“Ambassadors for Christ”
We have been deeply moved by the preaching of our esteemed brother Derek Thomas (a Professor and Dean at RTS) during the Missions Conference this past week [editor's note: this was originally published in February of 1997]. He has provided for us a clear, biblical vision of the call to, the meaning of, and the urgency of missions. Let us pause for a moment to reflect on some of the spiritual wisdom he imparted. Those of you who heard his messages will, no doubt, be stirred at their remembrance. Those of you who did not hear these great sermons will, no doubt, be motivated to get the tapes!
In his first Sunday morning exhortation (2 Corinthians 5:6-20), Professor Thomas reminded us that Christ has made us ambassadors (that’s what we are, not something that we choose to be at some point in our Christian experience!) and that our calling as ambassadors involves at least four things. First, he showed that the Ambassador makes it his aim to please Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:9). In other words, those who have been redeemed by Christ, willingly and joyfully live their lives for Him. Do we?
Second, we learned that the Ambassador sees it as his task to bring others to Christ (2 Cor. 5:11). Here we were challenged to view all life and relations from the standpoint of the judgment seat. Do we “see” unbelievers as human beings standing in the shadow of the eternal throne of judgment? Do we seek to persuade them in that light? And do we labor as those who live in the light of eternity and long to hear “Well, done” at the great assize?
Third, it was emphasized that the Ambassador derives his energy from Christ (2 Cor. 5:14). Many have tried to serve Christ in their own strength or for mistaken reasons. There have been some, for instance, who have labored for Christ because they thought “if I work enough for Him, maybe He will love me.” But this is wrong. Indeed, it is Jesus’ love for us that constrains us to serve, empowers us to serve, equips us to serve, and motivates us to serve. We serve, because He loves us. We are able to serve, because He strengthens us. Do we live from the base of His grace?
Fourth, we saw that the Ambassador builds the foundation of his life on Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). Our life with and service of God is based on Christ’s work of reconciliation. Through Christ’s atoning work, our alienation from God has been exchanged for friendship with God. Here Professor Thomas made a profound point that none of us should ever forget. He said: “The Gospel is not that ‘God has not counted our trespasses against us,’ but rather that ‘God has not counted our trespasses against us, but against Christ.’” In other words, the Gospel is not “God forgives,” but “God forgives, because ‘He spared not His own Son.’” This reminds us of the centrality (in the Gospel and in our lives) of the atoning work of Christ.
Many today preach that “God loves” is the essence of Christianity, but our lives are based on a foundation more glorious than this: “God so loved that He poured out His wrath on His own Son that we might be redeemed from wrath, alienation, and estrangement into an eternal fellowship with Him.” “How firm a foundation,” indeed.