Words of Life ~ Ambassador

We are blessed to have Jim, a brother-in-Christ and a fellow-blogger, offer this guest post in our series Words of Life. He writes from the knowledge and experience of being a servant of our King; a pastor and an ambassador to other countries. You can find his blog here. Thank you, Jim ~ the Lord bless you and your ministry for Him.

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Did you realize that if you are a Christian you are called by God to be an ambassador of Christ? What does that mean and what does God require of you if you are called to be His ambassador?

First, we must ask this question: What do we think about when we hear the word “Ambassador?” For many of us, we picture a man or a woman dressed in a dignified manner in a prestigious overseas assignment as a representative of one’s own country. We picture him/her being welcomed and even honored by those to whom they are sent. But is that what the Scripture and God have in mind when we are to be ambassadors of Christ? Ultimately we want to know what the word “ambassador” means as it appears in the Scriptures?

The best-known passage that talks about being an ambassador for Christ is 2 Corinthians 5:20-21. This is what it says in the New American Standard Bible:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The Greek word for ambassador is a first-person plural form of πρεσβεύω. The verb πρεσβεύω appears only in one other place in the Bible: Ephesians 6:20:

for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

We will focus on 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 to see four characteristics of an ambassador of Christ so that we will faithfully represent Christ to others. However, when we look at the fourth characteristic, Ephesians 6:20 will come into play.

Characteristic #1: An ambassador is one who knows God well.
The point here is that if we are going to be ambassadors, we need to know God and know Him well. Recall 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.” It is important to know what the leaders really want, otherwise, an ambassador might make a decision that is unfaithful and unwise for the country/state/leaders. Who do we represent as ambassadors? The passage says, “Christ.”

We must know Christ in various ways. Paul says that Christians are to know what the will of God is: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2).  Specifically knowing God’s will involves knowing that “which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Notice here that knowing God will transform us. Where do we turn to know God’s will and also for that knowledge to transform us? The Bible!

We are not just to be familiar with rules of God but also to know Christ and what He has done: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). Did we catch that?  We are to know three things: “the power of His resurrection,” “the fellowship of His sufferings,” and “His death.” We also must get a taste of suffering if we are to have “the fellowship of His sufferings”

As an application: do we know God’s laws and rules? If not, how can we represent Him?

Ambassadors would read letters from the leader that sent him or her. Do we read regularly the Bible and vow to learn it more deeply so we know who we represent and what His will is for all circumstances?

A good ambassador who knows the will of the one who sent Him will also act with integrity so as not to undermine the character of the one who sent Him. How much more then, does our knowledge of God lead us to act in such a way that presents a good testimony to people around us?

Characteristic #2: An ambassador is someone who is sent for a purpose.
As an ambassador, we need to know our purpose.  Recall 2 Corinthians 5:20: “as though God were making an appeal through us…” There’s a challenge here: An ambassador is not just living for himself; he lives for his king. As Christians, our purpose is to live for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!! 2 Corinthians 5:20 goes on to say “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Yet with the challenge, there is also encouragement:  After identifying us as “ambassadors of Christ,” Paul speaks as if God is working through us when we make our appeal.  God is working through us as His ambassadors!  Let us be encouraged. He will help us if we rely on Him!

An ambassador might sometimes be in a country with which his own country does not get along. Dignity and honor might be shown to him from the other country. There may be temptations in that country to cause him to forget why he is there.

To drive the point home, we must ask ourselves these questions: Do we know our purpose in life? It is not enough just to know; are we living as representatives of God towards others? Do we desire a different purpose than what God has given us?  If this is the case, we are in sin. We must realize every other purpose in life would disappoint if it is not centered on God. Is God working through us? When we are making an appeal to others to come to know God, do we realize it is God working in us? This should encourage us?

Characteristic #3: An ambassador is one who is faithful.
Let us look at this portion of 2 Corinthians 5:20-21: “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” An ambassador’s message is not one that he creates.  A good ambassador is measured by how faithful He is to the one who sent Him.  What is our message? The passage states the purpose of our message: “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20b).  How we are reconciled with God is the Gospel!  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This message tells us that we are sinners. This message tells us about Christ; that Christ is our substitute.

An ambassador is to please the one who sent Him and not those to whom he is sent; can you imagine if the country is an enemy of His country and the ambassador decides to change his message to make the enemy like it? This ambassador is not faithful; in fact, he has betrayed his country.  He is now an enemy by becoming friends of the enemies of his country.

Now, what about us? Are we faithful to the Bible’s message? Or do we try to remove the parts of the Bible we don’t like? Are we trying to be faithful or are we trying to be liked by others?

Characteristic #4: An ambassador is one who is willing to suffer.
As ambassadors, we must be willing to suffer. Remember Ephesians 6:20 states: “for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” There is the real possibility of suffering as indicated by the mention of chains in the example of Paul’s life.

Some background information might be in order. There are two kinds of ambassadors. Here’s a summary:There are ambassadors (another Greek word is used here: Legati) sent from Rome to foreign nations and into the provinces.”[1]There are also ambassadors (Legati) “who accompanied the Roman generals into the field or the proconsuls and praetors into the provinces.”[2]

Here’s a description of the first kind of ambassador:

“Legati to foreign nations in the name of the Roman republic were always sent by the senate (Cic. c. Vatin. 15); and to be appointed to such a mission was considered a great honour which was conferred only on men of high rank or eminence; for a Roman ambassador, according to Dionysius, had the powers (ἐξουσία καὶ δύναμις) of a magistrate and the venerable character of a priest. If a Roman during the performance of his mission as ambassador died or was killed, his memory was honoured by the republic with a public sepulchre and a statue in the Rostra (Liv. IV.17; Cic. Philip. IX.2). The expenses during the journey of an ambassador were, of course, paid by the republic; and when he travelled through a province, the provincials had to supply him with

Here’s a description of the second type of ambassador:

“The persons appointed to this office were usually men of great military talents, and it was their duty to advise and assist their superior in all his undertakings, and to act in his stead both in civil and military affairs (Varro, de Ling. Lat. V.87, Müller). The legati were thus always men in whom the consul placed great confidence, and were frequently his friends or relations; but they had no power independent of the command of their general (Caes. de Bell. Civ. II.17, III.51; Appian, B. C. I.38). Their number varied according to the greatness or importance of the war,”

What kind of ambassador did Paul have in mind? ~ the second kind; those who are sent to dangerous places.

Paul said “we are ambassadors for Christ,” based on his life filled with hardship, danger, and suffering.  In 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 and 2 Corinthians 11, we see his suffering and trials. When Paul said “we are ambassadors for Christ” he included all who would bear the same sufferings.

I think the closest analogy today to the kind of ambassadors  Paul had in mind are military service members. I remember in Iraq working with a Marine officer who was in Civil Affairs. He’s a Marine still ~ and still armed. But he’s working with the people and the local leaders. He’s there in a spot too dangerous for civilians. We are that Marine, not the ambassador and staff in the luxury hotel of a safe capital socializing all night.

This changes the way we view our mission as ambassadors. Do we understand that we will suffer as a Christian, especially to the degree we represent him and share the Gospel? Are we presently suffering for the Lord in representing Him? We must search our hearts to see if we are compromising, fearing man, etc, and confess our sins to God. He will forgive us; and not only that, He will cleanse us in light of 1 John 1:9!

For any who may be suffering right now for the sake of our Lord, we pray that you find your comfort in Christ. Turn to Him and rest in Him! Abide in Him, commune with Him! Let Him comfort you!

(Gracious Father in heaven, we thank you for Jim, who serves you well as one of your ambassadors. We ask that you send your Holy Spirit to search our hearts. Convict, through the power of your Word, how and where we may be misrepresenting you. Show us your purpose for us as your children and your ambassadors. Open our eyes to see Christ and His sufferings on our behalf and move us to offer all that we are to know Him and to be where you want us to be. Thank you for sending your Son as your ambassador to a people held in bondage to sin to save us and bring us to yourself. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Fran)

[1]http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Legatus.html

[2]Ibid.

The Secret Place

 We might have titled this The Secret Place of AFFLICTION because this chapter of Beyond a Mere Christianity is tied to our previous post, Words of Life ~ AFFLICTION.

The secret place of which we write is basically “the secret place of the Most High” referenced in Psalm 90:1. “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” But it has a deeper meaning as we will show in this chapter.

How do we get to this secret place? We must first know about it through the revelation of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 2). We must be born into it by His Spirit (John 3:3-8; John 1:12). It is a spiritual experience of our heart and spirit ~ He gives us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). He makes us joint-heirs with His Son in His kingdom (Romans 8:17).

He has provided the means of communication with Him in this secret place. He speaks to us through His Word and receives our speech through prayer. His Word teaches us how to pray, and hears our prayers and our praises. As children, we are disciples and servants of His Son Jesus Christ; God gave Him for us as a propitiation for our sins showing His great love for us (1 John 4:10). Because we are believers and His followers, we will experience a taste of His persecution from those who do not believe in Him.

We experience affliction, suffering, and tribulation for His name’s sake.

We see this privilege, this honor of suffering in the life of the apostles in Acts 5:41; the apostles left those who had beaten them and had commanded their silence of the gospel, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”.

The Secret Place is an honorable place for His people who in all generations follow Christ and if need be, to suffer persecution.

No other people can claim this honor except those who belong to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. As we look at the remainder of our references, I encourage you to take time to meditate on these, take them to heart and remember whose we are as pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. If you don’t have time to read all the references now, I encourage you to copy and save them.

We will look at these three areas and end with a section on Chastisement:

AFFLICTION of Christ
AFFLICTION of Followers of Christ
AFFLICTION within the Body of Christ

AFFLICTION of CHRIST

H6031 ânâh, aw-naw’ to afflict, oppress, humble

The affliction of Christ prophesied in Isaiah is the same word used for other references in the Old Testament.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7

The prophecy was fulfilled at the end of Jesus’ ministry when by His affliction, He took upon Himself our punishment for sin. We are not exempt from afflictions in this life but saved from the afflictions that will come to those who do not accept His sacrifice for salvation.

In the following verses from God’s Word, we hope to prove that afflictions are part of this life for all humanity because we live in a fallen, sinful world. The afflictions of unbelievers are just a prelude to the forever tune of eternal suffering. But as believers, we accept affliction as a part of our unity with Christ, our Lord, and Savior. We follow Him in the paths of righteousness with the promise that He is with us in our suffering for the sake of the gospel.

The prophecy of Jesus’ sufferings bridges the gap between the Old and New Testaments, bringing us to the record of His life and HIs instructions to His disciples as He was preparing them for His crucifixion and resurrection.

“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” Matthew 24:9

New Testament G2347
Strongs’s defines affliction thlipsis thlē’-psēs tribulation, affliction, anguish, persecution  References

The word is the same used for tribulation.

Jesus spoke of the tribulations that would come with discipleship. His encouragement was for peace and joy through His victory over death and the world. He promises all the physical blessings, including persecution (Mark 20:30).

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32

 AFFLICTION of Followers of Christ
Paul wrote of this tribulation to the early church.

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

To the disciples in the church in Rome Paul wrote to encourage them during those times. See how many times “joy” is related to affliction in these verses.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” Romans 5:3

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:3

“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;” Romans 12:12

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” 2 Corinthians 4:17

“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 2 Corinthians 8:2

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:” Colossians 1:24

“And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.”1 Thessalonians 1:6

G3804.pathemapath’-ay-mah from a presumed derivative of 3806; something undergone, i.e. hardship or pain; subjectively, an emotion or influence:– affection, affliction, motion, suffering. The sufferings of Christ; also the afflictions which Christians must undergo in behalf of the same cause which Christ patiently endured.

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” Philippians 3:10

 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9

“Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” 1 Peter 1:11

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4;13

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:” 1 Peter 5:1

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

AFFLICTION within the body of Christ
G2347 thlipsisis the same word used for tribulation and trouble in 2 Corinthians 1:4

“Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5

 “And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:6

“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:” 2 Thessalonians 1:4

“Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.” Hebrews 10:33

G4778. sugkakoucheo soong-kak-oo-kheh’-o from 4862 and 2558; to maltreat in company with, i.e. (passively) endure persecution together:–suffer affliction with.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of Moses choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Hebrews 11:25

In James 5:10 he speaks of the prophets who were an example of suffering affliction, and of patience ~ from G2552 kakopatheia kak-op-ath’-i-ah from a compound of 2256 and 3806; hardship:–suffering affliction.

In 1 Peter 4:14 we read: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.”

Is this not the “secret place” in which we dwell with Him “under the shadow of the Almighty” who has sanctified us and is bringing us to glory in Him (Hebrews 2:10-11)?

Chastisement ~ the Secret Place  in the Life of God’s Child

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

“Though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;” Hebrews 5:8

It is interesting that we are writing about this secret place of affliction at the same our pastor is preaching through the book of Hebrews. Finishing the eleventh chapter with the list of martyrs, the last two weeks we have been in Hebrews 12, seeing the relationship between God and His children, the same kind of relationship between Him and the Israelites in the Old Testament. The Old Testament speaks not only of affliction but also of chastisement (Isaiah 26:16). While we might not like the idea that He afflicted His people because of their rebellion, we might also not hold to the idea that God causes pain to His children who fail to hear and obey the instructions of His Word. In hearing these sermons, I have been moved to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a child of God, to be blessed that He chastens me because He loves me. (Hebrews 12:5-14); and all this, so that I stay close to Him and partake of His holiness; which means I pray even for His chastisement, along with instructions and corrections as needed, so that I know Jesus did not bear my chastisement in vain but is my example in His suffering and obedience. Our chastisement fell upon Him, so that we may become the children of God. Any pain we have to suffer now will be worth it all for the glory that waits with Him in eternity. All pain and adversity, whether or not we are suffering for Christ’s sake, is accepted because the Lord our God is sovereign over all things.

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 13:5

“And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14

Gracious Father, we thank you for revealing the truth of your Word to us by your Holy Spirit. Enable us to accept all things, pain, sickness, and all adversity at your hand, working for our good and conforming us to the image of Christ, as we continue to abide in your word and under the shadow of your wings. Thank you for that secret place you prepared for us in Christ our Lord, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Fran

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