In 2 Corinthians 1:15–20, Paul confronts criticisms that had been addressed to him concerning his alleged superficial attitude in planning his journey.
Paul was aware that criticisms were not raised simply to question his ability to plan his activities. There was a deeper intent to undermine the basis of the Apostolic service and his Apostolic authority. To the accusations of instability and unreliability, Paul replied by going back to the distinctive traits of his gospel preaching: “Our word to you has not been Yes and No” (v. 18). The message had not been ambiguous and contradictory, as the accusations might lead one to believe. In verse 19, Paul goes a step further in vindicating the coherence of the gospel and its roots in God’s promises, fulfilled by Christ. The message was coherent: “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you . . . was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes,” because Christ Himself is the “yes” of God’s promises. In this way, the Apostolic preaching was the “Amen to God for his glory” (v. 20), the obedient “yes” of faith to the “yes” of the promises fulfilled by Christ.
Borrowing the language of 2 Corinthians, we could say that any religion outside of Christ is the religion of the “yes” and “no” to God’s truth at the same time, of the assertion and denial of the biblical message. For example, in Roman Catholicism, it cannot be said that the “yes” is totally missing, but the problem stems from the fact that it is not a “yes, yes.” It is a “yes and no at the same time” kind of religion. How does this come about?
In the Roman Catholic view, Christ is told “yes” but also “no” because the prerogatives of the church end up arrogating what belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ. Divine grace is told “yes” but also “no” because Roman Catholicism teaches that nature holds the capacity to be elevated in spite of sin. Faith is told “yes” but also “no” because Roman Catholicism teaches that in order to receive God’s grace, there is the need for the sacramental instrumentality of the church, which makes faith alone insufficient. The Word of God is told “yes” but also “no” because the Scriptures are often sidelined by the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, which ends up prevailing over the Bible. The church worship rendered to God is told “yes” but also “no” because the veneration of Mary and a host of others is encouraged, ultimately detracting from the worship of the one and only God.
Where the evangelical faith chooses Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, to the glory of God alone, Roman Catholicism adds Scripture and tradition, Christ and church, grace and merits, faith and works, God and Mary and the saints. We are all tempted to compromise the gospel with our “yes” and “no” answers to the gospel, but the biblical faith is expressed with the “amen” to the glory of God.