In this sermon, Pastor Babij teaches on the first of four unique marks of an ambassador for Christ: personal integrity. Pastor Babij discusses what activities Christ’s ambassadors pursue, how Christ’s ambassadors manifest integrity to the world, and where being Christ’s ambassador brings people in their lives.
This morning I want you to turn your Bibles to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. And hopefully you’re had a good holiday. So let’s pray. Lord, thank You this morning for bringing us together for another Lord’s day, another year You granted to us, Lord. It’s a great privilege to be able to have some more time. I just pray, Lord, the time that You allow us to have, we would not waste it. But we would be very diligent to have a plan on who we’re going to listen to this year. I pray, Lord, that Your voice would always be louder than any other voice vying for our attention. And I pray, Lord Jesus, the Word of God would just saturate our soul, saturate our mind. When we think we would be thinking biblically, that we would be thinking Your thoughts. You would be transforming our mind to the point where when we are making our decisions, it’s based on the will of God first. And not on our flesh, and not on the world’s pressure on our life, and not on Satan’s manipulation and deception. So I pray, Lord, that you would help us as we get to the Word of God to be able to nail down and look at the things that are important to You and that would be also important to us. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
I’m looking this morning at the marks of an ambassador for Christ. I’m going to look only at the first one today because we do have the Lord’s table. In light of this new year, I really want to challenge all who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, whether you have been a Christian for a short period of time or whether you have been in the faith for some time, consider why did the Lord not take you home immediately when you were converted to Christ. Why did He leave you here? Why did the Lord allow you and me to be born during this time in history? Why did He allow you to be raised in a particular cultural setting? Why are you here for such a time as this?
Well the passage before us really gives us somewhat of an answer. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, notice what it says in verse 20. It tells us in verse 20 very clearly:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.
That’s what we are. Paul is not just talking about himself and the Corinthians. He’s talking about all of us who will hear this. If we look at that passage, I want you to get in your mind and wrap your mind around the understanding of what an ambassador for Christ actually is, so you can live out your ambassadorship with confidence.
An ambassador can be defined, according to DA Carson, as a government representative commissioned to serve in a foreign country for the purpose of accurately communicating the positions and policies of the government he or she represents, so that the people to whom he or she speaks will be brought into and kept in a good relationship with the government of the country he or she serves. In other words, while we are in this earthly tent – that’s really what the beginning of this passage is all about, that God kind of left us here. If you go back to chapter 5 verses 1 and 2, it says:
For we know that if the earthly tent
that’s our body,
which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, have put it on, will not be found naked.
Then it goes on to say that we again live by faith and not by sight. In verse 6, it says:
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord – for we walk by faith and not by sight-
So he’s talking about the temporal and eternal. But in the temporal realm, while we’re still here in our bodies on this earth, God has something for us to do. He doesn’t want us to be just spinning our wheels and twiddling our thumbs. He wants us to do something. Very directly he wants us to do it.
Ambassadors do not come with their own agenda. They do not come on their own authority. Ambassadors, actually, come on the agenda of another and the authority of another. In other words, we Christians as aliens in this world have, been called by Christ to bring the Word of God, the gospel, to a world steeped in spiritual darkness. And in particular, to our own unique post-postmodern culture, with our culture’s unique characteristics and needs. What they need with, and they don’t know they need it, more than anything else is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what Christ needs is ambassadors to get that gospel to everybody we know. So that’s what an ambassador is. So we are actually aliens on this earth, not with our own message, but a message that comes from heaven, not our own authority, but on the authority that comes from God. We are to bring that message, without messing it up, to a culture who is of course steeped in darkness.
The one and only institution who has been mandated by God to bring His message to the world is the true church. I always wanted to try to add that in there – the true church, because there’s many churches but not many are true to what God’s called them to do. That is because in the church, there are found the followers of Jesus Christ who have been entrusted with the message of salvation – by grace alone through Christ alone. Thessalonians 2:4 tells us that we have been entrusted with the gospel. It’s been given to us and that’s the trust that’s God’s given to us.
There’s going to be four unique marks of an ambassador for Christ. But today, I’m going to be looking at just one of them for the sake of time. I want you to kind of take each one of these marks and evaluate yourself with them. Then make necessary adjustments in order to live out your ambassadorship with confidence and with holy zeal, because that is what you are. If you are true believer, you are an ambassador on this earth for Christ. You don’t belong here. You belong in heaven. But until you get there, God has work for you to do. So today we’ll consider the first mark of an ambassador for Christ.
The first mark of an ambassador for Christ is their disposition – who they are. Because who they are is going to be very significant in bringing a message to a culture who doesn’t believe what you have to tell them. So look at 2 Corinthians 5:11. The first thing under that disposition is a consistent integrity. It says:
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…
Now let me just stopped there. We know what it is to fear the Lord already from this context. I’m going to read it to you in a second. We will give an account for our life, how we lived our life for Christ. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 and what it says:
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
And then it says in verse 10:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Whether good or evil. In other words, while you’re here in this body, God has something for you to do. Do it as pleasing to the Lord. Be an ambassador as pleasing to the Lord. It is the evaluation of Christ that matters, not anybody else. It is the realization that the work of a Christian will be tested by God. Therefore, we need to be careful how we build and how we live our life. God gives us that responsibility. He does have confidence in us that we will take care of the unfinished work of Christ on this earth.
So the apostle Paul knew that everything will be brought to light by the Lord Jesus Christ, even the very secrets and intents of the heart. We have to mark right at the beginning, as well as the apostle Paul, that we should endeavor never to want to live a double life. That would be unthinkable to Paul. It should be unthinkable to us. We should be living a life that God wants us to live. Part of that living that life is to know that we are people of integrity. We’re not perfect people, but we are people of integrity.
Now the phrase in verse 11 – “we persuade men”, does not necessarily mean what you may think it means. Some have given various interpretations of this phrase. Some say that we are to persuade people to fear the Lord. We’re to persuade people of the wrath to come, to persuade people to recognize the virtues of Christ, to persuade people of the truth of the gospel. But the only one that really actually fits the context is that Paul needs to persuade people of his own integrity because the false teachers were saying all kinds of false things about who he was, about what he was about, about his message. So he was telling the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians, now some of these things should be clear to you because we just got done doing 2 Corinthians in home groups, that’s a false teachers were very active in tearing down what Paul was establishing. And one of the things they wanted to tear down was his own integrity. And so Paul wrote to protect his integrity before false accusers who were trying to destroy his reputation. That would not be healthy for the church nor would it advance the preaching of the gospel.
Faithful building includes the ministry and ministry of integrity, because one day you and I will stand before God, who has sent us to carry the message of the gospel of peace to a world of rebels, and we will give an account for that. That means we can’t be silent. An ambassador is not somebody who is silent but an ambassador is someone who does understand what they believe so they can tell it to others. They understand what has happened to them so they can tell it to others.
If you look at it the second part of verse 11, it says in 1 Corinthians chapter 5:
but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
You see here in this passage God already knew Paul’s heart and his hope. His particular hope, Paul’s hope, was that the Corinthians would also be convinced in their conscience concerning his integrity and not listen to the false teachers, the false accusers, and the ones who were bringing another message and another gospel. For your information, the word integrity is actually a latin word meaning entire or a quality of being whole without division or undivided. That means that an ambassador for Christ is not to be hypocritical or duplicitous or double-minded. James says a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways, but instead an ambassador’s to be honest and sincere, genuine and incorruptible in their disposition, in their very character. Now, just take your Bible real quick and turn over to Psalm chapter 15 and then we’ll go right back to 2 Corinthians. In Psalm 15, it tells us somebody who has integrity act a certain way. Look at what it says Psalm 15:1:
O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who made dwell on Your holy hill?
Notice what it says in verse 2 of Psalm 15:
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.
Then look at verse 3. This is what he doesn’t do:
He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
See, that is a person worth listening to. See, a person of integrity is a person, whether you disagree with them or not, they are worth listening to because they have integrity in their character. They are the real deal. You don’t have to unpeel all kinds of layers to figure out who they are. They are who they are soon as you meet them. To me, it’s very exhausting to meet people that you never get to know you. They just know how to keep an arm’s distance from you. And you just never know what they’re thinking, never know what they really believe, never know anything about them, because that’s the way they want it. No, a Christian ought to be an open book. You have to be somebody who can be really read easily because you kind of wear it on your sleeve. You wear it on your forehead. You have integrity. Believe me, if you’re going to give the gospel to anybody, if you’re going to convince anybody that you’re a Christian, they have to see it in your life. Integrity is a part of it.
A second thing, back in 2 Corinthians, a second thing characteristic of an ambassador’s disposition is that of genuine humility. Look what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:12-13:
We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are sound of mind, it is for you.
Paul is not trying here to build his own power base or to toot his own horn or to advance his own self agenda. He had no self-interest at all. He wanted the Corinthians to have confidence in his integrity so that they would know how to answer the hypocrites, how to answer the false teachers. So in verse 12, he refers to the false critics in this way – notice what he says: those who take pride in appearances. And this is always the case with people who bring a false message. It’s all about appearances. It’s merely a showmanship type of deal. That’s what they boast in. They boast in the externals of ministry – buildings and programs and methods and numbers, not in the quality of the heart of the people. That these people are truly born-again believers and God is transforming them from the inside out, and they’re genuine. See, it doesn’t matter if you have any of the other stuff. That’s what matters most. So there there must be genuine humility.
So armed with a proper view of the apostle Paul, his supporters would figure out that it was the hypocrites who lacked integrity because their concern and their focus was outward religious appearances and not the true condition of the heart before a watching God and a watching church and a watching world.
So genuine humility has a concern for others, a genuine concern for others, their spiritual condition. Where they’re going to go one day when they die and they leave their body, where they are going to end up. See, they don’t even have that concern for themselves. They are not even thinking about it sometimes. And if they do, it’s in the passing moment because they don’t want to think too much on that deal. People don’t like thinking about death and I can understand that. But a Christian ought to. I have genuine concern that someone who doesn’t know Christ – I know where they’re going and I don’t like that. Because of that, it drives you to want to tell them, to pray for them, to bring them before the Lord on a regular basis. It will take humility to represent Christ in an alien culture because people will say all kinds of evil against Christians, but it’s very hard to argue against the genuine heart of integrity and humility, very hard to do that. Even for people who hate you, it’s hard to do.
In 2 Corinthians 5:13, it says:
For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.
Meaning to the onlookers, an ambassador may be considered as a crazy fanatic, a madman. Whether people thought him imbalance mentally or sound in mind, it did not matter to Paul. What mattered and what should matter to us is the truth in which we proclaim and our own disposition and character that we’re developing by the Spirit of God.
A third characteristic of an ambassador’s disposition is found in verse 14, but there’s a question that I want to bring to you. What is the mark that will cause genuine ambassadors to act so differently from other people? What’s the main thing that will cause us to act so differently than from any other people? Well, there’s only one answer to that in verse 14. Here it is – it’s a deep thankfulness for Christ’s love. It says:
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
That means that Christ’s love for Paul had overcome him. You know what? I believe that this is one of the key to the Christian life – the love of Christ. Paul and we should also know the love that Christ has for us, because it was demonstrated to us and to Him in a most costly way. The wage of death – he knew and we should know that Christ loved him savingly and he did not deserve it and we do not deserve it. That is on his mind every minute of every day. Christ loves me. That motivates me. It controls me. It’s the fire in my soul. Why me? I don’t know. Why you? I don’t know. You don’t seem too loving to me. But God loved us, not because of us but because of Him He loved us.
The term here controls – actually A.T. Robertson brings this up as an old common verb. It actually means to hold together. So Paul’s conception of Christ’s love for him holds him together to his task. And it doesn’t matter what people think of them. It doesn’t matter what people say about him. Overtaken by Christ’s love compelled him to serve wholeheartedly beyond what is ordinary. No matter what curve balls are thrown into the mix, nothing can keep an ambassador from their task. And what is this very thing? It is the love of Christ that controls and holds us together.
Others must hear about this love. So nothing can keep us from taking the message of the gospel to all men everywhere. It is a love that has the power to make someone alive, to change them. Nothing else can do it like this gospel of love. So Christ’s love holds believers to the task and put pressure in their life, which produces results. Everything is changed and different because Christ loved me and loved you savingly. Christ died in the place of all who put their faith in Him. If you notice what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:14. He says this, after he says for the love of Christ controls us, he says:
having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
Now, this is the great proof of His love – His death in our stead. But I do want to remind you about the two words “all” there. Calvin had said that (and I agree) all equals all kinds of classes of people. Rich or poor, high or low. He’s rejecting no class of people, taking some from each class, but the “all” does not mean every individual. That has to be clear. It actually comes out again in him kind of expanding on what it means, where the love of Christ actually moves believers to the way they are living their life.
Also, Christ’s death fully satisfied God’s justice and propitiated His wrath for all those who put their faith in Him. So that the cross was a terrifying bloody execution. Jesus’ crucifixion shows us that something had gone terribly wrong with the human race. But it also shows us that there is a solution. The Bible tells us about what God has done in order to reconcile sinners to Himself. Friends do not need to reconcile friends. Friends do not need to be reconciled. But enemies need to be reconciled. In other words, we were enemies of God, whether you thought yourself one or not. The Bible says you were enemies of God, being your in your sin and in your rebellion against God, in your disobedience you were a rebel and an enemy against God.
So it was God who sent Christ. It was God himself who took the initiative. The Lord responded to sinful humanity. We had nothing to offer Him. By offering Himself as a sacrifice for sin, for we read in the gospels that:
even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
So His sacrifice was meant to propitiate God, to satisfy God. The result of that was that Jesus died to wipe out the guilt of sin. That’s the word expiation – to wipe it out, to remove it, to wash it away. This expiation was effected by the vicarious punishment of a victim. In the Old Testament, it gives us the picture of substitution. A victim was taken – an animal was substituted for the sinner. This animal then became the one who bore the punishment of the sin. So Old Testament sacrifices show that it is because the animal was substituted for the offender. In other words, the person who was the animal was the innocent, and the one who actually committed the sin, their guilt was placed on the animal. His sin was dealt with in the animal so that his guilt was wiped out. That was the picture in the Old Testament. The effect of such a sacrifice was the pardon of the offender and his restoration to communion with God.
Now I say that for this reason and he brings it out in our passage. He says very clearly that Christ died for all classes of people. In other words, this is how a Christian understands the love of God. It’s not this mushy definition of love and this feeling oozy thing. No, it’s actual doctrinal truth that impresses upon our heart and mind, that Christ did this for you. He became your substitute so you can have your sins wiped away and made clean forever. That’s where the motivation comes. That’s how a Christian thinks. That’s why their disposition is so different than everybody else’s. In other words, sin was dealt with in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. The result of this is the sin of believers are washed away. The believer is reconciled to God. They were once enemies of God, but now they are reconciled to God, and sinners are forgiven. The broken relationship between sinner and a holy God is now changed. See that’s how we understand the love of God.
Now, the love of Christ from that point moves a believer in their disposition into four new places. Here’s the first one – that the love of Christ moves the believer to a new sphere where they no longer live for themselves. Before we came to know Christ, all we knew was to live for ourselves, to live selfishly. That’s all we know. But notice what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:15:
and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves,
In other words, we’re left here in our bodies – how are we supposed to live? The love of God – this is how it’s manifested in our life. I no longer live for myself. I have somebody else to live for, someone who is worthy to live for. That’s what it says. It says:
might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
There it is – in Christ, believers experience not only death to sin but also resurrection to righteousness. But now there is a change. We came to be constrained by His love. And now to live for the One who died for us in our place and rose to give real life to us. Our whole life interest should be centered on Christ and not centered on ourselves. That means that believers are spiritually alive to serve Him gladly. The first time when we become believers, we actually can serve God without all the obstacles. I know who I’m serving. There’s no confusion in my mind about that. The implication of the cross puts an end to a life of selfishness. What does Paul say in Philippians 1:21:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
He knew his life meant only to live for Christ. That’s the only life worth living. You will not regret it if you live for Christ. So God left us here not for the purpose of living for ourselves, but to live for the One who we now love – Jesus Christ. In other words, the love of Christ will bring us to the death of self. That’s the first place it brings us.
Second place it brings us – look at verse 16. The love of Christ moves the believer to a new sphere where they no longer look at people in a fleshly way. Notice what it says:
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh.
Let me just stop there. People are not looked at anymore as Jew or gentile, as bond or free, as rich or poor, as pagan or barbarian, nor by their skin color – red or yellow or brown or black or white. They’re looked at as those who are lost in darkness in the bondage to sin, alienated from the life of God and under His wrath. People who are in a desperate need of a word from God. That’s what they need the most. That’s what they’re hungering for the most. And then to give them hope. Even though I will not get to this verse today, that is why we are given the ministry of reconciliation. We make our appeal to sinful humanity as if God Himself was making an appeal through us. Look down at verse 20 really quickly. It 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.
you see that the weight of someone else’s lostness is on the soul of the of the believer. They’re taking the responsibility. Of course, we can’t save anybody. But to bring the message to our neighbors, to our families, to people that we meet around us. We’re always thinking about that.
So see, the love of Christ moves believers to a place where they learn to be dead to themselves and then also they’re dead to prejudices. Do you realize that this would destroy modern day politics? They would not be able to use the race card to keep things stirred up. The Bible is actually teaching us that this wipes out all obstacles, so that we will go as Christ’s ambassadors to all kinds of people, all classes of people with the gospel. And that will never be an obstacle or hindrance to us. It’s all broken down. So for a believer to keep alive prejudices is completely sinful. God does not see us as what culture we come from or what class we come from or what skin color we have. He sees us in Christ. That’s His children and His family, as adopted, as covered by the blood of Christ, as His own dear possessions. That’s how God sees us.
We ought to, as believers, be willing to be brought into this realm in which we no longer have prejudices about people. It doesn’t matter where you came from. It doesn’t matter what sin you sinned. It doesn’t matter what class you have, how much money you have, what skin color you have, what culture you came from. It doesn’t matter. I want to bring to you the gospel of Jesus Christ that’s going to save your soul and bring you into my family. That’s what I want. That’s what motivates me. And that’s the love of Christ that flows through the believer as an ambassador, that they are concerned for all kinds of people. It doesn’t matter who they are, how they look, how they dress. That’s how God wants us to see people.
If we don’t, we won’t go to certain people. We’ll have this weird view of people that will stop us from talking to them. I can’t talk to them – look at how they’re dressed. Look at that thing that’s in their head. See, God says that must be removed. If you’re going to be an ambassador, that has to be removed. Don’t forget – we’re in a foreign culture. We’re talking to people that are not from our family. So we have to have the right character, the right disposition to take it. And if we don’t have love for people, we’ll never tell anybody about the gospel, especially people who are really different than us.
There’s a third thing that the word of God takes believers. The love of Christ moves believers to this third place, and it’s found in verse 16. The love of Christ moves believers to a new sphere where they no longer look at Christ in a fleshly way. Look at what it says in verse 16, in the middle of the verse:
even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Now, many know Christ according to the flesh in the sense that He was a great man, a religious leader, a teacher, a prophet, an angel, a carpenter. Some simply are ignorant of Him and ignore Him. Some are filled with foolish, pernicious, vicious thoughts about Him. And if you just think about the apostle Paul, he was a proud Pharisee who had been mad in his efforts to stamp out the name of Christ. He hated Christ. He hated those who believe in Christ. He thought of Christ as a false Messiah. But when he was overcome by the love of the One in whom he once hated, he no longer viewed Christ in a fleshly way. Now Christ was the object of his love and service. Christ’s love enveloped and consumed him. Christ was the motive for Paul staying alive and enduring hardships and troubles. So when we are in Christ, the object of our love is Christ Himself. And the motive of our service for Him is our love for Him, because we understand what He has done for us.
Not only that, this last area which I will not elaborate on this morning is found in verse 17 – probably the most famous passage in this passage. The love of Christ moves believers to a new sphere where everything is new. It says:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ,
a very important phrased I’ll look at next time,
he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
So the love of Christ moves believers into the area where they die to self. They died to prejudices. They died to all false views of Christ and His work. They die to the old Adamic nature that they always once lived by. And I’ll look at that next time.
So yes, believers in Christ Jesus – you are ambassadors for Christ. So to bring His gospel to a lost and dying world, the best way to do that is to have the best disposition. From that disposition flows through that person to other people. Because that disposition will include a constant integrity, a genuine humility, and a deep thankfulness for Christ’s love, in which we all know that we would never have deserved. That’s the first thing, the first mark of an ambassador.
Let’s pray and then I’ll bring up the Lord’s table. lord, thank You for the Word of God. It does, Lord, cut to the chase and brings to our mind very important things for us as believers. I just pray, Lord, as we look at this new year, it would be a year in which there would be different things going on in our life because we’re submitting to the Spirit of God and submitting to the Word of God. We’re growing in our knowledge. And Lord, we want to be used by You. We want to go into the world and be ambassadors for You. So Lord, allows us to adjust things in our lives so that can be a reality. And Lord, work on our disposition, that our integrity, our humility, and our love for You would be very evident in the way we speak, how we respond to people, how we pray, how we worship You, how we give, how we sing. I pray it would all be manifest in our life. For there’s no greater gift that we could have ever received on this side of eternity than to know that we’ve been loved by God. And I pray this in your name. Amen.