The Reward Side of Christianity
Eric Parmenter, Honiton, England
On his office wall a brother had this motto – ‘Counted Faithful’. The same brother wrote,
All my work is for the Master,
He is still my heart’s desire,
Oh that He may count me faithful
in the day that tries by fire.
The New Testament speaks of various crowns as figures of speech for rewards at the judgement seat of Christ.
The Crown of Life
This is a reward twice mentioned for martyrdom, first by James. He writes ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him’, Jas. 1. 12. The Lord, in writing to the church at Smyrna, said to the believers facing persecution and possible death, ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life’, Rev. 2. 10.
The Crown of Glory
This is a word to the assembly elders, ‘When the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away’, 1 Pet. 5. 2-4. Where elders have been faithful to the charge that God has given them, if they feed the flock and not themselves, the Lord will give them a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Satan hates all faithful shepherds and will do all that is possible to turn them aside. To serve to please men is not to be the servant of Christ. The reward is not for those who serve for ‘filthy lucre’, nor for those who would ‘lord it over God’s heritage’.
The Crown of Rejoicing
This is the soul-winners crown. It is for all believers who will set themselves to bring others to Christ. Paul looked upon the Thessalonians who, through his gospel ministry, were brought to trust in Christ. He described them as his ‘crown of rejoicing’, 1 Thess. 2. 19-20.
The Crown of Righteousness
This is the crown for all who ‘love his appearing’, 2 Tim. 4. 8. The apostle Paul was looking back over his Christian life and service. After having run the race and fought a good fight, he could say, ‘There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day’. The apostle goes on to say, ‘And not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing’ - those whose lives show they are eagerly looking forward to His coming again.
The Incorruptible Crown
This is the victor’s crown and is for believers who have disciplined their body and have got the mastery over the ‘old man’. To win the contest means the denying of ourselves. Athletes train hard and deny themselves even legitimate things to win gold at the Olympics, but we do it for a heavenly reward, 1 Cor. 9. 25-27.
We must not yield to fleshly lust, nor permit ourselves to be diverted from the goal by worldly interests and pleasures. If we do not want to be ashamed at His coming let us see to it that we keep our body under and secure the incorruptible crown and hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.
Paul, looking at the reward side of Christianity in association with the judgement seat of Christ, said it made him do three things:
- It made him ambitious to please God wherever he was, saying, ‘We are ambitious to be well-pleasing unto him. For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ’, 2 Cor. 5. 9, 10 RV margin. It gave him a single eye towards the Lord Jesus.
- It made him plead earnestly with people to turn to God and be saved. He said it is because of the solemn fear of the Lord, which is always present in our minds, that we work to win others. God knows our hearts whether we are pure in this matter, 2 Cor. 5. 11.
- It prevented Paul from judging others. He said, ‘Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock, or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way’, Rom. 14. 13.
This brings the judgement seat of Christ down to the everyday things of life. It made Paul very particular in his walk as a Christian - a consistent walk before God. The same grace is available to us, enabling us to have the testimony that we please Him with an honest heart. Let us also keep in mind that we shall share with Christ in His coming to earth. Let us live today that we might have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. 1. 11.