Embracing Grace: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 29

Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-2; Philemon 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20. 

Image of the hand of God giving life to Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, March 6, 1475 – February 18, 1564, between 1508 and 1512, at the commission of Pope Julius II.

The apostle Paul gave himself some rather unusual titles, don’t you think? One that stuck out to me the other day was the reference to himself as the prisoner of the Lord. I of course know that Paul was imprisoned during his life, but I am not sure he was referring to just his physical imprisonment.

Do you ever feel like you are a prisoner of the Lord? Amplified says Paul called himself a prisoner for the Lord.

That sounds a little better, but not much. We Americans are instilled with the idea of freedom, so when the word “prisoner” comes up in casual conversation, we tend to stop talking and stare down awkwardly at our feet.

I have to ask the question, though, if Jesus came to set us free and to give us abundant life, why in the world would Paul refer to himself as a prisoner of the Lord?  Now I know from my less than pleasant, more carnal days that I sometimes felt that way – redeemed but miserable – no good for the world anymore but certainly not freed from chains as a Christian, but I don’t think this is what Paul meant.

Whenever I stumble across something I don’t understand in the Word, one of the first things I pull out is my Strong’s Concordance. The other thing I grab is a dictionary.

Gee, you must be great at Scrabble.

Not really. I can’t stay away from the dictionary – and that, my friend, is cheating.

The Greek word for prisoner in these references is desmios and simply means “bound, in bonds, a captive, a prisoner.”

Well, that was helpful. I already knew that.

To further add to my confusion is the discovery that this is the same word used to describe the release of Barabbas. Maybe Paul was only referring to his imprisonment by Rome.

It is not until I turn to my dictionary that a bit of clarity shines forth. Collins English Dictionary states that prisoner is “a person deprived of liberty and kept in prison or some other form of custody as a punishment for a crime, while awaiting trial, or for some other reason; a person confined by any of various restraints: we are all prisoners of time,” and informally, “to be uncompromising and resolute in ones actions,” such as “take no prisoners.”1 

Hello, now we’re getting somewhere. If Paul meant he was uncompromising and resolute in his actions for the Lord, then I might glean something from scripture I did not see before. With this in mind, take a look at these two passages. Just for fun, I’m going to insert in brackets the Collins English Dictionary definition and see if it makes more sense. Because Amplified adds additional nuances, I will use that version here:

“I therefore, the [uncompromising and resolute in my actions] prisoner for the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worth the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God’s service, living as becomes you] with complete lowliness of mind (humility) and meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another.”2

And the other:

“Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you just for what I am – I, Paul, an ambassador [of Christ] and an old man and now      a[n] [uncompromising and resolute in my actions] prisoner for His sake also –”3

Okay, when I read this, the word “ambassador” stands out. Take a look at that for a minute. If you flip over to 2 Corinthians 5:20 and Ephesians 6:20, you will see something interesting. Paul calls all of us ambassadors for Christ in 2 Corinthians, but of himself he says he is an ambassador in chains. This sounds an awful lot like a prisoner of the Lord, does it not?

The World English Dictionary states that ambassador is “short for ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary; a diplomatic minister of the highest rank, accredited as permanent representative to another country or sovereign; an authorized representative or messenger.” The word comes from the Latin ambactus, meaning “a servant, vassal,” and from Celtic amb(i)actos, “a messenger, servant.”4

Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary states that “this is the name used by the apostle as designating those who are appointed by God to declare his will.”5

We all know that extraordinary means something beyond the ordinary, it is extra ordinary, but what does plenipotentiary mean? This isn’t a word we use in everyday conversation. Simply put, it is a person “invested with full power or authority to transact business on behalf of another.”6

So, if I take the title “ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary” and add “uncompromising and resolute in my actions” and put them together in context with these scriptures, what I find is that

I am appointed by God as His permanent authorized representative or messenger to the earth, invested uncompromisingly and resolutely with full power and authority from His kingdom message of Grace.

Kind of puts the fear of God in you when you think of yourself in this way. It makes me want all the more to walk in the fruit of His Spirit.

Read:  Ephesians 4:1-2; Philemon 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, what a truly humbling thought to realize You entrust people with Your message of Grace to the world. Help me to fully realize what it means to be Your ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary and to walk in Your full power and authority. In Jesus’ name, amen.


1 “prisoner.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 05 Mar. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/prisoner>.
2 Ephesians 4:1-2. Bold italics in brackets my insertion. Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
3 Philemon 1:9. Bold italics in brackets my insertion. Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
4“ambassador.” Bold mine. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 05 Mar. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ambassador>.
5 “ambassador.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. 05 Mar. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ambassador>.
6 “plenipotentiary.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 05 Mar. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/plenipotentiary>.
Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise
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One Response to Embracing Grace: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

  1. garage door says:

    Interesting and kept me reading.