There is a vast difference in the doctrine of salvation for the lost, and the doctrine of rewards for the saved. Salvation is “the gift of God, not of works” (Ephesians 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 (Matthew 16:27).
A most revealing Scripture concerning rewards is found in 1 Corinthians 3:8-15.
1) Every believer will be rewarded according to his own labor (v. 8). We do not labor for salvation.
2) “We are God’s fellow workers” (v. 9) –not for salvation, but for rewards.
3) The believer is to build on the Lord Jesus Christ, the only foundation (v. 11).
4) The believer has a choice of two main types of building materials: “gold, silver, precious stones” – eternal materials; or “wood, hay, straw” – temporal materials (v. 12; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18).
The believer who builds on Christ with eternal materials, “gold, silver, precious stones,” will receive a reward. Those who build on Christ with temporal materials, “wood, hay, straw,” will receive no reward. The “wood, hay, straw” works will be destroyed at the ‘judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), and the believer will suffer loss – not the loss of salvation, but the loss of eternal rewards.
Some believers will be ashamed at the judgment seat of Christ (1 John 2:28) – ashamed of their works of “wood, hay, straw.”
In the first year of his ministry, a pastor sat at the bedside of a dying friend. As they talked of the home-going of the dying man, tears filled his eyes. The pastor thought his friend was afraid to die, and attempted to speak words of encouragement to him. But the man said, “I am not afraid to die; I am ashamed to die.” He went on to say that Christ was his Savior, but that he had lived for himself, and now had to meet the Lord Jesus Christ empty-handed. His life loomed up before him as “wood, hay, straw.” He was saved but he had few works of apparent eternal value to offer the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:15).
48-1 The Crown of Life
This reward could be called the crown of those who love God. Upon examination of the above verse, we discover that through his love for God the believer finds strength to overcome temptation and endure trials. Paul said, “We also glory in tribulations.” Do we today glory in tribulation? We can do so only if the “love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5). Without love for God in the heart of the believer, trials can cause him to become bitter and critical; he may lose the “crown of life” (v. 12).
All believers have eternal life (John 3:15, 16), but not all believers will be rewarded with the “crown of life.” This crown will be given to those who are “faithful until death” (Revelation 2:10). To receive the “crown of life,” the believer must love the Lord more than his own life. “For whoever desires to save his life [live for self] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s [live for Christ at all cost] will save it” (Mark 8:35). This reward will be given to those who live for Christ, and endure temptations, in the power of the love of God (1 Corinthians 10:13).
48-2 The Crown Imperishable
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Paul uses the Greek games to illustrate the spiritual race of the believer. They ran to win a “perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (v. 25). No young man could compete in the games unless he was a Greek citizen, born of Greek parents. No unsaved person can participate in the service of the Lord for rewards; only those born of God are eligible (John 3:3).
Just as the athlete must deny himself many gratifications of the body, so the believer must “discipline [his] body and bring it into subjection” or he will be “disqualified” (v. 27). He will not lose his salvation, but he can lose his rewards.
The Greek games had rigid rules for all participants. The New Testament contains the rules for believers who would enter the spiritual race to win the “imperishable crown.”
1) The believer must deny himself anything that would weigh him down and hold him back (Hebrews 12:1).
2) The believer must keep his eyes fixed on Christ, not looking to the right or left (Hebrews 12:2).
3) The believer must find his strength in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10-18).
4) The believer must place his all on the altar of the Lord (Romans. 12:1, 2).
5) The believer must, by faith, refuse anything that would impede spiritual progress (Hebrews 11:24-29).
Do not be a spiritual spectator. Enter the race and run to win the “imperishable crown.”
48-3 The Crown of Rejoicing
(1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20)
The “crown of rejoicing” (v. 19) is the soul winner’s crown. The greatest work you are privileged to do for the Lord is to bring others to a knowledge of Christ as Savior. Much of your joy in heaven will be determined by the souls you have had a part in bringing to Christ. Paul tells the Thessalonian believers that they are his “glory and joy,” now and when Jesus comes.
The Bible also gives these reasons for winning souls:
1) It is wise to win souls to Christ (Proverbs 11:30).
2) It is an attack on sin to win souls to Christ (James 5:20).
3) It is a cause for joy in heaven to win souls to Christ (Luke 15:10).
4) Soul winners will shine as the stars forever (Daniel 12:3).
How you can win souls to Christ:
1) Witness with your life—live so that others may see Christ in you (2 Corinthians 3:2; cf. Galatians 2:20).
2) Witness with your mouth, trusting the Holy Spirit to give power to the spoken word (Acts 1:8).
3) Witness by tithes and offerings, so that others may preach Christ, and you will have “fruit [reward] that abounds to your account” (Philippians 4:15-17; cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6).
God has promised that your labor will not be in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). The soul winner will not rejoice alone – all of heaven will rejoice with him when he receives the “crown of rejoicing” (v. 19).
48-4 The Crown of Righteousness
(2 Timothy 4:5-8)
The “crown of righteousness” (v. 8) is a reward. It is not to be confused with the “righteousness of God” which the believer receives when he becomes a Christian; for at that time, the believer is to “become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This righteousness is imputed to all those saved by grace through faith. The “crown of righteousness” is a reward to be earned by the saved. If the believer looks for, and loves, the second coming of Christ, it will affect his whole life. Look at the dynamic impact this truth had on the life of the apostle Paul.
He could say:
1) “I have fought the good fight” (v. 7; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:32). He fought a spiritual battle throughout hi Christian life, and won. He never surrendered to the enemies of righteousness (Ephesians 6:12).
2) “I have finished the race” (v. 7). He had a course to travel, and he did not detour the hard places; neither did he look back (Luke 9:61, 62). He finished his course with his eyes fixed on Christ (Philippians 1:6).
3) “I have kept the faith” (v. 7). He preached the “whole counsel of God” – never betraying any of the great doctrines (Acts 20:24-31). The apostle looked ahead to the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10) where the “crown of righteousness” will be given to those who “have loved His appearing” (v. 8). How important it is for the believer to look with a heart of love for the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that he may receive the “crown of righteousness” (v. 8).
48-5 The Crown of Glory
(1 Peter 5:2-4)
The “crown of glory” (v. 4) is a special reward for faithful, obedient, God-called pastors. They will receive this reward when the “Chief Shepherd appears.” It is eternal; it “does not fade away” (v. 4). Every believer may share in the pastor’s “crown of glory.” “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41). Support your faithful, God-called pastor by praying for him and encouraging him in the work of the Lord. Undergird his ministry with your tithes and offerings (Malachi 3: 10), giving freely of your time to the to the Lord’s service. God will reward you for supporting His chosen servant by allowing you to share in your pastor’s reward.
The pastor will earn this “crown of glory” by:
1) Feeding the church. He is to proclaim the Word of God without fear or favor, and when necessary, to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
2) Taking the spiritual oversight of the church. A pastor is responsible to God for the message preached to his people. No pastor should preach to please the people; he is to please his Lord (Galatians 1:10).
3) Being an example to the church. He is not to serve for the reward of money. However, the church is responsible to care for his material needs (1 Timothy 5:18). He is to be a spiritual leader, and not a dictator. He is to walk with God by faith. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, [He] will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (v. 4).
Master Outline 48 – Crowns for Christians
 Is there a difference between the doctrine of salvation for the lost, and the doctrine of rewards for the saved? YES or No. Explain.
 What four (4) principles of the doctrine of reward do we welcome from 1 Corinthians 3:8-15?
 What are the two (2) types of materials you can build with on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
 Will there be shamed faced believers at the judgment seat of Christ? YES or NO. Explain.
 What is the difference between being afraid to die and ashamed to die?
 What are the five (5) crowns possible for believers?
 Describe the “Crown of Life.”
 What will cause a believer to lose his Crown of Life?
 What must the believer do to receive the Crown of Life?
 What did the Apostle Paul use to describe the reason for the “Imperishable Crown?”
 What were the qualifications of the Greek races, and how does that apply to the Christian Life?
 How does discipline apply to the Christian?
 What are five (5) rules we find in the New Testament for the participants of the Christian race?
 What does the statement “spiritual spectator” mean?
 The “Crown of rejoicing” is for whom?
 What will determine much of our joy in heaven?
 What four (4) reasons does the Bible give for winning souls?
 What are the three (3) ways you witness?
 What promise has God given the believer?
 Is the “Crown of Righteousness” the same as the righteousness of the believer? YES or NO. Explain.
 What are the three (3) dynamic truths revealed with the “Crown of Righteousness?”
 What is the “Crown of Glory” for?
 Can believers share in the reward?
 What are three (3) ways the pastor can earn this “Crown of Glory?”