Throughout the New Testament Christians are encouraged to serve Christ in such a way as to win a crown. Paul wrote –
1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. NIV
The Greek word that is used here for crown is ‘stephanos’, from which we get the name – Stephen. The stephanos is the ‘Victor’s Crown.’ It is the crown placed upon someone who competed and won.
Acts 7:54 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. NASB
I am sure that Stephen will receive a stephanos in heaven. But in addition to his reward in heaven, he also has many rewards here on earth. What are Stephen’s crowns on earth?
1) The Crown of Laying Down His Life for His Savior.
Stephen was the church’s first martyr. A martyr is someone who gives their life for the cause of Christ. It is important to note that often the word martyr is translated as witness in the Bible. Whenever Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses, He was in reality telling them that they would be His martyrs. Stephen has the crown of being the first one to lay down his life for his Savior.
2) The Crown of Leading the Church Out of Its Comfort Zone.
Up until this point and time, the focus has been primarily upon Jerusalem. With the death of Stephen, Christians began to travel into Judea, Samaria and eventually the utter most parts of the world. (see Acts 1:8; 8:1-5)
3) The Crown of Being a Christian Hero.
Every Christian should aspire to be a Christian hero. I am not suggesting that we do things for personal gain or glory, but that we seek to inspire younger Christians to follow Christ as well. The Bible says that present that day was an up and coming young Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus. Perhaps no one hated the church more than Saul did at this time. Yet as Saul looked upon the man whose face was like an angel, the Spirit of God began to speak to him. Even years later Paul continued to talk about that day when he watched Stephen give his life for Christ. (see Acts 22:20) Perhaps it was the courage of Stephen that helped to inspire Paul to be courageous as well.