Ambassadors For Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)Written by admin on Jan 06, 2019 in - No Comments
I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles this morning to the book of 2 Corinthians. Our passage for today’s sermon will be 2 Corinthians 5:20, if you do not have a Bible with you today, please make use of one of the pew Bibles where you will find this passage located on page 966.
End of the year sermons, and beginning of the year sermons, are good times to exhort and to challenge. And that is what I am going to do again this week. Last Sunday, I pleaded with you to make a serious commitment to Bible reading in 2019. As I said then, if you are not reading your Bible, then where are you hearing from God? That is the place where God has spoken to us, and as we saw last week, unless we are abiding in his Word, we cannot call ourselves true disciples of Jesus. Disciples are those who learn from and submit to the teaching of their master, and the place where we find Jesus’s teaching is in the Bible. So please, make a commitment to be a student of the Bible in 2019. That was my challenge to you last week.
Well, this week I have another challenge for you. I want to talk with you this morning, about taking the Bible seriously when it says that we are ambassadors for Christ. Yes, I want to talk with you today about what it means to be an ambassador for Christ and plead with you to get serious about being a good and faithful one in the coming year. The truth is, while we know we are living in a place that is not our home, and while we know that Jesus has a mission for us in this place, we often prefer to blend in with those around us rather than sharing the message that Jesus has sent us to share. And I want to challenge us in this regard today. Yes, I want to challenge you to get serious about being an ambassador for Christ. So, if you haven’t done so already, please turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 5:20, and follow along as I read. In this verse, Paul says,
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV)
What Is An Ambassador?
So, let’s begin our time together this morning by first answering the question, “What is an ambassador?” Because before we can understand what it means to be an ambassador for Christ, it will be helpful for us to make sure we understand what the word “ambassador” means in the first place.
So let’s begin by just thinking about the word “ambassador” in terms of the modern world, because the truth is that the role of an ambassador really hasn’t changed all that much since Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church. So what does it mean to be an ambassador? Well, to be an ambassador means that you have been sent by your country’s leader, to represent your country, and to speak on behalf of your leader with the leaders of the country to which you have been sent. You have been sent to make your leader’s position clear on all sorts of national and international issues. And what you say as an ambassador to the leaders of a foreign nation should be received as if the king or president himself were saying it to them. That is what it means to be an ambassador.
So what then does it mean to be an ambassador for Christ? Well to be an ambassador for Christ means that our leader, the one who has sent us to this foreign land to represent him and his kingdom and its policies, is none other than Jesus Christ.
To be an ambassador for Christ, then, means that you are sent by Christ on a specific mission. It means that we are sent by Christ out of the kingdom of God to represent Christ, our king, to the people of the land to which we have been sent. And that is the first point I want to make about what it means to be an ambassador for Christ. Being an ambassador for Christ means we have been sent by Christ on a specific mission.
And our mission is not an easy one. In fact, it is a mission that is getting harder for us every day. Because just like modern political ambassadors, as ambassadors for Christ we are living in a place that is not really our home. Even when we are living somewhere where the people are nice, and the living arrangements are comfortable (a place like the United States for instance), the truth is we should always be cognizant of the fact that we are living in a place and among a people whose ultimate allegiance is not to the king we serve. They are serving another king. They are committed to other things.
And so, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves feeling a bit like we do when we visit a foreign country, where the people serve a different leader and pledge allegiance to a different flag. There should always be an awareness of and a bit of discomfort over this fact. And, even as American Christians, our ultimate allegiance is not to this country, or its flag, or its leaders, our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ. And we are here in this place on a mission for Jesus. We are here in this place on a temporary appointment until the time our king decides to call us home.
But for now, we are here. And just like an ambassador who serves his or her earthly kingdom well, being an ambassador for Christ means that we will always be looking, first and foremost, after the interests of God’s kingdom. Just like political ambassadors, we too are sent by our leader to live in a country that is not our own. And so, we too have to determine how to communicate his message to those from a different culture. We too have to figure out how to convince people to care about this message we are carrying from a foreign king they do not serve and to whom they have no allegiance. Yes, we too are representing a king to a people who have never met him. And part of our job as an ambassador means representing our king and our kingdom well by helping others to learn more about the place we call home and the leader that we serve.
And before I move on, let me say this. It is important that I make this very clear. One of the things that is true for us as Christians is that we are all Ambassadors for Christ. Whether we travel on an airplane to a foreign country or whether we travel to the grocery store in our car. Either way, Jesus is our king, and he has sent us out as his followers into the world to represent him and to proclaim a specific message. This is not only a task for pastors and missionaries. It is the job assignment Jesus has given to all of us who have been told to go and make disciples of all nations. It is the job assignment for all of us who have been told to baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. As followers of Christ, we are all on this exact same mission. It doesn’t matter whether we are serving him in America or Zimbabwe. We are all Ambassadors for Christ, sent by him on a specific mission. That is the first point I want to make from this passage—as ambassadors for Christ, we have been sent on a disciple-making mission.
The second thing I want us to see from this passage is that as ambassadors for Christ, we have a very specific mandate to which we must adhere. In other words, we are not free to do and say whatever we please. No, as ambassadors for Christ we have a divine mandate that guides us and constrains us. And, if we want to be good ambassadors, we do not go beyond the bounds of our divine mandate. Which means that we only speak the message we have given by the king who has sent us.
Now, how do I know this? Well, look with me at the second part of 2 Corinthians 5:20. In this part of the verse, the Apostle Paul says that God is making his appeal through us. Yes, it’s his appeal we are concerned with. That is our mandate—to appeal to people on behalf of God.
In other words, just like political ambassadors who are sent by their country’s leader to deliver a specific message, and have no business sharing their personal thoughts and opinions and desires on the situation, but only those of their king, we too have a specific mandate. And, what we think is not part of that. The message we want to deliver is not part of that. Our mandate is limited by the truth we see in this verse that God is making his appeal through us.
Any of you who have ever worked under the supervision of a boss or manager understands this. There may be times when your boss has asked you to deliver a message or to carry out a specific task that you are not really looking forward to. It may not be a message you want to deliver. It may not be a task you want to complete. You may not understand the importance of what you have been told to do, or you may not even agree with it. But your responsibility to your boss and to your company is to do what you are asked to do. Your responsibility is to carry out the specific mission the boss has given you. Your mandate is clear. And your opinion about the situation should not affect the way you carry out the task you have been given. If you are going to be a good employee, you will do it just exactly as your boss asked you to do it.
Now, as Christians, we don’t have a boss, but we do have a Lord—we do have a master. And he has sent us into this world to make an appeal—to make an appeal to our friends and neighbors, to our families and our coworkers. And as ambassadors that, and that alone, is our mandate. Yes, as ambassadors for Christ, we have a specific mission and we have a clear mandate (we are speaking on behalf of God, we are making his appeal). Those are the first two things we see in this verse regarding what it means to be an ambassador for Christ.
Now, the third thing we see in this verse is that we have a specific method for carrying out our work as Christ’s ambassadors. What we see in the third part of this verse is that although we are ambassadors for King Jesus, and although God is making his appeal to the men and women of this world through us, we must not carry out this mission in an arrogant or prideful way. Instead, we are to humbly plead with people to pay attention to the message from our king.
Look with me again at the second sentence in this verse. In this part of the verse, Paul describes the method we employ when we are making God’s appeal to the men and women of this world. Notice what he says, he says, “We implore you on behalf of Christ.” We implore you.
Now, what does it mean to implore? Well, very simply it means to beg and plead. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “beg[ging] someone earnestly or desperately to do something.” And you know, sometimes we have missed this point as Christians. Yes, instead of pleading with people to hear the offer of peace from our king with an open mind, we have just demanded that they obey or else. And then we wonder why they are offended and turned off by our message.
Too often we have ridden in on our high horse like we are the king instead of a simple servant of the king. Too often we have not adopted the posture of a beggar pleading for attention, but the posture of an enforcer demanding obedience. And so, all too often, the message of our king has been rejected simply because of the manner in which we have presented it. Yes, too many times, Jesus has been rejected because we have not demonstrated the same heartfelt compassion Jesus has for the lost men and women of this world. Brothers and sisters, let’s make sure that when we share the gospel with others that we look more like a simple beggar than an arrogant dictator. Let’s make sure that we are humbly pleading with people to pay attention to the message from our king. Because the truth is, if people were clear that we were genuinely concerned about them, and if they were clear that we were truly desperate for them to hear what we have to say, in many cases we would be better received—the gospel would be better received.
Yes, the way in which we share the king’s message matters. There is a right way to go about it.
So we are ambassadors for Christ sent on a specific mission and with a specific mandate to make God’s appeal to those we encounter. And we have seen that the specific method for carrying out this work is to do it humbly by taking on the posture of a beggar and by imploring people on behalf of Christ.
But, we have not talked yet about what it is that we must implore them to do. Yes, why exactly has God sent us as ambassadors into a place that is not our home? In other words, what is the specific message God has given us to share with those to whom he has sent us?
Is it a complicated message? Do we have to have a Ph.D. in Christian Theology to explain it? Well, no. You'll be happy to hear that our message is a very simple one. Our message is nothing more than what we see at the end of this verse. It is the simple plea: “Be reconciled to God.” That’s it. That’s the appeal that God is making to the world through us.
Yes, as Ambassadors for Christ, we have been sent to deliver a message calling all people to be reconciled to God. That’s it. We are to implore people on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. We are to plead and beg people to be reconciled to God. That is our message. That is what God wants us to share with the men and women of this world.
You know sometimes we find ourselves scared to be ambassadors for Christ because we don’t think we know enough or understand enough. We feel like if we can’t answer questions about creation and evolution or explain the Trinity or the End Times that we are not ready to be ambassadors for Christ. We are scared that if we are unable to defend our beliefs to someone smarter than us on every new cultural issue that comes along, that we are not ready to be ambassadors for Christ. But I am here to tell you that you don’t have to have all of those sorts of things worked out in your head. Because as an ambassador for Christ, your message is straightforward: “Be reconciled to God.”
But, that does mean that you have to understand what the Bible says about how to be reconciled to God. Yes, we do have to be ready and able to point people to the path of peace with God. But fortunately, that is pretty clear and straightforward too, isn’t it? What does the Bible tell us we have to do in order to be reconciled to God?
Well, we can answer that question by just looking up at the previous two verses, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, where Paul talks about the ministry of reconciliation that God has entrusted to us. Follow along with me as I read these verses. Paul says,
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18–19 ESV)
So how are we reconciled to God? Well, we see in verse 18 that it was through Christ that God reconciled us to himself. And in verse 19 Paul expounds on this saying: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” In other words, because of Jesus’s death on the cross, our sins are not counted against us if we have placed our trust in Jesus to take away our sins. Yes, because of Jesus’s death on the cross, we have a path toward peace and reconciliation with God.
So, we don’t have to get sidetracked on the sort of stuff that people throw up in our faces as excuses for not believing what we are telling them about Jesus. Our message is simply a message of reconciliation. It is a message from the king of the universe. We come bringing with us the terms of a peace treaty. And I don’t necessarily have to understand and explain everything else that the king knows and understands. All I need to do as an ambassador for Christ is call upon people to be reconciled to God and explain that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way.
As ambassadors, we must warn everyone that a foreign king is coming, and he is coming to stake his claim over the people and the land of the country in which we are living as his ambassadors. He is coming, and he demands everyone’s ultimate allegiance. He came once as a gentle lamb, meek and mild. He came once to die in order to reconcile us to God, but Jesus is coming again as a conquering king who will demand allegiance from all his subjects. And our responsibility, as Christ’s ambassadors, is to warn everyone, that our king is coming and his offer or peace will soon expire. Yes, one day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). One day, everyone will call him King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). But for now, we are his ambassadors who have the task of calling people to be reconciled to God before it is too late.
So, it is not a hard message to understand, but it is a difficult message to deliver. And there is always a temptation for an ambassador to soften a hard message from the king who has sent them. They might say to themselves something like, “It is easy for the king to ask me to deliver this hard message, because he is not the one having to live here with these people it is going to upset. It is easy for him to make those demands because he is living far away, safe and sound at home, but here I am living among these people who don’t want to hear what he has to say, and who are not going to like what he has to say. So I am going to soften it a little bit so they don’t get too upset with me and make my life in this place miserable.” Yes, we can see how there would be a temptation to do something like that.
But as Christians, we don’t have that option. We don’t have the option to say that God is taking the easy way out by sending us to deliver a hard message while he sits safely and comfortably in his heavenly kingdom. We don’t have that option because the truth is that God sent himself to be an ambassador just like the one he has called us to be. God put on human flesh for himself and came to earth and died for this same mission and this same message. So we don’t have the option of saying that our king is asking us to do something he is unwilling to do. We don’t have the option of doing that because Christ our King paid the highest price, not only to share this message but to make it a message worth sharing. You see, if Christ hadn’t come to earth, to die on the cross in order to reconcile sinners to God, then there would be no message, there would be no mandate, there would be no mission. But Christ did come, and he did die, and he did make a way to peace with God. And he has called us as his ambassadors to share this good news with the whole world.
So, on this first Sunday of the New Year, I want to challenge you to take some time to seriously consider how you have been doing as an ambassador for Christ. You see, the truth is, it’s easy for an ambassador to move to a place and forget about their mandate and their mission and their message. Yes, it is easy to become so comfortable with your temporary home that you forget about the home to which you will one day return, and the king to which you will one day answer. And, I’m afraid that is what many Christians in this country have done and are continuing to do. I’m afraid that way too often, it is difficult to tell the difference between those of us who have a king named Jesus, and those of us who do not.
As we have been talking about in our study of 1 Peter over the last several months, as Christians, we are living as strangers and exiles in this world. And, when we are doing it right, people will think our beliefs and customs are strange and different. When we are doing it right, people will not understand us and sometimes wish we would just go away. This is what it is like to live as strangers and exiles in a place that is not our home. That is what it is like to be ambassadors for Christ. And if that is not what it is like for you, then maybe you are blending in a little too well. Maybe you need to ask yourself, “Am I really living as an ambassador for Christ in this world?”
Friends, time is of the essence. None of us knows when King Jesus is going to arrive. Not even his ambassadors. His coming is top secret, and it will be a surprise to us all. And so we must work like he is coming today or tomorrow. We must commit ourselves to this work in a more serious way than any other activity we are a part of on this earth. It is more important than our jobs and even our families.
In John 20:21, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” In other words, Jesus has commissioned us, and he has sent us to be his ambassadors who enter into the world to tell its people about a peace offer from God. As Christians, we are his representatives, and we have an obligation to not only enjoy this offer of reconciliation for ourselves, but to share it with others. That is why he sent us. And that is what he intends for us to do.
So, the question before us on this first Sunday of the New Year, is whether or not we are going to take this mission seriously in 2019. Yes, are you okay with just blending in with everyone else, or are you going to take your mission as an ambassador for Christ seriously this year? Friends, in closing, I want to submit to you, that the time has come for us to be bold witnesses for Jesus, and loyal ambassadors who understand our mission and are willing to give our lives for it. Are you ready for that? That is your calling. That is what it means to be an ambassador for Christ.