Paul could have called us ‘representatives,’ but he didn’t.
If the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau himself, called you and said, “I’m appointing you an ambassador,” what’s the second thing you’d do?
I’m assuming the first would either be making sure it really was Mr. Trudeau or getting up off the floor.
For me, the second thing I’d do would be to say, “Ambassador to where?”
I would assume I’d have to leave Canada. Wouldn’t you? That’s what an ambassador does, right? They go somewhere else to represent Canada, to carry messages and even to embody the principles of our country and be a symbol of it somewhere else.
With that in mind, think about 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
Every time I’ve heard people talk about that verse, it’s been taken to mean, “We’re God’s representatives.”
But if that’s the point, why did Paul use the word “ambassadors” instead of “representatives”? Just as in English, those are two distinct words in New Testament Greek. An ambassador is indeed a representative — but a very specific kind of representative. An ambassador is a representative who is sent out. And that makes perfect sense when we remember who Paul was: a missionary, one who was sent.
Paul refers to himself as an ambassador in Ephesians 6:17-20:
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Clearly, Paul is referring to his role in spreading the gospel as being an ambassador.
That comes into clearer focus if we look at 2 Corinthians 5:20 in the context of the surrounding verses, 18-21:
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We have been given the ministry of reconciliation — a ministry to the world — and that is what makes us ambassadors.
So where are you taking the word of reconciliation? Into your workplace and your community? Into a nearby community that needs to know the God who plans a hope and a future for us? Or perhaps into a distant community where there are few or no believers?
You see, you’ve gotten that call I mentioned at the beginning. Only it came from Someone much higher than the Prime Minister. Go. Be His ambassador.