17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
Paul packs so much into these few verses that it’s a little overwhelming to try and tackle it all so let me just make a few observations on how this all relates to evangelism.
1. We evangelize because we have been evangelized. Paul starts this passage by saying we are new creations. He ends it by explaining imputation, a banking term that refers to the fact that our sin was credited to Christ’s account while Christ’s righteousness was credited to ours. Wrapping these ideas around verses 18-20, where he talks about the ministry of reconciliation, reminds me of Christ’s exhortation to the 12 disciples when he sends them out in ministry, “Freely you received, freely give” (Mt. 10:8). The reason we have a role to play in the ministry of reconciliation is because we ourselves have been reconciled (Rom. 5:10-11). It is part of being a new creation. Where once we were at war with God, now we call for others to accept God’s terms of peace.
2. Evangelism is a privilege. In today’s political world, an ambassadorship is often a reward. Presidents dole them out to big campaign contributors and others who helped them obtain their office. Some require more work or risk than others, but in general, becoming an ambassador is an enviable proposition. In Paul’s day, ambassadors would often be sent into areas of the Roman Empire prone to rebellion (raising the risk factor), but it was still seen as being a privileged position. After all, despite the risks, you were still commissioned as a representative of the Emperor, with all the honor and power that entailed. Successfully keeping the area from falling back into rebellion would have come with great reward. Ambassadorships also require a level of trust between the ruler and his designated representative: “God was … entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Having reconciled himself to men through the work of Jesus Christ, God has now appointed believers to call men to be reconciled to God. In The Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren Wiersbe put it this way:
When I was a young pastor, it used to embarrass me somewhat to make visits and confront people with the claims of Christ. Then it came to me that I was a privileged person, an ambassador of the King of kings! There was nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, the people I visited should have been grateful that one of Christ’s ambassadors came to see them.
God has not declared war on the world; at the cross He declared peace. But one day, He will declare war; and then it will be too late for those who have rejected the Saviour (2 Thes. 1:3–10). Satan is seeking to tear everything apart in this world, but Christ and His church are involved in the ministry of reconciliation, bringing things back together again, and back to God.
Ministry is not easy. If we are to succeed, we must be motivated by the fear of the Lord, the love of Christ, and the commission that He has given to us. What a privilege it is to serve Him!
3. Evangelism is urgent. As we saw yesterday (and as Wiersbe explains above), evangelism is not something we should take lightly. Paul writes, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” That word “implore” can be translated “plead” or “beg,” and elsewhere in the New Testament it is used in reference to prayer. How one responds to the message of reconciliation has eternal consequences, and our desire should be that people lay down their arms, end their rebellion, and accept God’s peace treaty.
4. Evangelism is Christ working through us. An ambassador doesn’t have the freedom to negotiate on his own terms so when people reject his offer, they aren’t rejecting him. They are rejecting the message and person whom he represents. The same holds true for us. Paul writes that “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” When we share the gospel, we are simply acting out of obedience and relaying the message with which we have been entrusted. This should comfort us in our fear and insecurity. The Word Biblical Commentary says that “while the human preacher is charged to deliver the word of reconciliation, it is not his or her voice that is to be heard but the very call and invitation of God which resonates in that proclamation.”
Things to Reflect on in Light of this Passage:
1. Am I burdened for others to be reconciled to God as I have been?
2. Do I see myself as Christ’s ambassador, calling for rebels to lay down their arms and accept his terms of peace?
3. Do I see sharing the gospel as a privilege?
4. Am I comfortable using the words like implore, plead, or beg in reference to sharing the gospel? If not, why not?