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Ambassadors for Christ

Date: Nov. 8, 2020

Author: Michael Mark

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 5:20

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “Ambassador?”  I get this picture of an honorable, dignified representative of my home country in a foreign land, and this isn’t too far off.  The first Google result gives a job description from jobhero.com, which says: “Ambassadors represent the policies and interests of their home countries around the world.  This is the highest ranking diplomatic position, requiring the ambassador to attend and host events with foreign leaders and representatives while promoting their home nation’s policies abroad.”  Wow – the highest ranking diplomatic position, this has got to be someone who is truly loyal and devoted to their home country, and can also represent their country well.  Typically they live in a foreign country for an extended period of time, and the residence of an ambassador is called an embassy.  An ambassador, however, is not a citizen of the country they live in, they are a citizen of their home country, and the embassy is considered the territory of the nation it represents.  A resident or even civil servant of the host nation cannot enter the embassy without permission from the ambassador, and an attack on the embassy is considered an attack on the country it represents.

Much in the same way, I’ve heard it said that the church is an embassy of the kingdom of God in this world.  When you step into a church, you are stepping into territory that belongs to God.  Now, we acknowledge the church is not made up of a building, but of the people of God: so when we gather together, we create something like an embassy of Christ’s kingdom.  So welcome to our digital embassy, and the next time we meet together, we will be physically stepping into the territory of heaven, worshipping our King Jesus.  What makes the church like an embassy are the people who are in it, and every member, every citizen of God’s kingdom, is an ambassador, as we will see in today’s passage.  We will see why this is a great honor and privilege, but also with this comes a great responsibility.  Through this passage, we’ll take a look at Paul, who is a model of an ambassador, we will see the making of an ambassador by God, and finally learn about the ministry of reconciliation, in which an ambassador serves.

As we progress through 2nd Corinthians, Paul is reiterating and reminding the church about its role and identity, something that they had strayed away from over time because of the work of false teachers.  Last week we learned that we have an eternal house in heaven, a home that God had created us to live in, and gave us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of his promise to take us there.  With this wonderful promise, we make it our goal to please him, whether we are here on earth in the body or at home with the Lord.  Paul concludes the last passage with “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  We see here that Christ is the judge, and each one of us will have to appear before Christ to give an accounting of the life that we lived, and from God receive what is due us.

Nobody likes judgment, and nobody likes being tested, but it is an unescapable fact of life.  We are tested constantly in school with quizzes and exams.  Every year at work, I’m not sure who does not go through this, but every year I have to go through an annual review which will determine if and how much raise I get, and also point out opportunities to improve.  Even in games, especially competitive games, for example the Olympic Games, or the Great British Baking Show have their performances and work critiqued by judges.  So too, at the end of this life, there will come a judgement not just in one aspect of our lives, but in every area, every deed, every word and every thought will be judged.

Perhaps, understanding this, you might want to seek some legal advice, or at least some expert advice that can help you with your case before God.  This is where an ambassador of Christ can greatly assist you, and we will take a look at Paul, who is an exemplary model of an ambassador for Christ.

Look at v.11, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.  What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.”  Paul says, “we know what it is to fear the Lord.”  This is in light of appearing before the judgment seat of Christ.  Matt 10:28 says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  There is one sense that the fear of the Lord is dread and terror, and another sense of the fear of the Lord as reverence and awe; the Christian knows both. The work of the ambassador is to try to persuade others.  To persuade those who do not fear the Lord, to fear the Lord, and in this way live rightly before God.  This is the wisest way to live.  Prov 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  Ecc 12:14, after writing about all the meaninglessness that comes out of denying himself nothing and indulging in everything the world has to offer, says this: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”  The goal of the ambassador is to persuade others to fear God.

The ambassador of Christ is also cultivates and works with a strong moral character; character referring to his moral and mental qualities.  He or she develops and hones what is internal, and places far less value on external things.  Look at v.12, “We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart.”  Paul is strengthening the church against the false teachers that had led them astray.  They took great pride in their heritage, their ancestry, their culture. They took pride in their acquaintance with the Apostles, and perhaps even Jesus.  They took pride in their oratory skills, their eloquence and worldly wisdom.  They criticized Paul because he was not very eloquent in speech (though his writings, such as Romans, and this letter, are exquisite), or he was not very tall or handsome, or that he kept getting into trouble or undergo suffering as if God was displeased with him.  The irony is, that though outwardly these false teachers had much to be proud of, inwardly they were full of envy, greed, deceit, anger, pride and malice.  Paul, on the other hand, was honest, transparent and pure.  His actions were done before God, who could see the heart.  He was true before God, which led to his truthfulness towards his church.  The false teachers would plant doubt into the church, making them doubt if Paul loved them.  But Paul proved by his consistent preaching of truth and endurance of hardship for their sake that he truly did love them.

The ambassador of Christ is also selfless, looking to the interests of God and others over their own.  Look at v.13, Paul writes, “If we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”  Some, it appears, were saying Paul was out of his mind, that he was crazy, insane.  In Acts 26:24, even a Roman governor, Festus, shouted at Paul as he was testifying to King Agrippa, “You are out of your mind, Paul!  Your great learning is driving you insane!”  Paul taught boldly about the truth of Jesus and what he had done, even to people who attacked him for his message, and he was accused of being out of his mind.  But Paul did not concern himself with the criticisms of men, but he obeyed God and preached the gospel to all people small and great.  Paul actually replied to Festus in Acts 26:25, the next verse, “I am not insane, most excellent Festus, what I am saying is true and reasonable.”  Though the whole world thinks that the cross is foolishness, it is the wisdom and power of God.  It is true and reasonable, so Paul says, “if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”  Notice who Paul is devoted to serving as an ambassador of Christ – he is dedicated to serving God, and the church.  He practiced what he preached in Php 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” 

How can an ambassador for Christ be so unselfish, so free from ambition?  We can see in v.14, from this model of an ambassador the motive of an ambassador, look at v.14, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”  He was compelled, he was driven, he was urged on because of the love of Christ.  Love can empower.  When you feel or know that someone loves you, it gives you strength and energy, and a desire to love or please that person.  I think about how much my parents love me, how much my wife loves me, how much my daughter loves me, how much my brothers love me, how much my friends love me, and I’m filled with gratitude and confidence.  We can see why Jesus commanded us to love one another.  The prime motivation for Paul, and all Christians is this: Christ’s love.  There is no more supreme love than this: that God loves you, and that expression of his love is in Christ.  God loves you.  And here is the greatest and ultimate expression of Christ’s love for you: he died for you.  Be convinced that Christ died for you because he loved you.

Paul continues “therefore all died.”  What does he mean by this?  Verse 15 will help us understand: “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”  When Paul says “therefore all died,” he also means “therefore you died.”  And what that means is that you should no longer live for yourself, but for Christ, who rose from the dead and lives.  “No longer live for yourself” means “die to yourself,” and just like we read from Philippians, look not to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  Live for Christ by loving one another.  That is the model of an ambassador, and the motive of the ambassador is the supreme love of Christ.

As we move on, let’s look at the making of an ambassador – look at v.16, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”  Who is an ambassador?  They are a representative from a certain nation being hosted in a foreign nation.  An ambassador of Christ is now a citizen of heaven.  Php 3:20 says our citizenship is in heaven.  Eph 2:19 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”  We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, no longer citizens of this world, so we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male and female – all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28).  We don’t play favorites if someone is rich or poor, or a different ethnicity, or a different caste or class if you will, but we all are one in Christ Jesus.  Some people even regarded Christ in a worldly point of view.  The Jews thought he was just a man, and not God.  Some looked on him with disdain because he was from Nazareth, or that he had a Galilean accent, and he was a carpenter’s son.  Even some of his own family did not believe he was the Messiah until later.  But we no longer regard Christ as to his worldly distinctions – rather, as we regard each one of us as fellow citizens of God’s kingdom, we regard Jesus as our Lord and our God.  Jesus did say he is our friend and brother as well, but he is also God.

We do not regard each other from a worldly point of view for this reason, look at v.17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”  We do not regard each other from a worldly point of view because we are all new creations!  Who does this describe?  Anyone!  Anyone who is in Christ, Paul says, if anyone is in Christ.  The old has gone, the new is here.  We are made a new creation on the inside, our souls have been recreated, so to speak.  The old is passing away, and the new is renewing daily inside of us.  We are not perfect yet, but day by day, our old thoughts, our old desires, our old practices, our old ways are passing away, and the new self, with new thoughts, desires and practices continues to grow every day, and will on a definite day when Jesus comes again, be perfected.  As Paul mentioned before in Ch. 4, that we are treasures in jars of clay, that outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  We saw last week our eternal dwelling, and that our mortal bodies will be clothed with life.  What you have inside of you, that God has given you, you cannot see now, but it is the beginning of an indestructible, imperishable, immortal soul.

These are all great and wonderful things, and truly they are a sign of the love of God for us, but now, we will get to the bottom of this love.  We will get to the heart of the matter, and show you all the more clearly that God indeed does love you.  Look at v.18-19, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”  Reconciliation.  The word evokes feelings of peace, of settlement, of harmony, of agreement and of righting a wrong.  Reconciliation, what a wonderful word.  To me, it is the worst feeling in the world to have something against someone, or for someone to have something against you.  There is no peace, bitterness lingers in your heart and anger, confusion and despair all take turns sinking your heart.  It sucks when friends or family have a falling out.  It really sucks when it happens in your marriage.  One of the often cited reasons for divorce are “irreconcilable differences.” 

And speaking of irreconcilable differences, this is the problem we have with God.  And quite frankly, God has a problem with us.  Naturally, we are diametrically opposed: one is evil, the other is good.  One preacher put it this way: We like to say that God is good, but that presents a huge problem for us.  How can it be a problem that God is good?  It’s a problem because we are evil.  A good God is a perfectly just and holy God, and he will punish evil.  God is so good, so holy, that we cannot even look him in the face without dying.  He must punish sin, otherwise he must separate himself from us, which he has done.  But God did not stop there.  God had a plan.  God resolved what was unresolvable; he reconciled what was irreconcilable: he reconciled us to himself, and he did this through Christ.  Christ!  Christ Jesus our Lord!  There is the answer!  There is the hope!  There is the reconciliation!  That is why John 3:16 is such a popular verse, and so amazing, it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Look again in v.19, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”  This is the result of the reconciliation: people’s sins were not counted against them.  Because of God’s reconciliation: your sins will not be counted against you.  God did this for the whole world, and he wants all people to know.  But how now?  How will the world find out?  How will the world know about what God has done?  Through us.  Through his ambassadors.  Verse 18 says he gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  This is an awesome privilege.  Just to be clear, ministry is a service, so we are called into the service of reconciliation.  In v.19 it says “And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”  This is also a great privilege and responsibility.  God has entrusted to each one of us the message of reconciliation.  He has deposited it into each of our hearts to use in the ministry of reconciliation.  The ministry of reconciliation is about sharing the message of reconciliation we have received.

Why does God have to do this?  Why couldn’t he just wave his hand, and instantly convert any he chooses?  Why use frail and weak vessels to do this powerful work of God?  One reason I can think of is to share in his joy and his glory.  It’s like maybe buying your child a toy, or a bike.  It might be fun to put it together yourself (if the child is very young you’ll have to), but it’s double the fun if you let your child build the toy with you.  The main reason is for God’s glory, that we can witness his awesome work, but a secondary reason is for our sakes, and for our benefit – that we can participate and share in this wonderful work of God.  In another sense God has given us a promotion, a higher position than most of us would have in this world.  Think about it.  You were once a foreigner, and worse, you were an enemy of God.  But after being reconciled, not only have you become a citizen – but you have become an ambassador for Christ.  What is the highest ranking diplomatic position in all nations is given to all of God’s people equally.  You received a promotion from enemy, to citizen, to Christ’s ambassador.  Glory to God!

Look at v.20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”  This is the work of an ambassador.  You speak as if God were making his appeal through you.  God is appealing to the world.  That really shows the gentleness and humility of God, that God – the Judge of all the earth, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, and Lord of all – appeals to people.  Appeals!!  God could thunder obedience from each and every one of us, but he appeals to us.  The work of an ambassador is to faithfully transmit the message of the President or King.  A bad ambassador will distort or leave out important parts of the message, but a good ambassador shares the message accurately.  The ambassadors say, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”  To implore means to beg, and to plead.  This goes back to what Paul said earlier – we try to persuade others.  We beg and plead to others: Be reconciled to God.  This is a valid way to preach the gospel.  Sometimes we might not know where to begin, when we share the gospel.  But here is a call to people’s hearts with urgency, and points to the problem and solution: Be reconciled to God.  That is a good place in your mind to share the gospel with someone – to desire in your heart, and implore them: Be reconciled to God.

Verse 21 shows us now exactly how reconciliation works, and specifically what God did to reconcile us to himself.  Look at v.21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  This is how God reconciled us.  He is a just God, and no sin should go unpunished.  But instead of punishing us, he took the punishment we deserve, death, and wrath, and put it on Jesus.  Jesus never sinned.  He knew no sin. But he was treated like a sinner.  Now how does this atone for all of our sins?  How does this satisfy the wrath of God?  It is because of the surpassing worth and glory of Jesus.  God could take all our lives, all 10s of billions of lives in the whole world.  And then he could take the entire universe, even the angels, and burn it all up – and still that would not compare to the worth of his Son Jesus.  But God laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all, he took the life of his one and only Son, in exchange for the life of each and every one of us.  This was a shock, how could God do this?!  Perhaps even the angels in heaven wonder, and marvel.  But this was the perfect plan to reconcile God’s justice on sin, and at the same time justify all sinners.  Jesus was sufficient.  Jesus was enough, he was more than enough.  Therefore by one sacrifice he has made those who are in Christ perfect forever.  We were never righteous.  We knew no righteousness.  But since all our sins have been paid for, they no longer count against us, and so he credits to our account the righteousness of Jesus.  Verse 21 is the gospel, and the good news, and in fact, Charles Spurgeon has a sermon on just verse 21 entitled, “The Heart of the Gospel.”

Look at Ch. 6 v.1-2, “As God’s coworkers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.  For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”  The message of reconciliation that we have is an urgent one, and will not last forever.  Paul is urging all people to “Be reconciled to God.”  To believe the message, and by faith receive reconciliation.  To neglect or reject the message is showing contempt for the offer of reconciliation that God has presented.  When Jesus returns, all of those who have been reconciled will be taken into heaven, and those who have not received reconciliation will receive the due penalty for their sins.  Paul quotes Isaiah’s prophecy, “In the time of my favor, I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  When does God hear us?  When does God help us?  He hears us and helps us now!  Now is the time of God’s favor.  Cry out to God.  Now is the day of salvation – believe in Christ, and he will help you.  He will save you.  Today, now, be reconciled to God, and he will hear you, and he will help you.

God has reconciled us and the world to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry and message of reconciliation.  The sins of this dark world may continue to grow, as the world is at enmity with God – but we have become a new creation, we have been given citizenship in heaven, so we need not despair or put our trust in this world, but put our trust in God and have hope.  We have been reconciled with God, who is Sovereign over all the earth: nothing is hidden from his sight – he knows all and will judge all in the end.  We have been reconciled with God, so there is no need to fear.  God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and we are convinced he died for us because he loved us.  We are compelled by the love of God to be Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us, to implore others on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God!

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