I have been reading and reflecting on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians in preparation for a new preaching series starting next month. In doing so a few things have jumped at me that I thought worth writing about, for examples crowns.
Whenever I think about crowns I immediately think of a royal crown. However, that is not what came to mind when Paul, or his initial readers came across the word crown. They would have thought of the laurel crown given to the winning athlete at the games. This is obvious in both 1 Corinthians 9v25 and 2 Timothy 2v5 where the laurel crown is specifically mentioned but is the case whenever crown is used. A crown in the ancient world was not a status you achieved but something you competed for.
This would have been what Paul meant when he says the following,
1 Thessaolians 2
18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
Paul glories in the prize that he has competed to win, the crown given to him for winning the race. What is the crown? The members of the church in Thessalonica.
He says a similar thing about the church in Philippi,
Philippians 4 v1
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
Paul has been competing for them, the members of churches in Philippi and Thessalonica, he has won the race and they are the reward he has received.
This is powerful imagery from me as a church leader, but I think it works for all of us. All of us should be focusing on winning the race, being crowned at the end of our race. The crown we are looking to receive is healthy, vibrant, loving, faith filled Christians and churches.