ďTHE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESSĒ
Second Timothy 4.8
1. On the sixth day of creation, ď. . . the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.Ē
2. Shortly afterwards, ď. . . the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.Ē
3. At that time the man, whose name as Adam, was righteous in the sight of God because God made him good and he had committed no sin. ďAnd the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.Ē
4. Thus, we see that up to this time the man had been alone. He was unique, the only one of his kind. But the Bible does not suggest that Adam was lonely, only that he was alone. He was alone in this respect: He was not paired with a mate, as were all other creatures God placed on the earth. But he was not lonely because he had communion with God.
5. So, to help the man and to enable the man to reproduce, God gave him a wife. ďAnd the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.Ē
6. Adam, along with his wife, Eve, had the best possible existence. They were righteous, enabling them to commune with God and not be lonely, and they were together and Adam was no longer alone.
7. But Adam sinned against the One who had created him. His act of disobedience resulted in a precipitous fall from righteousness. He became unrighteous, sinful, and he died spiritually. Whereas he had once been alone but not lonely, now he was no longer alone but lonely. He had human companionship, but he was estranged from his Maker.
8. What does this have to do with you? Romans 5.12 tells us: ďWherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.Ē Adamís fall from righteousness, his plunge from life to death, his descent from communion with God to utter isolation from God, is shared by each one of us who are descended from Adam.
9. Thus, what Adamís experience was your experience is. From righteousness to sinfulness. From pristine holiness to moral degradation and defilement. From life to death. From being alone but not lonely to being in the midst of throngs of people but still desperately lonely.
10. What is a desire for God is an urgent need for man. One aspect of Godís purpose for creating man was His desire to commune with him. Now that mankind is sinful, another aspect of Godís purpose can be seen, which is to be gracious toward him and to save him, so that communion can be restored. Thus began Godís unfolding drama of redemption.
11. I say unfolding because Godís revelation of His plan has been gradual. Shortly after their Fall into sin, God spoke to the serpent that had tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. At that time He promised a savior, saying ďAnd I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.Ē Bible students recognize this to be an allusion to Christís crucifixion, and call this prediction the protoevangel, the gospel in its embryonic form.
12. Centuries passed. Mankindís descent into the depths of depravity continued. ďAnd GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.Ē So, He judged mankind with a worldwide flood, and saved only Noah and his family, because ď. . . Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.Ē
13. After the flood, God called a man named Abram and made promises to him. ďAnd he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.Ē God then changed his name to Abraham, and he became the first patriarch of the nation of Israel.
14. Was Abraham a righteous man, as Adam had been before he sinned? No. Abraham was a sinful man, and for the rest of his life he would continue to commit sins. However, through faith God granted to Abraham the status of a righteous man, the righteousness which is by faith. That is what is meant by the phrase ďand he counted it to him for righteousness.Ē
15. The centuries continued to pass. Godís plan was beginning to take shape. And a much overlooked aspect of Godís plan was revealed when He delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and gave them the Law to govern their national life. The plan of worship God called for required the construction of a Tabernacle where Godís glory would abide. Why? Exodus 25.8: ďAnd let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.Ē
16. But why did God want to dwell among them? Exodus 29.45: ďAnd I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.Ē There is an aspect of Godís relationship with His people that is best fulfilled when His people are in His immediate presence. From the time God walked with Adam in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden, He has desired immediate and intimate communion with His people. It is the absence of this immediate and intimate communion with God that speaks to our feelings of loneliness, even when we are not alone.
17. The centuries passed. Then, ď. . . when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons,Ē Galatians 4.4-5. ďAnd because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father,Ē Galatians 4.6.
18. When Abraham and those who lived before Christ acquired the righteousness which is by faith, their righteousness was given to them on the basis of what the Lord Jesus Christ would someday do to remedy their sin, to solve the problem of their unrighteousness. Now that the Lord Jesus Christ has suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, the righteousness which is by faith is given on the basis of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done to remedy our sin, and to solve the problem of our unrighteousness.
19. So, here we are, in the 21st century. Because of your sinful condition you are unrighteous in the sight of God. Being unrighteous, you have no standing before God. You are separated from God by your sins, as Isaiah said in Isaiah 59.2: ď. . . your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you.Ē
20. You are lonely inside. And your loneliness is a symptom of the spiritual malady that isolates you from God. Your sinfulness, which results in you having no righteousness, means that you are estranged from the God Who created and who sustains you. And you feel lonely. This is because the sin which separates you from God also effectively isolates you from even those you like and love.
21. Remember, God did not create Eve to solve Adamís loneliness problem. Thatís because Adam did not, at that time have a loneliness problem. People cannot solve your loneliness problem. God did not design people to solve your loneliness problem. The best another person can do is make sure you are not alone. But you can still be lonely, and you are lonely, even when you are not alone. Is this not your experience?
22. One of the great tragedies of sinfulness is how sin affects a personís ability to think. Sin distorts and warps a personís sensibilities, damages and perverts a personís judgment, and misdirects a personís orientations. The result is that a person spends so much time trying to solve his feelings of loneliness that he ignores the problem that causes the loneliness, unrighteousness, sinfulness.
23. Some attempt to deal with loneliness by running with gangs. Others try to deal with loneliness by endlessly partying. Still others try to deal with loneliness by engaging in one romantic fling after another. There are some who try to deal with loneliness by becoming workaholics. And some few try to deal with loneliness by banding together with zealots who engage in religious extremism. Donít we find more and more of that occurring these days?
24. Do you think that was the problem with Saul of Tarsus? A lonely man on a mission to stamp out Christianity so God would be pleased with him, and so his fellow Pharisees would greatly esteem him. But on his way to Damascus he had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, Who appeared to him. The result was not one that would forever cure Saulís loneliness problem. The result was one that would forever cure Saulís sin problem. When Saul of Tarsus converted to Jesus Christ his sins were forgiven, and he became the apostle Paul.
25. Remember, a sinner is estranged from God by his sin. Sin makes a person unrighteous, and a person has to be righteous to stand in Godís presence. So, when a sinner, like Saul of Tarsus, comes to Christ he is given the righteousness which is by faith. Now reconciled to God by the death of His Son, the person who is converted to Christ has the right, has the standing, has the privilege bestowed upon him, to stand before God as a righteous person.
26. But when a sinner gets converted God does not usually take that person immediately to heaven. Usually, Godís plan is for that person to live some time on earth serving Him, spreading the gospel, living for Christ, and living the Christian life as part of a church of Jesus Christ.
27. Some weeks back we learned that every Christianís life will someday be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ. To that end, each converted person should fulfill the will of God for his life by being a faithful church member, since it will be for service rendered to God in and through his church that rewards for service will be given.
28. In such service, the converted person will find himself or herself involved with other deeply committed Christians, and this will go a long way toward alleviating the feelings of loneliness that the unsaved struggle so much with. How so? First, because someone who faithfully serves God is not alone, as unconverted people so oftentimes are.
29. Second, when a person is doing the will of God he enjoys great blessings from the indwelling Spirit of God, Whose indwelling begins whenever a sinner experiences the new birth. Though the Christianís communion with God is infantile in comparison to what Adam enjoyed before the fall, and in comparison to what it someday will be after he goes to heaven, it is a dramatic improvement over anything the unsaved person experiences.
30. So, I stand before you today as one who is not alone, and who is far less lonely than I was before my conversion. Even the apostle Paul, I am convinced, was not often alone, but was still sometimes lonely. Why so? Because while still alive here on earth, I do not yet enjoy the full benefits of my salvation, I do not have experience the full effect of being reconciled to God, I do not yet stand before my Savior face to face.
31. My text for today is Second Timothy 4.8. Please find that verse and stand for the reading of Godís Word:
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:
10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
32. Though verse 8 is my text, I wanted you to read through verse 10 with me to see the contrast. Notice, in verse 8, that a crown of righteousness is promised someday to those who love Christís appearing. But in verse 10 we read of a turncoat, a man named Demas, who not only does not love Christís appearing, but quite the contrary loves the world.
33. And on what basis do I insist that Demas did not love Christís appearing because he loved the world? Because First John 2.15 tells us, ďLove not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.Ē No man who has not the love of the Father will love Christís appearing.
34. Turn your attention to verse 8, where Paul speaks of his crown of righteousness, and possibly your crown of righteousness. Three simple observations:
1A. First, NOTE WITH ME WHAT IT IS
Paul designates this reward he speaks of as ďa crown of righteousness.Ē
1B. First, we are concerned with a crown
1C. There are two kinds of crowns mentioned in Godís Word, the diadem crown which is worn by royalty, and the stefanos crown which is a victorís crown worn by conquering generals and winners of athletic contests.
2C. The crown Paul refers to is this second kind of crown, the victorís crown, the winnerís crown. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns as the King of kings, He will wear a diadem. But the kind of crown that Christ will give at the judgment seat of Christ will be winnerís crowns.
3C. Remember, in First Corinthians 9, Paul compares the Christian life to running a race, ending with a victorís crown. But itís not a crown made of twigs and leaves that quickly fades away. Oh, no. The crown the Savior gives at the judgment seat of Christ is an incorruptible crown.
4C. Do you realize what that means, Christian? It means your efforts for the cause of Christ are not wasted efforts. The crowns the Savior gives are incorruptible, representative of the fact that Christian service has eternal consequences. What you do, Christian, and how you live your life and serve your God makes a difference in eternity.
2B. But this crown we are concerned with is a crown of righteousness
1C. The precise wording Paul uses literally translates ďthe righteousness crown.Ē A. T. Robertson, the great Southern Baptist Greek scholar of days gone by, writes ďthe crown that consists in righteousness and is also the reward for righteousness.Ē What does he mean by this?
2C. When a sinner comes to Christ he acquires the righteousness which is by faith. That is, his faith is counted for righteousness even though he is not a righteous person by experience. Christians are not righteous, and real Christians do not pretend to be righteous by experience.
3C. But over the course of the Christianís life, though we are always imperfect and prone to wander, we are conformed to the image of Christ and gradually become somewhat more righteous. But once we get to heaven and are standing before Christ at His judgment of the church age believers, this crown of righteousness that is given as a reward to Christians for their righteous behavior before going to heaven, will also be a fulfillment of whatever is lacking in righteousness, so that in heaven Christians will actually be righteous by experience.
4C. This whole process is mentioned in First John 3.1-3, but without specific reference to crowns:
1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
5C. Do you recognize how glorious it will then be for the child of God? What Adam once enjoyed in the Garden of Eden will someday be the realization of every believerís experience, but more so. For us, you see, it will be the presence of God forever, not just during the eventide at the end of each day, as it was with Adam.
2A. Next, NOTE WITH ME WHEN IT IS
1B. Last week we considered the fact of the judgment seat of Christ. In Romans 14.10 and Second Corinthians 5.10 we are told that we will all, all who are converted that is, stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The unsaved, of course, will go to Hell and will not stand before Christ in heaven at the time of His judgment seat.
2B. But when will Christís judgment of His Own occur? I mentioned last week that this judgment has not yet occurred, so it will take place in the future. But when in the future? Todayís text suggests when in the future. Paul writes, ďwhich the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.Ē But when is ďthat dayĒ? What is ďthat dayĒ?
3B. There are two of these prophetic days in Scripture, the day of the LORD which has to do with final divine judgment and wrath, and the day of Jesus Christ which is that time period when the final salvation, reward, and glorification of believers occurs. The giving of the crown of righteousness, which takes place at the judgment seat of Christ, will likely occur at the time of the rapture.
4B. I am of the opinion that the judgment seat of Christ will occur at such a time that, when believers are caught up into the air with the Lord Jesus Christ to ever be with the Lord, they will actually enter heaven not only having the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ that comes through faith, but that we will also have been wholly transformed by our glorious resurrection at that time to enter heaven actually righteous by experience.
5B. Explaining this event from a different perspective, we read these words in First Corinthians 15.50-53:
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
6B. Though we look through a glass darkly and ponder many things difficult to understand clearly, I think that when this miraculous transformation takes place and we put on incorruption, we will from that moment forward actually be righteous, and not only able to stand in the presence of God, but actually doing so.
3A. Finally, NOTE WITH ME THE BASIS FOR THIS CROWN
Paul writes concerning this crown, ďand not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.Ē
1B. The word ďloveĒ here is a perfect tense verb, meaning that it is a past action with a continuing result. The Greek word translated by this word ďappearingĒ is also used by Paul in Second Timothy 1.10 to refer to Christís first coming. So, while most Bible teachers believe this refers to those who anticipate the second coming of Christ, it may be that Paul is here referring to we who are profoundly appreciative of Christís first coming, whereby our salvation from sins was effected.
2B. I am not sure there is much distinction, since only those who truly appreciate Christís first coming will long for His second coming. As well, those who have little gratitude for His first coming will certainly not relish His second coming in power and great glory.
3B. In short, I think this is a crown that the Lord Jesus Christ will give to every child of God, irrespective of his ministry and service to God during the course of his Christian life. After all, if righteousness is demanded by God then righteousness must be given by God. We are certainly not capable of righteousness.
4B. Therefore, I am prone to think that at the time of the rapture the Lord Jesus Christ will judge believers. And by His abundant grace I think He will give the crown of righteousness to each and every child of God. And though I do not think other crowns will necessarily be given to every Christian, I think the crown of righteousness (because of the nature of this reward) will be.
1. There are times when Christians get discouraged. There are times when Christians feel defeated. There are times when Christians are persecuted and beaten down, at times even killed for their faith in Christ.
2. But the crown of righteousness, a winnerís crown, a victorís crown, will someday be given by the Savior to show that not only was His glorious salvation by the grace of God, but also that the life of service rendered by each and every believer is the result of Godís glorious grace.
3. And as an aside, consider what takes place when the crown of righteousness is given. Then Godís plan will have come full circle, from the communion that Adam enjoyed with God before his tragic Fall, to the distant and by faith communion that Godís children have enjoyed through the centuries, to the culmination of Godís plan. Full reconciliation and restoration resulting in intimate communion with God and loneliness banished forever.