The Vicar Writes …
3 Aug 2022
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
Dear St Hilda’s Family,
Blessings to you and your families in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
I would like to share with you some reflections on the ‘Crown of Life’ that James mentions, and also John in Revelation 2:10.
In my sermon on July 9/10, I interpreted this verse not just in the sense that the ‘Crown of Life’ is available to us after we pass on from this world but that it is already available to us because of our faith in Jesus. A faithful member asked me the following week if my interpretation recognized the future tense in the verse. I praise God for our sister. She carefully listened to my sermon, went back to God’s Word during the week, and checked back with me. That is commendable!
It is correct that the ‘Crown of Life’ is mentioned in James and Revelation as something that we will receive from God when we enter into glory, if we persevere under trial (Jam 1:12), even to the point of death (Rev 2:10), and if we love the Lord (Jam 1:12). Both verses suggest that the crown is a reward for us for living in faith.
I have often pondered about this. We know from Scripture that we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:9) and justified by the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9). Both verses suggest that it has been sealed for us on the cross in Jesus’ ‘one perfect sacrifice’. This means that our access into glory is guaranteed by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. We can’t add to it ‘so that no one can boast’ (Eph 2:9). We celebrate this truth in many of our worship songs (‘Only by grace can we enter…’).
If this is so, how do we understand the ‘Crown of Life’? Will we all wear some sort of a physical crown in heaven? If it is a reward, who will get it? Are there big crowns and small crowns depending on how well we have done? Will I be counted worthy of a crown? Not sure if you have ever asked yourselves these questions.
My understanding goes back to Eph 2:9: [We have been saved] ‘not by works, so that no one can boast.’ I do not find anything in Scripture suggesting that a reward is waiting for those who excelled in holy living. Even James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 do not promise the ‘Crown of Life’ as a reward for good works (e.g. multiplying a talent more than others) or for holy living, but for loving God and for remaining faithful, i.e. staying in the faith. If a Christian passes on and was loving God and remained faithful until the end, this Christian would receive the ‘Crown of Life’. This means that it depends on the disposition of our hearts – our faith – rather than on our action.
The author of Hebrews quotes God by saying “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” and then concludes “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Heb 10:38-39). Again, the emphasis is on our faith in Jesus. The author knows that the group of believers that he is addressing ‘belong to those who have faith and are saved.’
This is very important for us to understand and to accept. I have met many faithful Christians who – at the end of their life here on earth – wonder if they have done well enough to find acceptance from the Lord. The Bible’s clear message is “Yes, you have done well enough if you love Jesus and accept that he died for your sins!” That’s it. The Bible does not challenge us to become giants of the faith, just to remain faithful. Those who shrink back are those who intentionally walk away from God and do not return in repentance before they pass. For them, destruction awaits. (Heb 10:39).
It is interesting that this question arises in a time when we study Reformation History. The question how a Christian is justified was a key motivation for the reformers. The Roman Church at the time had taught that those who are not doing well in life would need to spend time in purgatory, a holding place, before being admitted to heaven. Luther and others stood up and preached that we are justified by the blood of Jesus. It didn’t take long before Luther was attacked by other reformers for not putting enough emphasis on holy living, a discussion that has remained relevant until today (e.g. hyper-grace).
The point I was trying to make in my sermon is that the ‘Crown of life’ is ours in Christ Jesus. Hallelujah! We shall rejoice over it and ‘wear’ our crown everyday because this is part of our Christian identity and witness. There may be a physical crown for us waiting in heaven. We will only know when we get there.
In the meantime, the Bible spurs us on to live our life for God’s glory, to love one another and our neighbor as ourselves.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
With much love!
Weekly Holy Communion Church Services
- Saturday Evening Service (SES) at 5pm in the Church Sanctuary.
- Sunday (E1) at 8am in the Church Sanctuary.
- Sunday (E2) at 10.15am in the Bethel Hall.
Saturdays at 2pm in the Bethel Hall.
Online (Non Holy Communion) Services
Available on Sundays from 8am.
YouTube channel: bit.ly/shconline
The podcast (audio of the sermon only) will be available each Tuesday.
The church sanctuary is open for prayer and worship (without singing) during the week for up to 45mins.
You may book your time slot by calling the church office at 63443463.
Reference materials and resources for Home Cells, Bible Study Groups and Christian Education Ministries may be found in this link to Ethos Institute’s website.