Songs, blogs, and books often affirm that “the promises of God are yes and amen,” to inspire people to keep going in hard times or to hold on to dreams. In today’s culture, people often claim specific things as “promises of God,” such as the assurance of healing, comfort, or financial security.
They would argue that declaring “Amen” and having faith ensures that Christ will answer yes to these supposed “promises.” However, people who take this perspective often take verses like 2 Corinthians 1:20 out of context, ignoring what the verse is saying to readers. All God’s promises are “yes” in Christ, but He fulfills all biblical promises, not personal desires.
An important aspect of reading and interpreting the Bible is to keep verses in context and consider the background setting of specific verses. In 2 Corinthians, Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about false teachers and the accusations they were making against his character and apostleship.
As the Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament edition states, “One reason Paul wrote this letter was to answer insinuations raised in Corinth about the authenticity of his apostleship, the propriety of his conduct, and the sincerity of his commitment to those Christians.” By keeping the overall purpose of the epistle in mind, will help readers to better understand passages and verses in 2 Corinthians.
In the latter part of chapter one of 2 Corinthians, Paul discusses his travel plans and intention to visit the Corinthian church twice as he went to and from Macedonia (2 Corinthians 1:15-16). The false teachers accused Paul of being unreliable and careless, claiming he had made these plans but never intended to keep them (2 Corinthians 1:17-18).
Based on these false accusations, the Corinthians were being told that Paul and his fellow workers were “yes” and “no” people who made commitments but didn’t keep them. The false teachers used this reasoning to make them doubt Paul’s preaching as well.
Paul made his travel plans with the intention of keeping them if God did not change his plans. Evidently, the Lord did change Paul’s plans (2 Corinthians 2:1). The apostle did what was right by listening to God and waiting to visit the Corinthians.
Although the false teachers tried to use this to discredit Paul, he asserts that he had conducted himself in sincerity to God and not according to worldly values (2 Corinthians 1:12). Paul then ended his defense of his travel plans by reminding the Corinthians of his own trustworthiness and reliability, which is based on the Lord God Himself.
Jesus always said what He meant to say, and Paul and his workers had diligently proclaimed the truth of Jesus to them in the past (2 Corinthians 1:19). Since their ministry was established by God, their reliability as workers of God was established.
As he wrote, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him, the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV).
What Is the Meaning of ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’?
Central aspects of the verse deal with “Yes” and “Amen.” All promises in Scripture are “yes” in Christ. Fulfilling numerous prophecies in the Old Testament, Jesus is truly the “Yes” of the Law and Prophets (Romans 10:4).
As He stated in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (NIV). He is the promised descendant of David, born in the line of Judah as the King of kings (Matthew 1:1; Romans 1:3; Revelation 5:5; 19:16).
Christ is the promised child who would crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15), and the seed of Abraham who would bless all nations (Galatians 3:16). Significantly, Jesus is the Messiah and the Savior of the world foretold in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53). Even the remaining prophecies that are going to be fulfilled in the future will be fulfilled by Christ (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 19:11-16).
Through Jesus, Christians also declare “Amen” to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). This term means “very truly” or “let it be so.” Declaring “Amen” affirms a believer’s agreement with God in what He has accomplished through the fulfillment of His promises.
Paul often ended a doxology of praise with “Amen” (1 Corinthians 14:16), which fits with the overall flow of the first chapter in 2 Corinthians. In Christ, believers can be assured that the promises of God will be accomplished, and they can offer their own affirmation of the certainty of the promises because of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).
Thus, by understanding the context and examining the verse, people can understand that Jesus is the One who fulfills prophecies and is the assurance that the yet-to-be fulfilled promises in Scripture will be accomplished.
Through Him, the promises in the Bible are “yes” and believers can confidently proclaim “Amen.” The Apostle Paul not only showed that Christ was the basis of his ministry but also affirmed Jesus’ central role in the promises of Scripture.
The Promises of God Vs. Personal Desires
Through close study of 2 Corinthians 1:20, one can plainly see that the promises that are “yes” and affirmed are those that are referred to in Scripture, which Christ fulfills. Specifically, these promises are biblical, not mere personal desires or affirmations.
For instance, some people believe that “God has promised me health, wealth, and happiness,” “The Lord has promised me a spouse,” or “I will be victorious over every struggle with sin because of the promises of Christ.” However, God does not promise any of these things.
While the prosperity gospel teaches that Christians will have health and wealth, Jesus reminded His followers that they will have trouble in the world (John 16:33). Many Christians around the world can testify to this fact, since following Christ often involves sacrifices and even persecution. Likewise, the Apostle Paul was neither rich nor kept from illness.
In fact, the Lord allowed Paul to have a “thorn” in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). God reminded the apostle that “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).
God’s promises are sure, but Christians need to be careful about personally declaring a scriptural promise for themselves in their own personal circumstance. For example, an athlete can misuse the promise of having renewed strength (Isaiah 40:31), since they are taking the verse out of context and not considering what the promise means.
Also, a believer may wrongly assume that since the barren couples Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:19) or Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:13) were given the promise of a child, that their own barrenness is assured to be healed. Christians need to be careful in interpreting the promises of God and not misuse them for their own personal desires or wishes.
Remember to Consider Scripture’s Context
God’s scriptural promises are “yes,” and believers can adamantly proclaim “amen.” Jesus Christ fulfills the promises of the Bible, both past and future. Christians can be assured that all the promises in Scripture will come to pass just as the Lord has declared.
However, believers need to be careful to consider the context of biblical promises and not to confuse them with personal affirmations or their own desired outcomes for a situation. By treating the Bible with respect as the Word of God, followers of Christ will better understand the promises of God and not misuse them.