In this sermon, Pastor Joe Babij continues examining Paul’s teaching regarding what it means to be an ambassador for Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. In part 2, Pastor Babij gives the second two of four distinguishing marks of baked dirt ambassadors for Christ. Believers, in order to carry out their ambassadorship from God with confidence and zeal, need not only to understand these marks but also to examine themselves and make necessary adjustments.
Mark 1: Their Disposition (vv. 11-15)
Mark 2: Their Work (vv. 17-18)
Mark 3: Their Message (vv. 19-20)
3a. The Person of the Message: Jesus Christ
3b. The Target of the Message: The World
3c. The Reason for the Message: Sin, Transgression, and Judgment
3d. The Messengers of the Message: Christians
3e. The Earnest of the Message: Urgency
Mark 4: Their Objective Hope (v. 21)
This morning we’re looking at 2 Corinthians again. As we look at this passage of Scripture, I ask why were you born now at this time? Well the answer is in 2 Corinthians 5:20; you were left here to be an ambassador for Christ, if you are a believer of course. The verse says:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
I want you to get in your mind to live out your ambassadorship with confidence while you are here. Ambassadors do not come with their own agenda or with their own authority. We are as aliens to this world and have been called to live in it at this time and to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world we know is steeped in spiritual darkness. What do people need more than anything in this life? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The one and only institution that God has called to mandate this message to the world is the Church.
We’ve been called out of darkness into light and the Kingdom of God and because of that we are followers of Jesus Christ and have been entrusted as followers with the message of salvation by grace alone, in Christ alone, and using the Scripture alone. So today let’s continue to note the four distinctive marks of a baked dirt ambassador for Christ. Now of course that baked dirt phrase may throw you off a bit. But if you turn back to 2 Corinthians 4:7, it says this:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.
The earthen vessels are us! We are the baked dirt and clay pots. We’re weak and vulnerable and we need God’s power to live the Christian life and to live for Christ. We need His power because we cannot do this on our own, especially as ambassadors in a world that is not welcoming to us. God knows we’re here and weak and He has given us everything to be what we ought to be. So let’s apply this to our own life, evaluate it, and make adjustments as needed. Then we can live out our ambassadorship with confidence and holy zeal.
So just by way of review, the first distinctive mark of a baked dirt ambassador of Christ is disposition, constant integrity, genuine humility, a deep thankfulness for Christ’s love which moves a believer into a new sphere in which they no longer live for themselves. Secondly the love of Christ moves a believer to a place where they no longer look at people in a fleshly way. And the love of Christ moves the believer to a place where they no longer look at Christ in a fleshly way. Christ is now their Lord, Master, and Redeemer. We come to love Him because of what He has done for us. Of course the love of Christ moves us to a place where all these things are becoming new.
So as believers in Christ Jesus, we are ambassadors for Him to bring the gospel to a lost and dying world and the best disposition this message flows through, is one through a constant integrity, a genuine humility, and a deep thankfulness for the love of Christ. The second distinct mark of a baked dirt ambassador is their work. The source of the new creation in 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
The source of this new creation is God, who brought us into the world and made us believers. Secondly, the source of this new work is God, just look at 2 Corinthians 5:18:
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
So the source of the work is God, the bestower of the work is God. All the work has been done by God Himself and our Lord, whom we love, has given us the mission as ambassadors to carry out His unfinished business in this world. This business is basically in the form of a message which brings us to a third distinctive mark of an ambassador in Christ and it is the message. They do not preach their own message, but one from God. It is a message that once received, we are to stand in and stay in for the rest of our lives.
Be sure of this, a baked dirt ambassador for Christ must believe the message of Jesus Christ themselves and then they must hold fast to it. You can’t be an ambassador in a foreign nation and not understand why you’re there or the message you’re going to communicate. So what is the gospel? It means good news. What is that? Then you have to ask yourself if you really believe it. Do you live and act according to your belief?
Do you have a life transforming faith? Is Jesus Christ your Redeemer, your Substitute, your Sacrifice, your Lord, your God? Or is He just an add-on to everything else in your life? Some people think they have everything else, they might as well have Jesus too. Are you a true possessor of Jesus Christ or a false professor? Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and have the faith works to prove it? Or have you been the kind of person who comes to church and listens to the word preached over and over again but you do not act upon anything that you have heard?
Now these are very probing, convicting, sobering questions but they need to be asked and more than once throughout our lives. Scripture warns us that there is a faith that does not save. The Bible teaches that there is such a thing as false faith or believing in vain. I read an intriguing story by Pastor D James Kennedy that I thought illustrated well the seriousness of true salvation.
The story happened many years ago in Eastern Soviet Union in a small rural church. The people had come together on a Sunday morning and were engaging in worshipping Christ. They had just finished singing a hymn and they were seated and suddenly, there was a loud crash. Somebody kicked the front door and two soviet soldiers in uniform carrying machine guns stomped down the aisle and faced the congregation.
They said, “You filthy Christians, you are a disgrace to our glorious Soviet Union and we have come today to see that you live no longer.” They pulled the bolts on their machine guns and the congregation was sitting frozen and wide-eyed in their seats when a soldier said, “Some of you may not really believe this stuff, so you have a few minutes to decide. In fact you have exactly one minute to do so.” There was complete silence and then a shuffle of feet until finally a large number of people were scrambling out of the pews and down the aisle, falling down over one another in a desperate attempt to get out the door before the minute was up, about 40% of the congregation was fleeing across the country side for their lives.
One of the soldiers walked up to the door, slammed it, closed it and came back in front of the church. He said to the people who were silent and praying feverishly, “Brethren, we too are Christians and we have come to worship. But first, we had to get rid of those who didn’t believe.” Now of course that is an extreme situation and you wonder how you would react and what group you would be in.
That’s how serious it is to be a Christian. Yes, the gospel must be believed and it must be lived out every day. This is the only message that saves and reconciles people to God. It’s the only one! There are not many, just one. That makes the world mad because they don’t want just one way. So the third distinctive mark of a baked dirt ambassador for Christ is their message.
These are ministers of a message with far-reaching effects in which God is doing this work. He brings reconciliation and pardon to sin to a world of people from every tribe and every nation. There are five essentials to the message found in our passage in 2 Corinthians 5. The person of the message is Christ. This is what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:19:
Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
The person of the message is Jesus Christ, not just the generic name of God. The One who was sent into the world as the perfect man who became obedient to the Father to the point of death and dying in the place of sinners. This becomes the first essential part of the gospel, in that it always starts with God and His character. God was reconciling through Christ and doing it in Christ. The whole reconciling process takes place in Him. Ambassadors cannot fudge or fiddle around with or side step Jesus Christ as being the essential figure of the message.
This great plan of redemption always centers in on the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul said in Ephesians 1:10:
Summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
That means the plan, the purpose, the way of redemption are always in Christ. If someone adds to or takes away from the message, it is no longer the gospel but some other message. So there’s an exclusiveness about who we are presenting in the gospel message. The person of Jesus Christ is the first essential. The second essential the world, which is also in 2 Corinthians 5:19:
Reconciling the world to Himself.
Don’t let the term the world trip you up, because it means the world of people, but not every person. It means the world of the Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, pagan, barbarian, and people of all skin colors. God gives us a love for all groups of people. That’s not normal or in our flesh. We can’t do that without Him. They may look and speak differently, eat and get dressed differently, yet the have the same problem of needing reconciliation like everyone else.
Just for your information, concerning what’s happening today with the critical race theory and subjects that go with that, I want to share some things. There was a new book out called Christianity and Wokeness by Owen Strachan, that is praised by people like Voddie Baucham, Wayne Grudem, Steve Lawson, Ken Ham, Paul Washer, C.J. Mahaney, Rick Holland. John MacArthur writes the forward to the book and he says, “Wherever CRT is introduced, it deliberately provokes and feeds on disunity. It intensifies ethnic hostility, promotes crass identity politics, imputes guilt or victimhood to people according to their skin color.”
He went on to say that "Divisive effects of such a worldview are now obvious. CRT has not helped much less healed social strife and ethnic division. It has made those problems exponentially worse. Perceptive people have noticed.” See the world is not going to produce unity through their ideologies. They are quaint little information bits that go out and saturate people’s minds until they believe it but they don’t understand what it is.
Just for your information, God has provided our skin with millions of tiny umbrellas that protect us from the sun’s damaging visible and invisible rays. The umbrellas in our skin is darkly colored and it is called melanin. It is typically black or brown and is primarily responsible for the pigment in our skin color. Recently I visited the Ark in Kentucky and Ken Ham was giving a seminar and said that there are no white people. Human skin is never truly white.
Though some people have less melanin than others, surprisingly all humans regardless of shade or color of skin have approximately the same color of melanocytes per square inch of skin. Some people have darker skin than others, not because they have more melanocytes but because they retain a greater amount of melanin after the cells are no longer able to divide. So people with lighter skin break down most of their melanin so in reality, we human beings are different shades of brown.
I say this for this reason: that is not an issue with God and it should not be an issue with Christians! The issue we should have at all times is not to think of people in terms of race but in terms of people groups who have different cultures. In these groups, people have different shades of brown skin color. Remember, we are all offspring of Noah and his family: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
So we should think of people in the spiritual as saved or lost. If they are saved, they are in Christ period. And if they are lost, they are darkness and in bondage to sin, alienated from the life of God and under God’s wrath. People who are in desperate need of a word from God, which is what we should give them. So the term world specifically embraces those who repent and take advantage of the gospel of Jesus Christ and who are reconciled to God. The gospel is to be given to the whole world and God saves some. So you see, the target message is to the world.
If the ambassador has a problem going to a certain group, they should not be an ambassador but go home and deal with their issues. An ambassador cannot look at appearances but at the eternity and soul of a person. We are all in the same boat of being sinners. That brings us to the third reason for the message which is transgression or trespass. Look at what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:19:
Not counting their trespasses against them.
So clearly it indicates in our passage that sin is the problem! As it is recorded in Isaiah the prophet where it says in Isaiah 59:2:
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
The gospel message must include the problem of the human heart and that is that we are sinners, rebels, enemies of God. Sin is the cause of alienation of people from God. Pursuing one’s bent to sin usually starts out as a search for freedom and happiness but ends up in slavery, fear, and remaining under God’s wrath. Because of people’s transgressions and sins, they are in trouble with God. Transgression means the result of falling off the side, away from the right road, and going where one is forbidden to go. It was transgression that caused God to drive out our first parents from the Garden of Eden and away from His presence. There has been a barrier between Him and man ever since.
So here in our passage, it says to not count their trespass against them. This word trespass has the idea of glossing over a boundary of right and entering the forbidden land of the evil wrongdoing and crooked living. We’ve all done it and that is where we lived before. We were fine doing it and loved our sin. Our passions and desires drove us and and our actions. We made the necessary adjustments on how to define all that, and yet we did not know we were under God’s wrath and judgment and heading for hell.
You have heard the quaint saying that God loves the sinner and hates the sin. Well this is totally wrong, God does not view a sinner apart from his sins. God’s wrath is upon the sin and the person responsible for them. Psalm 7:11 says:
God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
When people hear the message of Christ, repent, and are reconciled to God through Christ, God no longer charges their sin against them. That is what they are saying and that is the goal of an ambassador who doesn’t want the sins of people counted against them anymore but wants them washed away. The can only be washed away by the blood and death of Christ in their place. See God no longer charges their sin against them as the passage said not counting their trespasses against them.
That is a blessed place to be, when you know your sins are not counted against you ever again. Your slate is clean because of the blood of Christ. Do you realize the freedom and peace you have when that takes place? That is how you can be bold as a messenger, because you understand the message and love the one who gave you the message and died in your place. And you know there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That’s what an ambassador desires and where his or her focus is.
So the person of the message is Christ, the target of the message is the world, and the reason for the message is sin and transgression and judgment. A fourth essential is the messenger of the message. Look at what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20:
He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
The word ambassador could mean representative on behalf of someone. It is also connected to the word presbas, which also means old man. Old men were often sent but the king or emperor to represent the kingdom. They understood that old men knew the difficulties and tensions that could come up with different countries. In some respects, ambassadors need some maturity and experience. It should be an admonition for us to grow knowledge and wisdom of Jesus Christ so we represent Him well in our lives.
The Apostle Paul and us as the Church are a priesthood of the believers and have been given this ministry. You can’t say it is not your ministry, because we are all ambassadors for Christ’s Kingdom. We are given the ministry of reconciliation and are His mouth pieces. We make an appeal to sinful humanity as if God Himself was making an appeal through us, which is to be reconciled to God.
That brings me to a fifth essential of the message which is the earnestness of this message. Notice what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:20:
We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Sometimes the message is there, but the urgency to tell it is not. It’s not a ho-hum message, brethren.We can’t make this grave mistake because the message must be accompanied by a strong sense of importance and urgency. If you look at 2 Corinthians 5:20, there is a sense of pressure where the people are urged, implored, pleaded with, entreated, and begged for a specific response. What is that thing? It is the command to be reconciled to God.
This command further expresses an urgency and it is an imperative to get reconciled to God and do it now! Take advantage of the peace terms of the gospel and do it now! We keep begging for Christ, which also has to be done on our knees in prayer that God would save our family and children and coworkers.
This urging continues in our context because the apostle wants the hearers to have a proper reception of the urgent message. Look at 2 Corinthians 6:1:
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
This term vain means for nothing or without reason or without proper consideration. In other words it means receiving an urgent message that brings reconciliation with God in a superficial manner. By definition, superficial means “of or being on the surface” and here it means a surface faith that lacks depth and results in a hasty consideration. It means something without pausing to note the details of it. A great example of a superficial response to the gospel is pictured in the parable of the sower where the seed falls on the shallow, rock based soil. The shallow soil is the picture of the heart like Matthew 13:20-21 which says:
The one sown with seed on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately he falls away.
The soils in the parable of the sower represent the heart of man and how various people receive the Word of God. The heart of the hearer is the spiritual equivalent of the soil like receiving the farmer’s seed to the soil. There is nothing wrong with the sower or the seed. The problem is the condition of the heart! The soil that is not properly prepared will never bear a crop. The important points of the spiritual lesson in this parable is that a person’s response to the gospel depends primarily on the preparation of a person’s heart. A superficial response is a person who receives the Word without fully acting upon it.
Their response is enthusiastic but lacking any thought or counting the cost of following Christ. He is happy to hear the Word of God but his commitment to Christ is superficial. In other words, he has non-saving faith. There is no true repentance from sin, no brokenness over sin, or following Christ for the rest of their lives. So when trouble, persecution, and trials arise or a sacrifice must be paid, they abandon the faith. They have no root to support growth or to endure harsh weather or to bear any fruit at all. Instead they wither away.
Paul was very concerned that people would not receive the grace of God in vain without thinking of the implications for themselves. If they reject this message, where will they go since there is no other message? If they do receive the message, how serious are they in receiving it? Will they repent of their sin and turn from what they were trusting in to save themselves in order to believe in Christ? The Apostle Paul brought the same concern up in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
Then there are no results to your profession of faith. God wants us to make sure we are believers, the real stuff! If they hold fast to the gospel, then that’s what He wants them to do. Of course in 1 Corinthians 15, the problem is that some of them weren’t holding fast to the gospel because they weren’t believing in the resurrection. If you don’t believe in that, you can’t be saved.
You can’t pick and choose what you believe about the gospel. Another translation records it like this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2:
It is this good news that saves you if you firmly believe it, unless of course you believe something that was never true in the first place.
Unless the basis of your faith was inadequate and excessed without due thought, and in that case it would be a non-saving faith and you’d be believing a false gospel. The old Puritan Matthew Henry wrote: “We believe in vain unless we are continuing and persevere in the faith of the gospel.” It’s not just the initial believing but the rest of your life!
You can say that you believed Jesus ten years ago but don’t do anything about it now or read your Bible or go to church, etc. People can believe simple facts about the gospel and not be saved because there is no real depth in their souls to commit themselves to Christ forever through repentance. Brethren, can you give an enthusiastic yes to the fact that you came to believe in Jesus Christ and that the blessed effects of salvation continue to be evident and present every day in your life? Biblical faith demands and produces costly and radical changes in one’s life. It’s essence is really supreme commitment to Christ.
In our passage, don’t take too long to believe in Christ because it says in 2 Corinthians 6:2:
For he said, “I have answered you in an acceptable time and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the acceptable time, and behold, now is the day of salvation.
So you always stand at the edge of eternity, never knowing how much time you have left so you need to trust Christ now! Today believe the gospel message, repent of your sins, and transfer your trust to Jesus Christ. By a simple transfer of trust from what you could do to earn eternal life to what Christ has done. It doesn’t matter at all what you have done.
That’s when you receive the free gift of eternal life offered from Jesus Christ. We can’t buy it or offer God anything for it. We can’t turn over our own new leaves but instead just need to come to God with all the sin and baggage and junk. Bring it all to Christ and ask Him to save you. You know what happens? Jesus says that if you come to Him like that, He will no wise cast you out because that is exactly why He came.
So this is an ambassador’s urgent message. As he bears it to people from God, it’s not easy. It is not a friendly message or a seeker sensitive or politically correct message. It is not a culturally woke message. It isn’t a rosy perfect world where Jesus gives you whatever you want. It is hard to believe, which is why you need divine intervention to override everything so you see and are made alive to trust and believe in Him.
So becoming a Christian means becoming sick of your sin and longing for forgiveness and rescue from present evil and future hell. It means affirming your commitment to the Lordship of Christ to the point where you are willing to forsake everything to follow Christ. That’s when you really think about it. There is a cost to being a Christian. This means as baked dirt ambassadors, there are somethings we cannot do.
We cannot retreat and surrender in cowardice. We cannot tamper with the message or manipulate people to get the desired results. Someone offering the gospel wrongly may say things like this, “If you want a better life, marriage, job, financial situation, etc. come to Christ.” That is not the gospel but instead is psychological mumbo jumbo. People will flock to that and will fill stadiums with that message.
You may come to Christ and lose all that but if you are truly a believer and a follower of Christ, you will never lose your soul. You may lose your life and you may lose other things but you will never lose your soul. Plus God, by the Holy Spirit, will transform your mind and your heart so that you will know and want the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. So we need to tell the gospel as ambassadors a hundred percent the way it is. Let it fly! We cannot tamper with the gospel and make it less offensive. We cannot do that because changing the message is useless since no one can believe unless God grants him understanding through the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
It was Johnny Mac who said, “If they don’t hear the truth, cool music won’t help. If they don’t see the light, powerpoint won’t help. If they don’t like the message, drama and video won’t help. The problem is their heart. Not the seed of the Word of God since there is nothing wrong with the message as is. The problem is sin because sinners are blind and dead and they need divine intervention in order to be saved. This comes by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So we must beg and pray for them to repent and submit to Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord. It is a supernatural message, this message of everlasting life which never changes no matter when anybody has every lived. Once we’re gone, the message won’t change. People have refused the messenger and can send that messenger away. For whatever reason, they break off relations with the Kingdom of God, which you represent. They break off relations with Christ Himself. Why is all that important for the ambassador that people’s eternal soul are at stake?
Quickly the last distinctive mark of a baked dirt ambassador for Christ is their objective hope. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:21:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
This is what God has done for us! It does not say that God made Jesus a sinner. What He did was lay on Jesus the iniquity of us all and that is by charging all, that is sin in us, against Him. The Father let Jesus bear all this burden with all its guilt and penalty in our place in order to deliver us. What happens when that takes place? It says in the passage that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Sinners become righteous before God!
This righteousness is not our own, because we don’t have any of our own. But it is a righteousness reckoned to us by God the moment we exercise faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The death of the sinless one enables God to declare us just. He says that “He is one of mine and his price has been paid already! He can come into My Kingdom.” He makes it possible to for God to set aside His wrath and welcome into a state of peace all who turn in repentance to Him. It’s like what Paul says in Philippians 3:9:
Being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
What is the mission of a baked dirt ambassador of Christ? It is difficult, serious, and an extremely important one. It is a difficult yet doable task that we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not ourselves. No one can take the credit. It is our job to make sure these marks are in our lives. They are marks of a disposition that God can use us as ambassadors.
They are the marks knowing that the work God gives us comes from Him. The mark of a baked dirt ambassador is knowing we have a message that we have to bring from the Word of God to people and not mess it up. That fourth distinct mark is that a baked dirt ambassador for Christ has an objective hope that we are made righteous based on everything God has done and nothing that we have done. Amen?
So here is the takeaway. Go, be growing disciples in Christ and live out your ambassadorship with confidence and zeal. That’s your job description. Let’s pray.
Lord, thank You, this morning for Your awesome Word. It is convicting and knows how to shred us and build us up too. I thank You, Lord, that this section of Scripture is here and in these days in which we live let us be people that are truly growing in Christ Jesus so we can live as ambassadors. Lord, those who have not yet called on You as Lord and Savior, even this morning, today I pray You would beg that they come to Christ and not wait one more moment as they stand on the edge of eternity. I pray that they would call on Christ, repent of their sin, and trust in You wholeheartedly for eternal salvation. Please Lord, use Your Word in a powerful way to build up the saints, and to bring sinners to the Kingdom of God. I pray this in Your Name, Amen.