We Are Christ’s Ambassadors
2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2
Key Verse: 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.”
Last week we learned that we must live by faith, not by sight. Paul meant that we Christians must live by faith in God Almighty, trusting in his promise, and putting our hope in his kingdom, not depending on what is seen in the world. In today’s passage Paul calls the Corinthian Christians ‘Christ’s Ambassadors.” In the previous chapters Paul called them in different ways such as “God’s pleasing aroma” (2:15), “ministers of a New Covenant” (3:6). Today he calls them, ‘Christ’s ambassadors.” (5:20) Why did Paul call them in this way? Paul encouraged them to keep their identity as was called. Keeping identity is very important in maintaining our positions and in achieving our goals. If you are anointed as an ambassador, you will act like an ambassador and carry out your duty as an ambassador. If you are clothed with a working cloth, you will act and work as a worker. When you are clothed with a white gown, you will act like a doctor or work worthy of the white gown. Identity is like clothes which you wear. Paul knew that we are clothed with Christ Jesus. Paul urges us to act and live worthy of being clothed with Christ. Let’s study why Paul calls them “Christ’s ambassadors”, what it means, and why we must live as the ambassadors of Christ in our generation.
First, Christ’s love compels us. (11-15) Look at verse 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.” In verse 10 Paul warned the Corinthians about God’s final judgment. After we die, when our earthly tent is destroyed, we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and, receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (10) He meant that death is not the end of everything, but God’s judgment awaits us. So, we must fear God and prepare his judgment. Paul feared the Lord and persuaded others to believe in God’s judgment. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christians knew that God’s judgment is imminent. He saw his hometown burning by the fire of God like the city of Sodom. So, he persuaded his wife and children to leave his hometown and journey together to the kingdom of God.
Paul’s compassion for the perishing people was real. He delivered the message of repentance and salvation with pure heart and clear conscience. So, he said, “What we are is plain to God, and I hope it also plain to your conscience.” He continued in verses 12-13. “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 in what is in the heart. 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.” Paul defended himself and his ministry only for God’s glory and for the sake of the church. Indeed, he was accused of being out of his mind to the eyes of the Jews. His message was foolish to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to those who are saved. (1 Co 1:18) Paul’s full devotion to the gospel and his pure motivation for his ministry was right with his clear conscience.
Next, Paul explains why and how he preached the gospel until people said that he was out of his mind. His answer is Christ’s love. Christ’s love compelled him to do so. Look at verses 14-15. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 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.” Paul believed that Christ died for him. Christ forgave his sins and called him to be an apostle for the Gentiles. He knew that all these came from the grace of God. Since Paul knew that Christ died for him, he determined to live for Christ for the rest of his life. He confessed this to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) In Romans Paul said that he was even obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks...That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel...” (Ro 1:14-15) Through these verses we know that Christ’s love compelled Paul to preach the gospel until he was considered to be out of his mind.
As missionary, Bible teacher, and spiritual leader we must remember that we live only by God’s grace, and that we serve God with Christ’s love. For example, Jesus did not command Peter to feed sheep out of duty. He asked him first if he loved Jesus more than all these things. “Simon, Son of John. Do you love me more than these?” When Peter answered, “Yes Lord. You know that I love you.”, then Jesus commanded him, “Feed my sheep!” (Jn 20:15) Jesus asked Peter if he loved him first. Love is not a duty. Love is obedience to the truth. No one loves out of duty. When you fall in love with someone, your eyes become blind. You become crazy. Paul became crazy for Jesus since he came to know that Jesus died for him. When I learned that Jesus loved me and died for me, I was willing to give my life for him. I was crazy for Jesus during my college life. The power of love enabled me to live as a missionary and Bible teacher for the last 40 years. I pray for all of you to be compelled by the love of Christ. I want all of you to fall in love with Jesus. Our effort and human love are limited and conditional. We need the love of Christ which is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (Ro 8:5) Amen!
Second, God committed to us the message of reconciliation (16-21) Here is another reason why Paul preached the gospel until he was considered to be out of his mind. It is God’s commission to Paul with the message of reconciliation. Look at verses 16-17. “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. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” In the past when Paul saw Jesus from a worldly point of view, Jesus was one of the sect leaders who came to destroy Judaism, his religion and traditions. Paul was an instrument of Satan. But when he saw the light of Christ on the way to Damascus, his physical eyes became blind, but his spiritual eyes were opened. He got new eyes to see Jesus as the Son of God. Since then, he lived as an instrument of righteousness. He became a new creation in Christ Jesus! Paul’s testimony is my testimony and your testimonies, too. If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he or she becomes a new creation. The tax collector Levi was changed into St. Matthew when he was in Christ Jesus. Unschooled fishermen Peter and Andrew became great apostles when they were in Christ Jesus. Amen!
Paul confessed in Romans 1:5, “Through him and for his name’s sake we received grace and apostleship...” Paul said this because he believed that God saved him for his special purpose. He equals God’s saving grace and apostleship. Paul answers this in verses 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.” What is reconciliation? Reconciliation is restoring a friendly relationship. In the past we were enemies of God because of our sin. Sin separates us from God. Sin broke our relationship with God. But Jesus died for our sins and became a reconciliation between God and us. Paul said this in verse 21. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” For reconciliation we must pay the price. God paid the price for the reconciliation through Jesus. Paul called this a sacrifice of atonement. Atonement has the same meaning as reconciliation. In the Old Testament the high priests killed animals and sprinkled their blood in the Most Holy Place for the atonement for their sins. But Jesus took his own blood and entered the Most Holy Place once for all for our eternal redemption (reconciliation). (He 9:12) Through Jesus’ death God does not count our sins against us. Through Jesus’ death the wrath of God is propitiated. Through Jesus our sins are forgiven and our friendly relationship with God is restored. God reconciled us to himself through Christ. It is amazing that God initiated the reconciliation. It is true what it is said, “we love because he first loved us”. (1 Jn 4:19)
God who had reconciled us to himself through Christ gave us the ministry of reconciliation. God committed to us the message of reconciliation. This means that we have a mission to reconcile between God and other people through the message of reconciliation. In other words, the ministry of reconciliation is a peacemaker between God and sinners. God is angry with your friend because of their sins. God is going to punish them. Then you go to your friend and ask them to apologize to God and to ask him the forgiveness of their sin. If they repent and turn to God, you reconciled between God and your friends. Jesus praised the peacemaker saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mt 5:9)
God gave us the ministry of reconciliation with the title, “Christ’s ambassadors”. Look at verse 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.” We are appointed as the ambassadors of Christ. Who is an ambassador? Ambassador is the representative of a nation who works in the place of a king or a president. Christ’s ambassadors are those who work for God’s kingdom as ministers of reconciliation. A few years ago, two American journalists became hostages in North Korea. US government appointed Bill Clinton, a former president’ as a special ambassador for the release the two Americans. By the government’s effort, the two Americans were released and returned to their family with the president. During Exodus what was the message of God to King Pharaoh? The message of God to Pharaoh was “Let my people go and worship Him.” What was the message of reconciliation? Our message is “Be reconciled to God.” God saved us and committed to us to deliver this message to others. Let us give thanks to God who appointed us as ambassadors of Christ. Let us deliver this message of reconciliation with the dignity of Christ’s ambassador. Amen!
Third, we must deliver the message of God because it is the time of God’s favor. (7:1-2) Here is another reason why we preach the message of the cross diligently. This is because it is the time of God’s favor and the day of salvation. Look at 7:1-2. “As God’s co-workers 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.” We have a bad habit which comes from our laziness, that is procrastination. Because of this bad habit we delay the ministry of reconciliation for tomorrow or better day. We want to stay our comfort zone and wait for better time to do God’s work. But today is the best day for God’s work. Now is the right time to obey. Paul did not waste even a minute as God’s co-worker. I have a bad habit of procrastination as my wife always pointed out. But I repented last Monday and when I went out to campus for fishing during my off day, I bore the fruit of repentance. God sent a new student for Bible study. Today is the day of God’s favor, and now is the time of God’s salvation!
Paul urges us not to receive God’s grace in vain. We must go to our brothers and sisters who sinned against God and us and reconcile them as God reconciled us. As Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel, before we offer something to God, if we remember someone who needs reconciliation, we must go and reconcile them first, and then come back to offer God. (Mt 5:23-24) God committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. God wants to restore his friendship with sinners through us. What a blessing to us and what a privilege we have! Amen! Remember that we are Christ’s ambassadors. Amen!