Volume 9, No. 2 (February 2014)
8. YES AND AMEN: God’s Program in Two Words (2 Corinthians 1:20)
The Gospel in Miniature
Nestled in the opening strains of Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians is a statement which plumbs the depths of God’s redemptive work through Christ and the relationship with Him which we enjoy because of it.
The context finds Paul addressing the charge of insincerity to which he found himself vulnerable in Corinth because of a change in his plans for revisiting that city. He had had to redirect his itinerary, and now he wants to make it clear to the Corinthian believers that he is not one to vacillate: he is a man of his word (1:17). The reason Paul finds this so important to emphasize is that he wants them to understand that there is no mixed message and no unclear sound from the trumpet when it comes to the gospel he proclaimed to them. “As God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no” (1:18). There is unequivocally one way of salvation, and this is the message which Paul and his companions (Silvanus and Timothy, 1:19) preached to the Corinthians—without wavering, without apology, without compromise, without vacillation (1:18-19). They were faithful communicators of God’s plan of salvation.
The faithfulness of the messengers is but a dim reflection of the way God Himself has dealt with the Corinthians:
For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him [Christ]. (1:20a)
God has faithfully fulfilled all His promises in His Son; in Jesus Christ all these promises receive a resounding “Yes!”:
- All the promises inherent in God’s creation of the world, for man to rule over, and in God’s creation of man in His image, for fellowship with Himself;
- All the promises extended to fallen man concerning redemption to come, from Genesis 3:16 to the sacrificial system of Israel to the Messianic and redemptive prophecies of the Old Testament:
- the promise to Eve concerning her seed (Genesis 3:15),
- to Abraham concerning his seed and the blessing of the world (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:15-18),
- to Moses concerning the prophet like himself (Deuteronomy 18:18),
- to David concerning his Son who would sit on his throne forever (1 Samuel 7:12-13),
- to Isaiah concerning a virgin-born Child (7:14) and eternal King (9:2,6-7 ), and a Suffering Servant whose travails would satisfy God (52:13—53:12),
All of these find their fulfillment in Christ, along with a host of other hints and foreshadowings and types and hopes (cf. Luke 24:25-27; Acts 2:16-36; 3:22-25; 7:2-53; Romans 1:2-3,16-17; 3:21-26; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 10:1-4; Ephesians 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-2; 3:5-6; 4:8-9; 7:17-22,26-28; 8:5; 9:8-15,24-26; 10:1-18; 11:39-40; 12:18-24; 13:9-10,11-12,14; 1 Pet. 1:10-12).
All of these promises (and many others) find their Yes, their fulfillment, “in Him”: Jesus Himself is the message (cf. 1:19, “the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us”): He is the personification of God’s stupendous plan for mankind; He is the grand and glorious exclamation point to all that God has revealed about Himself; He is the “Yes!” to all that God in His grace has intended for us.
God has planned it all and brought it to fruition through the saving work of His Son; it is left for us simply to respond and receive and adore:
That is why it is through Him [Christ] that we utter our Amen to God for His glory. (1:20b)
“That is why” emphasizes that our part is completely and utterly dependent on God’s part: He has initiated and consummated His saving purposes on our behalf. Our response is “through Him [Christ],” in acknowledgment of God’s Yes to us through the redemptive work of Jesus; and that response is summarized by Paul as “our Amen.” Paul is using a figure of speech (known as synecdoche) where a small part is used to represent a much larger whole; by it Paul indicates that all of our responses of prayer and praise and worship, which are so often punctuated with a final “Amen” (meaning “it is true” or “so be it”), are expressions of grateful assent and surrender to God’s loving purposes for us in Christ.
More than that, our entire lives (which is the true New Testament scope and realm of worship, according to John 4:23 and Romans 12:1) are to be a confirmation and reflection of the wondrous work God has wrought in us. Our “Amen” is the full-orbed response of love, with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), to God’s “Yes” to us in Jesus; and this love we express through life- and lifestyle-pervading worship.
All of Christ
It should be noticed that Jesus Christ is not only the message (1:19); not only is He the fulfillment of the many promises of God (1:20a); not only is He the subject and object of our adoring and grateful response of “Amen” (1:20b): Jesus Christ is the active agent in our response of worship to God for all that He done for us in His Son. Our “Amen” is not just to Him, or for Him—our Amen of response is actually “through Him” (1:20b). Jesus does not leave us in our (albeit redeemed) frailty and weakness to drum up an appropriate response to God for His magnificent promises and their coming to fruition in His Son; no, Jesus leads the way as our Mediator in returning to the Father praise and honor and thanks for His redeeming work, for “summing all things up in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10).
And so our own response is but an echo of our High Priest’s, and it gives our Maker pleasure—not because we have brought a level or quality or quantity of response appropriate to or worthy of His glory; but because the living Christ Himself has made our response for us, and in so doing has made it perfect and worthy and acceptable. That perfect worship which God in His perfection must and does require is effected by our Substitute and is credited to our account; in so doing God is indeed “working in us that which is pleasing in His sight” (Hebs. 13:21), with the result that “no man may boast” (1 Cor. 1:29 ).
Our Amen (initiated and carried out through Christ) completes and complements God’s Yes to us in Christ; so in Christ the entire duality is carried out and completed: He is the operative force both in the God-to-man movement of “Yes,” and in the man-to-God response of “Amen.” Thus in Christ we see the fulfillment of the foundational Revelation-Response paradigm of Scripture (see Worship Notes 1.5): He is the agent of God’s Revelation (“Yes”) and also the agent of our Response back to God (“Amen”). Thus 2 Corinthians 1:20 brilliantly expresses in microcosm the centrality of Christ and His work, in much the same way as does Hebrews 2:12 (see Worship Notes 1.8).
To the Glory of God
God’s plan, its fulfillment in Christ, and the response of worship on our part: all these aspects work together to evoke the “praise of His glory” (Ephes. 1:6,12,14) through God’s sovereign and gracious “Yes” to us in Jesus Christ and through our humble and neverending response of “Amen.”
God has said, “Here is my Son, offered up for your salvation. Yes!”
We reply, “Thank You, Father. Thank You, Jesus. Amen!”
And thus God thus brings great glory to His blessed name.