It is something wonderful we all share! No matter our language, ethnicity, culture, church tradition, theology, or style of worship, we Jesus followers all know, and we say, “Amen!” It is a universal word grafted into Greek, Latin, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, Swahili, and so many other languages. Amen is a word that travels wherever the Gospel goes. All God’s people really do say, “Amen!”
It is remarkable that Paul lifts up a prayer and doxology in the Greek language but completes it with a Hebrew word coming from the backwaters of the Roman Empire. That is because Amen quickly spread and became a precious watchword to Christians everywhere. Amen means so much more than, “I am finished with my prayer.” Amen is a word that carries with it a wondrous way of looking at God and all of life that no Christian wanted to lose.
Amen is a Hebrew word from a root word meaning “to be established, to be faithful, to be firm.” Psalmists frequently conclude a psalm with “Amen”, confirming their words as established, faithful, and firm. Thus, a psalmist prays: “Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen” (Psalm 72:19). Other psalms call for people to lift up their Amen to the Lord: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. And let all the people say, ‘Amen’. Praise the LORD” (Psalm 106:48). When the Old Testament scribe, Ezra, read Scripture to the people and then blessed them, “all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’, lifting up their hands” (Nehemiah 8:5-6). Amen ratifies what has been spoken.
Our Lord Jesus frequently used “Amen” which modern versions translate as “truly.” Thus, Jesus speaks “Amen” to emphasize His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him: “Very truly” (“Amen Amen”), I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life” (John 6:47). Jesus seeks to reassure the dying criminal by saying “Amen”: “Truly (“Amen”) I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Here is certainty, something firm and reliable.
It was customary for first-century Christians to say “Amen” in their gathered worship (1 Corinthians 14:16), and “Amen” is found at the conclusion of other New Testament prayers, e.g., Philippians 4:20; Revelation 7:12. But in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we find the most profound meaning of “Amen” for believers: “For in him [Christ] every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes’. For this reason, it is through him that we say ‘Amen’, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). In Christ, all the promises of God to us are confirmed. We can “Amen” to the glory of God!
Old Testament scholar Marvin Williams says that when worshippers pray “Amen”, they are saying, as it were, “this is worthy of trust; it is reliable, solid, stable, permanent, lasting; I affirm it as true; may God bring it to pass.” (Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith). “Amen” signals far more than the ending of our prayer, rather, the beginning of what God will do according to His great purpose.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
“‘Amen’ is like the ‘Send’ button on an email.” Steve Toltz