We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20)
"Frank" was a grizzly bear of a man. Years of farm labor had hardened his body while a hard country religion had petrified his soul. He was a deacon in a church I served. Never short for words, Frank always told it like it was. He could be brutal. His wife and children cowered before his harshness, and they loathed him for it.
After church one Sunday, the deacons and I went out for lunch to discuss the state of the church. Things didn't seem to be going well. Frank wasted neither time nor words. He raced through his meal, put down his fork, and blurted out, "The problem with the church is that the preacher ain't preaching evangelistic sermons."
Frank spoke volumes more than he thought. I was sitting next to him, yet he referred to "the preacher" as if I were absent. He had distanced himself from my ministry, and his words showed it. By evangelistic preaching, Harold meant that I should aim my sermons at non-Christians and at those Christians who needed to get right with God. He assumed that he was in neither camp, and therefore he wanted my preaching to leave him alone. He regularly got angry when I touched issues in his life like anger, racism, or compassion.
One Sunday I preached from the text, "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). I thought the passage was relevant since court-ordered busing to force school integration had created near-riot conditions in nearby Louisville, Kentucky. I asked the congregation to consider what the Christian response to that kind of anger and hate should be. The church was small enough to allow conversation, and I used the last part of the sermon time for discussion of the question.
Frank spoke first. His face was red with anger, and he more or less yelled a question at me. "Why'd you bring that up here today?" he asked. He obviously didn't want to think about it.
Frank granted me very little authority as his pastor. His framework of faith and life excluded any human from having spiritual oversight of his soul.
A Crisis of Authority
Frank is a rough-hewn symbol of our time. We live in a culture in which submission to authority, especially moral or spiritual authority, is anathema.
An Authority-Resistant Culture
The Western world is at the end of a long battle against authority. Long ago, individual rights and personal sovereignty overthrew the centuries-long moral authority that resided in the state and the church. Now about the best our culture can do for moral authority is offer some vague notion of shared community standards determined by the larger culture. The moral voice of the church is mocked as hopelessly irrelevant for a world like ours.
Other authorities are under attack as well. It seems that nobody trusts the government anymore. Public figures, governmental or otherwise, have a brief day in the sun before they are discarded for new and more congenial figures. Public figures who speak with moral authority are viewed as hopelessly out of touch, even dangerous. Somehow Billy Graham escapes the cynicism of our time, but few Americans view him as a moral authority for their lives. The Pope, a towering figure of moral strength for many people of Christian faith, is a figure of ridicule in the media and in some quarters of his own church. We are living through a tremendous cultural evasion of authority.
Leaders in business, education and government agree that it is more difficult to lead in our day than in any time in recent memory. Leaders who live in the public eye suffer from overexposure and from the reactions of a fickle public, and they seldom survive more than a decade. Add to this mix cultural unrest fueled by ethnic and racial conflict, economic uncertainty, and moral and family breakdown — it is no wonder some think we are at the brink of a "culture war." Such an environment naturally creates a resistance to all claims of moral authority.
An Authority-Resistant Church
Naturally, deep cultural trends spill over into the church. The cultural conflict and resistance to authority of our time make pastoral ministry increasingly difficult.
Throughout Christian history a certain authority has been granted to the clergy. Power and authority are inherent to the office of pastor. And although pastoral authority has been abused in every generation, it has nevertheless been granted as necessary — until our time. Now the office of pastor is shrinking to the size of congregational expectations shaped by a culture that is deeply committed to the values of consumers and their inalienable natural rights.
The results are deeply disturbing. Surveys of pastors indicate the trauma of leadership in our time. Self-esteem is plummeting while conflict and self-doubt soar. Pastors are being fired and are leaving the ministry in alarming numbers. All of this is, in part, the result of a devaluing of the office and authority of the Christian pastor.
Pastoral counselor Lloyd Rediger has coined the phrase "clergy abuse," which he says is the natural result of a social movement in America that is characterized by escalation of violence and incivility. His definition of clergy abuse is simply "intentional damage" that is physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional. He points out that when traditional paragons of virtue in a society are intentionally targeted, that culture is in deep trouble.1 The church in that culture is in deeper trouble. We are living in an ecclesiastical crisis of authority.
Even at its best, the church in this culture devalues the work and authority of pastors. The rise and dominance of technology creates norms and expectations that traditionally trained clergy cannot meet. Some technically trained parishioners have difficulty respecting and listening to ministers trained in language and ideas. The escalating trust in management models, along with our native American pragmatism, erode the theological and biblical base on which pastors have always done their work. The triumph of individualism in America has created a church filled with people who refuse to let anyone tell them what to believe or do. The consent of the governed, a sign of democracy, has become the lord of many a church and its pastor.
I was recently in a conversation with several church members from another congregation. I asked them about their hopes and dreams for their church. Most of their responses indicated a deep longing for spiritual renewal. One young man, however, made an interesting and telling remark. He said he hoped for a church where the teachers would only suggest what he should believe and do. He was tired of preachers and teachers telling him how to behave and what to believe. It's a sign of the times. Modernity wants the Ten Commandments to become the Ten Suggestions.
One member of a pastoral search committee told me early in the selection process that, in his opinion, preaching was not very important. He said all his Christian growth came from one-on-one relationships with Christian friends. He was signaling me in no uncertain terms that he would not submit to my teaching authority nor would he let me pastor him except on his terms. That he was a leader in the church indicated to me an institutional resistance to pastoral authority.
More recently a university professor gave a failing grade to a report prepared by a committee of our church board. The committee didn't give proper attention to process in its attempt to encourage biblical goals for the board. He said at his institution such a report would be laughed out of school. He was telling the board and his pastoral staff that he was sovereign over them and that in order for him to respect the work of the church it had to proceed under a management model of his choosing. I don't suppose I will ever have much influence on his soul.
Long ago I learned an important lesson about the church, pastoral ministry, and spiritual growth. Only those who open their hearts and souls to me and my ministry will grow from my ministry. Those who resist me or my pastoral authority not only tend to be unhappy, but they cut themselves off from the spiritual nourishment at the center of the church. One cannot be served well by someone to whom one will not open one's soul.
Wise leaders distinguish carefully between the authority conferred by an office and the authority earned over time. An insightful man once told me that in the church only a fool uses official authority without sufficient earned authority to back it up. Sadly, in our day the length of time needed to win the consent of the governed is growing longer and in some cases will never happen.
As we come to the end of the twentieth century, pastoral ministry is more and more difficult. In large measure that is due to the reduction of the authority of the pastoral office to a mere shadow of what it was only a generation or two ago.
A Crisis for Preaching
In no area is authority more significant for pastoral ministry than in preaching, for it is in the pulpit that we speak the Word of Christ. The tone of our leadership is set in the moral and spiritual authority we model in our preaching. Preaching is the public demonstration that the Word of God is at work in us, and it is the tool that God uses to speak to the church and the world. Preaching without authority robs the Word of God of its essence; it is like an army without weapons. The gospel of Christ demands the authority inherent in it.
A Culture Without Ears
Preaching in our time is increasingly difficult. The technological age, in particular television, works powerfully against reasoned oral discourse. Images and sound bites characterize the electronic communication that bombards us day in and day out. And the younger the audience the more difficult oral communication becomes. Those raised on MTV think in vivid and repeated images that burst on the imagination.
We preach to people young and old whose attention span is shortening. Our audience sits before us with a remote channel-changer in their minds. Increasingly passive recipients of powerful electronic stimulation, American audiences seldom listen with a will to become actively engaged in our sermons. Attention is more difficult to gain and even more difficult to keep.
Beyond the electronic challenge of our age, our larger culture conspires against preaching. The idea of a single person standing with moral authority and speaking a truth that demands obedience is ridiculed. The verb preach in ordinary conversation is a negative term, and among the worst things to be said about a public figure is that he or she is "preachy." That mentality cannot escape those who fill our pews on Sundays. They bring either a conscious or unconscious bias against the authority of preaching. Thus we seldom dare to tell people what to do and are instead consigned to gentle persuasion.
Moreover, our congregations are more and more consumers of religion with less and less taste for hard thinking, challenges to their presumptions, and theological reasoning. Sermons in our time reflect that distaste for thinking, challenges, and theology.
A friend is a Catholic priest in a large and thriving parish. He told me that a young couple in his church recently informed him that they had decided to attend a large and growing Baptist church because it had a better children's ministry. But, they assured him, they would be back when their children were out of elementary school. What a challenge for that Baptist pastor!
When I was in suburban ministry, nearly every week some young couple came by the church to interview our children's pastor and inspect our facility. They weren't very interested in what we believed or in much else besides the best religious package they could find for their children. I was glad that we attracted these undiscriminating seekers of God — what an opportunity! But at the same time, preaching became more of a challenge as the congregation grew wildly diverse. Preaching and teaching was forced toward the lowest common denominator. I could no longer presume anything as I prepared. That's the religious world in which we live.
A Church With Itching Ears
Christians have always wanted to bend their preachers into their own image. Paul warned Timothy of that pastoral fact of life (2 Tim. 4:3-4). None of us likes to hear disturbing truths or to have our assumptions challenged. Meanwhile, we all want to hear our favorite themes and have our presumptions affirmed. Inevitably, the church wants its ministers to become chaplains of their religious expectations and guardians of their cherished traditions. Most of us learn from hard experience that when we violate institutional values we will be hurt. It is a sad fact of church life that these institutional values are usually guarded more carefully than the gospel.
I was once in a committee meeting in which a staff member suggested we change the location of the church library. He listed a number of good reasons for the change, each of which would have enhanced the purpose for which the library existed. Suddenly a member who had been quiet during the long preceding discussion about the future of our church's mission nearly came out of his chair. With uncharacteristic passion he argued against moving the library since that would upset some long-time members.
I have sat through hundreds of board and committee meetings in my ministry and have heard long and passionate discussions about the church name, the gender of church ushers, and the color of the carpet. Yet I have never heard a discussion with the same kind of emotion about our lost neighbors or the poor at our doorstep. No wonder my impassioned sermons on the mission of the church receive such a cool reception. That is not what turns most Christians on these days. Preaching God's Word into the contemporary church's preoccupation with itself and its values is difficult indeed.
Add special agenda groups dedicated to that very human tendency to serve our own interests, and preaching and leading become even more difficult. People listen for their special agenda to be addressed and then judge the pastor and the church on that basis. I hear from people regularly who have but one theme: I have not addressed their special interest sufficiently.
The first Sunday I was pastor of a congregation, one of the choir members caught me before the service and told me that he hoped I would preach strongly on sin. He added that they hadn't heard that theme much from my predecessor. I knew he would be judging me on how often I preached on sin.
In that same church a certain woman held a high position in party politics. During an election year she called to tell me she could arrange for one of the presidential candidates to speak on a Sunday morning at our church. When I gave her a variety of reasons why I thought that was a bad idea and that I wasn't interested, she was quite upset and told me I was out of date. Her idea of a modern church featured partisan politics. I don't think my sermons or my ministry got past the front door of her heart after that.
This woman was part of a special interest group that continually put pressure on the church leadership and staff and judged everything according to their vision of a political church. That was but one of many agenda-driven groups to which I spoke each Sunday. Preaching with pastoral authority in the contemporary church is very difficult. Fewer and fewer Christians, it seems, want a spiritual authority independent of their control.
All of us, pastors and people, bring to every Sunday worship service our own personal agendas that drive us and form the shape of our hearing and speaking. As a pastor I must make sure my preaching and my life stand under the Word of God I preach so that my agendas don't shape what I preach. My wife and my board help keep me honest. I cannot create that kind of integrity on my own.
I have learned that my ministry in any Christian's life is dependent on that person's willingness to submit to my pastoral and teaching authority. Resistance to me or my ministry creates a fortress around the soul. Consequently, I have also come to understand that the level of satisfaction in my congregation is directly related to their willingness to open their lives and souls to my care.
Paul understood the difficulty of communicating to a resistant culture and church. Corinth, of course, is the biblical laboratory for learning how to minister in a dysfunctional church. Once again Paul drops a couple of metaphors into his letters to Corinth that help us stand before our world and the contemporary church in proper pastoral authority. One of the metaphors, Christ's ambassador (2 Cor. 5 20), is rare, used only here and in Ephesians 6:20. The other metaphor, a preacher or herald, is quite common in the New Testament. Paul emphasizes his authority as a preacher in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2.
Both metaphors taken together are a healthy antidote for the flagging sense of pastoral authority in most of us preachers.
I served on the board of a Christian college for several years. During that time, the government of Swaziland wanted to recruit Christian school teachers to come to their country and help them set up a Christian school system. Swaziland is a monarchy, and this was the desire of the king.
Swaziland's ambassador to the United Nations, Nelson Malinga, came to the college to interview students. I was privileged, along with another board member, to serve as his host for two days. It was an eye-opening experience. My lifetime in a democracy had not prepared me for the power of a monarchy. I had never before met a government official, and I discovered that ambassadors are a very special type of governmental official. Ambassadors of a king are even more unusual.
The first thing I noticed was Mr. Malinga's sense of dignity. It was quickly apparent that he was the personal representative of a king. His office bore an inherent power that gave the ambassador great confidence. From his behavior it was clear that he was well aware that he spoke for a king. He was quick to say, "The king says…" If anyone had questioned his authority or his word, he could have simply replied, "Call the king!" Mr. Malinga's dignified confidence rested in his assurance that he spoke for a monarch who had nearly absolute power.
Because the ambassador spoke for the king, a certain authority accompanied everything he did or said. At the same time, however, the ambassador was quite reserved. At all times he deferred to the king, from whom his confidence and power came, for neither the message he spoke nor the mission he was on were his own.
At night when the meetings were over and we went back to the hotel, Mr. Malinga had one last task. He called home to talk to the king. He had known the king all his life and represented a king he loved and respected. I think that much of the ambassador's dignity and quiet sense of authority came not just from his high office, but also from his relationship with the king. He knew what the king thought and desired. He lived to make the king's wishes come into being.
Paul, Christ s Ambassador
Paul lived in the powerful awareness that he was an ambassador of Christ the King. He stood before his critics and enemies in Corinth with the power and dignity of the one who sent him. Despite the opposition to his ministry in the church and to the gospel in the larger culture, Paul spoke and acted with authority because he was a man under the authority of the King.
Paul needed the power and authority of Christ in Corinth. The church was enamored with appearances. They had poured their ministers into the mold of their expectations, and the results looked good and acted powerfully. Paul came out on the short end (2 Cor. 5:12). So Paul reminded the Corinthians that the gospel comes with its own persuasive power through the appeals of ordinary men like himself (5:11).
Though some might think Paul a madman (5:13), he wanted them to know that his sole motivation for ministry was the love of Christ that "compelled" him to preach the gospel (5:14). Love compelled his ministry, because love is the nature of the gospel, which is a message of reconciliation (5:19). Hence, Paul no longer viewed himself or his ministry from a human point of view (5:16). He was driven by a divine energy, the love of Christ, and an eternal mission, the reconciliation of humankind to God and each other.
Paul closes this section on reconciliation by saying, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (5:20). Paul's use of "therefore" indicates that he is drawing a conclusion. He stood before the world and the church as the ambassador of Christ as though God were making his appeal through him. Hence, Paul "implored" the Corinthians to be reconciled to God, to each other, and to himself. Loving reconciliation is inherent to the gospel, is in the nature of the church, and is the goal of the ministry.
The Pastor as Ambassador
The pastoral role of ambassador lies in great tension. On the one hand, we speak for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When His word and will are clear we cannot help but speak boldly, come what may. Our own ideas or interpretations cannot be spoken with the same boldness. Paul himself distinguished between the word of the Lord and his own opinions (1 Cor. 7:25). Nevertheless, he spoke with pastoral confidence as one with experience in the church and with the Lord. Pastors need to know the difference between the sure word of Christ and our own counsel, and we need to show our congregations the difference.
On the other hand, we ambassadors of heaven live on earth and bear witness to a Lord of the Incarnation. Christ spoke His divine Word in a manner congenial to His culture. He was sensitive to His environment, and even when He spoke harsh words of judgment He spoke the truth in love.
A few years ago I visited the country of Burkina Faso in West Africa. Our little delegation traveled to see the American ambassador to Burkina Faso in the capital city of Ouagadougou. He was most gracious and arranged for us to eat breakfast with him the next day. The topic of discussion at breakfast was how American Christians could assist that poor sub-Sahara African nation with its economic and social needs.
The ambassador was a veteran in the diplomatic corps and had spent most of his career in poor African nations. West Africa is a backwater of American diplomacy. The State Department operates on the assumption that few matters of American national interest are at stake in the region. Hence, the ambassador said, little American aid or attention is given to countries like Burkina Faso.
As he talked I was struck by his deep understanding of and compassion for Africa. He seemed genuinely to care about the people and their future. He refused to give up against enormous, even impossible odds. He welcomed the support of churches and aided us in getting in touch with the proper sources so that we could assist the country.
As I watched and listened, I could not help but think of Christ's ambassadors. We represent Almighty God on this fallen planet. Many pastors may even think they serve in forgotten outposts of Christ's kingdom where very little strategic activity ever occurs. Nevertheless, we are called to minister for Christ in a manner that bears the dignity of our King, with confidence appropriate to envoys of God, and with the loving concern of our King who died for the world.
Our work demands that we appreciate and understand the citizens of this far-off country. We speak Christ's Word into a very specific set of circumstances to people bound by time and space. Our message must also bear deep sensitivity and love for the poor lost citizens of earth to whom we are sent to help.
I know that I fall short in both of these areas. Too often I am afraid of offending someone. Last winter I pulled out sermons from early in my ministry and was surprised at my youthful boldness. Over the years I have grown more shy and have even blunted the sharp sword of the Spirit. I have learned that it is safer to go after some issues indirectly, and perhaps I have acted less like Christ's ambassador and more like a skillful politician.
We need to remember for whom we speak and to do so with the dignity, authority, and deference appropriate to ambassadors. We need not shrink from this anti-Christian culture nor from power brokers in the church. Our conduct should command the respect that Paul says is appropriate for ambassadors of the great King (1 Thess. 5:12-13). I have to remind myself from time to time that Christ did give the power of the keys of the kingdom to His church and its ministry. Sometimes I forget and think that the keys of the kingdom rest in congregational opinions or in powerful people. It is time for Christian pastors to act like ambassadors of God.
However, Christ's ambassadors must maintain balance in their position of authority. Paul says that the Lord's servant "must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance" (2 Tim. 2:24-25). That's a tough balance to keep. In fact, only under the power of the Spirit can we act like the king's ambassadors and gentle shepherds at the same time (1 Peter 5:1-3).
When I go to the hospital, when I am counseling or at a board meeting, preaching or in casual conversation I remind myself of who I am and whom I represent. I am the handpicked ambassador of Christ the King sent to represent him among the almighty God's children.
The work of the pastor is summed up in the pulpit. When we take up the Word of God in the temple of the Holy Spirit, God creates a moment that is uniquely divine and unrepeatable.
The ministry of the apostles is likewise summed up in the word preachers. Preaching was their top priority, and in so doing they were simply continuing the work of their Lord (Mark 1:14).
I once heard Dick Lucas, rector of St. Helen's Church in London, say, "God had only one Son, and he made him a preacher." It's true, and it is a source of great encouragement in these days of hostility to preaching and preachers.
The Importance of Preaching in the New Testament
The Greek word group from which come the English words preach, preacher, and preaching are among the most theologically significant in the New Testament.2 Suffice it to say here, the concept of preaching lies at the heart of the apostolic faith. John the Baptist and Jesus came "preaching," and Peter stood and "preached" on the Day of Pentecost. Preaching is the characteristic work of the apostles and prophets in the book of Acts. Paul declared that God chose to save the lost through the "foolishness of what was preached" (1 Cor. 1:21). He commissioned pastor Timothy with these words: "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus… I give you this charge: preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
Throughout Christian history, preaching has consistently played a foundational role in the work of the church. While the term preacher may be a term of derision in our time, Paul was pleased to refer to himself as one appointed "a preacher and an apostle" (1 Tim. 2:7 KJV; NIV "a herald and an apostle").
While New Testament interpreters have discussed at length the distinction between the words preach and teach in the apostolic tradition, it is clear in the New Testament and in the life of the ordinary parish pastor that preaching and teaching are deeply intertwined. If, as contemporary scholarship suggests, preaching in the New Testament is primarily the proclamation of the Good News to unbelievers and teaching is ordinarily instruction in the church, it is also true that both are held together by their subject, Jesus Christ. We do proclaim Christ to the lost, but at the same time preaching is also a proclamation of the claims of Christ to believers. Teaching the church is instruction, but it is also proclamation, for what is it we teach except the truth found in Jesus? All our work as pastors is proclaiming and teaching Christ.
The Authority of Preaching
The preacher or herald in the New Testament world was a member of the royal court and a spokesman of a prince or king (later for the state). These heralds carried a scepter to signify their royal dignity and majesty and typically spoke with a loud voice to declare the word or orders of the king. They came to have religious standing as spokesmen for the gods and were called on to perform religious functions for the state. In short, heralds, like ambassadors, were envoys for the king and therefore acted and spoke for the king. Inherent in the concept is that the heralds carried in themselves the power and authority of the king.
The apostles described their work and the work of the church as preaching. They were certain that the King of Kings commissioned them to declare to the world and to the church the good news contained in God's final revelation, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, they were equally and mysteriously convinced that when they spoke on behalf of King Jesus, He himself spoke, "as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Cor. 5:20).
Such proclamation or teaching must be made with authority or it subtracts from the dignity and sovereignty of God. Preachers in our day need to recover that confidence. We dare not waver before the hostility of the watching world nor the self-centered agendas of contemporary churches. We come in the name and authority of Christ the Lord. Meanwhile, we preachers need to brush up on what Jesus said and how the apostles interpreted His words so that our message will be an authentically Christian word.
Much is said about the deplorable state of preaching in our time. I am convinced that the root of the problem is theological. Pastors find it increasingly difficult to stand and speak as heralds of the Lord. We suffer from a failure of confidence because we depend on our own ability and take far too many cues from our audience. Too often we preach as if asking permission for a hearing. Shy preaching denies the nature of the One for whom we speak and the character of His Word.
The Power of Preaching
To a world and church that questions appropriateness or efficacy of a person standing before a group with moral authority, the apostolic tradition offers the miracle of the Word. Somehow, mysteriously and under the hand of God, preachers stand each Lord's Day and with faltering human speech incarnate the living Word again. That Word goes out in power and strikes human hearts in ways we preachers cannot begin to imagine. The Word of God is sharp and powerful, and it never comes back empty (Heb. 4:12-13).
I am awestruck at the power of the preached Word to touch a world that has been programmed to reject it. I regularly preach to a congregation of which the majority are under my age. They are a high-tech congregation, and the younger members reflect the values and lost dreams of this generation. Yet they listen to me, a man old enough to be their father. And time after time, when I communicate God's Word in my own human manner, it transforms lives in small and large ways. Once a couple on the verge of divorce were struck by the power of the Word in a sermon and decided to give their marriage another chance. Often people report that my preaching or a particular sermon turned their life around. It is a wonder and a privilege.
I recently traveled to the countryside. Life is simple there, and so is church. On Sunday the preacher stood with Bible in hand and a congregation of country folk before him. His sermon was homey — properly so — and made a profound gospel point in simple terms. God reached out of eternity, penetrated my proud, educated heart, and made His point. I was changed. It was the miracle of preaching, the foolishness that is the power of God.
It is time for preachers to remember who they are and stand in the name and authority of Christ before congregations who are skeptical of their preaching. Without apology or wavering we must stand as Christ's envoys and heralds to do God's work. And by God's grace we will.
1Lloyd Rediger, "Beyond the Clergy Killer Phenomenon," Clergy Journal, August 1995, pp. 19-24.
2Cf. Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-76), Vol. 3, pp. 683-718.
3Gardner C. Taylor, How Shall They Preach? (Elgin, Ill.: Progressive Baptist Publishing House, 1977), pp. 52-56.
Taken from The 21st Century Pastor by David Fisher. Copyright 1996 by David Fisher. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. This book is available at your local bookstore or by calling 800-727-3480.
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20)