October 16, 2023
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20
I’m sure my Royal Ambassadors (a Southern Baptist program) vest is in a box in an attic somewhere. I participated infrequently growing up, mostly attending the “fun” stuff- fishing rodeos, campouts, snipe hunts, etc. But I’m thankful for some early association with the term “ambassador” and the Kingdom of God, especially when we come to 2 Corinthians 5:20. Being an ambassador means giving a message on behalf of someone else, vested (pun intended) with the full authority of the sender. Paul chooses to use this term because broadly speaking in the context of 2 Corinthians, the church is continually discrediting and discounting the legitimacy of his ministry. I love this section and this verse because Paul is essentially saying, “Your problem is not with me, your problem is with God.”
Much ink has been spilled over determining who exactly Paul is addressing in this verse. He implores them “Be reconciled to God.” Is he talking to believers? Is he talking to unbelievers who are in the midst of the church? Is Paul restating the actual gospel message so that we might carry that message into the world? Yes. With regard to the Corinthians believers and leadership within, I believe he’s calling them to reexamine what exactly God has done for them in Christ. A full appropriation and appreciation will bear itself out in accepting Paul, no longer examining him according to worldly definitions of power, strength, weakness, etc.
In the broader context of the mission of God, Paul is also inviting them to broadcast the good news of the Gospel. And what is the particular message Paul gives in this context? “Be reconciled to God.” It’s an awkward command if you think about it, but at the center of it is a core tenet of the Reformed faith. God accomplishes everything necessary for a sinner to be reconciled to God. And because God does this great work, Paul can confidently proclaim the good news. And so can we.
If God has done the work, and God is working in the hearts of people by His Spirit, we can proclaim the message, both the bad news and good news. The bad news is that outside of Christ, we are not OK with God. Things are not OK. The good news is that God in Christ has done something about it. And we can run to Him for reconciliation. In Christ, our sins are forgiven, not counted against us. In Christ, we have the fullness of Christ’s righteousness credited to us. In Christ, we are OK (5:21).
As I reflect on this passage, not simply in my role as a pastor, but really my life as a believer, I often wonder if I’m an ambassador for Christ or for myself and my agendas. I confess I proclaim myself often not only in my words, but my actions, responses to people, etc. We can all get sidetracked proclaiming ourselves or other agendas, but this is our plea to all: “Be reconciled to God.”
Ben Hailey is the pastor of Redeemer Mission Church in College Station, TX. He is also a two-time Calhoun County greased pig wrestling champion.