We have reached the end of our series going through the Apostles’ Creed (if you have suggestions or ideas for future posts or series, please let me know at Theology@WeAreFaith.org). When the church recites the Apostles’ Creed, it usually ends with “Amen.” This is common for Christians as we are taught to end our prayers that way and maybe even to respond to hearing from God’s Word. But do we know what “Amen” means and why we say it at the end of prayers or the Apostles’ Creed? Let’s explore this familiar word so we can appreciate it more when we say it, whether in relation to the Apostles’ Creed or in connection with our prayers.
The Meaning of the Word
The word “Amen” is not really an English word, as it is transliterated (using the same letters) from the Greek language — amen is “amen” in Greek, so when you read Jesus saying “Amen, amen” (as he does so often), the Greek reads “amen, amen.” What is even more interesting is that the Greek word is essentially a transliteration of a Hebrew word: “amen” (in fact, many languages have simply transliterated this word that goes back to the Hebrew language). The word in Hebrew was linked to the word for true, as it referred to things being established or faithful, something that is reliable to be believed in.
Since the word is not really an English word, we have to explore how it is used to understand its significance for us in general and when we say it at the end of the Apostles’ Creed.
The Use of The Word
As mentioned above, Jesus often used the word “Amen” when he was teaching (more than 70 times in all the Gospels), showing that what he was saying was true. In fact, Jesus differs from prophets in that he says, “Truly I say to you” rather than saying, “Thus says the Lord” (as he had the authority that no other teachers had, see Matthew 7:28-29).
Jesus was not the first to say this, though, as it was often said in the Old Testament to affirm the truth of a statement –whether a blessing on a person or a truth proclaimed about God. This can be found in places like Nehemiah 5:13 and 8:5-6 where people affirm and confirm a previous statement said by another. Another place it appears is at the end of the first four sections of the book of Psalms (Psalms 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; 106:48); a similar “amen” accompanies the praise of God in 1 Chronicles 16:36. Therefore, it means we agree that something is true and that we are personally invested in this truth as well; we are saying “this is true” and “I agree.”
Paul and other writers of the New Testament would “amen” in similar ways, writing “amen” after praising God to affirm this praise and emphasize its truth. In fact, the very last word of the Bible is “Amen” (Revelation 22:21). Paul’s writings also show this practice of “amen” occurred in church gatherings, as in 1 Corinthians 14:16 he talks about the need to speak in intelligible language so that others can say “amen,” and the book of Revelation shows “amen”-ing happening in heaven (Revelation 5:14). We often “amen” after a prayer to show agreement with what was said and to show our confidence and belief in the fact that God hears our prayers and grants our requests. The final question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism (Q & A 129) discusses the Lord’s Prayer and notes: “Amen means: This shall truly and surely be! It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer than that I really desire what I pray for.”
Special Uses of the Word – Jesus as the Amen
There are a couple of other interesting places in the Bible where the word is used related to Jesus. In Revelation 3:14, “Amen” is used as a title to refer to Jesus as he is delivering words to the “angel” of the church of Laodicea: “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.”
In 2 Corinthians 1:19-22, Paul is defending his change of plans in terms of visiting the church in Corinth and says this: “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
Both of these verses link Jesus and “Amen” — a reminder that the assurance we have of God’s truth is found in “Amen.” God makes promises and affirms the truth of these promises because He has sent Jesus. We can say, “this is true” and place our hopes on God’s promises because of Jesus; God is the “God of Amen” (see Isaiah 65:16 that is translated “God of truth”).
Amen to the Apostles’ Creed
In saying “Amen” at the end of the Apostles’ Creed, we effectively say that we believe these things to be true and want to live them out. In affirming our belief in these truths, however, there may also be a sense in which we are saying, “This is true and help me believe this is true” — akin to what the father of a boy with an unclean spirit said to Jesus in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!” We believe the Apostles’ Creed is true, and we ask for God to continue to give us the grace to believe and move forward in life in faith. As we say “Amen” to the Creed, may we look to the one who is the Amen — Jesus — to provide the grace and assurance to live as the people of the Creed.
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