Passing the Torch . . . while awaiting the crown of righteousness
The time has come for my departure. 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 the day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
The time has come for Paul to sign off on this his final letter. The race has been tough; but through it all he can humbly say, I have kept the faith. The finish line is in sight.
I see the race of life best as a relay ladies. Once Paul got on the track with Jesus he began his sprint to the end. Along the way he ran with Barnabas and Silas and Luke and Timothy and Mark and untold others. Some he left in the dust of their heresy; others he coached on with truth. Now it is time to pass the baton. He is rounding the final corner of his designated lap. A few more steps—heart pounding, muscles screaming, he draws on that last burst of energy. It won’t be long now till he crosses the line and Jesus places the crown of righteousness on his head.
The crown is not the elaborate jeweled crown of the British monarchy, awarded for being firstborn in the royal family. The crown of those who know Jesus, stephanos, is the same word used for that simple twined wreath of olive or laurel branches awarded at the Olympic games. You cannot claim it just by being born into the right family. Ironically though it becomes a family thing when you are born again into God’s family.
That the crown is a crown of righteousness seems such an honor. Your right standing with God is officially confirmed. Oh, you were declared righteous when you believed: This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:22). But once you pass into glory you are awarded the crown by the Lord Jesus to show He has judged you totally righteous forever.
Paul then offers this hope to Timothy, and to all of us as well—to all who have longed for his appearing. Pretty sweet isn’t it? You have taken the torch passed on to you by a teacher of truth, passionate for the gospel, and are presently competing in the games of life by the rules of love. You too proclaim the truth you are entrusted with to friends who will pass it on. Your coach, the Holy Spirit, runs by your side to the finish line—which may be in sight or far in the future. Your crown awaits. Press on!