Tuesday, March 13, 2018
AMBASSADORS FOR PEACE
The word translated "ambassadors" (πρεσβεύομεν) is a verb, not a noun. Originally, the verb meant to be the oldest or to assume first place in rank. By the time of Paul, the verb came to mean the actions of an ambassador who represents another person in negotiations (NIDNTT, 1:193). The word was used to refer to the Emperor's legate, one who carries out the official duties of an envoy or emissary. Those duties could include petition and intercession on behalf of the king (M&M, Vocabulary of the Greek NT, p.534). Paul uses the same verb to describe his mission in Ephesians 6:20 where he writes, "I am an ambassador in chains" (πρεσβεύω ἐν ἁλύσει). Chains may become the badge of our position because we represent a king, not of this world.
We act as representatives not just on behalf of Christ but in place of Christ (ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ). The prepositional phrase is placed first in the sentence for emphasis. It is true that the preposition ὑπὲρ does not necessarily infer a substitutionary meaning like the preposition ἀντὶ. However, ὑπὲρ is often used in a vicarious way meaning "instead of" or "in place of" someone else, and the context here supports such a substitutionary meaning (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.209, fn 48, see p.193, fn 24). We are ambassadors in place of Jesus Christ which is why when we speak we are speaking "as though God were making an appeal through us." The particle ὡς followed by the genitive absolute τοῦ θεοῦ makes the genitive the subject of the participle παρακαλοῦντος (R&R, Linguistic Key, p.470). The better translation would read: "We are ambassadors in place of Christ, with the conviction that God is appealing through us." When we as His ambassadors talk peace, God talks through us. God is present in our words (Martin, 2 Corinthians, p.156).
Our mission is to call all people to "be reconciled to God" (καταλλάγητε τῷ θεῷ). Paul does not say that we call people to believe they are reconciled. We plead with people to be reconciled (Witherington, Conflict & Community, p.397, fn 16). People are to put away the enmity in their hearts toward God (repentance) by accepting God's peace achieved for them in Christ (faith). God appeals (παρακαλοῦντος) to people through us. The verb means to implore, entreat or request people to be reconciled (BAGD, p.617).
The appeal to be vertically reconciled to God leads naturally into the appeal to be horizontally reconciled to each other. Paul is not only thinking of the outside world in this appeal. He is thinking about the Corinthians themselves as the following verses make clear. He is concerned that the professing Christians in Corinth might have received the grace of God in vain according to the next verse (2 Cor. 6:1) so he urges or appeals (παρακαλοῦμεν) to them to be reconciled. Later he will beg them to "make room for him in their hearts" (2 Cor. 7:2-4). Paul sees the dynamic connection between vertical and horizontal reconciliation.
We are ambassadors for peace in a hostile world. No peace with God means no peace with others. No peace with others is a sign we have no peace with God. God talks peace when we talk peace! Lord, help me to be a peacemaker for you.