It is important to remember that when we worship God on the Lord’s Day, we worship Him together. One way that we express that togetherness is through the corporate amen. That word is probably the most universally recognized word throughout the world. Each of us probably uses it everyday, and perhaps we understand it. But when we consider what it means, and consider how we usually say it, or respond to it, we may need to reevaluate our understanding. Jerome commented that in the early church, when visitors used to come, they were commonly frightened at the amen—it had the sound of thunder, said by people who understood it.
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: And let all the people say, Amen. Praise the Lord. (Ps 106:48)
We begin with the name of God. In both Old and New Testaments, God identifies Himself with this word. In saying it, we must always remember this connection to His holy name and character. Speaking of the time of the New Covenant, Isaiah prophesies, “So that he who blesses himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth (literally, “God of Amen”); and he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of [amen]” (Is. 65:16).
John the apostle records, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God” (Rev. 3:14). And Paul teaches, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20).
Remembering this, we see three main uses of amen in Scripture. First, it is a covenant oath. This is a word which is taken in the context of covenant obligations—recognizing both the blessings and the curses. We can see this in the law concerning a woman with a jealous husband (Num. 5:22). We have a whole chapter of it in Deuteronomy 27. When Nehemiah confronted the Jewish leaders about their oppression of their fellows, the covenant confrontation concluded with an amen (Neh. 5:13).
The word amen therefore has the force of an oath, sealing an oath, indicating the agreement of the speaker with the conditions of the covenant. It is far stronger than a simple, “Yes, I agree with that.”
In addition, it can be used as a benediction, which is a blessing of the people of God. There are many examples in Scripture, and amen is usually a part of it. “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen (Gal. 6:18). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen (Phil. 4:23). “The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen (2 Tim. 4:22). The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen (Rev. 22:21). When the people of God receive a blessing, it is right and proper to seal that blessing with an amen.
Amen also has a doxological use. Justified men have also been given the privilege of blessing God. And when men praise, honor, bless, and glorify God (doxology), the Scriptures show us how to conclude with amen—“the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 1:25. “Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen” (Rom. 9:5); “To whom be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21). “To whom be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Tim. 4:18); “To whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:21). “To whom be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (I Pet. 5:11; Jude 25; Rev. 1:6). Whenever we say amen in this context we are tasting eternity.
So what? What is the application? In many of the places where Scripture records the use of this wonderful word, it is said by all God’s people. This is not something restricted to the super-spiritual, religious professionals up yonder in the “amen corner.” The whole congregation is involved in the worship of God, and the amen is one place where this involvement should be very visible. Consider these verses, “And all the people shall answer and say, Amen” (Deut. 27.15). “And all the people said, Amen, and praised the Lord” (1 Chr. 16:36). And all the assembly said, Amen and praised the Lord” (Neh. 5:13). “Then all the people answered, Amen, Amen” (Neh. 8:6). “And let all the people say, Amen” (Ps. 106:48).
This may be a good place to note the problems with individualistic amen-ing, with particular congregants noting when and where and how the last point of the sermon struck them. We assemble as a congregation, and we should learn to worship together as the people of God. Individuals who respond to “can I get a witness” are not working toward corporate solidarity.
On this subject, we have the privilege of applying and obeying together. And so when should we say amen during our services? Whenever the Scriptures are read—God’s covenant word to us—we should respond together with amen. And when we receive God’s blessing on us in the benediction, our grateful response should be amen—and amen together. And whenever we sing glory to Him in a psalm or hymn, we should conclude with a hearty amen. And we must always remember the exclamation mark: Amen!