by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 21 January 28, 1998 Harlingen, Texas
Thesis:Maximized eternal joy is promised to those whose character has been most fully developed in respect to the particular issue of relational harmony with God (a minimum of resistence, complaint, anger toward, and ingratitude).
Introduction:So far in our study of James 1:12 we have seen that blessedness has to do with being in a post-action condition of being in line for a reward that cannot be rescinded. Last week, in order to more fully understand what this requires, we delved into the question of how we come to be in such a post-action condition, given the human problem of 'boasting' in order to exalt oneself above others, and the theological doctrine of glory by grace. Our answer was theological: post-action conditions of reward require that the action be a faith-act, motivated and empowered by God's Spirit and informed by God's Word so that the individual is involved in the process, but can take no credit for the successful achievement of the process. Instead, he glorifies God with gratitude for what He has accomplished in his regard. This evening we want to consider the nature of, and conditions for the reception of, the crown of life.
I. What is the Crown of Life?
A. Our understanding begins with the significance of its identity as a "crown".
1. This is a non-material crown which MAY have a material crown associated with it for the symbolic impact.
a. In deciding what is literal in figures of speech in the Bible, we must give equal weight to the words in the figure.
1) What do we mean by 'literal'?
a) Normally we mean 'material'...in the sense that there was a physical correspondance between the thing that is literal and the description of it.
b) However, the word has recently been twisted into a word that is designed to add emphasis to our description. ["I literally had to stand the car on end to get it to stop in time."]
2) When a figure of speech involves one component that can be material and one that is immaterial, we have to decide which carries the most weight.
a) Example: Romans 6 -- baptized into Christ...is this accomplished with water?
2. The phrase 'crown of life' has both a material component and a non-material component.
a. This raises the question of whether we receive a literal crown that symbolizes life, or whether the crown of life is simply a phrase that uses the material crown to indicate a condition in life.
3. The 'crown of life' is technically a condition in life...i.e., it is a phrase that indicates the reward which "crown of life" indicates.
a. Since "crown" is used in the Scriptures to refer to the successful defeat of all contenders against you, the implication is that the reward is the result of your successful defeat of the forces of death.
b. Since "life" is used in the Scriptures to refer to the experience of the joy of a relationship of harmony with God, the reward is actually the experience of maximized joy through maximized intimacy with God.
1) Note James 1:2 and 1:9
2) Note James 1:12 -- love Him
II. What is Required to Gain the Crown of LIfe?
A. First, one must be subjected to the stresses that compel reality to surface.
1. There are two different issues in reward in respect to blessedness...
a. The particular reward for a particular act.
b. The cumulative reward for significant progress in character development over time.
2. It is possible to lose individual rewards by dropping the ball in times of testing, and yet achieve the life-goal of character.
a. Too many dropped balls and the game is lost.
b. Occasional dropped balls do not threaten the final outcome necessarily.
3. It is possible to lose one crown while gaining another...
a. There is a crown of righteousness for the successful completion of the course: 2 Timothy 4:8. This crown would be lost if the actions of unrighteousness disqualified you.
b. But the very failures in the pursuit of that crown might be the means to the final acquisition of the crown of life if by them you became an intimate of Christ.