Now it’s true that in a typical race, there’s only one winner. Only one person can “get the gold" so-to-speak. But you see, this isn't an Olympic and Isthmian Game or even a Boston Marathon type race where there's only one winner. This is a Christian Life Race in which everyone runs and everyone's life will be individually evaluated and so everyone has the ability to receive his crown fairly.
And this is an “incorruptible" crown. It can never tarnish or fade away, be lost, or forgotten. This crown referred to here in I Corinthians nine is better known as “The Crown of Self-Denial." Why? Because that's the essence of Paul's words here. Look with me at verse twenty-five again. The term “temperate" is the Greek word egkrateia. And it simply means “self-control."
A temperate person is someone with a measure of self-control. This is one of the fruits of the Spirit. And the idea here is this. God has called you to “self-control." And what is self-control? Self-control means this. “I refrain from doing some things so that I can do other more beneficial things." There are so many things in this life that affect your spiritual life; some of them are beneficial and some of them are a hindrance to your walk with the LORD. In self-denial, you choose what is better or best for your spiritual life.
The crown of self-denial will be given by the LORD to those who keep their focus on the LORD; to those who are steady in His ways and His work; to those who refuse some things so that they can use their lives for more beneficial things.
And as you can see, the crowns of this world are corruptible. That means they will not last. The crowns that are available to you and me are eternal. Notice again Paul's words here in verse twenty-five. (25) “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”
Every Believer is in this race. Every Believer is called to self-control. And, since it's a fruit of the Spirit, then, every Believer is called to learn to give the Holy Spirit His control. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit in you that you are enabled to practice and experience true self-control.That's the first crown referred to in the New Testament.
Now, please turn with me to I Thessalonians chapter two where Paul describes a second crown. I Thessalonians 2:19. (I Thessalonians 2:19 “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? (20) For ye are our glory and joy.”
This second crown is named by Paul as “the crown of rejoicing.” And, imagine this. This crown appears to stand head and shoulders above every other crown. Why? Because the crown is a crown of true joy. And the reason for the joy is that it’s primarily people that have been affected by your life and ministry. Look again at this nineteenth verse and you’ll see that the crown is composed of pure joy. And what is Paul’s pure joy as he reflects on the people he has had the joy of ministering to? Verse nineteen [read verse nineteen again].
You see, here’s how Paul expects to meet the LORD in the Rapture. He expects to see the people he has led to Christ, those he has ministered God’s word to, those who had repented and turned to the LORD, those whose lives had been changed by the Good News of salvation; and those who had grown up in Christ; those he has had opportunity to minister to.
They, says Paul, are his hope. They are his joy. And they are his crown of rejoicing at the presence of the LORD when Christ returns. In other words, Paul is not only anticipating the coming of Jesus in the sky. He’s packed full of joy because he knows that those who have turned to the LORD will be right there with him in the Rapture.
But this wasn’t just true of the Thessalonian Christians. Turn with me to the Book of Philippians and chapter four. And look with me at verse one. Philippians 4:1 “Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.”
This verse certainly implies that those who came to the LORD in Philippi will also be with Paul when Jesus returns to rapture His Church. And he saw them in the very same way he saw the Thessalonian Christians. They were his “joy and crown.” That’s the second crown, the crown of rejoicing.
Now, as you can plainly see, the LORD will hand out rewards when we stand before Him. But let me offer a word of caution here.
In light of the plain fact that God does hand out rewards, let me show you what the Bible teaches regarding a matter that some times causes a little bit of confusion. I don't want you to be in any way confused.
So look with me at the matter of salvation. There are some who believe and teach that you need to work for your eternal security as though God’s plan is to reward you with His salvation, especially if you did enough good works. Let me assure you that this is not the case.
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