The Imperishable Crown

Throughout Scripture, there are five crowns mentioned that are laid up in heaven as rewards for believers who overcome in this life. I’ve spent some time lately examining these and examining my own life in light of them. I thought I’d share some of my notes. In this post, we’ll start with the imperishable crown mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

First, let me say, how we live in this life will impact how we spend eternity. There will be rewards and there will be losses. The Bible is very clear on this. And I want to emphasize, I’m not talking about where we will spend eternity, but how. Where we spend eternity is determined only by what we do with the cross and and our belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. But we, as believers will be called to an evaluation one day, a judgment in the presence of the One who’s eyes are like fire, who sees all, who walks among us every moment of every day, and intimately knows our motives, our thoughts, our intents. This will be an evaluation of how we lived (Romans 14:12, 2 Corinthians 5:9-11) and how we stewarded what we were entrusted with. As 1 Corinthians 5 says, we will “receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

We can face that day with peace, hopeful anticipation, and with a humble yet confident assurance, or we can face it with remorse and regret. The sheer fact that we are still breathing and are given another day should show us how gracious and patient the Lord is. Regardless of how we’ve run to this point, He has given us today to change our course, reroute if necessary, and redeem the time we have before us. 

An Imperishable Crown   

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV

When Paul wrote this, he had in mind the Pan-Hellenic stadium near Corinth where the Isthmian games were held. The winner was given a laurel wreath that quickly withered away. Paul observed these highly trained athletes and noted the spiritual parallel.

This imperishable crown is reserved for those who in this life, have overcome the desires of the soul and the flesh. Those who were temperate in all things, and who lived a life of self-control and discipline. Not the discipline of this world that is earthly, sensual, or that puffs up. Not a discipline that proceeds from the spirit of bondage, or that is arrogant, prideful, or self-promoting, but a discipline that focuses on overcoming with grace, unto life, and that allows us to be continuously shaped into the likeness of our Savior. 

This crown is reserved for those who did not disqualify themselves by living in a way that negated the power of grace to overcome whatever desires, temptations, habits, or iniquitous patterns that tried to conquer and rule them, but that fought, drawing on the power and authority that Christ afforded us through His death, resurrection, and indwelling. 

The imperishable crown is for those who wrestled and pulled (violently if necessary) on the ways of the Kingdom and allowed those ways to shape their lives and renew their thinking. It is for those who most likely had to keep getting back up, time and time again. But they remained persistent, ruthless, enduring the training over and over until they had persevered and had absolute victory. 

This crown is for those who didn’t run aimlessly, beating at the air as Paul says, throwing purposeless punches, but who aimed and were intentional. Who recognized that to live in bondage to anything is not what we were designed for. 

The crown is called imperishable, (aphthartos in the Greek) meaning incorruptible, a victor’s crown, not liable to decay, because it identifies those who traded the temporal for the eternal. They didn’t flaunt or indulge their liberties. They didn’t trade their spiritual, eternal inheritance for a quick bowl of their favorite lentil soup. They didn’t base their decisions based on what was allowable, but instead chose what was profitable. Both for their sakes and the sake of others. Those who receive this crown will be those who conquered their will and brought it into subjection of the Spirit. 

As I consider this, I am both encouraged and exhorted. There are areas where I can clearly see that the Lord has helped me overcome, and there are areas I’ve yet to conquer. I take comfort in knowing that one day, I will present any crown, any victory. back to Him and lay it as His feet, because He’s the one who made it possible for me win. Much like when an athlete dedicates their trophies or medals to their coaches, a relative, or a mentor who contributed to their success. They’re fully aware that it’s because of that person’s sacrifice, investment, training or direction that they’re able to even stand there. Jesus is far more than a contributor to our victories. He’s the source of them.

As thankful as I am for what I’ve overcome, I’m equally as resolute to not leave any victories unmet on the field of this life. Like a well decorated military soldier, I want to conquer all I can for His glory. And I know there is more yet to be won. Keeping this crown in mind, keeping the day of my judgment and my one-on-one evaluation in mind, I approach the lane of my race with greater determination and a fresh resolve. Knowing that the One who’s helped me in the past is already there in my future.

How about you?

Linda G Riddle