In this sermon, Pastor Babij preaches on the final three unique marks of an ambassador for Christ:
1) The new relationship between God and men
2) The message of reconciliation between God and men
3) The objective hope of reconciliation with God
Pastor Babij calls Christians to remember that they are Christ’s ambassadors and must urgently seek the reconciliation of all men to God.
We’re finally starting 2 Peter next week, and it’s a tremendous epistle! We’re looking today at 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 which I started looking at last week, and talking about four unique marks of an ambassador for Christ. I was saying that in light of the new year, I wanted to challenge those of you who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior to think about why the Lord allowed you to be born now and why you are here. Well the answer to the question is in 2 Corinthians 5:20 which says that we are left here to be ambassadors:
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.
An ambassador is someone who represents and is commissioned to serve a foreign country and accurately communicate the positions and policy of that country to the country they are in. While we are in these earthly bodies, as it begins in 2 Corinthians 5 discussing that and the eternal and earthly, we are to live as ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador does not come with their own agenda or authority, but that as well as the message of another. We Christians are the truly aliens in this world and we have been called by Christ to give the Word of God, the gospel, to a world steeped in spiritual darkness and in particular to our own culture or place in which God has allowed us to live.
The one and only institution that God has mandated to give this message is the true church, because in the church we find followers of Christ who have been entrusted with the message of salvation. We know it is through grace alone, by Christ alone that anyone could ever be saved. So last week we looked at the first unique mark of an ambassador of Christ, and today we will look at the rest of the four.
Just by way of review, the first unique mark of an ambassador is found in verse 11 to 14, and this is someone who has a consistent integrity. They are going to take the gospel to the world, and there has to be something there of their character. A second thing in verses 12 and 13, is that they have a genuine humility. Lastly, an ambassador is someone who has a deep thankfulness for Christ’s love.
Christ’s love, as I mentioned already, transports us and moves a believer to a new place. In verse 15-17 it says:
He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
This means that a believer who is now experiencing the love of Christ, not only in the initial conversion of the gospel, but also in the transformation of their life being sanctified by Christ, they realize they don’t liver themselves anymore. God has left us here for the purpose of living for God and not for ourselves. In doing that, we actually die to ourselves. Secondly, we no longer look at people in a fleshly way as we once did. That also helps us to know that we died to all kinds of prejudices. The race card is obliterated when we come to Christ and wipes out all obstacles so that we will go to share the gospel with all kinds of people and all classes of people, no matter who they are.
It brings us also to not look at Christ in a fleshly way. We have died to a false view of Christ and now understand His work and what He came to do. Now He is the object of our love and service and that moves us to a new sphere. In verse 17 it tells us that the believer is moved to a place where everything is new:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Yes, the believer in Christ Jesus is an ambassador for Christ, and that job is to bring the gospel to a lost and dying world. The best disposition for this message to flow to a lost and dying world is the disposition of a good integrity, a genuine humility, and a deep thankfulness for Christ’s love. That leads me to a second mark of an ambassador for Christ and that’s found in verses 17 and 18:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
Now this is an important shift because now this unique mark of an ambassador is the work that God has given them to do. But we have to understand who is the source of this work. The source of this new creation is God. You’ll notice that it says, “if anyone is in Christ,” which is an incredible phrase that you should never forget. You have been placed in Christ by what He has done and your belief in what He has done.
This is an important shift and stance, and a change in sphere because the Apostle is viewing all people as either in Adam or in Christ. In other words, all who are in Christ are a new creation and all who are in Adam are still linked to the old things, the old Adamic nature with corruption, old habits, and sinfulness. Those who are now associated with Christ and are in Christ find themselves in a new position and sphere that they have a death to self, a death to prejudices so they can take the gospel to all people, have a correct view of the doctrine of the work of Christ, and now are dying to their old nature.
This phrase, new creature, points us right back to Genesis, in which we are pointed when God created the world. God is simply not patching up the old, but is creating the new. The old things are discarded and are passed away, which means to cast them aside as no longer being part of us. The new things do not become new at conversion, they are actually discarded and other things take their place as newly created.
The term behold in this passage of Scripture actually indicates that it’s kind of surprising that this happens to new believers with their new found faith in Christ. It also clearly gives us an indication that when you come to Christ, you are not the same. You don’t go on in the old life that you used to have. God is transforming you from the inside out, every bit of you. It’s like saying to look at how everything is new. You have a new life, new work, new destination, and a new standing is brought about by God Himself on the behalf of His believers.
Once we sense the newness we have in Christ Jesus, we also learn the new work He has given us to do. The source of the new creation is God but the source of the new work is God also. Notice in verse 18 where it says:
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.
Immediately, salvation is taken out of the realm of humanity and put distinctly in the realm of man and we had nothing to do with it. God has done everything in order for us to be saved. Those who are controlled by His love and live for Christ and not for themselves, these new things do not have their source in the flesh but in God. They are the byproducts of being reconciled to God. Can you imagine someone coming to Christ and saying they believe but having nothing change? They go on in their life and do the things they used to do. They have no desire to follow Christ or learn what the Bible actually teaches.
That means there was no conversion if that takes place. Many people say they profess Jesus but there is no desire and nothing is new. They just added Jesus on to their philosophy of life. Everyone knows someone like that, just make sure you’re not like that. That’s what the Scripture is bringing to our minds: when we come to Christ, you are new and given a new work by God to not just sit in the pew and twiddle your thumbs. This is a byproduct of being reconciled to God, He works and we work. God’s love provided the means and basis for man’s reconciliation to God, against whom we have sinned.
It is sin that separates people from God. God provides Christ’s death to remove the sin and the guilt that goes along with it. That was the very thing that separated us. It is all God’s plan because of His love, but God’s own sense of justice had to be satisfied so God gave His Son to be the substitution for sinners. So God provides Christ’s death to transform sinners from enemies to friends.
The term to reconcile is actually an old word that was used often to exchange coins so it means a change in mind. The term reconciled has within it, the thought of change and it means here the change in a relationship. To put someone in a friendship with God. That means that if somebody has to be put in a friendship with God, before that they were not in a friendly relationship with God. People are not then at peace with God, but actually enemies with God and His attitude towards the sinner is one of judgment and condemnation and wrath.
You remember the passage from the gospel of John? John 3:18:
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
In other words we see here that they are in a state of judgment because they are enemies with the Judge. The One who could justify them and set them free, they are actually against. All of us were like that. Now turn back and look at Romans 5:10-11. He brings this out very clearly for us about this whole deal that we were in a sphere that we were against God. People will refuse to be an enemy of God but rather that they are actually friendly with God. When you come to Scripture, you find that you are a sinner and a rebel against God and under His judgment. When you realize that, you realize the greatness of His love. Let’s read this passage in Romans 5:10-11:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
This is what takes place, everything is through Christ. We are made at peace with God through Christ. The sinner cannot reconcile himself or herself to God, that is God’s place. It is when the sinner repents and turns to Jesus Christ in faith, can God the Father change His attitude toward the sinner from one of wrath to one of peace. That means that all alienation between the repentant sinner and God has ended. But this change is solely based on the death of His Son and the work that Jesus accomplished on the cross, which lets God set aside His wrath towards a repentant sinner.
So that’s what’s new. This relationship is new that we didn’t have before. Everything that men and women could think of for redeeming themselves and their world, had already been tried and failed before God sent His Son. I mean by this that all kinds of religions are found today on earth. There is an abundance of different philosophies and ideas found regarding justice, governments, and kingships on the earth. They had ample opportunity to experiment with ways to redeem man but every single one of them failed miserably. You ever wonder what philosophers said?
Philosophy has always been interesting to me, but according to R.C. Sproul, there is one word that sums up what philosophers like. They like to ponder things and wrestle mentally through ideas. Think about Plato, who hated the material world. He imagined that these forms in the sky were truly perfect, until matter corrupted them. He didn’t find any answers there.
Aristotle ripped off Plato’s story and shoved all his ethical forms into the logical, deductive, practical thinking system, which many of us have been influenced by. Of course, that’s called Aristotelian logic, and he says a lot of things but concludes nothing.
Hedeigger was a German philosopher, who became a Nazi. Descartes was a French philosopher and mathematician. He considered himself to be the little engine that could and he tried to will himself into existence by saying, “I think, therefore I am.” This is basically like saying, “I can, I think I can.”
All their pondering and thinking led to no substantial conclusions that could aid us and they could also not get at the wisdom of God. In fact, when you come to Scripture in 1 Corinthians 1:21, listen to what it says:
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
And what was that message? In verse 23 it says:
But we preach Christ crucified.
These all could be ignored, the philosophers I mean. We could learn more from an ant hill than these. They never really could give us answers. Philosophy ultimately means a trusting of human reason and understanding to get to a conclusion. The only real philosophy is theology. It starts with God and objective truths. There is an infinite Creator who spoke and His Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. So philosophers looked everywhere yet could not find God. And I don’t know if you ever read philosophy, but it will twist your mind in knots. You won’t know what’s up or down once you get through some of the thinking. Some of it’s practical but some of it just seems out of nowhere.
There’s only one solution. We must wait upon God and He must tell me about Himself. God of course acted and revealed unto us His gracious purpose. God revealing and manifesting Himself to us through creation and through a more special way, the Word of God. This is how we know God and we can’t know Him any other way. No matter what a person may think, they cannot know God any other way. Every other way miserably fails to find anything that’s worthwhile. Every other way fails to let you know that when you die you know where you’re going and how you’re getting there.
Only the Bible gives us this information. Redemption and salvation are entirely of God. All of grace, all planned before the foundation of the world. God sent His Son at the exact and proper time into human history to save sinners. The point made here is that God needs no reconciliation. He is engaged in the great business of reconciling us to Himself, which has been done on God’s terms. And this is only made possible though Christ. So not only is the source of this new creation, God, but the work of this new creation that God gives us is from Him. And of course the Bestower of this new work is God also.
If you turn to 2 Corinthians 5:18, notice what it is saying here:
[He] gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
He gave us the task of reconciling people to Him. The term for ministry is a very familiar word to us in the church. It’s the word for deacon. It means here service, help, or mission, that we have been given a mission, that is leading others to be put into friendship with God. The task of winning the unreconciled to God is committed to us. It is a high and holy one, but a supremely difficult one. This is because the offending party, the guilty, is the hardest to win over. We were all hard to win over because we were locked in our own dead selves. We weren’t responding to God, because we were dead. So God had to a divine work in us to be able to open up our eyes to show us that the only way to enter the Kingdom of God is through Christ and the only way to see it is through Christ.
Christ is the center of everything we believe the Bible teaches from Genesis to Revelation. If the task of making sinful enemies friends of God were solely up to us. then I can guarantee you that no one would be reconciled. And no one would have the charges against them removed, and no one would be removed from the slavery of sin. That means that if somebody is not truly reconciled to God, not truly saved and born again, then they are left in the state of being in Adam. So there’s not going to be any change there because they’re just going to be doing the old stuff.
For a real believer, there’s new stuff happening. In Scripture, it does mean something because all the work has been done by our Lord, God Himself. We are in a relationship with love with Him and He gives us a mission as ambassadors to carry out His unfinished business in this world. The Lord didn’t do everything when we He came into the world. He went back to Heaven and gave the rest of the work to the Church to do. The Church cannot lay aside the mandate God has given us to and do our own thing, or be driven by the culture of the world or the winds of teaching that is happening all over the place. Many churches have begun to do that, but we need to stick to what it says in the Word of God because there is unfinished business and work to be done!
God has called us to do it, and this business is basically in the form of a message. We don’t make this message up. He has given it to us and we take it to the world. A third unique mark of an ambassador for Christ is their message. Back in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 we see that here it is the ministers of a message with far reaching effects that God is doing this wondrous work, bringing reconciliation and pardon from sin to the people of the world from every tribe and nation. So there’s five essentials that are key in these passages of Scripture before us that are important for us to know to understand the message. If you notice in verse 19 the first essential is the person of the message. It says:
Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ. The whole reconciliation process takes place in Him and only in Him. That means ambassadors cannot fiddle around with or sidestep Jesus Christ as being the central figure n the message. This great plan of redemption aways centers on the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s like what the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 1:10:
Summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
The purpose and way of redemption are always in Christ so we can’t mess that up. A second part of the message is the target of the message. Notice what it says in verse 19:
Reconciling the world to Himself.
So the world here means the world of men: Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, rich and poor, barbarians of different colors, and people who are lost in darkness in bondage to sin who are alienated from the life of God and who are under His wrath. These people who are in desperate need of a word from God, but they don’t know or desire that. So when ambassadors bring the message of a foreign land to the land to tell people what the truth is and what the Kingdom of Heaven actually communicates on how to get there.
So the world specifically embraces only those who repent and take advantage of the offer. Only these are reconciled, not everyone is reconciled or saved. There’s a third essential in the message found in verse 19. Notice what it says:
Not counting their trespasses against them.
Another word to describe this is sin. It clearly indicates that sin is the problem, sins were the cause of the alienation of people from God and pursuing one’s bent to sin. It usually starts out as a search for freedom and happiness but ends in slavery and fear and remaining under the wrath of God. Sin always presents to us pleasurable, something the flesh wants and the desires crave. But ultimately we find in Scripture that sin is a breaking of God’s law and a showing that awe are rebels in our heart to God. And because of people’s transgressions and sins, we are in trouble with God. Transgressions mean a result of falling to the side or away from the right road. An English expression describes it this way: going where one is forbidden to go.
Remaining an enemy to God and not a friend of God and you can enjoy your sin and not have a relationship with God. So it was transgression that caused God to drive our first parents out of the Garden of Eden and away from His presence. It has been a barrier between Him and man ever since. Transgression is really disobedience to God’s Word and His way. You have heard the quaint saying, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” This is totally wrong. God does not view a sinner apart from his sins. God’s wrath is upon sins and the person who is responsible for them. God sends sinners to hell, not just their sin.
In fact the Word of God tells us that God judges the righteous and God is angry with the wicked every day. So when people repent and turn from their sin and anything they’re trusting in to save themselves and turn to God and believe in Him, then God will take the wrath He has for you and move it out of the way. Now you’re reconciled friend of God. That’s the state that ambassadors want people to be in, as true friends of God.
There’s a fourth essential in our passage and that’s the messenger of the message. Look at the end of verse 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.
This passage of Scripture is talking about all who have been redeemed and have been brought into friendship with God. An ambassador again is a representative for someone else. It is actually an old Greek word that means old man. Now what that means is that usually ambassadors that were sent by emperors and kings to represent their kingdoms had to be older and mature. They had to know what the policies of the kingdom were so they can represent the kingdom properly to another country. So that means in some respects a Christian ambassador needs some maturity and experience. And that should be an admonition to us to grow in knowledge and wisdom from the Word of God so we can represent Christ well and know what we believe.
The Apostle Paul said that because we are the priesthood of believers, we too have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are the mouthpieces. God did not send angels but us. We make our appeal to sinful humanity as if God Himself were making an appeal through us. What appeal is this? It’s right here in 2 Corinthians 5:20. This brings me to the last essential of the message: the earnestness of the message. It says:
We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Sometimes the message is there but there is no urgency to tell it and I think this, my friend, is a grave mistake. The message must be accompanied by a strong sense of importance and urgency. It has to be in our soul or we won’t say anything for Christ but just keep it to ourselves as if we have a private relationship with God and we have to do nothing else or tell no one else. According to the Scripture, we not only have to tell people, but we have to do this with urgency.
In fact the verbs in the Scripture verses are packed and show a real sense of pressure for us to beg, urge, implore, plead, entreat people for a specific response. What is that response? “Please be reconciled to God and this is how you do it.” I wish we can save people but we can’t. But we can tell people what the Lord gave to us to give to them.
Now many of you probably don’t know this, but when I first came to the church I had a radio ministry for seven years. It was actually very good and had contacts and a Bible study we gave out. When people graduated from the study, we gave them a little diploma. But then the radio stations started talking all of the preachers off the air. I got replaced by Billy Graham, but I didn’t feel that bad about it. Then Billy Graham got thrown off and they just replaced it with music. And now they’re just Christian rock stations. And if you find a message somewhere, it’s not on the main ones. It’s gonna be on the AM stations where you have to navigate the static.
But during the radio broadcast, I was in contact with a man named Brother Banes who lived in Bound Brook. He would call me every once in a while and listened to my message on Sunday afternoons. He would tell me how he loved my messages and how the gospel was so clear. Once I found out that Brother Banes was a street preacher. He was already probably 75 to 80 years old when he called me. He used to have this sign on him that simply said, “Turn or burn.” Now you may think that is fanatical, but it does show urgency.
It does show that to get reconciled to God, you have to repent and turn from something so you don’t go to hell. To thinking you’re going to Heaven and actually end up in hell is very bad philosophy of life. But Brother Banes had this urgency and he would be out there on the street with that sign preaching. He would not only have the sign, but he would also preach to people.
I got the sense that this guy is really urgent with the message and is not fooling around. In the short time that he had left, and actually he died not too long after that, he was an encouragement. He called me up at least once a month to tell me what was going on in his life. I never got a chance to meet him, it seemed that we were missing each other often.
So his message was get reconciled to God and do it now! With God today through Jesus Christ, you can take advantage of the peace terms of the gospel. So we beg you to come to Christ. In fact if you look further in the passage, look at what it says in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2:
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for He says, “at the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation.”
That is a quote from Isaiah 49 about the gospel going to the ends of the earth. In other words, as ambassadors we can go anywhere and tell people that now is the day of salvation. The Spirit of God may be speaking to you now but it may be the last time. You’re not guaranteed tomorrow so don’t put it off. I came across this other story that just gave the sense of urgency as well. It was a man called Alvin Straight. He didn’t drive a car and he was 73 years old, but when he found out that his brother was dying and had a stroke, he got on his riding law mower and traveled 240 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his brother. The look on his brother’s face when he realized what his brother had done was so deeply moving that it gave him an encouragement. If that is not a picture of urgency, I don’t know what is.
If we can be like that with the gospel, we will see God do work in our lives that will be very encouraging to us and others. As an ambassador, there are somethings you cannot do. We cannot retreat or surrender in cowardice. We cannot tamper with the message. We cannot manipulate people to get desired results. We know this is a work of God and we have to let Him use us. So we need to tell the message 100% as it is. We cannot tamper with the gospel to make it less offensive. Changing the message is useless since no one can believe unless God grants them understanding, gives them faith and repentance, and makes them alive to believe.
As John MacArthur says, 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. And it seems like that is where a lot of people have gone to communicate the message. The problem is right in their own hearts. They need the seed of the Word of God. There is nothing wrong with the message. Their hearts are what’s wrong because they are dead and blind. They are in Adam and they must be rescued by the second Adam, Christ.
He does what the first Adam cannot do: He obeys the Father and accomplishes and finishes the mission so we can be saved and brought back to God. Now that leads me to a fourth unique mark as an ambassador. I want you to notice in 2 Corinthians 5:21, this is the objective hope that all ambassadors have. It says this:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
There’s the goal and end of it all. That is what God has done for us. It does not say that God made Jesus a sinner. What He did was laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all by charging all that is sin in us against Him. The Father let Jesus bear all this burden with all this guilt and penalty in our place in order to deliver us and reconcile us to God and make us friends with Him. That’s what we remember when we meet at the Lord’s Table. We call it a table because when you sit around the table to eat a meal, you do so with friends and family, not with enemies. The Lord calls us to His Table as friends and we partake in the essential elements of the message of the gospel and that is the flesh of Jesus and the sacrifice of His body in the place of sinners, and the blood washing away the sin so we can have our slate wiped clean and be right with God. That’s the only way anybody can be a friend of God.
So sinners become righteous before God so that we may become the righteousness of God in Him. This righteousness is not of our own, but it is reckoned to us by God the moment we exercise faith. The death of the sinless One enabled God to declare us just, making it possible for God to set aside His wrath and welcome into a state of peace all who turn in repentance towards Him.
I like how Philippians 3:9 says it:
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.
Brethren, as we are left here on this earth, let us be what we are. We are ambassadors. We are the voices of God and have the message and everything we need to go and tell people. Our disposition should be that of good integrity, humility, and a deep thankfulness to the love of Christ. Our work comes from God and is for God. Our message is about Christ and it is to the world and should be given from us with urgency. Our objective hope is this that we are reconciled to God. And we don’t have to worry about that anymore, but we have to tell the message to those who have not heard it yet.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You again for the Word of God. Lord make us people and allow us to live out what we already are. Not only are we believers in Christ and new creation, but we are ambassadors. Lord, I pray that You would not allow us to be silent. But every chance we get, we would pray and ask You to give us opportunities to speak on Your behalf to anyone we meet that we would be ready with urgency to share the gospel. And even with people we have more contact with on a regular basis, that our message would be urgent with them as we give them steps of the gospel. Holy Spirit, we pray that You would take us and use us to be that vessel of honor and flow through to speak to others that they can be friends of God through Christ. I pray this in You Name, Amen. Let’s stand together.