By Charles H. Welch
CONFIRMATION. We have no intention of dealing with the Church of England rite of ‘confirmation’ under this heading, such a subject lies completely outside the limits of this analysis. We are confining ourselves to one use of the term found in the New Testament namely, the confirming character and purpose of miraculous gifts. The Greek word so translated is bebaio. Confirmation in the New Testament may be the sense of support received episterizo(Acts 14:22; 15:32,41, ‘strengthening’ Acts 18:23). It may be the confirmation that is received when validity or authority is established kuroo (Gal. 3:15). It may be the confirmation that results from the interposition of some unquestionable assurance, mesiteuo as in Hebrews 6:17. None of these aspects is in mind at the moment. Bebaioindicates that confirmation which is established by proof.
The passages which concern us in the present inquiry are: Mark 16:20, 1 Corinthians 1:6 and Hebrews 2:3.
After these promises had been made, the Lord ascended and sat on the right hand of God, the apostles went forth and preached everywhere:
1 Corinthians 1:6.
Here again we perceive that the Lord was confirming the Word with signs following.
These confirmatory gifts are spoken of in Hebrews 6:5 as ‘the powers of the age to come’ the ignoring of which made it impossible to renew such unto repentance. These gifts promised in Mark 16, extend to the last chapter of the Acts, where Paul is bitten by a viper, unharmed, and miraculously cures a case of dysentery (Acts 28:3-8). These miracles of Mark 16 keep pace with the ‘hope of Israel’ (Acts 28:20), but when the condition foretold in Isaiah 6:9,10 is entered, Israel ‘dismissed’ and the salvation of God sent unto the Gentiles, miraculous signs cease. Instead we read such passages as Philippians 2:25-28, 2 Timothy 4:20, and 1 Timothy 5:23 with understanding.
The people of sign and wonder are no longer on the scene, and it had been established on two occasions that miracles wrought before Gentiles as such, without the explanatory presence of Israel only made them more idolatrous saying ‘the gods are come down to us in the likeness of men’ (Acts 14:11), or they ‘said he was a god’ (Acts 28:6). ‘These signs’ DID follow, but ‘these signs’ DO NOT follow them that believe to-day. The answer is that the dispensation has changed, and with it the characteristic evidences of a past calling. As the present dispensation nears its end, and as the earlier Church’s position temporarily set aside is resumed, we may expect to see a return of genuine miraculous gifts, but this will make the anti-Christian travesty of 2 Thessalonians 2:9 the more dangerous, for the signs that will be wrought in support of the Man of Sin would deceive ‘if it were possible, the very elect’ (Matt. 24:24). The only ‘confirmation’ mentioned in the Prison Epistles is that of Colossians 2:7, ‘rooted and built up in Him, and STABLISHED (bebaio) in the faith, as ye have been taught’. All else so far as we are concerned is beside the mark and leads into by-paths fraught with danger.