Drinking Deeply

Friday, July 28, 2006 at 4:08 PM

Crowns (4) - Christ our boast

Another group of the verses I listed earlier are those with Paul speaking of a church (or body of believers) as his crown and boast.
Philippians 4:1
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

1 Thessalonians 2:19
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
For the purposes of the question, it's easy to see that these verses do not support an additional reward or crown for those who do certain things, but rather speak of Paul boasting in the churches he has planted.

But this does bring up an issue that was my first instinct when confronted with the concept of crowns, and one that I'd like to address here.

The issue is the objection, "if there were additional rewards in heaven for what we do here on earth, we undermine sanctification by faith alone, because then there would be something to boast in."

As a possible response to that objection (as I am still thinking through the issue myself, hopefully the answer will become clearer as I work through these posts), it could be said that "if there are extra rewards in heaven, they come by grace and not by works, so that there is nothing to boast in."

Like Paul, we make our boast only in the cross. Galatians 6:14 states
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
What does this mean for the above verses that Paul writes about boasting in the crown of the church? As John Piper explains, it means that all our boasts find their source in the cross where Jesus died, and has given, through that, all good gifts. He writes:
for the Christian, all other boasting, should also be a boasting in the cross. All exultation in anything else should be exultation in the cross. If you exult in the hope of glory you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in tribulation because tribulation works hope, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in your weaknesses, or in the people of God, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ.
So to answer one possible objection, it may be possible (as I haven't arrived at a definitive answer) for there to be rewards in heaven, but they are given by grace and grace alone. If they are for good works done here on earth, they are for good works done by God through us (Eph. 2:10). We, as Christians, must always confess that we are but unworthy servants, only done our duty (Luke 17:10).

As 1 Corinthians 4 states:
7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Our boast is only in the cross. We are no different than anyone else. We weren't smarter, brighter, more educated. All that we have, given by grace. We didn't take advantage of our grace better, didn't come up with faith on our own, all of it was given by grace. This is for our gifts in this life, our gifts in the life to come, and for all eternity.

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Blogger Inheritor of Heaven said...

You said: ... it may be possible (as I haven't arrived at a definitive answer) for there to be rewards in heaven, but they are given by grace and grace alone. If they are for good works done here on earth, they are for good works done by God through us (Eph. 2:10). We, as Christians, must always confess that we are but unworthy servants, only done our duty (Luke 17:10)."

I can see this as a way to understand the rewards spoken of in many places in the New Testament. Basically they are rewards for obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Rewards for allowing God full enough access to our lives to work his love through us to bless others. Rewards for obedience to the calling he has given us. I think if we did the same works but did not know Christ, we would receive no reward. It is because Christ shares his treasure with us that we receive a part in it.  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

Our faith, which is by grace lone, believes in God as the Rewarder (Heb. 11:6). Therefore, we boast not in our rewards as if we "earned" them...we boast in the Rewarder. This is applied not only to one aspect of heaven, but all of it.

Question: Is there a relationship between "rewards" and "treasures" we are commanded to store in heaven?  

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Blogger Eric said...

Mickey, could I direct your attention to 1 Cor. 3:10-15 for another verse that seems to be on point? Paul doesn't use the term "crowns" there, but he does speak of rewards. If you agree that it's on point, you might include it in your discussion.  

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Blogger mxu said...

that is most likely going to be the clinching point. Stay tuned =)  

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