For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. (1:19–20)
Throughout the history of the church, heretics have always assaulted the nature of Christ, and the false apostles at Corinth appear to be no exception in their effort to diminish Him. Having slanderously accused Paul of being untrustworthy because of his change in travel plans, they also alleged that his teaching on the Lord Jesus was untrustworthy. Responding to their attack on his Lord, Paul emphasized Christ’s nature as the God-man by using the full, rich title the Son of God, Christ Jesus.
Paul was not the only one who preached the truths of the Son of God to the Corinthians; Silvanus and Timothy had preached the message to them. Silvanus (Silas) was a prominent leader in the Jerusalem church. The Jerusalem Council entrusted him to carry its decision to the church at Antioch (Acts 15:22). He later became Paul’s companion on the apostle’s second missionary journey, replacing Barnabas (Acts 15:39–40). Timothy was Paul’s beloved son in the faith. As the son of a Jewish Christian mother and a pagan Gentile father (Acts 16:1), he was uniquely qualified to minister alongside the apostle. Both Silvanus and Timothy had ministered with Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:5). Their preaching was not untrustworthy, it was not yes and no, but was a firm, unwavering, resounding yes to God’s truth in Jesus Christ.
Then Paul sums up the glory of Christ by reminding the Corinthians that as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes. All of God’s salvation promises—of blessing, peace, joy, goodness, fellowship, forgiveness, strength, and hope of eternal life—are yes, meaning they all come true, in Christ. They are all made possible by His person and work. After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, “All things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). In 1 Corinthians 1:30 Paul declared that “Christ Jesus … became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” To the Colossians he wrote, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.… For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 1:19; 2:9). It was the realization of “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [as his] Lord” that made Paul willing to suffer “the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that [he might] gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
Then Paul drove home the point of his argument by reminding the Corinthians, Therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. Amen is a solemn affirmation of the truthfulness of a statement (cf. Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:27; Gal. 1:5; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11; 5:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 25; Rev. 1:6; 7:12). When Paul, Silas, and Timothy preached the gospel, it was all about Christ, who by His glorious work brings to pass all salvation realities. The Corinthians probably even had joined in saying Amen to the glory of God. The congregation had affirmed that the preachers reliably spoke God’s truth about Christ when they believed the gospel message Paul and his companions preached, and it transformed their lives. How utterly absurd, Paul argued, to accept and experience the gospel message as reliable, but consider those who preached it unreliable. How ridiculous to trust Paul’s word about eternal things, but not about mundane things like travel plans.
The apostle who was exacting in communicating the true gospel of Christ was also exacting in the lesser matters of life. God did not choose an unstable, unreliable apostle to preach His truth.
1:20 / In verse 20a Paul explains (For, gar) why his message of Jesus Christ as Son of God was unequivocally confirmed to the Corinthians. Just as in verse 18 the faithfulness of God substantiates the veracity of Paul’s general apostolic “word” (including statements about his travel plans), so also here divine promises substantiate Paul’s more specific apostolic message of the gospel.
As Paul has mentioned repeatedly and in various ways in the previous context, the Corinthians are sons of God and thus brothers with Paul (cf. vv. 1, 2, 3). Hence, when Paul refers here to the “promises” that have already been confirmed to the Corinthians, he may have in view particularly the divine adoption of sons (cf. 2 Cor. 6:18, quoting 2 Sam. 7:14) that the Corinthians enjoy in Christ, the messianic Son of God promised beforehand through the ot prophets (Rom. 1:2–4). The only other use of the term in the letter comes at 2 Corinthians 7:1 and refers to an ot messianic adoption text (2 Sam. 7:14) as among the promises that Paul and the Corinthians already have. This does not, of course, exclude other promises from resonating with the text, especially since divine adoptive sonship includes Abrahamic heirship (cf. Gal. 3:26, 29; 4:1–7; Rom. 8:15, 17). Paul’s message of Jesus Christ as Son of God was unequivocally confirmed to the Corinthians, for the latter participate in the sonship of the Son of God, in whom the promises are affirmed by their fulfillment (“Yes”).
In verse 20b Paul draws an inference (And so, dio kai) from the fact that in Christ the Corinthians participate in the promises through Paul’s preaching. Whatever this line may mean in particular, it seems clear that Paul portrays himself as a revelatory mediator. Amen is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that serves to confirm what has been said before. The Corinthians were familiar with this use of Amen (cf. 1 Cor. 14:16). Here, the Amen is spoken by Christ (through him) in that the promises spoken beforehand are fulfilled in him. That affirmation is, in turn, communicated by Paul (by us) to others, including the Corinthians. All of this has a doxological purpose (to the glory of God).
God is faithful to his promises (1:18–20)
Continuing his defence, he turns now from his written to his spoken message (verses 18–19) which is, in summary, that God is faithful to his promises. Paul is affirming the same confidence in God as expressed by spokesmen from earlier generations, for example Balaam, who asked of God: ‘Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?’ Clearly Paul shared Balaam’s belief in the faithfulness of God to his word. The numerous promises of God, given through the mouths of many prophets at different times and places,7 all converge like so many lines at one point, the Son of God whom Paul and his companions now proclaim. There is no ambiguity, Yes and No, about the Son of God. It is as if God is saying ‘Jesus Christ, my Son, is my “yes” to every promise I have ever made. He fulfils everything I have ever said.’ From God’s side, as well as from ours, everything is focused upon Christ and it is for this reason that the prepositions in and through are so important. Because God’s promises come true in Christ, we say the Amen (Hebrew, ‘it is true’) through Christ to the glory of God (verse 20). Christ is the ‘go-between’. God speaks to us in Christ and we, who have received the message, speak back to God through Christ. The apostle is teaching us that we may approach God by no other path and glorify him by no other means. Sin prevents us approaching God in our own right; but we may draw near through Christ.
Since Christ is the fulfilment (God’s Yes) to all of God’s numerous promises, it follows that the Old Testament, where the promises are made, really makes sense only when read with Christ in mind. Christ is the end to which the Old Testament is pointed, the goal toward which it moves. To read the Old Testament without reference to Christ is like reading a mystery novel with the final chapter torn out. All the clues are scattered throughout the story, but without the finale no-one could be sure of the explanation of the mystery or the identity of the one in whom all interest has been aroused. The gospel of the Son of God, as proclaimed by Paul, is the final chapter of God’s story, which explains all, and without which everything which precedes remains enigmatic and ‘up in the air’.
Paul shows us, in passing, what he thought of the old covenant. In defending his ministry against those who, having rejected the new covenant, sought to bring the Corinthians under the old, it would have been easy enough for Paul to over-react and reject it altogether. A little later he will say that the old is now fulfilled and outshone by the new covenant of Christ and the Spirit (3:7–11). Nevertheless the new covenant occurs only because of the promises made by God under the old covenant. In our attitudes to the old covenant there are two extremes to avoid. On the one hand we may not treat the old as if the new covenant has not superseded it, as the newcomers were doing. On the other, we are not at liberty to dispense with it from our canon of Scripture as Marcion the Gnostic did a century later. What Paul teaches us is that the one God binds the new to the old covenant in one continuous self-disclosure which began in the book of Genesis and which reached its final and glorious revelation in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
1:19–20. Paul supported his oath by summarizing an important feature of what was preached among the Corinthians. He, Silas, and Timothy had preached the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and Christ did not waver between Yes and No. There was no duplicity in Christ or in the message about Christ.
Paul added that in Christ his message had always been “Yes.” Paul knew this statement was enigmatic, so he explained his meaning. No matter how many promises God has made throughout the history of the Bible, one thing can be relied on: In Christ … they are “Yes.” Paul frequently reminded his readers of Old Testament promises God made to his people (Rom. 1:2; Eph. 2:12). He knew that immeasurable blessings had been promised to Christians as heirs of Old Testament promises. The great covenant promises throughout the Bible are all fulfilled in Christ.
Of course, the Corinthians probably had no problem with Christ’s sincerity. So Paul drew a connection between himself and Christ. Since Paul represented Christ, Paul’s gospel ministry could be summed up as an “Amen” … spoken by Paul to the glory of God. Paul’s preaching affirmed the sincere affirmation of God’s promises in Christ.
20. For as many promises of God as there are, in him they are Yes. Wherefore also through him we say Amen to God for his glory.
- “For as many promises of God as there are.” Paul reflects on the numerous promises God has given his people. He knows that ultimately all of them have been and are being fulfilled in the Son of God. Replete with God’s promises, the Old Testament points to their fulfillment in Christ. Peter mentions that the prophets were “trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:11). The Old Testament message is that God who makes promises ultimately fulfills them through the coming of the Messiah.
- “In him they are Yes.” The entire New Testament is a testimony that God’s promises have been and are being fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17–18), to remove the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13), to grant the gift of righteousness (Matt. 6:33), to give eternal life (John 17:3), and through the Father to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26). In Jesus Christ God’s promises have been realized, and the Corinthians will have to acknowledge the truth of this matter.
- “Wherefore also through him we say Amen to God for his glory.” The Greek construction of this part of verse 20 is cumbersome if we provide a literal translation and follow the sequence of the verse: “Wherefore also through him the Amen to God for glory through us.” But the word Amen is uttered “through us,” and this affirmation serves to glorify God. When we understand that the phrase through us carries the meaning of the verb we say, the subsequent translation is smooth. This is how, in the first few centuries, some Christians whose native tongue was Syriac, a sister dialect of Aramaic, understood the text. Writing “yes” and “Amen” in this passage, Paul is expressing a parallelism that was current in his day. Among speakers who were conversant in both Greek and Aramaic, the “yes” and the “Amen” meant the same thing.
When Paul, his associates, and the Corinthians say “yes and amen” through Jesus Christ to God, no one legitimately can accuse Paul of vacillating. Those who attest to the veracity of God’s Word respect one another’s personal integrity. As Paul indicates, when believers say “Amen” to the promises of God in Christ, they glorify God.
1:20All the promises of God, no matter how many they are, find their fulfillment in Christ. All who find in Him the fulfillment of God’s promises add their Amen:
We open our Bibles at a promise, we look up to God, and God says, “You can have all that through Christ.” Trusting Christ, we say, “Amen” to God. God speaks through Christ, and we believe in Christ; Christ reaches down and faith stretches up, and every promise of God is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In and through Him we appropriate and take them to ourselves and say, “Yes, Lord; I trust You.” This is the believing yes.
All of this is to the glory of God through us. Denney writes: “He is glorified when it dawns on human souls that He has spoken good concerning them beyond their utmost imaginings, and when that good is seen to be indubitably safe and sure in His Son.”
The two words through us, remind the Corinthians that it was through the preaching of men like Silvanus, Timothy, and Paul that they had ever come to claim the promises of God in Christ. If the apostle was a fraud, as his enemies charged, then could it be that God had used a cheat and a liar to effect such marvelous results? The answer, of course, is no.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, p. 62). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1823). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.