What does it mean to be an ambassador for Christ?
“We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20) is a truly astonishing verse, isn’t it?!
Trying to absorb even a small portion of what this means fills me with awe at the trust that God places in us. He chose us for such a time as this!
The Greek word translated ‘ambassador’ (presbeúō) means to act as a representative. In the context of our verse above, it means someone who is trusted and authorised to speak and act on God’s behalf and to represent His Kingdom, which is our true ‘home country’.
This is utterly staggering! And profoundly challenging. But every challenge and instruction in the Bible comes wrapped with an abundance of grace to fulfil it. God would never ask us to be or do anything that He will not fully equip us to accomplish.
I must confess that I have read this verse countless times and yet have never really reflected on the depth of its meaning. Recently, however, it has been leaping off the page as if the Lord is saying: “Look! This applies to you! It applies to all believers who trust in Me!”
To get a picture of our authority and position as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, it helps to look briefly at the role of a ‘natural’ ambassador, because the parallels are very similar.
So the British Ambassador to Thailand – just for example – always remains a citizen of the UK and follows UK laws above the laws of Thailand. While living in Thailand, he receives his day-to-day instructions from the UK and has authority to promote and implement his home country’s values and perspectives. All his financial, legal and emergency needs are met by the UK and he lives in Thailand under the UK’s constant protection and authority. (So we could say that he is ‘in Thailand’ but not at all ‘of it’).
Likewise, as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, our true source of supply and protection always come from there. Our Real Home provides for every need we could possibly encounter: “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). God is our constant protection and our enabler: “I’ll keep carrying you! I am your Maker and your Caregiver. I will carry you and be your Saviour” (Isa 46:4, TPT).
The main responsibility of all ambassadors is to accurately represent and promote their home country’s goals and values. This is our greatest challenge as representatives of the Kingdom of God!
We cannot do this of ourselves, of course. However, the scripture immediately following the declaration that we are “ambassadors for Christ” explains – amazingly – what God has already done to equip and authorise us to be His ambassadors. It says: “For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
God is so desirous that we should be fully united with Him and walk in His righteousness – ie in His very nature – that in Jesus Christ He actually became sin, in order to liberate us from our sinful nature. In exchange, He enables us “to share in God’s essential nature” (2 Peter 1:4, PHILLIPS). To share in His nature! Yes! Actually to live and breathe and walk in the holy and glorious quality of life of the Godhead!
That makes me gasp in awe. And we know that all this is way beyond our own strength and comprehension, but that we can fully trust in the work of Christ within us, leaning hard upon Him at every step of the way: “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Unfailingly, He is our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30) and He will lead us and enable us, step by step.
This world’s ambassadors are assured that they are fully protected and empowered by their own home country. However, for this to work out in practice, they need to learn what the privileges are that they possess. Then they need to appropriate them by actively applying these privileges in their daily lives. Otherwise, by default, they come under the influence of the rules and values of their temporary host country!
And this is all the more true for us as believers! So we are called to keep alive in our hearts that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20) and that we must “live in this world as strangers and ‘temporary residents’” (1 Peter 2:11, PHILLIPS). At the same time, we must know the authority that we have in Christ to show and to share the love and truth of God wherever we are on earth.
Since God declares us to be His ambassadors, He surely equips us to live this highly honoured role. We also need to do our part, though, and to remind our hearts and minds of the amazing privileges and authority that are ours – right now – in our new identity in Christ. (Some of the passages that tell us what is freely available to us include: John chapters 14-17, Ephesians chapters 1-2 and Colossians chapters 1-3.)
We are God’s ambassadors at all times and places. We do not necessarily need to travel physically to be His ambassador because we represent Him wherever we are. In our day-to-day walk, it often happens that our provision may not be apparent until the actual need arises. But whatever the situation we face, we can rest in our Father’s loving assurance: