By Lisa Loraine Baker, Crosswalk.com
We’ve all heard of ambassadors. It is normative for each country to have an ambassador (an accredited diplomat) who goes and represents their country to and in other nations. According to Embassy Worldwide, for example, there are “about 168 Foreign Embassies and 732 Consulates placed in the territory of the United States. The United States itself in total counts near 163 Embassies and 93 Consulates spread all over the world.” What do these ambassadors do? For the most part, the ambassador helps promote peace between his country and that in which he or she is placed.
As Christians—first and foremost in relation to what the world sees—we are to be ambassadors for Christ. We are people called by God to represent Him to a lost and dying (secular) world, and as we become more and more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), the world will see His character in and through us. We will spell out more of who we are to be to the world later in this article.
Where in the Bible Are We Called to Be "Ambassadors for Christ"?
The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, tells us who we now are in Christ and what we are to do:
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling all who call on Jesus Christ to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Let’s unpack this treasure chest of a passage.
Flesh - To be in the flesh is to live according to human standards according to our own will and not according to God’s sovereign will in our lives (Mark 3:35; Acts 22:14; Romans 7:5, 25; Romans 12:2; Philippians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3a; Hebrews 10:7).
Before, we regarded Jesus Christ from the perspective of people who served self above all else. And now, we do not see Christ from a fleshly perspective. We see Jesus as Lord! We see the world with more clarity as we are sanctified through the power of the Holy Spirit.
From God - God drew us to Him (John 6:44; John 14:6). We have no part in our salvation but to acknowledge our sin, repent, and in belief and faith say “Yes!” to God’s kind invitation (Romans 11:22). It is by grace, God’s gift to us, that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8).
Ambassadors for Christ – We have gained the privilege — as Christ’s own — to represent Him. We are to represent God to the world.
What Did This Look Like for the Early Church?
The early church realized they were strangers and aliens here on earth (Ephesians 2:19), and they sought to live for Christ as one unified body of believers within ever-present corrupt societies.
People of the early church were first called Christians in Antioch, and it wasn’t good. It meant “of the party of Christ.” These ambassadors for Christ were looked at with disfavor as they displayed their Christ-like characteristics.
The Apostle Paul was the foremost missionary of the first century, and he founded many churches. As such, when he witnessed or heard of troubling issues within the church, he addressed them via a visit and/or an epistle. Our main passage is addressed to the church in Corinth, and Corinth was in such moral depravity its name was synonymous with “gross depravity and drunken immorality.” The church must (then and now) stand out as separate from the broken culture (2 Corinthians 6:17).
The early church served as ambassadors for Christ by:
- Displaying unity in the body. (Acts 2:46)
- Obeying God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
- Growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ through the Word. (Acts 2:42)
- Building up the body. (“By this they will know you are My disciples if you have love one for another” John 13:35)
- Living in peace with one another. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
What Does This Look Like for Us Today?
There’s an outdated adage which stated, “As goes the church, so goes the nation.” What has transpired in addition is, “As go the leaders, so goes the church.” Many so-called “churches” are nothing more than a name stamped on the side of a building, bearing little resemblance to what Christ calls His church. Evil seems more pervasive due to the world’s population and the “global information highway,” both physical and virtual. We have “church” leaders who are nothing more than nose and nickel compilers, counting money and attendance instead of counting the cost as Christ-followers (Luke 14:25-33). And they corrupt churchgoers and seekers with a “feel good about yourself” false gospel instead of Scriptural Truth (Matthew 23:15). If Christ addressed these false teachers, His ire would sound as it did in Matthew 23:13-35 when He pronounced the seven woes against the Scribes and the Pharisees.
In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John wrote what Jesus said to the seven churches of Asia. Some of His words were of rebuke and some of praise. It is reported biblical literacy today is at its lowest point in 500 years. It’s no wonder we see the same ills facing the church today as faced by the first-century church in Corinth (or Rome. Or Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Colossae, Galatia, etc.).
However, today’s true church, as defined by Scripture, is that which looks more like it did as recorded in Acts 2 and 3. We follow the same principles yet with greater distractions that modern technology brings. While we cannot give a comprehensive list of these attributes, we will list some highlights which add to the characteristics as shown by and commanded to the early church. As ambassadors for Christ, we model Christ-like behavior as we go out into the world.
We are to:
- Love God first and love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40)
- Be devoted to reading, studying, meditating upon, and teaching the Scriptures. (Acts 17:10-11)
- Be salt and light. (Matthew 5:13-16)
- Be mission-minded and share the good news. (Matthew 28:18-20)
- Obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
- Be thankful in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
The characteristics of an ambassador for Christ can fill a book, and it’s a worthy study to research Scripture for more features we should exemplify.
A Prayer to Be a Good Ambassador
Your Word tells us You have granted to us everything we need to live a life of godliness. Give us a desire to immerse ourselves in the Bible and the ability through the power of Your Spirit to understand and apply Your truths. Help us to reach out to others in the name of Jesus and for His glory. It’s only through Your work in us we are able to be Your ambassadors, because without You, we are darkness. Don’t allow us to keep the Light of life hidden within the confines of our homes and church buildings. Help us model Christ to the world and be the people You have created us to be.
In the matchless and holy name of Jesus we pray,
Are you a new believer? Get in the Word. Are you a more mature believer? Stay in the Word. Are you a seasoned Christian? Persevere in your study of the Word. For believers of all maturity levels, keep sharing your testimony; it’s irrefutable. Always remember, be in the world but not of it (John 17:15-19).
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/steve007
Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.