Representing Christ with IntegrityMay 18th, 2012 | By admin | Category: Special Features (click on Article name)
Representing Christ with Integrity
A wicked messenger falls into adversity, but a faithful envoy brings healing.—Proverbs 13:17, NASB
The position of ambassador, messenger, or envoy requires a loyal and trustworthy person who possesses firm principles and integrity. Integrity implies consistency in actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. Integrity suggests having an intuitive sense of honesty and truthfulness in one’s actions. Thus integrity may be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy. Integrity is motivated by virtue, while hypocrisy pretends a standard that one does not actually possess.
The Proverbs text in the beginning describes a messenger who lacks integrity. That person gets into trouble and brings dishonor to his home country. He proves false, betrays his counsel, and defeats designs. Once discovered, the messenger falls into condemnation. God despises those who betray a confidence.
Ambassadors with integrity, however, accomplish much. They serve admirably the interest of their countries. They bring health to the relationship between the host country and the citizenship country. They heal differences between the two and preserve a good understanding; they bring health to themselves because their interest lies in their country’s interest.
1 Kings 5 records the profitable outcome when ambassadors acted faithfully. Ambassadors representing King Solomon and King Hiram of Tyre reached an agreement to exchange timber for food during the building of the first temple. This brought peace to both nations: “So the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he had promised him; and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty together” (1 Kings 5:12, NKJV). This wisdom was displayed in the proper choice of ambassadors. Those ambassadors in turn proved faithful to the cause of their respective kings.
But other ambassadors were not as honorable: “When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy. And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us” (Joshua 9:3-6, NKJV).
The Gibeonites obtained a treaty with Israel through deception because Israel “did not ask counsel of the LORD” (Joshua 9:14). The treaty caused Israel great difficulty as they had “sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them” (Joshua 9:19, NASB). It was only through God’s action that the situation was corrected when the Gibeonites became Israel’s servants and worked as woodcutters and water carriers.
Integrity Accompanies Knowledge
Christians today who are ambassadors for Christ must act with integrity and have a good knowledge of Christ, his heavenly Father, and their plans for all mankind. Vine’s Expository Dictionary suggests that the Greek word presbeuo (Strong’s #4243), translated ambassador, also has the thought of elder, one who is experienced. This experience comes from the knowledge and respect of Christ and our heavenly Father. Paul states that Christians must “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1).
Paul brings out some of the knowledge required to be able to “walk worthy”:
- The mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:3).
- The unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).
- The manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).
- The extent of Christ’s love for mankind (Ephesians 3:19).
There is a purpose to this knowledge. A representative of Christ must possess this knowledge so that “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14,15,NASB). Without this knowledge ambassadors cannot be “imitators of God” walking in love and following Christ’s example (Ephesians 5:1).
Integrity, But Not for Personal Gain
“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God” (2 Corinthians 2:17, NIV). This is the only place in the Bible where the Greek word kapeleuo (Strong’s #2585), translated “peddle,” occurs. It signifies a huckster or a retailer of wine who bought and resold it. These retailers were notorious for diluting their wines with water to increase their profit. Thus the word came to mean to adulterate, to corrupt, and that is what appears in some translations. Paul applied this word to those who adulterated or corrupted the pure word of God for personal gain. Throughout the Gospel age there have been many who claimed to represent Christ but were actually peddling the message for financial gain. One blatant example was the sale of indulgences by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. These documents could be purchased to remit punishment for future sins. The selling of indulgences was strongly repudiated by Martin Luther in 1517.
Simon the Sorcerer is an example of a preacher who sought only personal gain. Simon had been making a living through his sorcery. After hearing Philip speak of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God, he was baptized but he did not receive the gifts of the holy spirit as he had hoped. When Peter and John were sent to Samaria, Simon observed their method and sought to get the spirit for himself: “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit. Peter answered: May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:18-21,NIV).
Simon saw only the opportunity to profit from what was a free gift from God. Ambassadors for Christ must remember that the gifts received from above are to be used for Christ, not for personal gain. Paul admonished Christians to “renounce secret and shameful ways,” not using “deception” or trying to “distort the word of God.” He then spelled out the positive message that must be brought to the world: “On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. … For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:2,5,6, NIV).
Integrity and Behavior
Ambassadors must not only have integrity in words and motives, but also in behavior. During his first advent, Jesus criticized the behavior of the religious leaders. They were the ambassadors to the Jewish people at that time and responsible for bringing to them the word of God. Yet speaking about them Christ said: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi” (Matthew 23:1-7, NKJV).
What a different example Christ set for his followers! The Son of God, the King of kings, could have commanded all the respect that his titles allowed, and yet he told his disciples: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, NKJV).
The commentator Matthew Henry wrote: “He was never ministered to as a great man; he never took state upon him, was not waited on at table; he once washed his disciples’ feet, but we never read that they washed his feet. He came to minister help to all that were in distress; he made himself a servant to the sick and diseased; was as ready to their requests as ever any servant was at the beck of his master, and took as much pains to serve them; he attended continually to this very thing, and denied himself both food and rest to attend to it.”
Absolute service to the citizenship country—in the Christian’s case, the heavenly one—is an integral part of an ambassador’s work. Actions do speak louder than words. It is one’s actions that will either bring honor or dishonor to the master. Ambassadors are required to go into the world, to live and to bring the message to the people. Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NKJV).
The phrase “you are the light of the world” could cause one to become high-minded and take a position similar to the scribes and Pharisees who saw themselves in Moses’ seat. But this light is not the light that shines because of one’s own abilities, but it is the light that is provided by our heavenly Father through the holy spirit.
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary has this on Matthew 5:14: “It must be applied here by our Lord to His disciples only as they shine with His light upon the world, in virtue of His Spirit dwelling in them, and the same mind being in them which was also in Christ Jesus. Nor are Christians anywhere else so called. Nay, as if to avoid the august title which the Master has appropriated to Himself, Christians are said to ‘shine,’ not as ‘lights,’ as our translators render it, but ‘as luminaries in the world.’ ”
Those who aspire to be ambassadors for Christ must diligently study God’s word and then apply what they have learned so they can act with total integrity. Paul reminded Titus and all Christians: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7,8,NASB).