In 2 Corinthians 5:20, St. Paul employs perhaps the most meaningful title to those who have been reconciled to God by the propitiatory death of Christ. After demonstrating that it is only through faith in Christ Jesus that this reconciliation can be experienced, the apostle continues to say that those selfsame reconciled souls have been given “the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:18) Just as God “was reconciling the world to himself” through the cruciform life of his only begotten Son, those who have had the wages of sin settled for them by the representation of Christ for them have, likewise, been commissioned “the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19) Redeemed and reconciled sinners are, therefore, entrusted the remarkable responsibility to represent Christ to fellow sinners. “Therefore,” Paul asserts, “we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God.’” (2 Cor 5:20)
As ambassadors, we execute an office we did not establish and evince a message we did not conjure on our own. The entirety of our responsibility as “ambassadors for Christ” rests solely on the shoulders of the crucified and risen Savior who delegates this mission of reconciliation to us. Interestingly enough, the weightiness of what it means to be Christ’s ambassador is brought to bear perhaps nowhere better than in Alexander Maclaren’s exposition of St. John’s Gospel, when he writes:
We are not only to carry on His work in the world, but if one might venture to say so, we are to reproduce His attitude towards God and the world. He was sent to be “the Light of the world”; and so are we. He was sent to “seek and to save that which was lost”; so are we. He was sent not to do His own will, but the will of the Father that sent Him; so are we . . . He was sent to pity, to look upon the multitudes with compassion, to carry to them the healing of His touch, and the sympathy of His heart; so must we. We are the representatives of Jesus Christ, and if I might dare to use such a phrase, He is to be incarnated again in the hearts, and manifested again in the lives, of His servants.1
In this way we are shown that the gospel is never meant to stop on us. The good news of Christ Jesus is, indeed, good news for us individually. But along with individual pardon, the good news engrafts us into the larger narrative of God’s cosmological reconciliation. (Rom 8:18–23) The gospel of God incorporates us into the divine errand of the re-making of all things. (Rv 21:4–5) And, to be sure, our performance as Christ’s ambassadors will fluctuate and falter and fail. But notwithstanding the imperfectness of our execution, the grace of Christ and the ministry of his Spirit render effectual all our strivings and sufferings for the sake of the gospel.
Alexander Maclaren, The Gospel According to St. John: Chapter XV to XXI (New York: Armstrong & Son, 1908), 312.