[The following is a modified portion of the outline for a lesson I taught at Kosmosdale Baptist Church on Sunday March 18, 2007
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Working together with Him, we also appeal to you: "Don't receive God's grace in vain." For He says: In an acceptable time, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you. Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2 HCSB)
Three words to focus on from the above passage:
- “Therefore,” connected to the section of 2 Corinthians before this passage, in which the Apostle writes of Christ’s death and resurrection so that we may live for God rather than ourselves.
- “Ambassadors,” which are emissaries of a foreign authority higher in power than themselves, sent with a specific mission and message. This passage says calls us “ambassadors for Christ,” so that whoever may write our paycheck at the end of the week, we know that our true job, wherever we are at, is to represent Christ.
- “Reconciliation,” which is the mission and message of our ambassadorship.
This passage sums up the gospel message in four words: “Be reconciled to God.”
Concerning this phrase we should note:
- The subject of this phrase must be an understood “you.” The message we are sent with is a command from the LORD: “(You) be reconciled to God.” This means that our message is to be personal and to be presented with authority.
- The word “reconciled” cannot be simply reduced to felt needs. In other words, we cannot truly present the message of reconciliation as if it were the call for a better life. Love, joy, and peacefulness are certainly the effects of reconciliation, but reconciliation is a different concept.
- The word “reconciled” presupposes hostility. The Bible presents those outside of Christ as in rebellion against God and under His judgment for their rebellion. Colossians 1:21 teaches that before salvation, we are “alienated and hostile” toward God. And the hostility is not just one-sided, as Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (NKJV) and Ephesians 2:3 says that by our sinful nature we are children under God’s wrath. This is something that we must communicate to people: because most people live their lives deceiving themselves into thinking that God approves of them and will simply overlook their sins. They do NOT see their “mistakes” or “shortcomings” as a rebellion against the holy character of God, and they do not see their need for reconciliation.
- We are to command people to be reconciled “to God.” Our message is not just that people should pray a certain prayer or engage in certain religious activities. Rather, our message is about God Himself and a restored relationship to Him.
- The message, “Be reconciled to God,” is a message about Jesus, because this command can only be fulfilled through Christ’s perfect life, fulfilling the Law we could not keep due to our hearts constantly desiring that which is against God’s standards, through Christ’s death as a substitute, bearing God’s wrath that we deserved due to our rebellion, and through Christ’s resurrection, conquering death and Hell.
So, presenting the message of reconciliation to God through Jesus is what we mean by evangelism: the work we are to do as Christ’s ambassadors.
In order to give a more detailed definition of evangelism so that we may accurately evaluate whether or not we are fulfilling our duty as Christ’s ambassadors, I turn to theologian J.I. Packer, who, after studying what the New Testament has to say concerning evangelism, concluded:
To evangelize is to present Jesus Christ to sinful men in order that through the power of the Holy Spirit they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church. (From J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.)
I direct your attention to the first part of the definition: “To present Jesus Christ.” Presenting Jesus Christ is something that should be on our heart at all times. This idea- that evangelism is fundamentally telling people about who Jesus is and what He has done- should be a great comfort to us as His ambassadors. A newly married bride will not be nervous to introduce someone to her husband and describe him to others. This would be especially true if she practiced introducing and describing him every day. In a similar way, Christians who are passionate about Jesus should not have trouble presenting him to others, especially if we are meditating on how to present gospel truth each day.