Another passage of Holy Writ which throws light on the certainty and wholly particular and unconditional character of the promises of God is the word of the apostle Paul in . We quote: “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to youward. For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the days of the Lord Jesus. And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judea. When I therefore was thus minded did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” These words culminate in verse 20 and it is this text which is now of primary interest to us.
In verses 12-16 the apostle affirms unto the church at Corinth that he, by the grace of God, had conducted himself in simplicity and godly sincerity, not only in the midst of the world, but more abundantly toward them. Fleshly wisdom had not motivated the apostle to the heathen. He had written none other things unto them that what they read or acknowledge; that is he had written what he meant and had meant what he had written; he had written, not vaguely or indefinitely or ambiguously, but clearly and honestly and sincerely. And in the confidence that he was their rejoicing as truly as they were his, even until and in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, he had proposed to come unto them before in order that they might have a second benefit, even as they always were benefited spiritually when he visited among them. Unto that end he had intended to pass by them into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto them, and to be brought of them on his way toward Judea. This intention, however, he had not carried out.
In the verses 17-19 Paul rises unto the defense of his apostolic preaching. It is evident that the word of the apostle, whereof we read in verse 18, “But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay”, refers to his preaching. Paul evidently does not refer to his desire to come unto them, which he had expressed to them, and which he had been unable to fulfill. Verse 19 renders it beyond all doubt that the apostle in verse 18 refers to his apostolic preaching. In that verse Paul speaks of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was preached among them by himself and also by Silvanus and Timotheus. We must bear in mind that the apostle Paul was under attack by his enemies at Corinth. We read in verse 17: “When I therefore was thus minded did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay? A double accusation the apostle’s enemies hurl at Paul because of his failure to come to Corinth as he had desired. He either used lightness or had purposed according to the flesh. To be guilty of lightness implied that he was guilty of worthless levity; he was a man who made rash promises, did not think before he spoke. And to be guilty of purposing according to the flesh was worse; it implied that he was governed by worldly or selfish interests and considerations. In either case, he was a Yes and No man. And his enemies used this occasion to attack the apostle in his apostolic capacity. Paul, they said, was not dependable, and this also applied to his apostolic labors; with him there was yea, yea, and nay, nay; he said one thing today and another thing tomorrow; he was contradictory, confusing, untrustworthy, fickle, undependable.
Notice now the answer of the apostle to this evil charge in the verses 18-29. What a truly noble answer it is! As far as his failure to come to Corinth is concerned, he answers that charge in verse 23. That can wait for the present. The apostle is not primarily concerned with himself; he cares little what his enemies may say of him personally. But, it does concern him that they attack his preaching, his gospel; the apostle is so much more concerned about his preaching, the gospel of the living God, than about himself. “But as God is true”, we read in verse 18, “our word toward you was not yea and nay.” Literally this text reads: “But God is faithful that my word towards you was not yea and nay.” Different interpretations are given of this particular passage. According to some we should understand this Word of God as follows: “But God is faithful that my word towards you was not yea and nay; I may be unfaithful and undependable, but God is faithful. And because He is faithful, my word, which is His word, is firm and true.” Others regard this passage as an asseveration (a solemn pledge or statement) or an oath. As true as God is faithful, so true it is that my word is not yea and nay. And, because He is faithful and true He will vindicate my word that it is not yea and nay. We, then, may insert the word “know” and read this passage as follows: “But God is faithful and knows that my word is not yea and nay.” Paul, then, appeals to God and asserts here that his word is not yea and nay, and, that his word is not yea and nay is as true as God is faithful. Whatever interpretation one may adopt, Paul in this text affirms that his preaching is not yea and nay, this today and something else tomorrow, yea today and nay tomorrow, but always yea and true.
In verse 19 the apostle gives us the ground for his assertion to the effect that his word or preaching was not yea and nay. My preaching is true, Paul means to say, because Christ is true. And how could this be any different? Christ is the Son of God, is He not? Jesus Christ is not yea and nay, changeable, inconsistent, contradictory. The apostle, speaking of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in verse 19, is not speaking of the gospel of Christ but of Christ Himself. He does not intend to declare in this text that there was perfect consistency between his own preaching and that of Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus, that his preaching of the Christ did not differ from their preaching of Him. He does not emphasize here their preaching of the Christ, but the Christ of their preaching. He is speaking of Christ Himself. We should also notice that he declares here that this Christ was preached unto them, by himself and also by Silvanus and Timotheus. The force of the apostle’s words is surely that he is appealing here to the spiritual experience of the church at Corinth. Through my preaching, the apostle means to say, and that of Silas and Timotheus, you, believers at Corinth, learned to know spiritually Christ Jesus. And they learned to know Him as the perfect Yea, the full and simple and complete truth. In Him is no contradiction, no inconsistency, no Yea today and Nay tomorrow, but always the full and complete satisfying of all our needs. He is always the same. He is always ready and able to forgive us all our sins and iniquities and give us the assurance of being righteous before God. He is always ready and able to fill our hearts with peace and rest in the midst of all the vicissitudes and trials of life. He is always faithful and powerful to save and give us grace to resist the forces of evil and bear all shame and reproach in the conviction and blessed assurance that we are more than conquerors and that all things work together for good. In Him is a fullness of salvation and a complete satisfying of all our needs. And He is the unchangeable, never varying Christ. It is not true that whereas He might be inclined to hear us in favor today, He may be ill-disposed toward us tomorrow. He is true and ever the same, even as God is true; fact is, He is the Son of God and the personal revelation of God as the God of our salvation. This Christ the Corinthians learned to know; Him the apostle Paul preached; hence, his word is true for that Christ is true.
Verse 20 is the confirmation of all that precedes. That Christ is the perfect Yea and that ye learned to know Him as such is because: For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Which Translation of Verse 20.
Anyone attempting an interpretation of verse 20 of this chapter is confronted with the choice between two possible translations. The one translation is that which appears in our King James version: “For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” or literally: “For whatever promises there are of God, in Him is the yea, and in Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” Another reading of the text (I believe this translation appears in the Revised Version) is as follows: “For whatever promises there are of God, in Him is the yea, and through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” The difference between these translations is apparent. The King James version reads: “In Him is the yea and in Him the Amen.” The other translation reads: “In Him is the yea and through Him the Amen.” The latter translation views the Amen as the subjective reaction of the Church to the promises of God in Christ; the Church answers “Amen”; or, as one writer expresses it: this text speaks of God’s Yea and man’s or the Church’s Amen.
We choose the second reading or translation, and would, therefore, read the text as follows: “For whatever promises there are of God, in Him is the yea, and through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” Firstly, this reading is generally acknowledged to be the correct reading of the text. Secondly, it gives a richer meaning and a more complete explanation in harmony with the context. It is true that the present King James translation gives good sense and furnishes us with an idea which is surely Scriptural. Yea and Amen, we should understand, are particles of affirmation—the one is Greek and the other is Hebrew. This repetition would emphasize the truth that in Christ is the fulfillment of the promises of God. Just as “verily, verily” emphasizes the truthfulness of a certain statement (and Christ often used this expression), so also the repetition of the particle of affirmation in this text merely serves to emphasize the fact that all the promises of God are sure in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Yet, we believe the second reading to be the correct translation of the text. It should not escape our attention that the word “Amen” does not occur at the end of verse 19, and we might have expected it to appear there. Verse 19 reads: “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who. . . . was not yea and nay, but in Him was yea.” The very fact that this word is added in verse 20 suggests the thought that it is a new thought, not synonymous with the “Yea” of verse 19. And this receives added significance if we adopt what is generally considered the proper reading: “For all the promises of God are yea in Him and Amen through Him.” This “Amen”, then, denotes the response of the Church by faith to the fulfillment of the promises of God in Christ Jesus. And finally, if we adopt this particular reading of the text, we will also better understand the concluding words of this text: “Unto the glory of God by us.” The “us” of verse 20 refer to Paul and the rest of the preachers of the gospel. This appears from the entire context. These preachers of the gospel are the media through whom God is glorified by the church. Through or by them the gospel of God is proclaimed unto the people of the living God and this gospel speaks of nothing else but the promises of God in Christ Jesus. We conclude, therefore, that the Amen in verse 20 is the spiritual and subjective response of the Church of God to the sure and fulfilled promise of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
All the Promises of God Yea In Christ Jesus.
All the promises of God, we read, are Yea in Christ Jesus. The text speaks emphatically of “whatever promises of God”. This expression refers, we understand, to all and every one of the promises of the Lord. Of these promises we read that the Yea is in Christ. The word “Yea” refers to their affirmation, establishment, fulfillment. “Nay” cannot be said of any of these promises. Of all the promises of God not a single denial, lack or failure of fulfillment characterizes a single one of them. They have all been fulfilled in Christ. The word “promises”, we understand, refers to all the promises of God throughout the ages. To discuss them in detail is not necessary at this time. The promise of God, in this text, refers indeed to the Lord’s solemn declaration that He would grant deliverance unto His people, who by nature are objects of divine wrath and children of disobedience, and lead them into the glory of His eternal and heavenly covenant. The plural “promises” emphasizes every aspect and detail of that promise of Jehovah. The promise of the Lord to forgive us every sin, to lead us every step of the way, to cause all things to work together for our good, to bestow upon us the glory of His eternal and heavenly tabernacle in all its unspeakable glory and beauty has been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Not a single aspect or detail of this amazing promise of Jehovah has remained unfulfilled.
These promises of God, we read, have been fulfilled in Christ. They have been realized by Him and in Him they have become a fact. It is because they have been fulfilled in Christ and have therefore become reality in Him that the holy writer declares in this text that these promises are Yea in Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed realized them through His blood upon Calvary and has indeed obtained them at His glorification at the Father’s right hand. In Him they have been realized, have become a fact, upon the cross, according to the righteousness of God. He has secured the forgiveness of all our sins, has accomplished the condemnation of the world, has sealed with His suffering and death the salvation or redemption of Zion and the eternal condemnation and destruction of the world, has merited eternal life for Himself and the children whom God has given Him, and obtained for Himself the right to lead that people out of their present sin and darkness and death into the glory of God’s eternal tabernacle. And in Christ these promises have been realized also at His exaltation. For unto Him has been given all power and wisdom, glory and honor. He has received the Spirit beyond measure. He has Himself received the glory of God’s eternal tabernacle and also the power and wisdom to lead His chosen into the glory which He Himself has received from the Father. Indeed, in Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yea, realized and fulfilled.
Let us understand: all the promises of God are Yea in Christ. They do not depend for their fulfillment upon us. They have been realized and fulfilled, unconditionally. Our sins are pardoned, unconditionally. Eternal life has been merited for us, unconditionally. We have been redeemed, purchased by the precious blood of the Christ out of the power of sin and death, and we have become heirs of life and glory everlasting, unconditionally. This is the repeated language of Holy Writ. Hence, these promises of God are wholly particular, intended only for the elect, bestowed only upon the elect, and that unconditionally.
Through Christ Is The Amen.
Indeed, such is the implication of the apostle in this text, therefore our Amen is through Christ. Our Amen follows upon the fulfillment of the promises of God in Christ. Our Amen is caused by this realization of the divine promises. The former is not the cause but the fruit of the latter. How could the people of God ever express their affirmation of the promises of God except for the fact that they have been realized in our Lord Jesus Christ?!
Notice also that our Amen is through Christ. To be sure, by Him they have been realized. But through Him is our Amen. He is the medium, the channel through Whom the Church exclaims “Amen”. Of God through the Lord Jesus Christ we receive all the blessings of salvation. With Him we must be united by faith, become one plant with Him. Through Him we have access unto the living God and taste the blessed fellowship with that alone blessed God. And through Christ is the Amen, the conscious, subjective affirmation by the Church of all the promises of God in Christ Jesus. Through Him the people of the Lord confirm the fact of the establishment of these divine promises. Through Him the Church acknowledges that what she possesses she possesses in Christ alone, alone for Christ’s sake. Through Christ we declare that nothing is of us, that all is of and through Him. In Christ are the promises. All we ever do is say “Amen”.
Hence: Unto the Glory of God.
“For all the promises of God are yea in Him, and through Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” This lies in the nature of the case. For, and let us understand this fully, the text speaks of the promises of God. God is God. All the universe, together with all the children of men that shall have lived from the beginning of time until the end, the sum-total of all things, is less than a drop of water on the bucket and a particle of dust on the balances in comparison with that living God. These are God’s promises. And God is not a man. His promises are never to be confused with a mere offer, contingent and dependent upon him to whom the promises are made. All glory must be unto God. Fact is, that these promises are Yea in Christ is only because it is God Who fulfilled them in Christ, His Son and our Lord. It is God who sent His Son into the likeness of sinful flesh and that for sin in order that sin might be condemned in the flesh. It is God Who sustained His Servant throughout His amazing passion, suffering and death. It is God Who enabled the Christ through the everlasting Spirit to suffer the burden of God’s eternal and infinite wrath so as to deliver others from it. It is God Who, having sent His Son into death, the shameful and bitter death of the cross, also raised Him from the dead, and exalted Him into the highest glory, even at the right hand of the Father. It is God Who gave Him a Name above every name, Who clothed Him with all power, glory, might, and honor, and gave Him the Spirit beyond measure. It is the living God Who fulfilled all His promises of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us.
Hence, all glory must be ascribed unto God. To be sure, we must fight the good fight of faith. We must put off the old man and put on the new. We must believe on and in the Lord Jesus Christ and run the race even unto the end. We must love and believe and hope that no one may take our crown. But it is all given us of grace. The promises of God are yea in Christ. In Him they have been realized and fulfilled. In Him our salvation is sure. And through Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, the captain of our salvation, the bishop of our souls, the Shepherd of His sheep, we say “Amen”, express our joyful assurance that in Him all has been completed, and through Him give thanks and glory and praise unto God, for alone of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things. We conclude, therefore, that also 2 Cor. 1:20 establishes the unconditional and wholly particular character of the promises of God.