Life, Hope & Truth

From the May/June 2020 issue of Discern Magazine

Ambassadors of Christ

God calls Christians to follow Christ and be lights to the world. We are to become ambassadors of Christ and His Kingdom. How should we represent God’s Kingdom?

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Being “ambassadors of Christ” is a powerful concept. Christ Himself was an ambassador, the perfect example and representative of God’s government (“the true Light,” John 1:9).

In turn, Jesus called on His followers to become lights to the world. How?

Doing good things for others clearly benefits them. But what Jesus said went deeper than that. “Let your light so shine before men,” He said. Why? He continued, “That they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, emphasis added throughout).

God wants people to see His way of life in action, to capture the hope it represents for the Kingdom Jesus will inaugurate. Scripture calls this “the good news,” a phrase often translated as “the gospel.”

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, “He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). He tells His followers to continue to proclaim that good news until His second coming (Mark 16:15; Matthew 24:14).

The gospel proclaims a time when all evil will be eradicated. God wants people to see that His way of life—the way that will make the Kingdom of God so wonderful—is the best way. He wants them to choose to live it!

Besides helping proclaim the same message, Christians also are to “have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5, New Living Translation). They are to “walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). They are to love as He loved and serve as He served (John 13:34; Matthew 20:27-28).

By doing these things, Christians become more like their Elder Brother and prepare to serve with Him when He rules in His Kingdom (Luke 19:15-17).

They really are representatives of a government—the Kingdom of God—and ambassadors of Christ.

Who is an ambassador?

In the modern sense, an “ambassador” is an official representative of one government to another. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, in the past the word meant a representative of “a ruler in the court of another,” which is more how it was used in the Bible.

Christ truly was born to be a king (John 18:37), and He will indeed be the sovereign over the Kingdom of God on the earth (1 Timothy 6:14-15; Revelation 17:14).

Most Christians today don’t think of ambassadors of Christ as ambassadors of the King of a future world-ruling government.But most Christians today don’t think of ambassadors of Christ as ambassadors of the King of a future world-ruling government. Many think of an ambassador for Christ as someone who must convince as many people as possible to become converted now.

This may partly be because of their reading of the one verse in the Bible that mentions “ambassadors for Christ.”

Ambassador for Christ verse

It is found in 2 Corinthians 5:20, written by Paul to the Corinthian Christians. Was Paul telling them that they were all Christ’s ambassadors to reconcile the world? No. Actually, the context shows Paul was specifically talking about himself and other ministers. They were appealing to the already converted, but wayward, Corinthians to be reconciled to God.

Paul wrote, “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” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Though these Corinthians were baptized members of the Church, at the time of Paul’s writing, they weren’t fully reconciled with God. And they wouldn’t be going forward if they continued to be at variance with Paul.

“Ambassadors for Christ” in this passage implied that it took a mature hand, the dexterity of a spiritual elder, to help the Christians through the relationship minefield into which they had been misdirected by impostor ambassadors.

So, not every believer is an ambassador for Christ in the way that Paul wrote of it in this verse. Not every believer has the gifts, the abilities or the calling to guide others into the kind of reconciling that needed to happen in Corinth.

But aren’t all believers called to represent Christ? Isn’t that essentially what being a “Christian” means—being a follower of Christ? And, in that sense, aren’t all Christians to be envoys of His government? Yes!

Representing the Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is a literal kingdom! It will have a King (Jesus Christ), territory (this earth), citizens (human subjects) and laws (based upon the 10 Commandments).

This message is unappreciated by many who think that they understand the Bible, but do not realize that this is the heart of Jesus Christ’s gospel, as we explain in “The Kingdom of God Is Within You: What Did Jesus Mean?

Here is a brief excerpt:

“Even though the Bible speaks of our ‘citizenship’ as being in heaven after we are baptized (Philippians 3:20), in order to enter the Kingdom, humans must be changed from flesh and blood into spirit, from mortal into immortal, at Jesus’ second coming (1 Corinthians 15:50-53; Hebrews 9:28). When the Kingdom of God comes to earth, it will rule over all the ‘kingdoms of this world’ (Revelation 11:15).”

Christians are to become ambassadors of Christ in the sense of being representatives of that coming Kingdom.

Ambassadors and examples

Paul demonstrated what Jesus counseled about being a “light to the world.”

  • He wrote to the Corinthians: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, New International Version).
  • Paul wrote to believers in Philippi: “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17).
  • He urged the evangelist Timothy to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Logically, this would have been expressed to believers as, “Follow the example Timothy sets in his words, his actions. Grow to love like he does, to serve like he does, to have the conviction that he has.”

Paul gave the evangelist Titus advice similar to that given to Timothy: “Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works [for young men to follow]; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:6-8).

And, if you step back in the context, you will read similar direction for believers who were “older” to set an example for those who were younger (verses 2-3).

Every believer should become spiritually mature to represent Christ

Reaching full maturity should be the goal of every believer. The author of Hebrews chided Christians for failing to mature as they should have.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).

What does this tell us? Every believer should come to the point of being able to teach others. But it also acknowledges that these believers had not reached that level of maturity.

The Bible doesn’t support the notion that every believer is automatically an ambassador for Christ in the way that one needs to be. No one is instantly mature, trusted or proven, just by virtue of his initial acceptance of Christ as Savior.

If Christians exercise their senses to practice the truths of God in day-to-day life, they will, over time, become spiritually mature. To mature, they have to evaluate life’s choices from the perspective of what God called “good” or “evil” and to conduct themselves accordingly.

They have to choose the good and reject the evil, putting forth the necessary effort to act on the good.

Christians are to be salt, lights and cities on a hill

Jesus used three analogies—of salt, light and the prominent visibility of a city on a hill—to illustrate how His followers should strive to represent Him.Jesus used three analogies—of salt, light and the prominent visibility of a city on a hill—to illustrate how His followers should strive to represent Him.

Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus’ words: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

They may not glorify God immediately—in fact, they probably won’t. But they will when their minds are also opened to God’s truth (1 Peter 2:12).

True Christians should become living, breathing representations of the character of God. All Christians should come to represent Jesus Christ’s teachings, His faith, His love, His character, His coming Kingdom.

In this way, they are indeed ambassadors of Christ, the ruler of that Kingdom. This is the calling of all believers.

About the Author

Cecil Maranville

Cecil Maranville is a minister of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He works with the responses to questions our readers send to this website.

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