This verse from the old hymn obviously refers to the Lord in His position as King of Kings. But did you know that you may also receive multiple crowns? There are five types of crowns mentioned in the New Testament that will be given to qualifying believers immediately after the Rapture. These crowns are identified as the Everlasting Crown (Victory) in 1 Cor 9:25, the Crown of the Soul Winner in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thes 2:19, the Crown of Righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8, the Crown of Life in Jas 1:12 and Rev 2:10, and the Crown of Glory in 1 Peter 5:4.
And You Thought the Emmys Were Something
The Awards Ceremony described in 1 Cor 3:10-15 clearly distinguishes these crowns from the free gift of Salvation by sequence and purpose. Our Salvation is granted at the moment of belief (Ephe 1:13-14) before any good or bad behavior has occurred, and marks the beginning of our new life. The events of 1 Cor 3:10-15 take place on the believers’ Judgment Day, after the rapture, and reflect the fruits of our Christian life. (It’s important to remember that everyone involved in this ceremony is a believer). Simply put, salvation is the gift at the beginning that makes it possible for us to earn the crown at the end.
The requirements are simple. If the motives of our heart are pure when we perform certain “acts of righteousness,” we may be earning one or more of these special rewards. But if there’s any thought of personal recognition or of earning some special credit for ourselves, we’re disqualified. The Lord told us in no uncertain terms; if we perform for the praise of men, we’ve gotten all the credit we’re going to get. We’ll receive no reward from the Lord. But if we keep our good deeds secret He who sees all things will remember and reward us (Matt 6:1-4).
Matters of the Heart
The only acceptable motive in earning these crowns is what I call an “attitude of gratitude.” This attitude motivates selfless acts of love, performed for no other reason than to express the gratitude we feel for the free gift of salvation we’ve received. Both the reactions of others and the observable outcome of our efforts are irrelevant. It’s one of the few areas of our life where we’re not held accountable for results. The motive of our heart is the only thing that matters.
I’m persuaded that the Lord’s ways are so different from ours, and our motives are so difficult for us to discern, that it’s hard to tell what crowns we may be earning. And this goes double where the motives of others are concerned. Hence Paul’s admonition in 1 Cor 4:5.
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
Only the Lord is capable of judging the quality of of our works. The things of which we’re proudest could be burned up in the fire, while little acts of kindness we don’t even remember could sparkle like precious gems in His eyes.
The Gift and the Prize
Understanding the difference between the Gift we’re given (Salvation) and the Prize we can earn (Crowns) gives us a great advantage in interpreting scriptures that speak of these things. The words themselves hold the clue. One doesn’t earn a gift. It’s freely given out of love with no strings attached. And it’s never taken back. So it is with our salvation. It is the gift of God (Ephes. 2:8)
A prize is something you qualify for and work to earn. It’s a reward for behavior, and you have to play by the rules to win. In 2 Tim. 2:5 Paul wrote, “anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules”. That’s how it is with our crowns. And some of them are awarded on the basis of perseverance, requiring us to stay focused to the end. Jesus said, “Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown” (Rev. 3:11).
When you understand that the Bible is God’s Word and therefore can not contradict itself, you know that if He says even once that our salvation is guaranteed, then its guaranteed. He can’t say it is in one place and then say it isn’t in another. If it appears that way, He has to be talking about two different things. And sure enough, He is. When He speaks of the gift of salvation, He says it’s unconditional, based on belief, and guaranteed (Ephes. 1:13-14). When He speaks of the prizes we can win, He’s speaking of our crowns that are conditional, and require us to maintain certain behavior (Phil 3:13-14). As an example, in 1 Cor. 9:24-27 Paul talked about bringing his own body under submission so that after preaching to others about the importance of living a victorious Christian life he himself would not be disqualified for the prize.
Where’s My Crown?
By the way, what do you suppose we do with these crowns, once we get them? According to Rev 5:10 we immediately turn and, bowing before His throne, place them at His feet. In so doing, we acknowledge that even our “acts of righteousness” were made possible because of His gift to us.
If you’re working to earn the gift He’s already offered for free, you’re wasting your time and your life, and missing out on the joy of service. If you’re working to enhance or preserve His gift you risk offending Him, by showing that you think His effort was not sufficient. If you’re overwhelmed by the fact that He has accepted you just as you are, and just can’t restrain yourself; passing His love along every where you go with out any thought of reward, then one day soon He may crown you with many crowns.