Amen – To Say or Not to Say, Part 3of6, Pastor Phil Sessa

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1Corinthians 14:13-16, “Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying (– please read the whole context starting at verse 1)?”

A great bulk of today’s continued message will come from the writing of one of our favorites, John Piper. His message on “amen”, really inspired, and I gleaned much from it, as I both read and listened to the message, I would encourage you to do the same.

John Piper shares “Paul would bring the word “Amen” to the Greek culture. This is a most interesting journey. Bringing the word "Amen" to Greece is a little microcosm of what happens spiritually and intellectually and culturally wherever Christianity comes to a new culture. It brings a vision of God and the world that keeps some things in the culture, rejects other things in the culture, and touches everything in the culture. There are no pure cultures, especially ours. Every culture needs more words and more concepts and more ways of viewing the world and deeper combinations of emotions and different patterns of behaving than is native to itself. This word “amen” has seeped into cultures all over the world, which displays that no culture, no language, no worship is complete in itself. Our vocabularies are limited and cannot fully express all the feelings, emotions, thought patterns which people attempt to convey. But let’s be more specific. What did the word "amen" come to Corinth to do? What did this Hebrew word mean as it grafted itself onto the Greek vocabulary of Corinthian Christians?” We know that over time words change, new words are created, and this is why there is different translations of the Bible. How could most understand the Bible if it were still in Latin only, or Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic? Most of us would be reliant on the preacher (which is what happened in Roman Catholicism, where the people were reliant on the priests, because most common people could not read Latin). Amen has become a word common to many languages, and it is Christianity with such servants like Paul, that is responsible for that blessed reality.”

"Amen" in the New Testament

Piper continues, “Now here comes Paul into Greek-speaking Corinth, and he teaches them about this word "Amen," – just as if he were to come to us today with a new Hebrew word we didn’t know. What did he teach them? Well, we can see behind 1Corinthians 14. Paul is concerned that the gift of tongues is being abused in public so that people are speaking what nobody can understand. He is not rejecting the gift of tongues. But he is putting something way above it in the Christian assembly. He is saying that edification comes not by amazement at miracles, but edification comes by the understanding of God. That’s why verse 19 says that five intelligible words that help you understand God are better than a thousand unintelligible words that make you tremble with amazement.

Paul is extremely zealous that public speaking (whether prayer or preaching) be an event of group understanding and group agreement – not one person doing his own thing and others boggled. Not even one person doing his own thing and others understanding and silent. What then? His answer is just beneath the surface in verses 15-16:

What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?

Paul assumes something here. He assumes that when a public prayer is made, other people besides the one praying say, "Amen." Let’s not miss this. It seems to matter to Paul. He could have just said: don’t pray in tongues because nobody can understand you and so nobody is built up in their faith, because faith comes by an understood word of Christ. Or he could have said always have an interpretation. But he said more. He said (verse 16): If you pray so people can’t understand you, how will they say "Amen"?”

Piper makes some powerful assessments about this passage. When we pray, we do so unto God, but in a corporate setting we also affect the body of Christ that we are gathered with at that time. It was this affect that Evans had on me when I first met my best friend as we prayed in the mornings at our church. Many silently or quietly prayed, until I heard a prayer of thunder, fervency, and zealousness. My prayer life has never been the same since beginning to pray with my best friend Evans. His prayer caused my heart to shout, Amen! I began to get more excited about prayer, and the “amen” continued to be expressed when we would pray together. This is not inspiration such as a painter that is inspired to paint a scenic horizon off in the distance. Rather this is inspiration as the Holy Spirit was working through a life changed by the Gospel! There are few that I can pray with that cause the “amen” to rise up in me. When someone mature and zealous for God is praying alongside you, do you agree in prayer, “amen” with that person? This tends to happen with those that are like-hearted toward the things of God. Hence the things that God loves we should love, and when two or more are praying it would seem a harmony is being played before the throne of grace. Yet when we pray we should be able to understand what is being petitioned concerning, God exalted, souls interceded for, etc…. To be continued…

Until the nets are filled…Blessings, Phil, the Evangelist <><

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