Compelled by Christ's Love
How should we view the preacher at the front of the auditorium next Sunday?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul explains. In this letter he is outlining his identity as a minister of Christ. And a key aspect is that he is an ambassador for Christ.
This is what he writes in 2 Corinthians 5:19–20, “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.”
The concept of an ambassador was well-known in the first century world. In Paul’s time, ambassadors had a somewhat different task than today.
In today’s context, ambassadors are sent to the capital of a particular country on a long-term basis. For example, Canada’s ambassador to the United States will usually reside in Washington, D.C., for several years so that he or she can make known the official Canadian positions and interests on all kinds of important matters.
By contrast, first century ambassadors were sent to other countries according to the need of the moment. For instance, if a conflict between Rome and a small region in the backwaters of the empire was threatening to erupt in violence, an ambassador would step in to assist.
Typically, such an ambassador would be hired by those who had the most to lose, those in the more vulnerable position. In our scenario, the defenceless region would send an ambassador to the capital city in order to try to bring about a good resolution of the problem.
In what sense are we sinners in need of an ambassador? God has supreme authority in this universe, for He has created all things, governs all things, and expects full obedience from His creatures. Yet there is a sharp conflict between God and us, for by our sin we have rejected His claim on us. God could justly crush our rebellion, but He provides an ambassador in order to make peace.
Notice that it is not the belligerent tribe or poor peasants who send a petition to the mighty king and plead for his mercy. The gospel turns everything upside down. For it is the blameless king, the very one who has been offended, who chooses to send an ambassador to bring about reconciliation and peace. This is the glory of God, who breaks all the patterns of human relationships by “pleading…be reconciled to God” (5:20). God makes this restoration possible through His only Son, who is the original Ambassador and who personally carried the guilt of the rebels.
And now Christ employs human servants in order to bring His message of peace to all the world. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:18,
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Serving as an ambassador for Christ, Paul was entrusted with a word from his royal Master, for God through him was making His appeal to sinners.
In his ambassadorial role, he pleads “on Christ’s behalf” (2 Cor. 5:20). God had given up too much to let the Corinthians fall back into darkness. Would they receive Paul for who he was and accept his words as a message from the Lord?
This was how Paul saw his task, and this is how pastors can continue to see their task today. As ambassadors, pastors carry an appeal from Christ and God, never tiring of saying to sinners, “Be reconciled to your Creator. Make sure that that you are right with God through Christ His Son.” Pastors come as representatives of Christ, emissaries of the one who brought peace through His precious blood. This remains the living center, the beating heart, and the firm foundation of a pastor’s work.
As ambassadors for Christ, pastors want everyone to be sure that they have peace with God. “How about you?” a pastor should ask, “How is your relationship with the Lord? Have you been reconciled to your creator through Christ? And how has this peace changed your life?”
This message gives a true staying power to the pastoral task. In their work, pastors sometimes feel like giving up on those who are hardened in sin, or perhaps they want to walk away from the stubborn and negative members. But then they should meditate on how God has reached out with love. The Father and the Son did not capitulate in the face of evil or hardship, and neither should pastors. We return again and again to the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:14,
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died.
Pastors should know how lost they would be themselves without Christ’s love. As ambassadors, this is a message they have first received and accepted for themselves.
Now they are compelled to pass it on—to keep preaching it and sharing it from house to house—because they have started to understand and experience how beautiful this reconciling message really is.
[Excerpted from Weak Pastor, Strong Christ ]