Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 17, 1955

We Are Not Ambassadors

Hoyt H. Houchen, San Antonio, Texas

The apostle Paul wrote: "We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:20.) Now and then we hear some brother apply the term "ambassadors" in this verse to preachers and other Christians. A close examination of the above passage will show that Paul applied the term "ambassadors" to himself and his fellow apostles, while he applied the other terms in the verse, "you" and "ye" to the Corinthians.

I. Use Of The Word,

The word "ambassador" is translated from the Greek word "presbuo," a word that appears but twice in the New Testament-2 Corinthians 5:20 and Ephesians 6:20. In each case Paul uses the term either with reference to himself or other apostles. An ambassador is a special minister, of the highest rank, sent by one prince or government to another to manage the affairs of state.

II. Primary Authority

To properly understand the relationship sustained by the apostles as compared to Christians living now is to be determined by the use God has made of authority. The word "authority" means: "The right to command and enforce obedience." (New Standard Dictionary) There are two kinds of authority — primary and delegated. Those who have the former have the right to command; those who hold the latter have the right to command and enforce obedience which was given by the one holding the former. Primary authority in Christianity resides solely in God. ( Cor. 5:18.) He has rarely seen fit to govern his creatures by personal and primary authority, but has delegated that authority to others.

III. Delegated Authority

In the New Testament we see that God delegated His authority to Christ. (Heb. 1:1, 2; Matt. 17:5; 28:18.) In turn, Christ delegated his authority to his apostles. It was not the design of Christ to leave this world without selecting suitable persons to represent his cause and carry out his purpose. These persons were his twelve apostles whom he had trained to know his way and his will. Having beheld his glorious works, his miracles, and his body following his triumphant resurrection from the dead, they became witnesses. Before ascending to his Father, Jesus told his apostles: "And ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8.)

In order to more fully qualify the apostles for the work assigned them, they were promised the Holy Spirit who was to teach them and bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had told them. (John 14:26; 16:13.) This promise was fulfilled when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4.) By their being brought under the influence of the Holy Spirit on that day, three thousand enemies were made friends, and these betrayers and murderers were the first to be reconciled to God by the death of His Son.

IV. Ambassadors Now

We have seen by the very definition of the word "ambassador" that there cannot be any today who can qualify for that office. An ambassador is backed by all the authority of the government that sends him — he represents the government in an official capacity. Such were the apostles of Christ. Men today do not have the capacity that they had. MacKnight translates 2 Corinthians 5:20: "In Christ's stead (italics mine), therefore, who is God's chief ambassador, we execute the office of subordinate ambassadors."

God's last revelation was made through inspired men who wrote the New Testament. Our obedience is to the word of God which was given to the apostles and that is the word which we preach today. Since we have the written word, we have the word of the apostles. It was with them that authority ceased. When the last apostle died, so died the last ambassador and the last witness. The crowned Prince has never revoked the message that he sent by them nor has he superseded their embassy. It is "the faith which was once for all delivered ...." (Jude 3.) It is the "word of faith" to the unbelieving. It exhibits all the great facts of the gospel, its commands and promises. It is the word of salvation that was given by God to Christ and by him to the apostles. The apostles declared it to the world and it is through that word that is revealed that men are reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:18, 19.) We are proclaiming that message that was revealed by the apostles, who were the Lord's ambassadors. We today do not have the credentials of ambassadors. We do not have any new revelation, we cannot work miracles, and we do not have the authority that Jesus gave to his ambassadors, the apostles. This being true, there are no ambassadors now.