Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? (1 Corinthians 14:16 KJV)
Two words in this caught my eye while studying another subject. Paul was explaining that spiritual gifts were to be used to edify the church. In verse 14, he explained that if he prayed in an unknown tongue, that understanding was not fruitful. By verse 19 he’s saying that it would be better to speak five understandable words than a thousand that were in an unknown tongue.
All of that is a very good lesson for us to be direct in what we’re saying, to be understandable to those who hear (or read) us. But what caught my eye was “say Amen.”
We started going to church regularly when I was ten. We were taught to be reverently quiet when we were in the sanctuary. For several minutes before the services our organist would play softly, and some of those hymns became my favorites over the years, preparing our hearts to listen to the preacher give the message.
As we moved, the other churches attended were quite similar. Then we moved to Cottondale. Nope, you won’t find that as part of our address. The post office was closed decades ago, but the community exists and the First Baptist Church is active. Very active!
It was the first service in a generation where I heard people practice this verse. I remember it from my grandmother’s church in the middle of the last century. I’ve come to participate myself.
Oh, I’ve said “Amen” before. The Lord taught us to use it, giving the example in His prayer, closing with “So be it.” But it has another meaning, to affirm that what was said is true, an expression of agreement with what was said. It is also one of the titles of Christ.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (Revelation 3:14 KJV)
“Do I hear an Amen?” I’ve heard a preacher say, which usually raises one from the congregation. It would do so often in our congregation when we agree with what the preacher is saying. We also say Amen in thanks for what we’re hearing. During any given service, you’ll hear Amen from a wide variety of people, for any one or all of the definitions given.
It’s a Hebrew word, existing in the oldest of Hebrew texts. It was brought to the Greek through Jewish synagogues, passed into Latin and then into our own English. In the King James Version, where Jesus says “verily”, the Greek word is “amen”:
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18 KJV)
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:16 KJV)
For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (Matthew 13:17 KJV)
So, whether you pronounce it with a long A (ay-men) or the short A (ah-men), feel free to express your affirmation of the truth as it is faithfully spoken.