Study 9 SETTING OUT TO WIN THE PRIZE
by Francis Dixon
Key Verse: “…rewarded fully…” (2 John 8)
The New Testament gives great prominence to the doctrine of rewards. When the Lord Jesus returns there will be those who will “be rewarded fully”, and hear Him say – Matthew 25:21. The question we ask and answer in this study is: How may we be rewarded fully? By way of introduction let us notice the following important truths:-
- (1) In this study we are thinking of future rewards. There are those that we may receive and enjoy now, as a present possession – look up Psalm 19:11.
- (2) This subject of rewards only concerns believers. God’s gift to the unbeliever is salvation - look up Romans 6:23. His gift to believers consists of rewards which will be given on a future occasion. We work for rewards, but not for salvation - compare Ephesians 2:8-10 with Titus 3:5-7.
- (3) Rewards will be given not for success, but for faithfulness. Matthew 25:21 and 1 Corinthians 4:2 make this clear. The Lord will reward us on the basis of our faithfulness in service and our diligence in seeking His glory.
- (4) The Lord offers believers rewards as an incentive to holy living and faithful service. The Lord offers us a prize which we may win or lose – compare 1 Corinthians 9:24; Colossians 2:18; Revelation 3:11.
- (5) We must not in any way confuse the doctrines of Salvation and Rewards. Whilst we can lose our rewards we can never lose our salvation. With reference to sin, no child of God will come into judgment (John 3:18; 5:24; 6:37; Romans 5:1; 8:1; 1 Corinthians 11:32); for, as to his standing before God and on the ground that the penalty for all sin (Colossians 2:13) has been borne by Christ as the Perfect Substitute, the believer is not only placed beyond condemnation, but he is accepted in the perfection of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 10:14). But with reference to his daily life and service for the Lord, every child of God must give an account before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:8), when Christ comes to receive His own (1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12 - also Matthew 16:27 and Luke 14:14), and it is then that we shall either be rewarded or suffer loss.
How may we “be rewarded fully”? In the New Testament five rewards are mentioned, and they are described as glittering crowns of enduring glory. Each of them is worn in a different way, and each may be won by all. To receive a full reward will be to win all five crowns! What are they, and how may they be won?
1. The EVERLASTING CROWN, for living a disciplined life.
See what the apostle says in 1 Corinthians 9:25. The picture he uses is of an athlete who subjects himself to rigid and strict discipline, in order to be equipped to run the race and win the prize. He will abstain from many things which, though they may be quite lawful, are not helpful, for they will hinder him in the race. Many things are lawful for a Christian which are certainly not helpful - look up 1 Corinthians 6:12. As a believer you can live a disciplined or an undisciplined life; but if you would receive the everlasting crown, self must be conquered (2 Corinthians 4:10), the flesh must be mastered (Romans 6:11), the rules of the race must be kept, and all hindrances must be set aside - look up Hebrews 12:1-2.
2. The CROWN OF LIFE, for patience in endured trials.
James 1:12 tells us this. This crown is not given to every believer who is tried, but to every believer who stands the test - look up Genesis 22:12; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Hebrews 12:6; 1 Peter 1:7. To endure means ‘to bear without striking’, and although in our own strength we must naturally sink, in His strength and by His grace we can endure to the end and glorify the Lord even in the fiercest fires of trial - compare Isaiah 24:15 with 1 Peter 4:14.
3. The CROWN OF REJOICING, for soul-winning endeavour.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 Paul tells us that our crown in Heaven is to find others there who came to know Christ through us. This crown will be won not only by the preachers, but by many unknown workers who are constantly seeking to bring sinners to the Saviour, and by multitudes of Christians who were faithful in their testimony, by life and by lip, whom God has used as a link in the chain towards the salvation of souls.
4. The CROWN OF GLORY, for faithfulness in shepherding the flock.
1 Peter 5:2-4 tells us this. The word is particularly addressed to pastors. There is room for many under-shepherds in every fellowship of God’s people. Souls not only need to be won, but to be cared for. Parents may be Christ’s under-shepherds caring for their children in the home, and Sunday School teachers also have a great ministry in this connection - look up John 21:15-17. A shepherd’s work is hard work, sometimes involving heartaches and sleepless nights, but the Great Shepherd of the sheep will abundantly reward His under-shepherds who have been faithful to their trust.
5. The CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, for awaiting His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:8 tells us this. There are many details about the second coming which are difficult to understand, but concerning the great fact that our Lord Jesus will return there is no doubt at all (John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). And to those Christians who are looking for Him (Hebrews 9:28), longing for Him (Revelation 22:20), and labouring in the light of His return (Luke 19:13), there will be a special reward in that day - 2 Timothy 4:8!
What shall we do with these crowns if, through grace, we receive them? In Revelation 4, John tells us that he had a vision of a great company who surrounded the Throne and ascribed all glory and honour and power to the Saviour, saying, “You are worthy …to receive glory and honour and power” (verse 11) - and they laid their crowns before the throne (verse 10).
The only question that remains is this: In that day will we have any crowns to lay before Him… ?