On Monday I introduced the concept of what I'm calling "gospel momentum." As we contemplate the love of Christ for us, the way he suffered and died in our place for our sins, then we are both controlled and compelled by that love into a state of momentum for the gospel. This gospel momentum leads to gospel advance in our lives, and in the world in which we live. Yesterday, I talked about the first change that gospel momentum brings, namely, how we see other Christians.
This isn't the only change that occurs, however. Gospel momentum gives us a new identity in terms of how we talk to others, particularly those who are not Christians.
Gospel Momentum Calls Us Ambassadors
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20–21, ESV)
Paul recognized that the compelling, controlling love of Christ upon him changed the way he saw and spoke to the world at large. No longer was he the creator or originator of his own message of morality and life. He now spoke on behalf of another, namely Christ. As such, Paul saw himself as a sent envoy representing Christ and declaring his message of reconciliation to all those who were at odds with him. This sounds rather nice.
However, there is an urgency to this message. We in the West really don't understand the concept of an ambassador to well. They are foreign dignitaries that come and live in our capitol city, enjoy the limelight of being a representative of a different culture and nation and pretty much represent their nations interests as best as they can. For the Roman empire an ambassador was a high stakes envoy. Ambassadors were sent ahead of a conquering army to warn and declare the terms of truce and peace to the people who were rebelling against the nation. Ambassadors rightly represented the emperor and declared, "the king is coming to make war, but if you submit to our to terms you will be spared."
So Paul feels the nature of this sort of role within his ministry. The impulse of gospel momentum allows him to see and speak in this light. He represents the Almighty King, Jesus, who is ruler over all things. In such Christ will return again to make war against all his adversaries and enemies, even death to bring all things into submission under him. The urgency of Paul's appeal then is great. You can feel it in his message, "We implore you! Be reconciled to God!" Even the terms of peace that Paul lays out are unmatched. Christ takes our sin and dies in our place, we receive the righteousness of God! The king dies, so that you might have life. So lay down your rebellion and be reconciled to God through Christ.
Implication for What We Say
Do you see yourself as an ambassador for a conquering king? Do you see yourself as one who is sent to those who are still living in rebellion against the king? This is what gospel momentum does. It changes the way we speak to those who are rebelling against Christ. It gives us a clear and focused mandate about what we are saying.
Our talk as Christians isn't moral "how-to's" or "do-betters" to make better people. It fundamentally comes down to calling people to repentance and faith in Christ. It's calling them to reconciliation with God. Not therapeutic morality. Not feel-good prosperity. Fundamentally we are warning sinners of their danger and pointing them to their only hope of salvation, Christ.
The time-table is laid out as Paul engages Isaiah's words and presses their immediacy on the here and now. "Now is the favorable time, now is the day of salvation." Today is the day we speak and declare the gospel to those who are in peril. Today is the day we call for repentance of sin and faith in Christ. The gospel is to be spoken today!
Gospel momentum is consistent with the urgency that declares the gospel in the hear and now. As the Scriptures promise, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).