Yes and Amen
by Pastor George Van Alstine
Some people think that once you’ve accepted Jesus as Lord of your life, all your other decisions should automatically fall into place. However, in actual practice, this turns out not to be the case. In fact, sometimes decisions are more agonizingly difficult, because as followers of Jesus we have to take seriously the impact of our actions on the many people who may be affected.
The Apostle Paul went on three missionary journeys, during which he established many churches throughout Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece. One young church seemed to be of special concern to him. It was located in the Greek port city of Corinth. Paul arrived in AD 50 and spend eighteen months there, building up the believers, teaching about the gospel and Christian living, writing some of his early letters to other churches, and thinking through some of the theological implications of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
He left Corinth to spend some time in Ephesus, working with the young churches in that region. But he couldn’t seem to get Corinth out of his mind. He sent numerous assistants to check on the church and to bring messages back and forth. Two of the books in our New Testament were written to the Corinthian church, and scholars have found allusions to at least two other letters that have not survived. Biblical evidence also suggests that Paul himself may have made other brief visits that are not recorded in the Book of Acts. All of these contacts happened within a period of eight years.
There are two reasons Paul paid so much attention to this particular church: the first is that he seemed to have a special affection for them, and the second is that they were always in some kind of trouble. Just about every problem churches have encountered throughout history popped up in Corinth during those eight years: leadership conflicts, moral scandals, legal suits, misuse of spiritual gifts, excesses and abuses in worship services, cliques that ganged up on one another. I imagine the Corinthian church sometimes made Paul wonder whether it was worth the effort.
In the beginning of the Biblical book of 2 Corinthians, Paul responded to unfair charges some of the Corinthian believers had leveled at him:
“I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say ‘Yes, yes’ and ‘No, no’ at the same time?”
(2 Corinthians 1:16-17)
Paul had been weighing all the factors before committing himself to another visit, and they took his careful consideration as an indication of a lack of assurance and solid conviction. Paul continues:
“As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been ‘Yes and No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Sylvanus and Timothy and I, was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’ For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God.”
I love this response of Paul, and I use it as a pattern to follow in my own life. The fact that I don’t have a quick and easy answer to all life’s challenges doesn’t mean I’m standing on unsure ground. In fact, it’s the security of the platform of faith I operate from that keeps me from being forced into snap judgments based on incomplete information. I can afford to think things through more prayerfully and carefully because I know that, even though confusion clouds may keep me from seeing the answer clearly right now, God’s definitive “Yes, yes” will emerge in my decision. As Paul put it, “in him it is always ‘Yes.’” (verse 20)