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Begging Ambassadors

Salvation is entirely accomplished by God; he does not require the cooperation of man. As John MacArthur writes, it “is a creative work of God, not a do-it-yourself project for sinners.” “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Our faith is not something we possess in ourselves, but “To you it has been granted for Christ’s sake . . . to believe in him” (Philippians 1:29). Likewise, it is God who grants “repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25). And though we are exhorted to flee from sin and pursue righteousness (1 Timothy 6:11), and “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling,” we are reminded that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). This is all of God’s, and none of man’s, sovereign will and choice (John 1:13, 15:16 James 1:18; Romans 9:16). It must be this way, because “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). God does it all, man does nothing. Man can do nothing, “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8). “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him . . . no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:44, 65). All is dependent on the will of God.


Nevertheless, the gospel message includes an open invitation—a general call to faith—that is extended indiscriminately to all who come under the sound of the message. In fact, Paul uses much stronger words than call or invitation. He says it is “as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

The Greek word translated “pleading” . . . speaks of an exhortation, admonishment, or entreaty. The word translated “implore” (deomai) is stronger yet. It has the connotation of begging. It is a common word in Scripture, often used to describe passionate prayer. It is the same word used by the father of a demon-possessed boy in Luke 9:38, pleading with Jesus for help: “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son (NASB).

That is the proper tone of the gospel’s invitation, what Paul refers to as “the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). This is how God commissions His ambassadors to preach: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (v. 20 NASB). It is not a dispassionate suggestion, or even a stern command. It is an earnest, urgent plea extended with God’s own authority, tenderly entreating the sinner to respond with repentant faith.

It is the duty of every believer to make this message known to the world. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18). That is why it is crucial for Christians to understand the gospel correctly and be able to present it clearly and persuasively. God has commissioned us as His ambassadors not only to proclaim the fact “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (v. 19); but also to be persistent with the appeal to “be reconciled to God” (v. 20). In this capacity we are “ambassadors for Christ,” speaking “on Christ’s behalf” and “as though God were pleading through us.”

—John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 85–86.

Posted 2018·07·06 by David Kjos
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