"Of Little Faith" in the NTVolume 3, Number 26
Created Date: December 29, 2009
Posted Date: December 29, 2009
Of Little faith - Part 1 - Care or Anxiety addressed:
Seven different Greek words were identified in the New Testament (NT) that convey the idea of faith/believe or the lack thereof and were listed in Faith Study Vol. 3, No. 21 dated September 15, 2009. My goal is to examine every passage these words are found in order to understand what the Word of God teaches about faith/ believing. We are presently in the Gospels, i.e., Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where we have examined 2 words thus far; “pistis: usually translated “faith” and “pistos,” usually translated “faithful.”
Today we begin a study of the Greek “oligopistos,” translated “of little faith,” found only 5 times in the entire NT; four in Matthew and once in Luke. Jesus Christ used this word to rebuke His disciples for care or anxiety; fear; doubt; and reasoning or forgetfulness and thus teach them faith in Him.
“Oligopistos” first appears in: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye (Oligopistos) of little faith?” This is part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to His disciples and a large crowd of people (chapters 5, 6 & 7). He was instructing them how to live in view of the persecutions and tribulation they would suffer while waiting for the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. He tells them to “take no thought” several times beginning in where He says “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on...” (It should be noted that the phrase “take no thought” in the English of 1611, in which the King James Translation is written, actually means “don't worry” or “don't be anxious” in today's parlance.) Jesus points out several obvious facts: birds don't work to make a living or amass wealth but God provides them sustenance, verse 26; God proscribed a man's height and no one can become taller by just thinking about it, verse 27; why should they worry about what they are going to wear when God adorns the lilies of the field and even King Solomon, arrayed in all his glory was not so beautiful as the lily, verses 28 & 29. With all this in mind He rebukes them: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye (Oligopistos) of little faith?” - verse 30.
A parallel passage to this is in: “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye (Oligopistos ) of little faith?” Although this verse is almost word for word as the one in Matthew the context is not part of the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus is responding to a man who asked Him to intervene with his brother about dividing an inheritance with him, . Jesus probably observed this man asked for this out of covetousness and responded by asking the man why he thought He (Jesus) should judge this matter, verse 14. He then gave a lesson about the sin of covetousness. He said a man's life does not consist of the abundance of the things he possesses, verse 15, and tells a parable of a covetous rich man who enjoyed an abundant crop. That man wanted to keep everything so he tore down his old storehouses and built bigger ones, thinking he would be able to kick back and enjoy the fruits of his labor for many years, verses 16 - 19. “But God said unto him, [Thou] fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So [is] he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Verses 20 & 21.
Jesus said that in light of this they should “take no thought” for what to eat or put on because life is more than food and the body more than what they put on it,. As in Matthew, Jesus again points out how God takes care of birds, verse 24, how a man cannot grow taller just by thinking about it, verse 25, so if they can't do anything about these things, He asks rhetorically how can they take care of bigger things, verse 26. He again compares out the flowers of the field to Solomon in all his glory, verse 27, then stated: “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye (Oligopistos) of little faith?” verse 28.
“Therefore,” or in light of all this, Jesus tells them not to be anxious about what they are going to eat or drink, verse 29, because everyone in the world has these worries and God the Father knows their needs, verse 30. Instead of worrying about what to eat, drink and wear they are told to seek after the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given them, verse 31, and they should not fear because it is in God's heart to give them the Kingdom, verse 32. Jesus culminates His lesson with an instruction that was very difficult for them to swallow, but it was a literal requirement and only those who really believed in Him as their Messiah could or would do: they were to sell all they had and give the proceeds to the poor, verse 33.
All this is part of the message Jesus, Israel's Messiah, had for Israel. His teaching should have been familiar and nothing new to them because they well knew their history taught in their Synagogues from the Old Testament. Their forefathers had experienced the same care from God that Jesus was predicting for them in His coming Kingdom. Under Moses' leadership when they were in the wilderness for 40 years God literally lived with them in the Tabernacle, providing food, water and clothing, requiring no effort on their part except to pick up the manna to eat. That knowledge should have been a lesson that God could and would do the same thing again. Also the Prophetic Scriptures foretold the coming of their Messiah and what He would do. Jesus did everything prophesied: He feed thousands with a few fish and loves; healed the sick; cast out demons; and displayed total control over nature. He did just what God had done for them years before under Moses: He demonstrated He was indeed the fulfillment of the Old Testament Prophets; He offered them God's Kingdom on earth. A few chosen believed but the leaders of Israel rejected Him and the majority followed them and delivered Him up to be crucified.
God's Kingdom on earth was again offered to Israel by Christ's Apostles and Disciples after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven (as pointed out in the last Faith Study, Vol 3, No 25dated November 21, 2009). Even though some believed, the Nation as a whole again rejected Jesus Christ and killed those who believed in Him. Then, in love and grace the Lord Jesus Christ reached down and saved Saul, one of the Chief Persecutors of the believing Jews. Saul was then called the Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ revealed a message of Grace through him to both Jews and Gentiles alike. There are some aspects of Paul's message to us today that were totally new and different than the message Israel's Messiah gave to them during His three year ministry, but there are some similarities.
For instance, the Lord Jesus Christ's message given to us today through the Apostle Paul includes: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” . But unlike God's care for the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness and what He has promised them in the future earthly Kingdom age here on earth where all their physical needs will also be cared for miraculously, we today are required to work and provide for our families. We are not instructed to sell all we have and give to the poor. We are told: “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” . “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” . To be continued.