Jesus said, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?"
Scripture describes a number of varieties of faith. Faith is described as strong, weak, wavering, growing, little, incomplete, without root, etc. An understanding of the different varieties of faith is helpful to those who wish to have intimate fellowship with God in the Sixth Path. Here they are...
- "he (Abraham) didn't waver through unbelief, but grew strong through faith, giving glory to God" (Romans 4:20).
- "Without being weakened in faith, he..." (Romans 4:19).
- "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering" (Hebrews 10:23).
- "But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For that man shouldn't think that he will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:6, 7).
- "your faith grows exceedingly" (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
- "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 8:23-26).
Faith that does not fail: "
- Jesus said "I prayed for you, that your faith wouldn't fail" (Luke 22:32). (Jesus prayed for Simon.)
- "perfect that which is lacking in your faith" (1 Thessalonians 3:10).
Faith With Zero Works:
- "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from (without) works is dead" (James 2:26).
Faith Without Root:
In the parable of the Sower, the word of God is sown on four types of soil. 1) beside the road, 2) on rocky soil 3) in thorns and 4) in good soil. If you would like to read the parable, it is found in Luke 8:4-15. It is also found in Matthew 13:1-23 and Mark 4:1-20. Faith without root is the rocky soil in the parable of the sower. If we consider all three gospel accounts of this parable, we will receive a more complete understanding of "faith without root". Here are relevant excerpts from each account.
"Others fell on the rocky ground, where it had little soil, and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of soil."
"as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture"
"Those on the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but these have no root, who believe for a while, then fall away in time of temptation."
"When the sun had risen, they were scorched. Because they had no root, they withered away."
In Mark 4:5, we see that this seed "immediately sprang up". Luke 8:6 reveals that "as soon as it grew up, it withered away". Luke 8:13 shows that they had "no root" and only "believe for a while". Temptation or testing is the catalyst for the disappearance of this variety of faith. Matthew 13:6 shows that the reason they withered was because they had "no root".
The immediate reception of the truth, followed immediately by withering upon the first test or temptation indicates a response based on a superficial consideration. It is like a man who was asked "Is that boat safe?" After a quick glance at the boat, he said, "sure". But when asked to get into the boat, he thought about it and said "No, that boat may sink."
These passages also link "no root" to "no depth of soil" and "no moisture".
Faith without root is a temporary faith based on a superficial consideration and was not viable from its beginning... Faith without root is not the kind of faith that brings eternal life. The Bible Knowledge Commentary by Zuck is helpful on this passage. Faith without root may explain Colossians 1:23 ("if you continue in the faith").
Actually, the proof that one has truly believed is perseverance in that belief. So, there is no such thing as one who believes and stops believing. This is the very explicit teaching of Hebrews 3:6, 14.
How do we identify faith without root? The scriptures tell us how. An immediate reception of the gospel upon first hearing, followed immediately by non-acceptance of the gospel indicates faith without root.
Faith with Boundaries: Coexistence of Faith and Unbelief
There are three accounts of Jesus calming the storm. They are in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:36-41 and Luke 8:22-25. A comparison of the three accounts reveals that there can be boundaries to our faith.
Here is the account of Jesus calming the storm from Matthew 8:23-27:
- "23 When he (Jesus) got into a boat, his disciples followed him. 24 Behold, a violent storm came up on the sea, so much that the boat was covered with the waves; but he was asleep. 25 The disciples came to him and woke him up, saying, "Save us, Lord! We are dying!"
- 26 He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then he got up, rebuked the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.
- 27 The men marveled, saying, "What kind of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
Jesus said that they were afraid because their faith was "little". That was the account from the gospel of Matthew. As I said, Mark and Luke also provide an account of Jesus calming the storm. But each of those two accounts revealed a different statement of Jesus with regard to the faith of the disciples. Here are the three statements that Jesus made about their faith.
Jesus' responses to the disciples were:
1) "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 8:26).
2) "Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?" (Mark 4:40).
3) "Where is your faith?" Luke 8:25
Jesus made all three statements when he calmed the storm, but each gospel selected one of Jesus' comments to reveal.
These are three accounts of the same event... the accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke. The disciples' faith is revealed as "little faith" in Matthew, but as "no faith" in Mark. So, Matthew indicates some faith while Mark indicates none. Clarification is resolved by Luke as he reveals Jesus as asking "Where is your faith?" In other words, why does your faith not reach to this level? Why does your faith not apply to this danger? In this situation, you have no faith. You have faith, but your faith is too small for this situation. Your faith has boundaries!
So, both "faith" and "unbelief" can describe a person at a point in time.
Israel had faith and drank from Christ:
- "Israel saw the great work which Yahweh did to the Egyptians, and the people feared Yahweh; and they believed in Yahweh and in his servant Moses" (Exodus 14:31).
- "our fathers... were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ..." (1 Corinthians 10: 1-4).
Israel also had unbelief:
- "We see that they weren't able to enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19).
In the account of Jesus calming the storm we saw that both "faith" and "unbelief" can describe a person at a particular point in time. Faith and unbelief can also describe a nation like Israel.
SO... IF, AS BELIEVERS, WE COME INTO A SITUATION WHEREIN WE DO NOT HAVE FAITH, WE HAVE NOT BECOME UNBELIEVERS WHO DON'T HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. OUR FAITH NEEDS TO GROW SO THAT IT IS WITHOUT BOUNDARIES.
Doubts reflect a broken fellowship with God, not a loss of eternal life.
Faith Without Boundaries:
The three accounts of Jesus calming the storm show that imperfect faith has boundaries. One may have faith. But a certain situation may push that person beyond the boundary of their faith. When outside the boundary of one's faith, a believer cannot expect God to grant their prayer requests. This is because the prayer is offered with doubts (James 1:6,7 as explained in micro-subchapter 4.2a). If our faith is too weak for the present situation, we are out of fellowship with God and spiritually impotent.
- "Beware, brothers, lest perhaps there might be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12).
But when one is within the boundary of one's faith, one can make requests to God without doubt. These requests are made with the expectation that God will grant the requests. Fellowship with God continues as we act in faith. (See subchapter 4.11 for scriptural conditions for effective prayer.)
The key is to push back the boundaries of our faith. We do this by prayer. Specifically, we pray the Endorsed Prayer of Faith. In this prayer we ask God to increase our faith. This prayer is described in detail in micro-subchapter 4.3a.
In the passages above, one passage indicated that Israel believed. Another passage indicated that they didn't. The three accounts of Jesus calming the storm revealed three statements, which, on the surface appeared to disagree. But the above explanations reconciled all of the passages. But there is more. The reconciliations revealed a deeper truth!
Truth is more clearly seen when we reconcile passages that appear to disagree. There are no contradictions in God's word, although interpretations may disagree with other interpretations. Not one word of God's word has been proved wrong by science or anyone else. The book Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, by Haley, is helpful in seeing truth more clearly by examining alleged discrepancies in many passages. The Bible Knowledge Commentary by Zuck is also very helpful.
That concludes our study of scriptural varieties of faith. In Fellowship with God in the Sixth Path, our faith is strong and growing. What shall we do to improve our faith? We pray the Endorsed Prayer of Faith. In the prayer of faith we ask God to increase our faith. God is the one who causes our faith to grow. You will read about that in the subchapter titled "Fellowship with God in Prayer". As we ask God to multiply our faith, God removes the boundaries to our faith.