“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God is making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV)
In his joint letter with Timothy to the Corinthians Paul refers to he and Timothy as “ambassadors for Christ.” What does it mean to be an “ambassador for Christ”? Well, an ambassador is commonly understood to be a representative of a greater body or group, commonly a nation (or in regards to the Gospel, the Kingdom of God), of which the representative is a member. However, the representative is not just considered to be a “member” but a member whose interests are representative of the group as a whole, or those of the king, who is the designated representative of the group’s interests as head of state.
1. The Ambassador’s Primary Identity is as a Christian.
This may be stating the obvious but a Christian’s identity is not “Donald” or “Nancy”; this may be the Christian’s name but the defining characteristic of the Christian is a person who is in Christ Jesus. They are a member of the body of Christ, of which Jesus Christ is the head. So when one acts as an ambassador for Christ all other identifying characteristics (name, occupation, sex, etc.) are subsumed in one’s identity as a Christian first and foremost.
2. The Ambassador is Reconciled to the Lord through Jesus Christ.
In the paragraph that contains the aforementioned quoted verse Paul refers to himself and Timothy as having been reconciled to Christ and given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). One definition provided by Merriam-Webster of reconcile is to restore in regards to a relationship (see Merriam-Webster dictionary). The Lord Jesus Christ died so that our relationship with God, which had been broken by sin, may be restored through Christ’s atonement for our sin. Therefore, the ambassador for Christ must be in a right relationship with the Lord and in a state of repentance for his sins, having accepted the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. This does not mean we shall not sin (1 John 1:8), but that we are genuine in our repentance for our sin. When we are in this right relationship then we may be ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors for Christ, preaching the Gospel without hypocrisy.
3. The Ambassador’s Loyalties to Christ are Undivided.
A loyal ambassador does not cherish in his heart any of the ways of the foreigner that are contrary to the interests of his king and his people, though he always is respectful of those who are in authority and the customs of the foreign land in which he dwells (so long as they are not contrary to the laws of his kingdom), lest he should give offense. The purpose of ambassadorship is not to conform to the ways of the foreign land in which he dwells but to demonstrate to the people of that land his people’s ways, which are love, hospitality, mercy, kindness and all of the other fruits and gifts of the Kingdom of Heaven, sharing the treasures of the Kingdom with all. In this way he is a faithful servant and messenger of his Lord Jesus Christ and his people, the saints.
And, finally, what is the message the ambassador brings? The Good News!
“The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV)
May the Lord Jesus Christ, our minister of reconciliation, bless us in our efforts to reconcile others to him as his ambassadors, sharing the Gospel with those who are strangers to the Kingdom of God so that they may have divine citizenship.
*ESV=English Standard Version