Faith in the Synoptic Gospels as taught by the Greek word “pistis” - Part 2:
We are studying how the Holy Spirit used the Greek word “pistis,” translated with our noun “faith” the 24 times it is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke (not used in John.) Jesus is recorded as having uttered this word all but once out of the 24. In our last study we identified a group of 8 incidents where it is used 14 times to describe the faith of 13 individuals who approached Him for healing and/or forgiveness of sins. They believed Jesus was Who He said He was, i.e., they had faith in Him. Faith is the substance/ foundation of things hoped for, the evidence/ proof of things not seen, Hebrews 11:11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
and Jesus was/is the Author and Finisher thereof, Hebrews 12:22 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
. He took away their burden of sin; healed their disease; gave freedom of movement to the paralyzed and sight to the blind; and cast out a satanic spirit.
Today's study examines a group of 4 incidents wherein “pistis,” (faith) is recorded 7 times. Two of the 4 incidents are only recorded by one Gospel writer; one of the incidents is recorded by two writers and one by all three. In this group the word faith is found 6 times as having been uttered by Jesus. His apostles used it once when they asked Him to increase their faith.
1) Jesus pointed out His disciples' unbelief and advised them that nothing would be impossible for them if they had faith as a grain of Mustard seed. (Jesus taught that the Mustard seed is the smallest of any, Mark 4:3131 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
.) A man asked Jesus to cure his son who had a demon causing spastic episodes resulting in frequent falls into fire or water. He had already approached Jesus' disciples for a cure but they were unable to help. Jesus responded “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.” He rebuked the demon, which left the boy immediately. His disciples subsequently asked why they had been unsuccessful. Jesus answered: “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have “pistis” (faith) as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” and added: “this kind (of demon) goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17:15 - 2115 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
. (“Moving a Mountain” is a figure of speech indicating that nothing is impossible.) (One incident recorded by one writer, pistis found once.)
2) Jesus told His disciples that nothing would be impossible for them; they could move mountains if they asked in prayer while believing. Jesus and His disciples were returning from Bethany to Jerusalem one day when they came upon a living fig tree with leaves but no figs. Jesus told the tree it would never bear fruit. When they passed by the next day the disciples marveled it had dried up and died so quickly. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have “pistis” (faith,) and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Matthew 21:19 - 2219 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
; Mark 11:12 - 1412 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
; 20 - 26. The fig tree was an object lesson regarding the destiny of apostate Israel (as opposed to regenerated Israel) but the point here is what Jesus said His disciples could do if they had “pistis” (faith.) (One incident by two writers, pistis found twice.)
3) Jesus asked His disciples how it was they had no “pistis” (faith.) He was sleeping in the back of a ship in which He and His disciples were sailing across the Sea of Galilee. A terrible storm came up causing waves to fill the boat while Jesus slept. The disciples awoke Him and asked if He didn't care they were about to die. Jesus rebuked the wind and told the sea to be still and they obeyed. He then asked His disciples where their “pistis” (faith) was or how it was they had no “pistis” (faith.) Mark 4:35 - 4135 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
; Luke 8:22 - 2522 Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
23 But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.
24 And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.
25 And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.
. Matthew also records this incident but instead of “pistis” he uses the Greek “oligopistos” translated “oh ye of little faith,” Matthew 8:1818 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.
; 23 - 27. We will study the word “oligopistos” later. (One incident recorded by three writers, pistis found twice.)
4) The apostles asked The Lord Jesus to increase their faith to which He responded that if they had faith as a grain of mustard seed they could tell a tree to be plucked up by the root and be planted in the sea and it would obey. Luke 17:5 & 65 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
. This is the only place in the synoptic Gospels wherein the word “pistis” (faith) is recorded as having been uttered by anyone other than Jesus (verse 5) however Jesus is also recorded as having said it in His response, verse 6. Jesus had been addressing His disciples, Luke 17:11 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
, however the Greek word for apostles is used to identify those asking Him to increase their faith. (One incident by one writer, pistis found twice.)
Note: Jesus had many disciples but only 12 apostles. The Greek word translated disciples refers to followers, or learners, while Christ commissioned 12 apostles (Greek word meaning delegate, ambassador or sent one) as His chosen to sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel in His future Kingdom, Matthew 19:2828 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
; Luke 22:3030 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
. The apostles were included with the disciples but the disciples were not necessarily included with the apostles.
In this group of 4 incidents Jesus told His disciples/apostles what they could do with a little faith, indicating they lacked faith at the time. So, how do we reconcile this with our previous study of the group of 8 incidents where Jesus attributed the faith of 13 individuals as having been key to their healing and/or forgiveness of sins? Did the 13 people in last week's group have faith while Jesus' disciples didn't?
To answer these questions we go to Hebrews 11, where we find pistis (faith) defined and explained. The Old Testament Saints listed there, e.g., Moses, Joshua, Gideon and Samson, etc., received the Word of God as to what they were commissioned to do and by faith they did it. They didn't, on their own, decide to send plagues, part the Red Sea, crush the city of Jericho and miraculously kill thousands of Israel's enemies. God's Word came to them and ordained they do those things and they willingly, if sometimes hesitantly, carried out what they had been told. The mighty power to perform those deeds did not reside in Moses, Joshua, Gideon and Samson but in the Word of God. Each individual took action on the basis of their belief that God would do what He said.
Jesus was the Word of God incarnate, John 1:11 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
. Before He became incarnate, it was He as God who spoke to Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson and the prophets of old. When He came to earth He was both God, Matthew 3:1717 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
, etc., and Man, Matthew 9:66 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
; Mark 2:1010 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
; Luke 5:2424 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
. He had moved individuals in the Old Testament to prophesy of His own incarnation and what He would do as Man, i.e., heal the broken hearted, etc., Isaiah 61:1 & 21 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
, etc. Jesus the man quoted what He, as the Word of God, had inspired Isaiah to write as to His mission on earth, Luke 4:16 - 2116 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
As to our last study of the group of 8 incidents where 13 individuals approached Jesus for healing and/or forgiveness of sins, they believed Jesus was who He said He was, i.e., they had faith in Him. God's Word had said Jesus could and would do those things for them. The power to heal resided in God's Word and they believed God's Word and so they were healed. As to today's group of 4 incidents, Jesus' disciples/ apostles did not have faith to do what Jesus said they could because God's time had not yet come for them to have that faith. Jesus, the Word of God, foretold the conditions for and time when God's power would be bestowed on them: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” John 16:77 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
. See also John 14:2626 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
; 15:26 & 27; 16:8 - 15, 23 & 24. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:4949 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
. The disciples/apostles didn't even understand what Jesus was telling them when the 4 above described incidents occurred. In fact, they didn't understand until after Jesus had died, arose from the dead and was about to leave to go back to heaven, and then only when Jesus opened the eyes of their understanding, Luke 24:44 - 4844 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
Before He became incarnate the Word of God moved the prophet Joel (2:28 - 31,) to tell of the miraculous power to come at Pentecost and that power did come, Acts 2:16 - 2116 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:
21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
. Thus, the Word of God said it and Jesus' disciples/ apostles believed it when given the understanding to do so. They received a measure of power when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, as promised by the Word of God in the Old Testament and by the Living Word of God (Jesus) before He left earth, Acts 2:1 - 41 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
. Subsequently, with the power of the Holy Spirit, they went on to perform miraculous healings. In fact, many were healed by just having Peter's shadow pass over them as he walked by, Acts 2:4343 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
; 3:1 - 9 & 16; 5:12, 15 & 16.
Jesus was the Author and Finisher of Faith, Hebrews 12:2. To be continued.