful place, I can not wait to see what I get. Peter then looked in the book for the minister's achievements and handed him the keys to a small condo overlooking the halo factory on one of the back streets of heaven. What is this exclaimed the minister? How come that guy got such a great place and all I get is this? Very simple, said Peter, when you preached, the people slept but when that guy drove, people prayed!
It is not about salvation. It is about achievement. It is not about attendance, it is about service.
A faith without works (service) is dead, being by itself.
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