“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NAS95)
While it is absolutely true that the apostle Paul, often expressed confidence of heaven based on the grace or mercy of God; in this text he just as confidently spoke of the “crown of righteousness” to be awarded by Jesus at His appearing, based what he had accomplished for the Lord – he had 1) fought a good fight, 2) finished the course and 3) kept the faith. There is not a tinge of doubt in his words as he writes of the crown of righteousness laid up for him. He was just as confident that all who did as he did would receive the crown as well.
While Paul was careful, in this same epistle, to credit the grace of God for his salvation (2 Tim. 1:9), he was just as careful to show that his salvation also depended on his action – fighting, finishing and keeping. While giving due credit and praise to the Righteous Judge, he also says, “I have ….” three times. Was he boasting of having earned or procured salvation by his own works and devices without the grace of God. No – a thousand times – NO! Nor was he praising himself by stating the things he had done that contributed to his salvation. Without the grace of God one has no reason for confidence in his salvation. Likewise, without our faithfulness in service to Him, we have no reason to be confident of eternal salvation.
Jesus even said that, even if one could claim that he had obeyed all commanded of him, he would still have no right to boast
“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” (Luke 17:10 NAS95)
God has so graciously extended grace to us by forgiving all our past sins through His Son, Christ Jesus. He has also graciously told us how to behave in obedience to Him in order to be saved eternally. As a redeemed or forgiven people, we are taught how to live by obeying all thing commanded us, with the assurance that if we fall short that we have an Advocate with the Father for further forgiveness. (1 John 1:8-21). We do not know what commands would be for our good, but God does. He graciously commands only that which is for our good. (Deut. 6:24). So, we should never look at any command of God as a burden (1 John 5:3), but rather an act of grace given by the Lord for our good.