"Seeing People Through God's Eyes"
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
(Delivered Sunday, May 6, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
* * * * * * * * * *
Wherever we go, and whatever we do, we will encounter other people. And that's by God's design. God has so ordered and arranged our daily lives that He has placed other people within our sphere of influence. And what's more; whenever we go where these other people are, the Lord Jesus Himself goes there with us. In His final words to His disciples, before He ascended to the Father, Jesus said, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 20:20). And so, throughout our day, Jesus is with us as we make contact with the people He has sovereignly placed in our lives. Our encounters with people are not accidental. We can take it as fact that those encounters are divinely arranged by Him (Eph. 2:10); and He accompanies us in them.
Jesus, then, sees the same people we see in these everyday encounters along the road of life. But what He sees when He looks at those same people is considerably different from what we see.
Jesus often surprised His disciples with the fact that He saw people differently than they did when they saw them. The disciples would look at the crowds of people gathered around the Savior; but all that they saw were the crowds. They were often pretty dispassionate about what they saw. Jesus, on the other hand, was moved deeply with compassion over what He saw - people who were "weary and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). The disciples just saw some mobs of nameless people; but Jesus saw "fields ... already white for harvest" (John 4:35). The disciples only saw hungry multitudes, and thought, "We don't want to be bothered by all this. Let's send them away so that they can go into the towns villages and get themselves something to eat." But Jesus was personally touched with the needs of the people that crowded around Him. He healed their sick and cared for their needs; and then told His disciples, "You give them something to eat" (Matthew 14:14-16).
This same Jesus is present with us when we encounter people in our daily lives. He sees the same faces that we see. But we can be sure that He sees far more in those faces than we do, feels far differently about those people than what we feel when we look at them. And because this is true, we can be reasonably sure that we have grieved the Lord's heart far more often than we care to admit. We can be sure that we have often grieved Him, because we haven't been motivated by the things He sees. We've, no doubt, often saddened Him because we didn't felt the things He felt about the people He's placed in our lives. We've surely saddened Him many times, because we've failed to minister to the needs of people as He sees their needs.
There have been, however, a few outstanding people who have grown, by God's grace, to see people as Jesus saw them. Their sense of Jesus' vision for the people around them motivated them greatly to share the gospel, and to serve those people in Jesus' name. I believe that among the most outstanding of such persons was the apostle Paul. He was eager to share the good news of Jesus Christ to others - even to spend and be spent for them (2 Cor. 12:15) - because he had grown to see people through Jesus' eyes.
In this morning's passage, Paul shares with us the burden he felt in his heart toward people. He tells us how he had grown to see people through Jesus' eyes. This passage teaches us how God wants us to see people as well.
* * * * * * * * * *
It's important that we understand the context of the letter in which this passage is found. Interestingly enough, the whole theme of the letter concerns how people are to be seen. Paul wrote this letter because he was being evaluated improperly by the believers in Corinth; and he felt that he needed to write in order to defend his apostolic authority in their eyes.
The believers in the city of Corinth were placing far too much importance on the outside appearance of speakers and teachers. They were looking for an authority figure who had a bold, dynamic personality; someone who spoke like the polished, popular Greek speakers and teachers of their day; someone who articulated the deep, intellectually stimulating things of Greek philosophy. Many of Paul's critics were despising him because he didn't speak like the professional speakers who had become so popular to that culture. Instead, Paul spoke plainly and without "glitz" and "glamour". Because of this, some where giving his ministry bad reviews; even going so far as to say, "His letters are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible" (2 Corinthians10:10).
Paul had made it clear to them that he wasn't going to even try to copy the styles of the pop-speakers of the day. Instead, he told them that his only goal was to tell them the truth, and to preach the unflattering, unglamorous, unpopular message of the cross of Jesus Christ. In his first letter to them, he said, "I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you testimony of God. For I determined to not to know anything among you accept Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
And so, you can see that it didn't bother Paul that people didn't think he measured up to the popular speakers and teachers that the world applauded (2 Cor. 10:12-18). His only concern was to be obedient to God, and to speak the message God gave him to speak as plainly as possible. He wasn't focused on becoming pleasing to people; he was focused, instead, on being faithful to God. He said, "Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences" (2 Corinthians 5:9-11).
He urged the Corinthians, then, to quit looking on the outward appearance of things, but to look instead on the heart. He told them, "For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you" (vv. 12-13). Whether people thought he was dry and boring, or wild and beside himself; the opinions of other people didn't matter to Paul. All that he was concerned about was making sure that he was faithful to God, and that he proclaimed the message God gave him to proclaim as purely and clearly as possible.
And in saying all this, Paul, then, took the opportunity to share what it was that motivated him to preach a message that the world despised and thought was "foolish" (1 Cor. 1:18). He explained why he was so eager to devote himself to the preaching of a message that the world didn't really think much of. And this passage tells us the reason: it was because of what he saw when he looked at the people around him. By God's grace, he had learned to see what God saw in them.
May God help us, as we studied this passage together, to see people around us the way God sees them - that is, in terms of God's grace toward them revealed in the cross of Jesus. May God motivate us to share the message of His grace by helping us to feel toward people as God Himself feels toward them.
* * * * * * * * * *
What, then, was it that Paul saw when he looked at the people around him? First, we read that Paul saw ...
I. THEIR VALUE TO GOD (v. 14).
Paul tells them, "For the love of Christ compels us ..."; or as it's translated in the New American Standard Bible, "For the love of Christ controls us ..." Paul felt "compelled"; that is, he felt controlled and pressed by a passion to preach the gospel to people. He felt a strong sense of necessity laid upon him to proclaim the gospel message to whomever he could, and wherever he could. He once even went so far as to say, "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16). Earlier, he said, "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men ..." (1 Corinthians 5:11). But as this passage shows us, it wasn't merely a compulsion out of fear that drove Paul to preach the gospel. It was, above all else, the love of Christ that compelled him - specifically, it was the love Jesus Christ displayed toward sinners in giving His life for them on the cross. If Jesus had so loved the people around Paul, how could Paul not love them too?
The Bible tells us - in what is, perhaps, the best known verse in all the Bible - that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). The Bible tells us, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). God is a holy God who must judge sin. But His great motivation in sending His precious Son into this world was love for sinners - a love that moved Him to act on their behalf, so that they could be rescued from His judgment. "For," as the Bible tells us, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemned the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17).
Here, then, is the first thing we need to know about the people that God has put in our lives - whether they be the people we work with, or the folks in our neighborhood, or the members of our own family, or any of the many people that we bump into along life's way. We need to know that Jesus Christ loves them deeply. He loves them it infinitely. He loves them so much that He laid down His life for them.
And so, when you're driving down the road and you see that other driver; or when you go to the bank and speak with that teller over the counter; or when you wave at your neighbor as he mows his lawn; just remember - you're looking at someone that Jesus loves infinitely; someone for whom He paid the ultimate sacrifice of laying down His life. May God help us to see the value of people from the perspective of the love of Jesus displayed on the cross. If we begin to look at them from the stand-point of Jesus' infinite love for them, they won't be able to help but notice!
* * * * * * * * * *
A second thing that Paul saw when he looked at the people around him was ...
II. THEIR NEED (v. 14).
He said that the love of Christ compelled him, "because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died ..."
When it comes to the salvation of every individual that God saves, there are two sides to the story. First, there's the side that emphasizes God's sovereign act of choosing and bringing about the salvation of whosoever He wills - completely apart from anything that person does. And second, there's the side that emphasizes the individual responsibility of each man and woman to receive God's invitation of salvation as an act of their will - coming to the cross of Jesus as an act of personal faith. "Divine sovereignty" and "human responsibility" are both realities in God's work of salvation. The Bible teaches that both realities are equally true, and doesn't treat these two realities as if they were in contradiction to one another. They are, if you will, two sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other. No one hears the gospel and responds unless God first chose them, from before the world began, for salvation (Eph. 1:4); and He saves no one that He has appointed for salvation part from their hearing the gospel, and personally responding in faith as a choice of their will (Mark 1:15).
I'm stressing these two sides of the "salvation coin" because I have found that some people aren't comfortable with Paul's statement that Jesus died for all people. They believe - rightly so, I think - that God had first chosen whoever He wills for salvation apart from anything they have done; and that He then sent His Son to die for those He has chosen, in time giving them the faith to believe. People who hold to this belief stress that the atoning power of Jesus' sacrifice is applied, not to everyone indiscriminately, but particularly to those whom God chose for salvation. They stress that, if the atoning power of Jesus death was meant for everyone, we would have to say something utterly unacceptable: that is, that His death - to some degree - was a failure, because the fact would then be that He died for every individual, and only a few were saved.
Many of the commentaries I've read on this passage went to great lengths, it seemed, to explain what this passage is not saying. But I believe that many folks have found this statement of Paul's to be confusing because they've tried to place the wrong emphasis on it. They've tried to look at it from the wrong side of the "salvation coin", as it were. I don't believe this passage is trying to teach us about the divine sovereignty of God in salvation - as absolutely true as that reality is. When Paul says that "One die for all", I believe Paul is simply stressing the reality of God's gracious and sincere call to all sinners to believe, and come to Jesus for salvation. Not all will respond to God's invitation to come to Jesus and be saved; but it is a genuine, bonafide offer that is truly made available to all, because Jesus truly did die for all! As the Bible says, in a wonderfully precise way, God "is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe" (1 Tim. 4:10).
It helps if we remember that Jesus is presented to us, in the Bible, as "the second Adam". The Bible teaches us that the first Adam, as the representative head of the human race in the Garden of Eden, sinned. His sin resulted in the death of all members of the human race. The Bible tells us that, through one man - that is, through the first Adam - sin entered the world; and as a consequence, death entered the world through sin. And so, death has spread to all men throughout the world, and in all generations, because "all sinned" in Adam (Romans 5:12-14).
But the Bible also tells us that the first Adam was "a type of Him who was to come" - that is, Jesus. It tells us, "Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so, through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Rom. 5:18). Paul writes, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
When Paul says that "One died for all", he is speaking of Jesus as the second Adam. As the second Adam, Jesus truly did die for every member of the human race. And if Jesus, the second Adam, died on the cross, then it's a clear verification that we've all suffered the effects of the sin in the Garden. Jesus' sacrifice for us is a clear affirmation from God that all members of the human race are, indeed, in a state of death before Him. All human beings are born into a situation so desperate before God that only the death of God's precious Son can rescue them from it. Jesus' death has a direct impact on every member of the human race, because all are dead before God apart from Him, and none are saved in any other way except through Him.
The point is this: When we look at the people that God has placed in our lives, we should look at every one of them as people who has been born into the human family in a state of desperate spiritual need before God. Jesus died for each member of the human family; and the implication of that is that each member of the human family needed His sacrifice. Each person is spiritually dead to God apart from Christ.
It doesn't matter if someone looks as if they have it all together in terms of outward appearances. We mustn't let ourselves become enamored with outward appearances. The thing we must look at, when we see the unbelieving people around us is the seriousness of their need before God. We should learn to look at people from the perspective of the cross of Jesus; and remember that, if One died for all, then all have died. They are in a desperately serious situation before God. It's not for us to know whether they are the chosen of God or not; it's only for us to know that they are in need before Him, and that He has answered that need by the death of His Son Jesus. May God help us to be moved with compassion for people by helping us to be burdened by their need as He sees it.
* * * * * * * * * *
Third, Paul's example teaches us to look at people from the standpoint of ...
III. THEIR POTENTIAL (v. 15).
The death of Jesus on the cross not only makes a statement about the deep need of people before God, but it also makes a wonderful statement about their potential. Jesus didn't die to leave people in a state of death; but as He Himself has said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). And so, as Paul affirms in the passage before us; "... and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose again."
I've been enjoying stories lately about Billy Sunday, the fiery evangelist who ministered throughout the United States during the early years of the 20's century. He had been a National League baseball player for the Chicago White Sox; and one day, in 1886, while he and some friends were having drinks and Chicago bar, they began to hear the sounds of music and testimonies from a group of workers from a local rescue mission across the street. As Billy Sunday himself told the story; "Across the street a company of men and women were playing on instruments - horns, flutes, and slide trombones - and others were singing the gospel hymns that I used to hear my mother sing back in the log cabin in Iowa and back in the Old Church were used to go Sunday school. ... I sobbed and sobbed and a young man stepped out and said, "We're going down to the Pacific Garden Mission. Wont you come down to the mission? I'm sure you will enjoy it.
"I arose and said to the boys, 'I'm through. I am going to Jesus Christ. We've come to the parting of the ways,' and I turned my back on them. Some of them laughed and some of them mocked me; one of them gave me encouragement; others never said a word. ... I walk to the mission and fell on my knees and staggered out of sin and into the arms of the Savior."
Even though God had brought Billy Sunday to "a parting of the ways", he continued his baseball career for some time. Nevertheless, he began working for the YMCA. Anytime the baseball team came into a city, Sunday would seek out the local YMCA and preach. Eventually, Sunday was offered a full-time position with the YMCA; but he had just signed a three-year contract to play for Philadelphia; and the Philadelphia team was unwilling to release him. Sunday prayed about the matter; and the Philadelphia team suddenly released him from his contract. Hearing about the release, a Cincinnati team offered him a contract with a $500 a month salary. Billy was faced with quite a choice: a YMCA job that only paid $83 a month, or a pro-ball contract that promised an enormous sum of money in its day - and all with a wife and family to consider. But Billy's wife told him, "There is nothing to consider; you promised God to quit." And with that, Billy Sunday's baseball career came to an end.
If Billy Sunday had remained in baseball, we would probably have heard very little about him. He would have been simply another name in the annals of baseball. But he left baseball, and gave his life to preaching the gospel. And from that day on, Billy was never without an invitation to preach and to hold evangelistic meetings until the day he died. God greatly used Billy Sunday during the early part of the last century to preach the gospel to millions of people, and to win over three-hundred-thousand people to Jesus Christ in his lifetime. Billy Sunday lived, no longer for himself, but for Him who died for him and rose again.
That's why God sent His Son into the world to save people; so that they would cease to live for themselves and live for Him from then on. The Bible tells us that "... The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:11-14). The apostle Paul himself said, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
And so, whenever we see someone, we shouldn't look just at what they are right then, but rather at what Jesus died to make them to become. We should see the marvelous potential that lies before each individual if they will only trust Jesus and live for Him. We should remember that - no matter where they are, or what they've become apart from Jesus Christ - no one is ever hopeless!
* * * * * * * * * *
Paul next tells us, in this passage, that he also saw all people in terms of ...
IV. THEIR SPIRITUAL CONDITION (vv. 16-17).
Because Paul had learned to no longer look good people strictly in terms of their outward appearance, he was able to say, "Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer."
In the Old Testament, God had sent His servant, the prophet Samuel, to anoint a king over Israel from among the sons of Jesse. God had chosen the least likely of all Jesse's sons to be His anointed king; the shepherd boy David. But as all of Jesse's sons passed before Samuel in review, Samuel only saw one son that stood out - and it wasn't David. As Samuel looked at the biggest, strongest, most outstanding of Jesse's sons, he thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him!" But Samuel was wrong. The Lord told him, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7). God sees more in a man with then what we see. We can only look only at the flesh - only at what we can see with our eyes. God, however, studies the inner-man. The apostle Paul reminds us that, at one time, the world saw Jesus only in terms of the flesh - only in terms of what the people of the world could see with their eyes. The Bible prophesied about Jesus and said, "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2). But, as Paul says, "Yet now we know Him thus no longer."
What's more, Paul goes on to say, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). We're not only to see people in terms of their spiritual condition, but we're to see everyone who is in Christ as someone who has been made 'brand new' - not just 'made over, and fixed up'; but entirely a new creation on the inside.
Someone who is in Christ may look the same as they ever did on the outside. They may have the same physical features as before, or they may wear the same clothes, or be of the same height or weight. Their voice may sound the same; and from the rather shallow standpoint of mere outward appearances, there seems to be no difference whatsoever. But the moment they place their trust in Jesus, an immediate transformation has occurred within them. Inside, they're literally no longer the same person. From God's standpoint, everything of the past have been wiped away. And as far as God is concerned, everything about them has become brand new. They are, in every respect, a new creation in the eyes of God.
The true measure of a man or woman, then, is not found in the things you can see with your eyes. If someone is wealthy and powerful in terms of the standards of this world, but they're apart from Christ, then all of their power and prestige means nothing. And, if someone is despised and scorned by the standards of this world - and even if they had been wicked and horrible sinners in the eyes of the world as well as in the eyes of God - and yet, they've come in humility to the cross of Jesus and have been place by faith "in Christ", then they're brand new creations - regardless of what the world sees.
And so, let's stop evaluating people in terms of the things we can see. Don't look at them in terms of which we behold in the flesh. Instead, let's see them as either "in Christ" or "outside Christ". And let's be sure that we look at those who are in Christ as "new creatures" - perhaps looking the same in the flesh; but made brand new inside, and destined for heavenly glory in Christ. When you look at people in these terms, you become motivated to share the good news with everyone on the basis of what Jesus sees in them - no matter what the world sees in them.
* * * * * * * * * *
Finally, this passage shows us how to see people in terms of ...
V. THEIR PROVISION (vv. 18-21).
To my mind, what Paul says in the following verses is the most exciting and motivating part of this passage. Paul not only saw people in terms of their true value, their true need, their true potential, and their true spiritual condition in relation to Christ, but he also saw people in terms of the wonderful provision God made for their salvation. How exciting it is to see that God has done everything that is necessary for their salvation! And what a great motivation that should be for us to share the good news of salvation with them!
First of all, when Paul looked at people, he saw how God Himself had established a plan for their salvation. He said, "Now all things are of God ..." (v. 18). Paul stresses here that God Himself is the divine Author of the plan of salvation; and that it is He - and He alone - that makes it happen and insures that it will be a success. Just look at the brief statement of this plan as Paul gives it to us! He says, "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled to us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation ..."
Paul speaks of two great works of God with respect to our salvation. Earlier in this passage, Paul wrote of God's work of "regeneration". All of us were "generated" once, when we were physically born; but "regeneration" is the idea of being "generated again". This is a work of God in which He causes us to be "born-again" - making us brand new creatures in Christ (v. 17). In "regeneration", we ourselves are the primary focus of God's work of grace. But a second work of God that we find in this passage is that of "reconciliation"; and in this second work, the primary focus is that which stands between ourselves and Him. In "reconciling" us to Himself, God make it possible for the gap between us to be bridged, and our fellowship with Him restored.
When "reconciliation" occurs between two parties, it involves the assumption that there was something wrong in the relationship in the first place. It assumes that something stood between God and ourselves - something that hindered our fellowship with Him. The Bible tells us that our sin was what stood between us (Isaiah 59:1-2). Our sins have alienated us from God, and put us in the state of enmity toward Him. He is a holy God; and we cannot have fellowship with Him, nor He with us, so long as sin stands in the way.
You and I could never remove that barrier of sin on our own. We were the cause of it in the first place! But God, in His great mercy, has stepped in and offered a plan to remove the barrier of sin, and to make it possible for us to be "reconciled" to Him. He has authored this plan and personally saw to it that it succeeded. Paul says that God didn't wait for sinners to try to reconcile themselves to Him; but rather that God has taken the first step, and "has reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ ..." And not only so, but He has also commissioned that this good news of reconciliation be ministered by us to the world!
And so, as we look at that person that God is put into our lives, we should remember that God has made a wonderful provision for that person's salvation. He Himself has done everything that is necessary for them to be saved. It's all done; and it's all of God's doing. God's great work on their behalf should be a powerful motivation for us to share the good news with them. When we meet the people that God has put in our lives, may God help us to remember what He has done to save them.
Secondly; when Paul looked at the people God placed in his life, and when he thought about the provision God has made for their salvation, Paul saw how God had provided a wonderful Savior for them. Paul speaks of God's plan, and says; "... That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not to imputing their trespasses to them ..." God sent His own Son into the world to pay the death penalty for sins. And amazingly, Paul says that God was "in Christ" reconciling the world to Himself.
There was a newspaper story that told about a young man who had appeared in court for moving violations in the State of California. The crimes were serious in nature; and the young man was fined severely - so severely, in fact, that he could never pay the fine on his own. And after the judge fined the young man - because the young man was his own son - he dismissed the court, took off his robe, and escorted the boy to the bail office to pay the boy's fine himself. Likewise, God Himself "was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." He paid the fine in the Person of His own Son! How could Jesus' death for our sins ever fail to reconcile us to God, if God was in Christ personally reconciling us to Himself?
Because Jesus Himself paid the death penalty for our sins, God is able to 'no longer impute' or 'no longer reckon' the guilt of sin to the sinner who trusts in Jesus. To "impute" trespasses to someone means, as it were, to record the debt of those trespasses into their account. It is an accounting phrase. When God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, He placed our sins on His own Son's ledger, so that Jesus could pay the debt on our behalf. And now, a wonderful exchange can occur - our sins are no longer reckoned to our account; and Jesus' righteousness is reckoned to our account instead! As Paul says in verse 21: "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
And God Himself has commissioned that this good news - "the word of reconciliation" - be delivered to guilty sinners, so that they can fully experience the reconciliation with Him that He has brought about. When we look at someone that God has put into our lives, let's remember that His plan for salvation for them involves a wonderful Savior - Jesus Christ. They need to hear about Him and place their faith in Him. What a privilege it is to introduce them to Him!
That leads us, finally to the third thing Paul remembered when he thought of the wonderful provision God made for the salvation of others. He saw that God was working through him to pass the message on to them. Paul saw that God has provided a messenger of the news of salvation - Paul himself! This was not only true of Paul, but of us as well. Paul said that God "has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God" (v. 20).
There are three startling truths in this verse. First of all, we see that God has committed His awesome message of reconciliation into our hands. We who were formerly His enemies but who have now been reconciled to Him - we have been sent to deliver His message of reconciliation to others! He has entrusted this precious message to us! Whenever we meet someone in the course of our lives, we should recognize that God has given us something that they need very much! We should have a sense of the awesome message God has entrusted to us; and how He wants us to pass it on to them.
Second, we see that God has given us, as it were, an official title: we are "ambassadors for Christ". This underscores not only the responsibility that has been entrusted to us, but the great authority that has been placed upon us as well. As the famous and theologian Charles Hodge wrote; "An ambassador is at once a messenger and a representative. He does not speak in his own name. He does not act on his own authority. What he communicates is not his own opinions or demands, but simply what he has been told or commissioned to say. His message derives no part of its importance or trustworthiness from him. At the same time he is more than a mere messenger. He represents his sovereign. He speaks with authority, as accredited to act in the name of his master. Any neglect, contempt or injury done to him in his official character, is not a personal offense, but an offense to the sovereign or state by whom he is commissioned."
Whenever we see someone, then, we should not only remember our great responsibility to them, but also the great authority God has endowed us with as his "ambassadors" to them. May God help us to see ourselves as authorized by Him to impart a wonderful message of reconciliation to them.
And thirdly - and most gloriously - we see that God doesn't send us out to administer His message on our own power. Paul says; "As though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ behalf, be reconciled to God." Imagine that! When you share the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to someone, it's as if God Himself is making His appeal to them through you!! You and I can share the good news with others with great confidence; because when we do, God Himself is making His appeal to them through us! How can it fail?
* * * * * * * * * *
Everywhere we go, then, God has put people in our lives that He sees in a far greater way than we do. How short-sighted we are!!
From this day forward, brothers and sisters in Christ, may we never look at people the same old way again. May God expand our vision for the people He has placed in our lives, as He had done for Paul with respect to the people in his life. May God help us to see the precious people around us as He Himself sees them.
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)
Missed a message? Check the archives!