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 as a result of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Salvation is received by faith in the finished work of he Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:36).
Rewards are according to the works of the believer (Matthew 16:27).
A great Scripture on rewards is found in 1 Corinthians 3:8-15.
The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
First, every believer will be rewarded “according to his own labour”. We do not labour for salvation.
Second, “we are God’s fellow workers” – not for salvation, but for rewards.
Third, the believer is not to build “a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Fourth, the believer has a choice of two kinds of building materials: “Gold, silver, precious stones” – this is building with eternal materials; or “wood, hay, straw” – this is building with temporal materials
2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
The believer who builds on Christ with eternal materials, “gold, silver, precious stones” shall receive a reward. Those who build on Christ with temporal materials, “wood, hay, straw” will receive no reward.
The works of “wood, hay, straw” will be destroyed at the “judgment seat of Christ,” 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.”
Rewards are called “crowns” or “wreaths” in the New Testament.
1> The Crown of Life
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
This reward could be called the lover’s crown. Upon examination of the verse, we discover that the believer finds strength to overcome temptation and endure trials, through the love of God. Paul said, “we also exult in our tribulations.” The question is: Do we today exult in tribulations? We can, only if the “love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5). Without the love of God in the heart of the believer, trials can cause him to become bitter and critical and lose the “crown of life.”
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 wishes to save his life (live for self) shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s (live for Christ at all cost) shall save it.” (Mark 8:35)
This reward will be given to those who live for Christ, and endure temptation, in the power of the love of God.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
2> The Wreath Imperishable / The The Victor’s Crown
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Paul makes use of the Greek games to illustrate the spiritual race of the believer. They ran to win a “perishable wreath; but we an imperishable” wreath. No young man could contend in the games unless he was a Greek citizen, born of Greek parents. No unsaved person can participate in the services 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 say, “I buffet my body and make it my slave” or he will become “disqualified.” He will not lose salvation, but he will lose the “wreath imperishable.”
The Greek games had hard and fast rules for all participants. The New Testament contains the rules for believers who would enter the spiritual race to win the “imperishable crown.”
The believer must deny self of anything that would weigh him down and hold him back.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
The believer must keep his eyes fixed on Jesus, and not look to the right or to the left.
Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The believer must find his strength in the Lord
Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
The believer must place his all upon the altar of the Lord
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The believer must, by faith, refuse anything that would impede spiritual progress
Hebrews 11:24-29 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
Do not be a spiritual spectator. Enter the race and run to win the “imperishable wreath”
3> The Crown of Exultation
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 (NASV) For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
The Crown of Exultation is the soul winner’s crown. The greatest work you are privileged to do for the Lord is to bring others to ac knowledge of Christ as personal Saviour.
The degree 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 “… hope or joy or crown of exultation” now and when Jesus comes.
It is wise to win souls to Christ
Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.
It is a work against sin to win souls to Christ
James 5:20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
It is a cause of joy in heaven to win souls to Christ
Luke 15:10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Every soul winner will shine as the stars forever
Daniel 12:3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
How you can win souls to Christ:
Witness with your life
Live that others may see Christ in you
2 Corinthians 3:2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Witness with your mouth
Trusting the Holy Spirit to give power to the spoken word
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Witness by tithes and offerings
That others may preach Christ and you will have “profit which increases to your account”
Philippians 4:15-17 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.
2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
God has promised that your toil will not be in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
The soul winner will not rejoice alone – all of Heaven will rejoice with him when he receives the “crown of exultation”
John 4:36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
4> The Crown of Righteousness
2 Timothy 4:5-8 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
The “crown of righteousness” is a reward, and 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 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This saving righteousness is a gift to be accepted by the lost. The “crown of righteousness” is a reward to be earned by the saved. If the believer looks for, and loves the doctrine (teaching) of 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:
He fought a spiritual battle throughout his Christian life, and won. He never surrendered to the enemies of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 15:32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
He had a course to travel, and he did not detour the hard places; neither did he look back. He finished his course with his eyes fixed on Christ
Luke 9:61-62 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
He had kept the faith and he preached the ‘whole purpose of God.’ He never betrayed any of the great doctrines (teachings) (Acts 20:24-31).
The Apostle looked ahead to the ‘judgment seat of Christ’ where the “crown of righteousness” will be given to those who “loved His appearing.”
How important it is for the believer to look with a heart of love for the second coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that he may receive the “crown of righteousness”
2 Timothy 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
5> The Crown of Glory
1 Peter 5:2-4 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
The “crown of glory” is a special reward for the faithful, obedient, believer who cares for others with the love and compassion of Jesus, the Great Shepherd. He will receive this reward when the “Chief Shepherd appears.” It is eternal; it is unfading.
Every believer may share in this “crown of glory.” But, it is especially aimed at the main elder who is responsible for oversight regarding the care and feeding of the sheep. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.”
Matthew 10:41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.
Support your faithful, God-called leader by praying for him and encouraging him in the work of the Lord. Under gird the ministry with God’s tithes and your offerings, giving freely of your time to the service of the Lord.
Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
And God will reward you for supporting His chosen servant by allowing you to share in this reward.
The ‘pastoral elder’ will earn this “crown of glory” by:
Feeding the church. He is to proclaim the Word of God without fear or favour; and, when necessary, he will “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
2 Timothy 4:2-5 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Taking the spiritual oversight of the church. This elder is responsible to God for the message preached to this people. No leader should preach to please the people; he is to please his Lord.
Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Being an example to the church. He is not to serve for the reward of money.
1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
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, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”