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The Crown of Righteousness

2 Timothy 4:8 (ESV) … “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Paul anticipated the moment when, with death behind him, he would stand at the judgment seat of Christ. He said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.” With this statement, Paul endorsed the fact that although salvation is free rewards have to be earned. He had no doubt whatsoever that he had earned a crown. The word translated “crown” here is Stephanos, which refers to the victor’s crown of oak leaves or ivy that was given to the winners of Greek athletic events.

Paul expected to receive a “crown of righteousness.” Scripture mentions other kinds of crowns as well: 1 Peter 5:4 mentions the crown of glory; James 1:12 mentions the crown of life; Philippians 4:1 refers to the soul winner’s crown; Revelation 2:10 refers to the martyr’s crown. Doubtless, Paul will receive all of them, but the one of which he was sure was the crown of righteousness. It would be his reward for having lived a righteous life.

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul developed at length the whole subject of righteousness—how it is required, how it is received, and how it is reproduced. He knew well the difference between the “righteousness of Christ” that is imputed to us by God and the “righteousness of saints” that is implemented in us by the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:7; Rev. 19:8). The former has to do with our standing, which is perfect; the latter has to do with our state, which is imperfect. As far as was humanly possible in a body of the flesh, Paul had allowed the indwelling Holy Spirit to make him like Jesus. Paul had lived with an ungrieved Holy Spirit.

The righteous Judge would see that he received the appropriate reward.

We, too, will stand before that judgment seat. As Paul said, the crown will be given “not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” He linked the rewards that believers will receive “at that day” with the measure of their love of His appearing. A steady focus on the Lord’s return to the air to take home His bride is a powerful motive for righteous living. The apostle John said the same thing in 1 John 3:1–3. It is possible, however, for us to lose our crowns if we fail to live a Spirit-filled life.

It is never too late to start living righteously. Think of the dying thief. With only hours left to him, he trusted Christ and witnessed so triumphantly that his testimony became part of the living Word of God (Luke 23:39–43). Many people will be in glory as a result of that man’s words.[1]

[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Pastoral Epistles: An Expository Commentary (2 Ti 4:8a–b). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.


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