"Of Little Faith" in the NTVolume 3, Number 31
Created Date: April 7, 2010
Posted Date: April 7, 2010
Of Little faith: Part 6 - Recap:
In our last 5 studies we examined each text in which the Greek word “Oligopistos,” translated with our English phrase “of little faith” is used. It is found only 5 times in the New Testament; four in Matthew and once in Luke. Today's study recaps the teaching it conveys. This is based on the premise that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture, including the individual words they used. (This is not to say the Holy Spirit dictated what to write, it is to say the writers were inspired to write.) Nothing is by chance in God's Word for it is perfect in the original and therefore the 5 times “Oligopistos” was used is significant because 5 in Scripture is the number for Grace, God's unmerited favor (reference “Number in Scripture” by Ethelbert W. Bullinger, pages 135 - 149.) It was by God's grace that Jesus called and kept His disciples, in spite of their lack of faith, just as it is by His grace that anyone has been saved throughout history.
Before we recap the teaching of the word “Oligopistos” let's remember what we discovered from other “faith” words” so far. We have seen that Jesus taught His Disciples a great deal about faith during His 3-year ministry on earth. When we studied the Greek word “pistis” translated with our noun faith, used 24 times in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we found Jesus used it to point out the faith of some who were healed as well as the lack of faith of His own people Israel (see Vol 3, No 11- 20.) The Greek word “Pistos” usually translated with our English “faithful” found 12 times in the Gospels was generally used by Jesus to teach the qualifications necessary to enter His Kingdom on earth (see Vol 3, No 22- 25.)
Now we come to “Oligopistos” translated “of little faith,” which we found that Jesus used consistently to describe the lack of faith in His own disciples (Vol 3, No 26- 30.) Some have concluded from these passages that He was rebuking His Disciples; thus inferring they should have had more faith but I submit this was not the case and interpreting it thus throws us off track to the teaching. Jesus was not rebuking them but was merely observing a fact; His Disciples lacked faith.
In Vol 3, No 26(Part 1) we learned how Jesus used “Oligopistos” to teach that they should not have Care or Anxiety for worldly provisions: “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?” . A parallel passage to this, almost word for word, is . There we learn that at the same time He also instructed His followers to sell all they had and give to the poor, (in faith God would provide for all their needs; food, drink and clothing.)
Jesus addressed the Disciples' Fear or Doubt (Vol 3, No 28- Part 3) when they were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee during a ferocious windstorm causing waves to fill the boat. Jesus was sleeping through this when the disciples awoke Him, afraid they were going to die “And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye (Oligopistos) of little faith? He rebuked the winds and sea; and there was a great calm.” . Jesus Himself lived by faith in God's Word for the Holy Spirit had inspired the Psalmist to write what the Incarnate Jesus would know hundreds of years later: “... I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” . Then the rest of Psalms 121 was directed at Jesus (and to Israel): “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” . The promise that God shall neither slumber nor sleep and they would be kept safe from harm was the Word of God to Jesus and Israel. The Man Jesus had faith in that Word when He slept in the boat; He knew God never slept and He and His disciples would be safe. But His disciples did not have that faith.
The study in Vol 3, No 29(Part 4) was about how Peter responded by faith to the Living Word of God when Jesus said “come.” Peter did so and walked on water, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” . Peter's faith was fleeting because when he looked away from the living Word of God (Jesus Christ) and saw what he had gotten himself into, he began to sink.
Our last study (Vol 3, No 30- Part 5) covered the passage “And he charged them, (the Disciples) saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.” ; . “Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?” . We saw in the context that Jesus had just given the unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees a lesson of truth, which they rejected. Subsequent to that encounter the same lesson “went over the heads,” so to speak, of His own disciples. Mark's record of this incident is a commentary on part of what it means to have little or no faith because Mark does not use the Greek word “Oligopistos” translated “of little faith,” to describe the disciples condition. Instead, Mark records: “And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” . Jesus actually said what both Matthew and Mark respectively recorded but Matthew left out the part that Mark recorded about understanding while Mark left out what Matthew wrote about little faith. Thus, from the two records, we learn that understanding is an element of faith. That is, those of little faith have little or no understanding.
It is not until we get to the Pauline Epistles that we learn the full extent and ramifications of the faith of Jesus Christ as compared to that of His Disciples. Paul wrote: “but before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”. The Disciples, like all of Israel, were still under the law when Jesus was with them on earth. (Jesus Himself kept the law to the letter.) But when Jesus Christ finished His work of life, death and resurrection, faith was revealed, Galations 3:23. He was its author and finisher, . And we learn that it was His faith that justified those who believe in Him: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” .
Jesus Christ taught faith in God's Word as He Himself lived it. From what we have seen so far in our study we also may conclude that at the time of Jesus' earthly ministry some people had some faith, while most did not. And we have seen Jesus quantify people's faith, as small or great as in when He spoke of what faith as a grain of mustard seed could do. The apostles came to understand their lack of faith to a point as evidenced when they asked Jesus to increase their faith,. But Jesus Christ came to do exactly what His Father wanted Him to do, , that is, He lived totally by faith in God's Word, for without faith it is impossible to please God, . Jesus pleased God as no one else could or can do and gave those who believe the gift of eternal life: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” .