Our High Calling To Be Ambassadors Of Christ Jesus

(2 Cor 5:20 KJV) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

This is an article transcribed from a sermon by Pastor Trevor Marshall the Teaching Elder of the Protestant Reformed Church in Brisbane South, Australia and Moderator of Presbytery.

Our High Calling To Be Ambassadors Of Christ Jesus

By Trevor Marshall

At the meeting of Presbytery hosted by the Epping Congregation in April 2003, the incoming Moderator Trevor Marshall, addressed those assembled with the reminder that as Christians we are `ambassadors for Christ', to whom has been committed the `ministry of reconciliation'. In commenting on 2 Corinthians 5:12-21, he pointed out the importance of all Christians, and especially those holding office in the church, to live as those who represent their King - Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Introduction Could you ever imagine George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein becoming very close friends? The very idea seems totally improbable. The gulf of hatred between them is too great to bridge.

Ending hostilities between these two longstanding enemies is impossible, and the whole idea is absurd. Any notion of bringing about a reconciliation between these two parties is totally out of the question. The gulf between them is simply too great. But this gulf, which we consider too great to be bridged, is minute compared to the gulf that exists between sinners and Almighty God. Yet the glorious and wonderful work of Jesus Christ accomplished everything required to reconcile sinners to God. And all whom the grace of God saves through Jesus Christ, are called by God Himself to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In 2 Corinthians 5:18 Paul describes the task entrusted to these ambassadors as the ministry of reconciliation. For us to understand this calling we need to understand our role and duty as ambassadors of Christ, and the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us.

The high office of Ambassador of Christ Jesus
a) What picture came to the Apostle Paul's mind when he spoke of an ambassador? Paul lived in the Roman Empire and was familiar with the governmental structures of that time. Roman provinces were divided into two types. Provinces that were at peace and required no troops were under the direct control of the senate. Provinces that were politically unstable and needed troops to maintain law and order were imperial provinces. In the imperial provinces, the Emperor appointed a man to administer the province on his behalf. This man was the Emperor's Ambassador. The first important aspect attached to the concept of an ambassador is that of a man who has received his commission directly from the Emperor. We are not commissioned by men, but by God. You and I have been given the task of being ambassadors directly from Jesus Christ, to whom all authority on earth and in heaven belongs. Do you see yourself as having received the com­mission to be an ambassador directly from the King of Kings?

b) The goal of the Emperor's Ambas­sador was to win the hearts and minds of men, so that the Roman Empire could be extended. It was their task to persuade men who were enemies of the Roman Empire to swear allegiance to him. Those who did so became free citizens of Rome. Christ's Ambassadors must urge men and women to be reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. All those reconciled to God are adopted as sons and made coheirs with Christ Jesus. At the heart of their calling to be an am­bassador of Christ is the task of urging sinners to be reconciled to God. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this very strongly in 2 Corinthians 5:20, `Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God'. What urgency there is in the Apostle's voice. What importance he attaches to the role given to ambassadors of Christ.

c) There is not a more responsible position on earth than that of being an ambassador of the High King of Heaven. If you belong to Christ, God has called and appointed you as an ambassador. The responsibility He places in your hands is enormous. As an ambassador your life in word and deed must represent your King. To help us understand our function as ambassadors we need to consider some qualifications.

{ i } An ambassador of Australia is an Australian in a foreign country. The Australian Ambassador in Japan spends his life among people who speak a different language, who have a different culture, a different way of life. The ambassador of Christ is always like that. He lives in the world, but is a citizen of heaven. He partakes in the life and work of the world, but is not of the world. He will live a life that makes him different. His glorious King sets his goals, priorities, pleasures and standards. This world is not the Chris­tian's home. We will always be strangers in this world and must expect the world to treat us as strangers.

{ii} An ambassador speaks for his own country. When the Australian Ambassador speaks, his voice is the voice of Australia. You and I are com­missioned to speak on Christ's behalf. You and I bring the message of Christ to the world which is at war with Christ. When we speak, much of what we say will fall on hostile ears. Some of our brothers who laboured as ambassa­dors felt the hatred of this world towards their King and Lord. Listen to George Foxe's telling of how his words were received at Tickhill. `I found the priest and the most of the chief of the parish together in the chancel. So I went up to them and began to speak, but immediately they fell upon me; the clerk took up the Bible as I was speaking, and struck me on the face with it, so it gushed out with blood, and I bled exceedingly in the steeple-house. Then the people cried, "Let us have him out of the Church"; and when they had got me out they beat me exceed­ingly, and threw me down over a hedge; and afterwards they dragged me through a house into the street, stoning and beating me as they drew me along, so that I was besmeared all over with blood and dirt... Yet when I was got upon my legs again I declared to them the word of life and shewed them the fruits of their teachers, how they dishonored Christianity.' What a sense of faithful duty and determination this ambassador of Christ displayed in the face of hostility. He had a message from his King and he was prepared to die delivering that message. John Wesley tells us of his experience in Wednesbury where a mob attacked him. 'To attempt speak­ing was vain; for the noise on every side was like the roaring sea. So they dragged me along till we came to the town; when, seeing the door of a large house open. I attempted to go in; but a man, catching me by the hair, pulled me back into the middle of the crowd. They made no more stop till they had carried me through the main street, from one end of the town to the other.' We are ambassadors living in a hostile world. Opposition to the truth of the Gospel is to be expected.

{iii} The honour of the country is in its ambassador's hands. The ambassador lives his life under the spotlight. People listen to his words, they mark his actions and conclude that his words and behaviour are approved by his King. The Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:9-10 says, `For this reason we also since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God'. William Hendriksen commented, `The Apostle and those who are with him pray that the Colossians may `walk' or conduct themselves in harmony with the responsibilities which their new relationship to God imposes and with the blessings which the new relationship brings. There must be nothing half-hearted about the manner of life. On the contrary, it must be to (his) complete delight, and a conscious striving to please God in everything'. When I was first set apart to the ministry, I was warned that, in the ministry one never makes small mistakes - others make sure that every mistake is a big mistake. Paul warned Ambassadors of Christ like Timothy, `take heed to yourself and to the doctrine'. Our lives need to reflect the glory of the Saviour. Bishop Lightfoot said in an ordination address, `The Ambassador, while acting, acts not only as an agent, but as a representative of his sovereign.... The Ambassador's duty is not only to deliver a definite message, to carry out a definite policy; but he is obliged to watch for opportunities, study characters, to cast about for expedients, so that he may place it before his hearers in its most attractive form.' It ought to be obvious that the ambassador needs to know his King well, and clearly understand his policy. For this reason all believers ought to be wres­tling with the Word of God and themselves. Jim Elliot, who was martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956, once said this; `I find I must drive myself to study, following the "ought" of conscience to gain anything at all from Scripture, lacking any desire at times. It is important to learn respect and obedience to the "inner must" if godliness is to be a state of soul with me. I may no longer rely on pleasant impulses to bring me before the Lord. I must rather respond to principles I know to be right, whether I feel them enjoyable or not.' Every ambassador of Christ is to live according to principles rather than feelings.

d) Being an ambassador of Christ is the glorious privilege of the Christian, but also the most terrifying responsibility. What you do and say has an influence on sinners. By watching and listening they either think more or less of Christ Jesus and His church. Why did God choose to make saved sinners His ambassadors to a lost and dark world? Would angels not have been better ambassadors of the Gospel of Christ? C H Spurgeon's answer to that question was, `The probability is that an angel would have been quite unfit for such work as this. When a man, a sinful man who has himself been forgiven, talks to other sinners, he talks very tenderly and sympathetically; at least, he ought to do so; and when he meets with any distressed souls, he recollects the time when he was in distress; and when he hears about their doubts and fears, he remembers his own; and when he mourns over their rebellions, he recollects what a rebel he used to be; and therefore he is gentle with them, and longs that, if possible, peace may be made between the rebel and his God. But if an angel had been Christ's ambassador, after he had preached most earnestly, you would always be able to make this excuse to him, "Ah, you cannot enter into our feelings, for you have never had our temptations and trials". As you went home, you would say to one another, "That was a grand oration that the angel gave us, but it did not help us much. It was all very well for him to talk as he did, but he has not a wife and children to provide for, he has no poverty to bear, he has not to feel the cold, he has not to suffer through being tempted, as we are, by evil passions and the like."' Do we plead with men as men who know the misery sin brings in the everyday burdens of life? Do sinners find us as those who are understanding of their weaknesses and struggles against wickedness? God chose men to be ambassadors because we know the glory of being set free from bondage and darkness. Can you sympathize with them as one who was once at enmity with God, but concurred by the grace of the Gospel? Do others see in us the delight that comes by the light of Christ? There is no higher office on the face of the earth than being an ambassador of Christ. This privilege is yours and mine. It is the most wonderful royal privilege we could ever have.

Our calling to be ambassadors of Christ
1) God has made us ambassadors of Christ by a mighty work. Paul declares, 'if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new'. The work of God in a sinner is so great that it is not a work of renovation of the old, but a new creation. The wonderful change takes place when God effectually calls a sinner to trust Christ for salvation. This call comes from irresistible grace that unites the sinner to Christ. Through this union the sinner's guilt and sin are imputed to Christ and Christ's perfect righteousness is imputed to the sinner. With Christ's righteousness imputed to him the sinner's status before God is radically changed. The change of status is from sinner condemned to die the second death, to saint in Christ Jesus saved to glory in the Father's house. The term 'new creation' means the commencement of a new state of being. The old life when we were under Satan's dominion, and living according to the lusts of the flesh is over. Paul says, all things have become new. A new life has begun. A new life filled with love for God, a desire to please Christ. A new life of being a willing servant to glorify Christ, a dedicated soldier in the Lord's Army, a wise steward in the household of God, the light and the salt of the earth. We have a new outlook on life's purpose and meaning; gone are the old self-centered and self-satisfying endeavours. Now the purpose and meaning of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. An ambassador is a man or woman radically changed by the power of God's effectual call and irresistible grace.

2) Do you consider yourself someone with a calling'? Every believer is called by God to salvation in Christ Jesus, and also called to live a new life as an ambassador. The word calling is a very particular word, with very important meanings attached. This calling flows out of the work of God in making them a new creation. As Paul Helm says, `A conversion is not like radical brain­surgery. John Smith when he is con­verted is still John Smith. He does not literally become another person, nor is he transformed to some earthly paradise, or to a community of angels or to heaven itself. He continues to live at the old address, he works at the same office or factory and has the same relationships and acquaintances. He suffers from the same aches and pains and from the same peculiarities of character'. The great difference is that he lives in the situation and circumstance of his old life as a new man called to be Christ's ambassador. You must be an ambassador of Christ to your family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours and strangers you encounter in your daily life. The network of relationships God's providence developed for you before your conversion, now becomes your sphere of service as an ambassador. You need to accept that God in His sovereign providential rule has placed you exactly where He wants you to serve Him. It is God's will that you be an ambassador to those He has brought into your life. Do you wake up in the morning and ever think about being an ambassador of Christ, and do you live your life deliberately to convey the glory of your Lord and Saviour?

3) The greatest obstacle that believers need to overcome to live as ambassa­dors of Christ is the prevailing double mindedness of dualism. Dualism of various kinds continue to plague believers. The plague of dualism today takes the form of dividing your life into two parts, a religious and secular part. The world expects you to keep your religious life to yourself, and it is not to intrude into your secular life. You should live your secular life as if you have no religious life. This dualism would have you abandon any notion of being an ambassador of Christ in the world. The Scriptures know nothing of this kind of dualism, the only dualism that Scripture speaks about is sin and righteousness. As Christians, unbiblical dualistic thinking must not paralyze our outlook on life. As Paul Helm rightly says, `To see one's whole life as a divine calling is both the key to Christian sanctification and the cement which holds together the various aspects of our lives, preventing them from splitting up into different, and disjointed, sealed compartments'. The calling you have is to be an ambassador of Christ; it is God's will for you to serve in that office with great diligence and responsibility. Christians are called to be single-minded in their desire to glorify God in all the things they say, do or think.

You are an ambassador of Christ called to serve your glorious King in this world of spiritual darkness and confusion. Have you taken full ownership of this high calling? Are you convinced that it is God's will that you be His ambassador in the network of relationships that make up your life? Are you filled with a sense of awe that God should give you such a glorious calling? Do you feel terrified by the responsibility and implications of being an ambassador of Christ? All of us ought to have a sense of total inadequacy for the task, yet we ought to be totally comforted by the fact that we fulfil the tasks and duties as ambassadors with knowledge that our King is with us. When we suffer rejection and cruel mocking, we need to remember we are ambassadors of Christ. Remembering we are ambassadors ought to greatly strengthen us. As Charles Hodge says, `Any neglect, contempt or injury done to Him in His official character, is not a personal offence, but an offence to the sovereign or state by whom he was

commissioned.' Jesus warned us `the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me'. Our calling is a high calling, for it comes directly from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Trevor Marshall is Teaching Elder in the PRC's Brisbane South Congregation and Moderator of Presbytery.  (11/14/03)