Sunday, October 1, 2017

AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST (Part 2)

Moses the Ambassador: One Who Intercedes

In the final part of the previous post, in discussing the personality of God, we strayed somewhat from our subject of being an ambassador for Christ. However, in order to see this role of Moses, it is important to understand some of these concepts concerning who God is as our authority. We cannot be God’s representatives without understanding him as well as we can.

But returning now to our topic of being ambassadors for Christ, and using our example of Moses, we see in the story of the golden calf and the giving of the Ten Commandments that Moses was acting as a representative of the people before God. When God threatened to destroy the people, Moses intervened. Moses interceded for the people and he also identified with them. 

As ambassadors for Christ, we also have this ministry of intercession. In another incident, when the judgment of God was again falling on the people of Israel by means of poisonous vipers, the people pleaded with Moses.

“We have sinned,” the people said, “because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people (Numbers 21:7 NAS, emphasis added). 

“Pray for one another, so that you may be healed,” James tells us. “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16 NAS).

 When we pray for people—for their health, for their salvation—is this not the ministry of intercession? Are we not bringing their case before the throne of God? We are, as Moses was, acting in this role as an ambassador for Christ. We are coming before God, representing the interests of others before him. As Moses spoke with God on behalf of the people, we see him in this role as intercessor.

Moses the Ambassador: The Representative of God before Men

Standing on the peak of Mount Sinai, we have seen that Moses represented the people before God. However, when he came down off the mountain, his role as ambassador changed. When he approached the people and stood before them, he was now representing God before the people.
Do you see the difference?


 On the mountain, Moses was interceding for the people before God. Had the Israelites been present on the mountain with their leader, they all would have looked very favorably upon what he was doing. Moses was defending them. He was protecting them against the wrath and anger of God. Moses was the friend of the people.

But now, standing before the people, the Israelites see a different Moses. We must understand that it was not really a different Moses, but in this role of prophet/ambassador he is now speaking for God.

Instead of representing the Israelites before God, Moses was now representing God before the Israelites. In this role, Moses voiced the anger that God had earlier expressed on the mountain:

And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it. Exodus 32:19-20 (ESV)

Moses had left his brother, Aaron, in charge of the leadership while Moses was on the mountain. Aaron had completely failed in the task. Moses rebukes him severely; then turns to the people: 

Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control– for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies– then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!”

And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’”

So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Exodus 32:25-28 (NAS)

Moses, who earlier was the defender of the people before God, now must act for God as he acts on behalf of God. We can see that the role of ambassador is not an easy one. After intervening for the people on the mountain, Moses did not have the luxury of returning to them and telling them how he had saved them from the wrath of God. Moses was not a politician returning to his home district telling his constituents how he represented them in Washington. Moses was not seeking votes. His motivation was not popularity. His job was more difficult.

Some Distinctions between an Ambassador in the World and an Ambassador for Christ

Being an ambassador to some exotic and foreign country may sound like a romantic life, but much of the romanticism must be lost in the reality of the job. An ambassador often meets with hostility when he must represent the position of his country to the foreign government. If something does not go well, he is called back to Washington for “consultation,” as they call it. On both ends, he is on the spot.

Likewise, being an ambassador for Christ is not an easy task, but there is one very important difference. Unlike a United States ambassador, our authority does not reside in Washington and is not acting with only that perspective. Rather, our Authority acts based on decisions made from every and all perspectives, and indeed knows the beginning to the end. The perspective of our Authority encompasses all that is known and unknown, everything in time and in eternity.

Beyond that fact, the actions of our Authority are based, above everything else, on love. In contrast, an ambassador of an earthly government knows that the actions of his sending country are most often based on economics or trade advantages, or perhaps to gain a military advantage. However, an ambassador for Christ knows that none of these things are important to God. Instead of trying to gain an edge on power, love is the motivating factor in everything that God does. 

The Faces of Love

It is true that from our singular perspective it may not always seem like it is love. It does not seem like love is the motivation in our example of Moses, for instance. But we must remember that discipline, even when given with the highest intentions, often does not come bearing the face of love. Nevertheless, if used correctly, one can always see love buried deep in the eyes of discipline. “For those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines” (Hebrews 12:6, NAS).

However, after discipline must come healing:
 

Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD– for every man has been against his son and against his brother– in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”

And now, the role Moses plays must change again:

It came about on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Exodus 32: 29-30 (NAS)



Moses the Ambassador: One Who Would Exchange His Life for the People

 In his role as ambassador, Moses returns to God for “consultation.” It is here that I see something most astounding, and the most difficult part of being an ambassador for Christ. When we read what Moses did next as an ambassador, we would do well to ask ourselves if we have the qualifications for being an ambassador. Listen and be astonished by what Moses told God: 

Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”. Exodus 32:31-32 (NAS) 

The Apostle Paul said much the same thing: 

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.  Romans 9:1-3 (NAS) 


One of the qualifications that seems to be necessary for the ambassador for Christ is that we would be willing to go even to hell itself for the sake of our people.
This is an ambassador for Christ. Do we carry the qualifications? I dare say none of us do.
 
How to be an Ambassador

But if we do not carry the qualifications, how then are we to be ambassadors for Christ? Let us return to our passage of 2 Corinthians with which we began this topic of being an ambassador for Christ. Remember that Paul said in that letter, “Therefore, you are ambassadors for Christ” (5:17). Why does he say “therefore”?

“Because of this,” he means to say, “You are ambassadors for Christ.” Because of what? We must read what Paul had said before: 

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.2 Corinthians 5:17- 20 (NAS) 


As is not unusual in Paul’s writings, he touches on several insightful concepts in a single sentence; so many, in fact, that it is difficult to keep track of them all. First of all, we see in the above verses that in Christ, we are new creatures. How did this happen? How were we able to gain our new lives? Was it by our own efforts?

No, it was not by our efforts, but Paul tells us “all these things are from God.” We were reconciled to God through Christ. Moreover, not only were we reconciled, but God has also given us the ministry of reconciliation. It is with this background that we find how we are to receive our credentials to be ambassadors for Christ.

Despite the fact that we in ourselves do not carry the necessary qualifications to be an ambassador, the truth is that it is not we who must find it within ourselves to produce or to generate the required credentials that we need. If we needed to do this, I daresay none of us could ever be qualified to be an ambassador for Christ.

Rather, as Paul said in this passage, “All these things are from God.” The qualifications to be ambassadors for Christ cannot and must not come from within ourselves. The qualifications are something given to us by God. It is he who supplies us with the essential characteristics and skills that we will need to be his ambassadors. 

The Role of the Ambassador for Christ Defined

As difficult as the role of the ambassador may at times seem, and it is indeed difficult, it is also very easily defined and is very clear. Paul has also told us that among everything that we received from God, the greatest is this: God has reconciled us to himself through Christ.

We see, then, that our task as ambassadors is also the ministry of reconciliation. You will notice in the above verses in 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the word reconcile (or some form of the word) four times. In our double role as ambassadors, whether it is representing our people before God as intercessors, or being God’s representatives here on earth as we speak God’s Word to the world, our task is to bring about reconciliation. It is as simple as that. We are to bring about peace between man and God. 

The Word of Reconciliation

How are we to do this? Do we think that we are able to do this with our outstanding skills of communication and understanding as ambassadors? Again, let us turn to what Paul tells us in this passage. The ministry of reconciliation can only come through the word of reconciliation, which God has committed to us.

There is no other way. To be faithful ambassadors, we must speak the words of God. It is not our opinions that matter. Rather, it is the Word of God. This is the message given to us by our Authority. In the short run, some of God’s words may be difficult for us to understand, but taken from a broader and eternal perspective, they are the words that will bring about reconciliation.

As ambassadors for Christ, we must have faith that the words of the one who sent us sees and has all perspectives of time and eternity in mind. He knows the beginning and the end and is taking into consideration all eventualities. It is only through the Word of God that peace will finally come. “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” (2 Corinthians 5:20, NAS).

May we better understand what it is to be an ambassador for Christ. But there is one more aspect of being an ambassador that I would like to touch on. That in the next post.

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