Crown of Righteousness

In my previous post, I quoted Paul’s verse from 2 Timothy:

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day (2 Tim. 4:8).

When we hear “crown,” we often have a mental image of the crown of a king or queen. british crown imageThe crown symbolizes authority, rule, control, etc. We could interpret the phrase “crown of righteousness” as some heavenly reward where we will have rule or authority over some group.

That is not what Paul meant.

There are two things to keep in mind. First, when Paul wrote “crown,” he was thinking of the laurel wreath that was given to the winner of a race. Paul had just said, “I have finished the race.” He envisions Christians not just finishing the race like the laurel wreathweary marathon runner who finishes hours after everyone else. The party is over, the crews are cleaning up, and here comes a battered, weary runner who drags his exhausted body across the finish line. Everyone is happy for him, but …

No, Paul is imagining himself and all believers as winners. They receive the crown. The woven laurel that was given to the winner.

Second, in Greek the expression “of righteousness” can indicated what the crown is. In other words, Paul is saying the winner receives a crown, that is, righteousness. What we all will earn from finishing the race is “righteousness.”

By the way, righteousness is not godliness. I often confused the two. Righteousness refers to God making things right. Christ has “made right” (has straightened out) my relationship with God. Things are now “right” between me and God. That is the crown, the reward that comes.

Let’s look again at what Paul said:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

“That day” refers to the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ. On that day, we will all be rewarded with righteousness. So, let’s keep the faith and finish the race. Righteousness awaits.

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