4:6-8 The blood of the martyrs, though not a sacrifice of atonement, yet was a sacrifice of acknowledgment to the grace of God and his truth. Death to a good man, is his release from the imprisonment of this world, and his departure to the enjoyments of another world. As a Christian, and a minister, Paul had kept the faith, kept the doctrines of the gospel. What comfort will it afford, to be able to speak in this manner toward the end of our days! The crown of believers is a crown of righteousness, purchased by the righteousness of Christ. Believers have it not at present, yet it is sure, for it is laid up for them. The believer, amidst poverty, pain, sickness, and the agonies of death, may rejoice; but if the duties of a man's place and station are neglected, his evidence of interest in Christ will be darkened, and uncertainty and distress may be expected to cloud and harass his last hours.
8. a crown—rather as Greek, "the crown." The "henceforth" marks the decisive moment; he looks to his state in a threefold aspect: (1) The past "I have fought"; (2) The immediate present; "there is laid up for me." (3) The future "the Lord will give in that day" [Bengel].
crown—a crown, or garland, used to be bestowed at the Greek national games on the successful competitor in wrestling, running, &c. (compare 1Pe 5:4; Re 2:10).
of righteousness—The reward is in recognition of righteousness wrought in Paul by God's Spirit; the crown is prepared for the righteous; but it is a crown which consists in righteousness. Righteousness will be its own reward (Re 22:11). Compare Ex 39:30. A man is justified gratuitously by the merits of Christ through faith; and when he is so justified God accepts his works and honors them with a reward which is not their due, but is given of grace. "So great is God's goodness to men that He wills that their works should be merits, though they are merely His own gifts" [Pope Celestine I., Epistles, 12].
give—Greek, "shall award" in righteous requital as "Judge" (Ac 17:31; 2Co 5:10; 2Th 1:6, 7).
in that day—not until His appearing (2Ti 1:12). The partakers of the first resurrection may receive a crown also at the last day, and obtain in that general assembly of all men, a new award of praise. The favorable sentence passed on the "brethren" of the Judge, who sit with Him on His throne, is in Mt 25:40, taken for granted as already awarded, when that affecting those who benefited them is being passed [Bengel]. The former, the elect Church who reign with Christ in the millennium, are fewer than the latter. The righteous heavenly Judge stands in contrast to the unrighteous earthly judges who condemned Paul.
me—individual appropriation. Greek, "not only to me."
them that love—Greek, "have loved, and do love"; habitual love and desire for Christ's appearing, which presupposes faith (compare Heb 9:28). Compare the sad contrast, 2Ti 4:10, "having loved this present world."