Calvary Road Baptist Church

AMEN


We have been engaged in our Wednesday night study of the life and lessons taught by the Lord Jesus Christ for a long time. It is significant, therefore, that in Mark 10.15 and Luke 18.17, the Lord Jesus Christ states a principle for one and all to hear. We have seen that our Lord was much displeased with His disciples for hindering the access of the little children standing nearby, and the adults who brought them to be blessed by Him. Important for my purpose tonight, however, is to take note that our Lord begins His pronouncement of an important principle related to the access we have to Him by first uttering the word “verily,” or “amen.”

It is because this word “amen” is so important throughout the Bible, and because it was used so frequently by the Savior to draw attention to extremely significant statements He made, that I feel it appropriate that we address the theology surrounding the word “amen.” I found it very interesting as a young preacher that no one in my first pastorate ever said the word “amen” aloud in a service. I remember that I was not the only person who noticed, at that time, that peculiar type of behavior among Baptists.

It had been remarked to me on more than one occasion at my previous pastorate that the church, as a people, did not say “amen” to anything, unless of course they were specifically asked to do so. Amen? I wondered to myself, “Why doesn’t anyone in this church ever say amen?” It was months later that I noticed in an article that I read on the proper use of the term “amen” in church that I received my answer. It suddenly dawned on me, as I read that article, that maybe no one says “amen” because they have never been instructed to do so. After all, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to a preacher named Timothy to teach him how “thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.”[1]

I figured that if Timothy needed some instruction on such things, and he was a preacher, maybe other folks need instruction, as well. I know I do. Therefore, I decided to prepare and then preach a sermon titled “Amen,” which I preached to that congregation in 1979, and which I first preached here in 1985. I am of a mind that it is now time to preach this message again. Amen? Why would I want to preach this sermon again? Three reasons: First, the frequency with which the word is used in God’s Word demands that it be properly explained. Next, so you will understand the reason why the Lord Jesus Christ made such effective use of the word. Finally, just like at my first pastorate, the word is almost never used here at Calvary Road Baptist Church. That is too bad.

You folks know that I like to be systematic in my preaching, so I will use an outline that I trust will answer questions that each of you may have had about the word “amen,” and its proper use by the child of God.

 

First, WHEN IS THE WORD “AMEN” USED?

 

Look at the word “amen” as God has dealt in the affairs of men, as recorded in His Word.

First, we notice that the word “amen” was supposed to be used in the past. It is significant to note, I think, that when the children of Israel were given the Law of Moses they were specifically instructed, actually directed, to say “amen.”[2] Did you know that there are twenty-two separate verses in the Old Testament alone in which the word “amen” is used?[3] Additionally, it is significant to note that of those twenty-two places where the word “amen” is found, fourteen of those verses are occasions in which the children of Israel are directed to say “amen.” Think about it for a moment. If the fourteen of the twenty-two Old Testament uses of the word “amen” are directives for God’s people to say “amen,” does it not behoove us to sit up in our chairs and take note of this word? Might not this word prove to be a surprisingly important word in our vocabulary? I point this out because the word was not only used in the Old Testament, but its use on certain occasions was mandatory.

Next, not only was the word “amen” supposed to be used by God’s people in the past, the word is also supposed to be used by God’s people in this present age. As far as God is concerned, you and I live in the age of the churches. Therefore, what was proper conduct for a church congregation and for a believer in the book of Acts is proper, also, for us. What was proper for Christians to say then is proper for us to say now. Do you realize that the word “amen” is found fifty times in the New Testament?[4] As a matter of fact, all but two of the New Testament writers made use of the term, and in most New Testament books in which the word is used it is the final word of that book. I have little doubt that the Jewish Christians of Paul’s day made frequent use of the word “amen” during their preaching and prayer, a practice certainly brought over from their synagogue worship. However, it is likely that the term was unfamiliar among the heathen Gentiles of that day. This is why I think Paul and other New Testament writers used the word “amen” so much in their writings. I think they were introducing to their Gentile new converts the proper usage of the word “amen” by their example. For that matter, the example of others was how I came to use the term “amen” after I received Christ and started attending church. My experiences over the years persuades me that the proper use of the term is most widely practiced in the southern states, or by people who first started going to church in the south. What surprised me when I first preached this message years ago, and what is still a source of some consternation now, is the large number of people who have been in church for years, and even those with southern backgrounds in our church, who for some reason still do not use the term. The problem may be a lack of exposure to the word. If that is the case, I hope this sermon will correct the problem so that each of us here this evening will be used of God to influence new converts in the proper exercise of the term “amen.”

Used in the past. Supposed to be used in the present. We also see that the word “amen” will be used by the saints in the future. The word “amen” is found four times in Revelation chapters one and three. However, it is in Revelation chapter 7 that it is revealed to us that the word “amen” will be used by an innumerable multitude of folks who have gone to heaven and whose worship of the Son of God in heaven will include the proper use of the word. Turn in your Bible to Revelation chapter 7, where we will read verses 9-12:

 

9     After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

10    And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

11    And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

12    Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

 

This great multitude of saints are church age believers who will by then have been raptured to heaven. Their conduct in worship helps us to recognize that saying the word “amen” aloud, in the appropriate manner and at the appropriate time, is a proper form of worship to be rendered to God by those of us who comprise the bride of Christ. We also see that the cherubim, those angels that surround the throne of God, praise Him and cry out “amen” as they do continually worship the Lord God Almighty, Revelation 5.14 and 19.4. Therefore, we need to realize that the proper use of the word “amen” is not just a nice commodity that the preacher would like to have said around the church. As well, it is much more than just something that makes a preacher feel good while he is preaching the Word of God. Saying “amen” should rightly be seen as something that, though it is such a little word, has been exalted by God to a place of significance in worship, in that He has revealed to us that it is His will that it be used, and that He has made space in His Word to show its right and proper use, both in the past, in the present, and in the future.

 

WE KNOW WHEN THE WORD “AMEN” WAS USED. BUT WHY IS THE WORD “AMEN” TO BE USED?

 

There are several reasons why God wants His people to say “amen” during worship.

First, because saying “amen” involves everyone in worship. We know that instruction is given in God’s Word about the proper execution of a worship service. Such passages as James 3.1, First Timothy 2, and First Corinthians 14, make it clear that God’s desire is that only those few people who are equipped, qualified, and called, are to actually preach the Word of God. Please recognize that exactly the same kind of situation existed in Old Testament times with the nation of Israel. Little has changed in that regard from then to now with respect to the essentials of worshiping God. Therefore, though God did not want everyone to preach, either then or now, He also did not want everyone to just sit around and doze off while the preacher delivers his sermon. This is why He implemented the plan He had devised that enabled everyone to participate in the worship of the one true and living God. What is the method by which everyone can participate in the preaching of God’s Word and in the proper worship of God at a public meeting? It is not by having everyone take a turn at teaching the Bible, or by having everyone take a turn playing a musical instrument poorly. Rather, it is by correctly using the word “amen.”

Additionally, the word “amen,” used during public worship, will inform people of the truth. You see, there are always people in the congregation who are respected and esteemed for their private study of God’s Word and their knowledge of the truth. These people are known in the church by everyone who has been a member for more than a few months as being theologically sound. They read and study the Bible, and they recognize sound, historical orthodoxy. It is the reaction of such people to what God’s preacher says that will go a long way toward driving home important truths into the hearts of the people. I remember way back, when I was a young Christian. I was a member of a small church here in the Los Angeles area, and sat fairly close to the front of the auditorium so I could get the drippings from the altar, so to speak. After attending that church for only a few months, I became aware of the fact that almost everyone in that church would turn their heads to see what my reaction was whenever the preacher had something to say they had never heard before. By the way, I never disputed or disagreed with anything my pastor ever preached, but I was from the beginning a serious student of God’s Word. It is not a brag, it is just a fact, that when the right person acknowledges what the preacher says by a good strong “amen,” it might as well be carved in stone. The people in the church house will accept it as true, oftentimes without ever consciously realizing what thought processes or outside influences went into their decision either to accept or reject what is said as truth. Given, then, that much that goes on in someone’s mind is just below the surface, is in the realm of the unconscious, how beneficial a good “amen” can be for new Christians or visitors. By the frequency and strength of the “amens” that they hear, and who they hear them from, new Christians and visitors can thereby come to some understanding of the importance of whatever truth has just been conveyed by the preacher. By the way, ladies. I do not think it is appropriate for you to say “amen” whilst sitting next to your husband. That would be too close to you usurping authority over him. Let him say “amen” if he insists on sitting next to you. However, if you set away from your husband, so you can be in a better position to minister to women who are visiting, then saying “amen” in an appropriate manner is entirely proper, in my opinion.

The last reason the word “amen” might be used is to influence God’s people to do right. How many times the words of a preacher are spoken with no effect because no “amen” follows to reinforce his pronouncement. When it is shouted out that Jesus Christ is God, and no “amen” follows, it may be surmised by visitors and guests that what was just said must not have been particularly important, at least not to those sitting in the auditorium. On the other hand, a new convert hears the preacher say, “God expects everyone to be a witness for Jesus Christ. Come to evangelism Saturday night.” If this is followed by dead air, then the new convert will quickly conclude that evangelism must not be very important. However, it is important! Do not rob others of the joy of representing Christ by your silence, even if you do not have that joy in your own heart. Say “amen” when an “amen” is called for. It will influence God’s people to believe right and to do right.

 

“PREACHER, I UNDERSTAND, NOW, THAT THE WORD ‘AMEN’ IS TO BE USED, AND I AM BEGINNING TO UNDERSTAND ITS USEFULNESS. BUT WHERE IS THE WORD ‘AMEN’ TO BE UTTERED?”

 

Friends, the word “amen” is to be used in private communion with God. When the Lord Jesus was asked to teach His disciples to pray, He did so by giving them the model prayer recorded in Matthew 6.9-13. We know from verse 7, that this exact prayer was not given to be recited over and over, as some mindless zombie would try to do it. In fact, Jesus indicates that only the heathen vainly repeat prayers over and over again. For the child of God, prayer is real communication to our Father in heaven The Christian knows that his Father really does hear prayers, and really will answer them. However, when this communication, when this prayer, when this talking with God and asking for things is finished, it is to be concluded with “amen.” “Amen” is such an important word. It is a word used to strongly affirm what has been stated, with Jesus Himself being the ultimate amen, Revelation 3.14.[5] It is the seal stamped on the letter you have just mailed to heaven. It shows that you are confident that you have been heard, and the matter of concern that caused you to pray and ask for things of God has now been given over to more capable hands than your own. Close your prayers with “amen.”

However, do not just say “amen” when no one is around. Say it when others will hear you, as well. “Amen” is a word that should be used in public worship. When Ezra opened the Word of God to preach, in Nehemiah chapter 8, the people all stood. Then, when he blessed God, they all said “Amen, Amen.”[6] “Amen” is a word that should be used in public worship. The Psalms are spiritual songs and poems first written to be sung during worship time at the Temple. In Psalm 106, the psalmist instructs the people to say “amen” and “Praise ye the LORD” at the close of the Psalm.[7] In First Corinthians 14, Paul expresses concern that those present in public worship will not know when to say “amen.”[8] Moreover, when the word “amen” is shouted out in heaven it is as a public act of worship. These examples should serve to show us that we should not be shy about saying “amen” in the house of God, or anywhere else, for that matter. Amen? Do you want to declare yourself to a room full of strangers? Respond to what someone says by saying “amen.” Want make sure others know where you stand? Let them hear you say “amen.” Want to know how to let others at work know there is a Christian in the crowd? Say “amen” in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time.

 

YOU NOW KNOW QUITE A BIT ABOUT THIS WORD AMEN. MORE THAN MOST FOLKS KNOW. MORE THAN MANY PREACHERS, FOR THAT MATTER. HOWEVER, THERE IS ONE THING REMAINING. JUST HOW IS THE WORD AMEN USED?

 

There are four distinct situations wherein the word “amen” is to be used by those who would worship God in spirit and in truth.

First, say “amen” to testify to the righteousness of God’s judgments. In Numbers chapter 5, we have God’s ordinance for women who are suspected by their husbands of committing adultery, but whose husbands do not have conclusive proof.[9] Those of you familiar with the chapter will remember that the wife was to be brought by her husband to the priest, who then mixed a concoction for her to drink.[10] The priest would then pronounce a curse upon the woman should she, in fact, be guilty of adultery as her husband suspected. The curse was that her belly should swell and her thigh rot and she die for committing the sin of adultery.[11] To show that she agreed that such a judgment for the sin of adultery, the woman was instructed to say “amen” and then to drink the potion.[12] If she was innocent, nothing would happen. However, if she was guilty, the curse would be fulfilled and she would die an agonizing death. The point I want to make is that the woman said, “Amen, Amen.” Her amens were a public declaration of her innocence and her acceptance of God’s righteous judgment in the matter. In Nehemiah chapter 5, we have the account of the Jews charging usury, or interest, on loans made to their countrymen. Nehemiah challenged them to stop their sinful practices and told them that their behavior was against God’s Law and was sinful.[13] Did these Jews get mad, like most so-called Christians do when they are told that what they are doing is sinful and contrary to the will of God? No. They all shouted “amen,” and obeyed God.[14] Christian, you should decide right now that when you get pegged for sinful behavior, you will demonstrate the character needed to respond in like manner, by saying “amen,” and by then obeying God. Amen?

Second, say “amen” to praise God for all His blessings. When King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, there was great joy and praising of God. First Chronicles 16.36 tells us that David praised God and the people responded to his praise by shouting “amen” and then praising the LORD themselves. In like manner, when one of us praises our God, the rest of us ought to join in with a hearty “amen,” and praise the LORD right along with him. Amen? I love it when Violet does that.

Third, say “amen” in response to public prayer. In Nehemiah 8.6, Ezra the prophet is preparing to teach and preach the Word of God to the children of Israel who had returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile. Before he began to read the Word of God, we are told that “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.” And what was the response of the people? What did they do without any apparent provocation or prompting? My Bible tells me “all the people answered Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands.” The people were familiar enough with the Bible to know what God wanted them to do at that point, so they did what they knew God wanted them to do. My friends, when one for all blesses God, all can join in that blessing to God by saying “Amen, Amen” and lifting up your hands. I think it ought to be done without the preacher having to say, “And all God’s people said . . . .” Don’t you agree?

The final situation in which one should say “amen” is to bring fervor to the worship of God. I don’t know how many times I’ve noticed that a good “amen” will completely turn the complexion of a preaching service around, even though it does not usually happen here at our church, because so few people ever say “amen.” However, when the word “amen” is properly used, it will definitely affect the preacher. It will also affect the lost people who are present. In addition, it will liven up God’s people. It can serve to unite a church around the truth that is being preached, or around Christ Who is being exalted, or God Who is being praised, and creates a oneness of spirit that is needed in every congregation. It also encourages close attention to the preaching of God’s Word. You see, the one who says “amen” will want to make sure it is appropriate to do so. Amen? How embarrassing it would be for someone to say a loud “amen” at the wrong time. Amen?

 

I encourage you to say “amen” during the preaching of God’s Word because I believe that people are emotional, physical, and spiritual beings, and sometimes God’s people need to rejoice and speak their peace without interrupting the preaching in any way. This can be done with shouts of “amen” at the appropriate time.

We hear testimonies around here from time to time. I know that saying “amen” can be a great encouragement when someone is testifying of God working in his life. It is a way others can support, bolster, and encourage someone by those of you who say “amen” expressing your agreement and recognition of what is testified. Saying “amen” is needed in Christ’s church to show conviction, to show concern, to show joy, and to say “Job well done.”

I pray that God will turn loose a number of really good “amen” men and women to be a blessing to this congregation, men and women who will be humble enough to allow their pastor to coach them as they learn the skill and discernment of helping the preacher deliver his message from God’s Word in this way.

I also pray that parents will have enough courage and wisdom to warm up the britches of their kids who misinterpret our public responsiveness to the preaching of God’s Word as a time to be frivolous and irresponsible. Amen?



[1] First Timothy 3.15

[2] Deuteronomy 27.14-26

[3] Numbers 5.22; Deuteronomy 27.15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26; First King 1.36; First Chronicles 16.36; Nehemiah 5.13; 8.6; Psalm 41.13; 72.19; 89.52; 106.48; Jeremiah 28.6

[4] Matthew 6.13; 28.20; Mark 16.20; Luke 24.53; John 21.25; Romans 1.25; 9.5; 11.36; 15.33; 16.20, 24, 27; 1 Corinthians 14.16, 24; 2 Corinthians 1.20; 13.14; Galatians 1.5; 6.18; Ephesians 3.21; 6.24; Philippians 4.20, 23; Colossians 4.18; 1 Thessalonians 5.28; 2 Thessalonians 3.18; 1 Timothy 1.17; 6.16, 21; 2 Timothy 4.18, 22: Titus 3.15; Philemon 25; Hebrews 13.21, 25; 1 Peter 4.11; 5.11, 14; 2 Peter 3.18; 1 John 5.21; 2 John 13; Revelation 1.6, 7, 18; 3.14; 5.14; 7.12; 19.4; 22:20-21

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 53-45.

[6] Nehemiah 8.6

[7] Psalm 106.48

[8] First Corinthians 14.16

[9] Numbers 5.11-29

[10] Numbers 5.17

[11] Numbers 5.19-22a

[12] Numbers 5.22b

[13] Nehemiah 5.6-13a

[14] Nehemiah 5.13b



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org