The word of the day is “confirm.” When the apostle Thomas surrendered his doubt and confessed the Risen Christ to be his Lord and God, Jesus responded, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). This blessing from the Risen Christ comes to us who believe through the Word of His disciples (John 17:12) who were eyewitnesses to the events of our salvation (Luke 1:2 and 2 Peter 1:16).
Today in 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, St. Paul assures the Corinthians that Christ “will confirm you to the end, so that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (OSB vs. 6). Today we will consider what this confirmation involves and its role in the divine gift and nurture of faith by which we are saved.
The Gospel is Sufficient to Foster Faith
Jesus’ Word to Thomas the Doubter suggests that faith in the Gospel is sufficient to create and foster faith. Indeed, Paul writes in Romans, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (OSB Romans 10:17). Moreover, the Spirit is given by faith as Paul asks in Galatians, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith (OSB Galatians 3:2)? Finally, Paul asks, “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” (OSB Galatians 3:2)?
Faith, it seems, makes the power of God effective in accomplishing signs and wonders. Therefore, in the Gospels, the Lord repeatedly says to those whom he has healed, “Your faith has made your well” or “Let it be done to you according to your faith” (Luke 17:19, Matthew 8:13, Matthew 9: 22, Mathew 9:29, Matthew 9:32, Mark 5:34, and Mark 10:52).
Faith Accompanied By Signs and Wonders
Faith makes the difference whether hearers of the Gospel receive it or reject it (Hebrews 4:2). Yet faith does not stand alone. Paul testifies that signs and wonders accompanied his proclamation of the Gospel. To the Romans, he declares, “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:18-19). And to the Corinthians, he writes that miracles were the proof that he was an apostle: “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (OSB 2 Corinthians 12:12).
Miracles Confirm Faith, Not Replace It
With this study in mind, we can say that signs and wonders do not replace or take priority over faith. But they confirm it. The Greek word for “confirm” means to establish something and make it firm with supports from outside itself (Strong’s #950, 53). With this thought in mind, St. John Chrysostom comments that Paul’s message to the Corinthians was that they had “the benefit of many signs, many wonders [and] unspeakable grace to make you believe the Gospel” (NFPF 1/12, p. 6). These extra reinforcements were not the Gospel, but they made the testimony of the Gospel even more believable. Chrysostom comments that Paul’s question was, “If therefore you were established by signs and grace, why do you waver” (NFPF 1/12, 6)?
The performance of miracles is one of the ways that the Lord fulfills His promise that he will “confirm” believers and preserve them blameless until the return of Christ (vs. 6). The Greek word for “blameless” comes from the negative root of being accused (Strong’s #410). It does not mean that believers are sinless, but God will not hold their sin to account. In summary, the divine confirmation will sustain them in their redemption until Christ appears as Judge.
Miracles frequently happen before our eyes, though we often do not see them. The Lord preserves our lives, provides for our needs, guards us against dangers, and defends us from evil—all this and more our Heavenly Father does in ways that we hardly notice. Yet our faith is “confirmed,” that is, strengthened, sustained, and protected when we would stop to notice the Providence of our Creator and Redeemer.