SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
November 21, 2004
Called to the Thrilling Work of being Ambassadors for Christ!
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Key Verse: If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! – 2 Corinthians 5:17
All the major religions of the world offer people pathways to God. Christianity, on the other hand, proclaims the good news that God has come to us in Jesus Christ. In other words, we do not have to look for God; he has made himself known and available in the birth of his Son. That, essentially, is what we mean by declaring that “Love came down at Christmas.”
Our sin caused us to be at odds with God or separated from him. The gulf separating us from him was impossible for us to cross, so God came over to our side. He took the initiative to offer us salvation and that “while we were yet sinners.” He came to us since we could not go to him. The New Testament writers call this God’s mighty act of “reconciling the world to himself.”
consistently declares that God’s reconciliation was for “the world,” the entire
This is a central doctrine of our faith – that Christ died for all people. Paul insisted on this by saying that Christ “died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” Charles Wesley used this theme repeatedly in the early hymns of Methodism: “He died for all, for all he died.”
Paul helps us understand that we are reconciled to God, or restored to fellowship with him, by the fact that God does not count our sins against us. Mercy makes salvation possible. When we accept God’s offer of salvation, God changes us. He makes us entirely new people. This change occurs individually, for we are saved one by one, not in groups. The paraphrase by J. B. Phillips is quite helpful:
“For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether – the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new. All this is God’s doing, for he has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ; and he has made us agents of reconciliation. God was in Christ personally reconciling the world to himself – not counting their sins against them – and has commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. We are now Christ’s ambassadors, as though Christ were appealing directly to you through us.”
When we accept God’s gracious offer, he not only changes us, he also makes us ambassadors of Christ. This high honor is apparently not an option; the minute one is made new, one is immediately made an ambassador of our Lord. God appeals to the unsaved through the witness and lives of the saved. This appeal is called the ministry of reconciliation.
Perhaps we should realize that God’s appeal is more through the change in us than in our efforts to persuade people to accept Christ. An example was my friend Thomas Samford. Late in life Thomas had a life-changing encounter with the living Christ and became a devout disciple of Jesus Christ. People who had known him all his life began saying, “That is not the same man I have always known.”
The change caught their attention and made them eager to learn what had happened. Thomas explained it this way: “For most of my life I loved my church and was faithful to it; now I love my Lord and I am serving him.” At long last Thomas was “in Christ” and that made him an entirely new person. All who knew him were blessed by the change, and it was the change that roused their interest in the Christ. Thus a changed man or woman becomes a good “advertisement” for Christ.
Our best work as ambassadors for Christ may be done when we are not knowingly trying to “sell” Christ but simply living a changed life that honors Christ. Oswald Chambers thought so. He said our best witness for Christ occurs when we are not consciously trying to witness to others. Our focus is the key; it should be on Christ and not on ourselves.
All of us are involved in groups of people where the ministry of reconciliation is needed. We can become agents of reconciliation often by offering to others exactly what God offered us – loving acceptance rather than a demand for perfection. If God had held our sins against us, we would still be alienated from him. Therefore, we should seek to imitate God by offering others the same kindness that he offered us. This is what the songwriter has called a love that “looked beyond my faults and saw my need.”
We can speak words of peace and encourage forgiveness when others are alienated with each other. We can speak quietly in love when others are engaged in a shouting match. We can invite frustrated people to be reconciled to God so that they can be changed and discover the joy of being reconciled with others.
We will not always succeed, but neither will we always fail. Now and then, the Spirit will use us to bring people into a new relationship with God. He will use us to help warring parties to make peace and begin to work together in love. When that happens, then we will know the joy of our little lives being used for a mighty purpose – Christ’s ministry of reconciliation in the world.
Since we are called to be reconciling ambassadors of Christ, we had best look for ways to fulfill our calling.
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