God helps those who help themselves.
75% of American Christians believe the above phrase is one of the central themes of the Bible. Plus a majority of believers even rank the phrase as one of the best known Bible verses.
Yet, both assumptions are false. Thus, the above popular phrase reflects the unfamiliarity we Christians have with the Bible and the God of the Bible.
You see, without the Father’s grace and mercy, we believers are helpless weaklings, able to accomplish little in the world. We can’t save ourselves. We can’t deliver ourselves from the kingdom of darkness. In fact, what can we do without God’s help?
“Stupid is as stupid does,” said the mother to little Forrest Gump in the movie by the same name. Her words accurately state what we can do without God’s help.
Yet, not only are we believers dependent on God’s help, but we also need God’s chosen representatives to help us.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
For which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:20)
The Greek word presbeuō is used only twice in the New Testament and is translated into the English word ambassador both times.
Now, I know most of us look at the word ambassador in these two verses and think all Christians can be described as such. In the general sense, this is probably true, but Paul did not use the term in a general sense. He specifically used it to describe himself and his group.
What was Paul? He was an apostle.
The Greek word apostolos is translated into the English word apostle. It actually means a person sent on a mission with orders, an emissary, or envoy.
Ding! Dong! The meaning for apostolos and the two synonyms – emissary and envoy – also describe perfectly the word ambassador.
Thus, when Paul said he was an ambassador, he was referring to himself as an apostle and that he had specific orders backing his mission.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
In the above verses of Ephesians, Paul spoke to all of us Christians, saying our main battles are not against other people, but against Satan and his horde of demons. Paul then gave instructions on how we could stand in battles through the armor of God, the shield of faith, sword of the Spirit, helmet of salvation, and prayer.
But nowhere in Ephesians 6, does Paul state how we can win the battle, only how to stay strong in battles, which speaks more about our defensive strategies.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)
In the above passage in 2 Corinthians, Paul relates how to win spiritual warfare battles in regions, but his use of the pronouns we and our do not refer to all of us Christians. The pronouns specifically referred to Paul and his apostolic group, and by extension to all apostles.
Ambassadors? Apostles? Inner Cities? White men? How will all this work out?
(Continued in Part 5)