Peter, James, and John had been with Jesus on the mountain and had seen Jesus transfigured before them. They had seen Him glow with the glory of God, and they had heard the Father say, "This is My beloved Son, [My Chosen One (Luke), with whom I am well-pleased (Matthew)]; listen to Him!" "Listen" is strong and means: "take notice and obey." He was greater than Moses, He was greater than Elijah. In Him came the full truth about God. He was the long awaited promised Messiah.
On their way down from the mountain they question their Rabbi:
Mark 9:11-13 (NASB) And they asked Him, saying, "Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 12 And He said to them, "Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 "But I say to you, that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him."
The disciples are thinking: You're the Messiah, we get that, but we've been taught that Elijah will come before the Messiah. What's up with that? Since you are the Messiah, what happened to Elijah? What about that prophecy?
The Jewish New Testament translates verse 11 this way:
Mark 9:11 (JNT) They also asked him, "Why do the Torah-teachers say that Eliyahu has to come first?"
They had been taught by the Torah-teachers that Elijah would come before the Messiah. Where did this teaching come from:
Malachi 3:1 (NASB) "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts.
Who is Malachi referring to as the messenger? The coming messenger that Malachi speaks of is Elijah:
Malachi 4:5-6 (NASB) "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
The question that perplexed the Jews of Jesus' day regarding Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 was whether these two Scriptures were dealing with a literal Elijah who was expected to return to earth or to one who would be a type of Elijah who was to come before the Messiah to prepare the way before Him and to draw back the hearts of the nation towards God.
The Pharisees' interpretation was to presume that the actual Elijah who had been translated into Heaven (2 Kings 2:11) was the one who would return to earth and so be the forerunner of the Messiah. They had no reason to understand the passage in any other way. Apart from the teaching of Jesus, we wouldn't know that this prophecy was referring to John.
It is only in the New Testament that we learn that John the Baptist is the Elijah of Malachi. The disciples knew the prophecy about Elijah; apparently they thought it would be fulfilled physically. It was actually, literally fulfilled, but it was not physically fulfilled. This is an important interpretive principle; something can be fulfilled literally and spiritually, but not physically. John came in the spirit of Elijah. Speaking to Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth about John, the angel said:
Luke 1:17 (NASB) "And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
Here the prophecy of Elijah is said to be fulfilled in John. John will be a forerunner in the spirit and power of Elijah. The Jews expected the reappearance of the literal Elijah, and John replies to that mistaken notion in:
John 1:21 (NASB) And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."
When the priests and Levites asked their question in John 1:21, they had in mind the actual Elijah, and it's to this question that John the Baptist answers that he's not the Old Testament prophet, without detracting from himself being the typification of Malachi's passage. I think if they would have asked him whether he was the fulfillment of that Malachi's prophecy, they would have gotten a different answer!
John is like the prophet in the sense that he moves in the same spirit and power as he did in his day and that, like Elijah in I Kings chapters 17-18, his ministry was to restore Israel.
Many commentators and teachers today say that John did not fulfill the prophecy of Elijah in Malachi 4. This against the clear teaching of Jesus that he did. Instead of taking Jesus at His Word, they look for a future fulfillment because they say that John did not restore all things.
Malachi 4 (NASB) "For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." 2 "But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3 "And you will tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts. 4 "Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. 5 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
Verse 5 is the only prophecy of the coming of Elijah. Notice that He comes before the great and terrible day of the Lord. We see in Malachi 4 two groups of people; one being judged and one being transformed and restored. If you listen to this messenger, you will enter into the restoration and miss the wrath (4:2).
The majority of Israel did not hear John's message. Because of this, God was going to strike the land with a curse (4:6b). John prepared the way. Those who listened to John came into the kingdom. This message of salvation or restoration came in John. Many scholars say that John didn't restore anything. But look at what the scripture says:
Isaiah 40:3 (NASB) A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
Picture this imagery a highway is being prepared in the wilderness. This is restoration language.
Isaiah 40:4 (NASB) "Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
The valleys are lifted up and the mountains are made low. A way is being prepared for the Lord, and John is the one preparing it. These verses from Isaiah are quoted in Luke 3 of John's ministry. Listen to this passage from Isaiah and see if it sounds familiar to you:
Isaiah 49:8-10 (NASB) Thus says the LORD, "In a favorable time I have answered You, And in a day of salvation I have helped You; And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages; 9 Saying to those who are bound, 'Go forth,' To those who are in darkness, 'Show yourselves.' Along the roads they will feed, And their pasture will be on all bare heights. 10 "They will not hunger or thirst, Neither will the scorching heat or sun strike them down; For He who has compassion on them will lead them, And will guide them to springs of water.
This is restoration language in Isaiah. Notice the end of verse 8. Do verses 9-10 sound familiar? The One who has compassion will lead them:
Mark 6:34 (NASB) And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
These verses spoke of Christ, the bound are going forth; the hungry are being fed. Jesus has compassion on them and feeds them. Notice the next verses in Isaiah:
Isaiah 49:11-12 (NASB) "And I will make all My mountains a road, And My highways will be raised up. 12 "Behold, these shall come from afar; And lo, these will come from the north and from the west, And these from the land of Sinim."
This is the same as Isaiah 40:3, this was John's function as Elijah. John prepared the way and then many came from afar; the North and West. Compare this with:
Mark 3:7-8 (NASB) And Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee (that's North), followed; and also from Judea, 8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea (that's South), and beyond the Jordan,(that's West), and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon,(that's East), a great multitude heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.
Is Jesus fulfilling Isaiah in Mark? Yes, absolutely, but not everyone is seeing it!
Isaiah 65:8-10 (NASB) Thus says the LORD, "As the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, 'Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,' So I will act on behalf of My servants In order not to destroy all of them. 9 "And I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, And an heir of My mountains from Judah; Even My chosen ones shall inherit it, And My servants shall dwell there. 10 "And Sharon shall be a pasture land for flocks, And the valley of Achor a resting place for herds, For My people who seek Me.
This is speaking of the remnant of Israel. They heard and saw and believed. What happened to those who did not believe?
Isaiah 65:11-13 (NASB) "But you who forsake the LORD, Who forget My holy mountain, Who set a table for Fortune, And who fill cups with mixed wine for Destiny, 12 I will destine you for the sword, And all of you shall bow down to the slaughter. Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight, And chose that in which I did not delight." 13 Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry. Behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty. Behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame.
Many in Israel did not see or hear. But some did. Some responded to John's teaching as the forerunner of Christ.
Mark 9:13 (NASB) "But I say to you, that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him."
If Elijah has come, then so has the day of the Lord. John's message was one of judgement to those who did not heed his message of the Messiah:
Matthew 3:10-12 (NASB) "And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
John's message is that of Malachi 4, judgment is coming.
Jesus said that John is the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy, but most Bible scholars today don't believe Him. Jesus said, "Elijah has come." Many today say: How could John have been Elijah, what did he restore? We saw in Isaiah that he leveled mountains, he prepared the way. Many don't see it because they look for physical and not spiritual realities. We now have reconciliation with God, we now have Christ's righteousness. This is far superior to any physical blessing. These blessings are eternal. John didn't physically level mountains but he did spiritually. John prepared the Way, and only those with spiritual eyes can see it.
John was not a partial forerunner of Elijah, he is the fulfillment of the prophecy, and the day of the Lord was right behind his coming. This was clearly A.D. 70. Elijah's coming was directly connected to the day of the Lord.
We should note that if we were to have lived in Jesus' day, we would probably have taken Malachi's statements with equal literalism and expected an Old Testament prophet to be translated back to earth from Heaven and to restore the nation back into a covenant relationship with God through a return to obedience to the Law.
So, when we come to passages even in the New Testament that speak of events which don't appear to have yet taken place, how are we to know that what is being referred to is to be taken literally and not figuratively? And even more difficult is that, in this example, the Old Testament passage couldn't have been taken as it was written to mean anything other than something that was literal - it never said that someone in Elijah's power would come, or someone under a similar anointing, but referred to the coming one as Elijah himself.
By interpreting the passages in Malachi as being literal, the scribes missed the coming of the one promised and so did to John the Baptist whatever they pleased. Therefore, literalism can be a grave danger to the believer for, in such interpretations, one can ultimately reject the true fulfillment of prophetic passages.
As Jesus and the three disciples come down from the mountain, they face a confrontation. Going from the glory on the mountain to the bickering crowd below presents us with a reality check! Can you relate to this experience? You've had some indescribable spiritual experience, and then you walk right into an ugly confrontation. This is reality! As Christians we must not only delight in the great experiences of grace but learn how to maneuver our way through the difficulties of life as well. That's all part of our Christian walk. And all of it is to be done by faith.
Mark 9:14 (NASB) And when they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them.
While Jesus and the "inner circle" of disciples were on the mountain, the other nine weren't sitting around but seeking to minister to others. A man had brought his son to them hoping to have him healed. But the demonized boy stumped them. They couldn't cast out the demon nor heal the boy of his illness, even though earlier they had ministered mightily in Jesus' name:
Mark 6:7 (NASB) And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs; and He was giving them authority over the unclean spirits;
Mark 6:13 (NASB) And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
The Torah-teachers had no compassion for the boy in need or his father. They just saw this as a time to cast blame on Christ and His disciples. Finger pointing ensued. Tempers flared. Disciples defended Christ and His kingdom. Scribes made fun of them and ridiculed them for doing nothing to relieve the boy. Maybe even some in the crowd chimed in, thinking that the disciples owed them an explanation for their inability.
The fact that Torah-teachers (scribes) were there suggests that they were somewhere in Galilee, from where they would "go through Galilee" (verse 30) to Capernaum. The Torah-teachers would have limited authority outside Galilee.
Mark 9:15 (NASB) And immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed, and began running up to greet Him.
What question do we need to ask ourselves here? What was this crowd so amazed about when they saw Jesus? The Amplified New Testament reads, "And immediately all the crowd, when they saw Jesus returning from the holy mount, His face and person yet glistening, were greatly amazed and ran to Him and greeted Him." The writers of the ANT give a commentary to try to explain "amazed." There is no scriptural justification for this it is simply their opinion.
The Greek word translated "amazed" is ekthambeo. It means: "to throw into terror or amazement; to alarm thoroughly, to terrify." It is only used four time in the New Testament, all in Mark. What is the common thread in the three situations: the returned Rabbi; the agony in the garden; and the appearance of the angel at the resurrection? It seems to mean a "surprise," whether sorrowful or joyful, which brings an emotional shock.
Why was the crowd "surprised" at seeing Jesus? It is quite likely that the disciples had told them that Jesus had gone up into the mountain and would be there for some time, as had Moses when he went into a mountain to meet with God. Thus the idea was settled in their minds that they would not see Jesus for quite a while, and they were no doubt disappointed by it, while the failure of the disciples accentuated the fact. Thus they were not expecting to see Jesus and were quite taken by surprise and amazed when He arrived at such an opportune time. They clearly had confidence that He would be able to do something:
Mark 9:16-18 (NASB) And He asked them, "What are you discussing with them?" 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and stiffens out. And I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it."
Jesus asks, What's the problem here? What are we arguing about? So a man from the crowd stepped out. This man had brought his son who was demon possessed to the disciples. It is interesting that he equates bringing the son to the disciples as bringing him to Jesus. He said, "I brought him to You" (meaning to His disciples). Now just imagine what this father had endured. This boy from childhood has had this demon that makes his life absolutely miserable--slams him to the ground; he foams at the mouth; he grinds his teeth; he stiffens out. Can you imagine a father watching that in his child? You have to imagine this man was at the end of his rope. He was at the end of himself. He had nowhere else to turn. He was desperate.
Mark 9:19 (NASB) And He answered them and said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!"
I think this rebuke, "unbelieving generation," is addressed specifically to the disciples. He expected more from them. They had experienced success at casting out demons when they depended upon God (Mark 6:13). Their failure to help this man was because of their failure to trust their Rabbi. It was another instance of what has already been highlighted in every previous narrative about the disciples, whether of the inner circle or the rest of them: They do not understand the identity of Jesus and do not really have trust in Him. Jesus informs them that the demon could only be exorcised "by prayer," indicating that the disciples were relying on themselves instead of God.
Disciples were by definition apprentices in training to assume the role of their Rabbi. Jesus had already sent His disciples out, and they had healed the sick and driven out demons. Had they not seen enough to believe?
Matthew 17:17 (NASB) And Jesus answered and said, "O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me."
Matthew adds the word "perverted." The perfect tense of the verb "perverted,"expresses the condition that exists as long as unbelief toward Christ and the gospel rules the heart. The scribes, though extremely knowledgeable, denied the revelation of God in His Word. The very Scriptures that they studied were the truths they denied.
Mark 9:20-22 (NASB) And they brought the boy to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling about and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22 "And it has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"
Mark alone records this second conversation which Jesus has with the father along with the exact circumstances surrounding the child's deliverance.
"If you can do anything." This father was in torment. He had come with high hopes to these famed followers of Jesus, a last desperate chance, but they had been able to do nothing. And his hopes had faded. Could Jesus do any better? It is sad that this father's faith in Jesus' power had been weakened from the powerlessness of His disciples. At this point he doesn't know if Jesus can do anything--because that's how Jesus' disciples have represented Him. Of course, Jesus picks up on this. He says, Excuse me. Did you say if I can do anything?
Mark 9:23 (NASB) And Jesus said to him, "'If You can!' All things are possible to him who believes."
Jesus was saying, "You have said 'if You can.' To him who believes (what I can do), all things are possible." The strength of the argument is not that if the man has sufficient faith the boy can be healed, but that if the man has sufficient faith in Jesus Himself then he could be. He must put aside his doubt and have confidence in Jesus.
Jesus is saying: There's no power shortage here. The problem here isn't with Me and My power. The problem here is with My team, and they don't get it yet. You need to understand that with Me all things are possible. I can do anything!
Now just imagine this. You are a father of this boy and you've been in agony for years, and absolutely no one has been able to help. Then up steps this Man who says: I can do anything. Anything. All things are possible with Me.
The reality is, with Jesus there is no such thing as hopeless. Some may look at their life and think it's hopeless. Some may look at their marriage and think it's hopeless. Some may look at their financial situation and say, "It's hopeless."There is no power shortage with Jesus! There is no such thing as hopeless. The only problem here is a group of men who don't get it. They don't believe.
This father responds to Jesus with words that have been the encouragement of many since:
Mark 9:24 (NASB) Immediately the boy's father cried out and began saying, "I do believe; help my unbelief."
That's a great statement, isn't it? I mean, isn't that where we all live? Oh God, I believe! Help my unbelief. Out of the honesty of his weakness, he cast himself on the Lord: Yes, Lord, I do believe; but I feel my unbelief and I don't know how to handle it. You make me believe. The moment he said those words, the moment he cast himself in his weakness back on the Lord, that was all God wanted.
The reality is when we come together to worship, it's kind of like being up on the mountain, isn't it? We say, "God, can't we just set up some tabernacles and stay here? Do we really have to go back out there?" We see Jesus, and He seems like He glows a little bit in here. And we say in our hearts with all sincerity, "I believe that." We sing all these wonderful truths of God in His greatness and His power. And we believe that, don't we? In our hearts we say, "Yes, I believe that"!
But then we have to go down the mountain. And by Monday morning we're starting to feel a little bit of a faith drain. In our hearts we're saying, "God I believe it; but help my unbelief, because I'm starting to struggle. I'm starting to run into people and circumstances, and I'm struggling here to believe."
I believe that this man's request was the same as Jesus' disciples request in:
Luke 17:5 (NASB) And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
They had faith, but it was weak. This father also had faith, but it too was weak.
Mark 9:25-27 (NASB) And when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." 26 And after crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.
This language is very precise. The verb "raised him" is the exact same one used of Jesus rising from the dead. Jesus did for this boy what nobody else could do. He appeared to be dead, but out of that death came life. For the first time in his life he was set free from bondage. He was alive!
The reality is that Jesus can do for us what nobody else can do. He alone can give us life. He alone can deliver us. He alone can set us free. He has the power to give us life.
Jesus setting this boy free was again an evidence that He was the prophesied Messiah:
Isaiah 61:1 (NASB) The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners;
Jesus read this verse in the synagogue in Nazareth and then said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21).
Mark 9:28-29 (NASB) And when He had come into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" 29 And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
It's only Mark who records Jesus' answer to the disciples that this type of demon could only be cast out by prayer. Some manuscripts add "and fasting." The majority of manuscripts have this additional phrase but, because the ones which omit it are generally considered to be the more reliable, it's normally accepted by translators that it didn't exist in the original.
"This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer" Don't misunderstand this. Jesus is not saying: You should have quickly had a prayer meeting. What is prayer? It is a declaration of our dependence. When He's talking about prayer, He is talking about a day-by-day, minute-by-minute dependence upon Him. That's the essence of prayer. We pray because we know we are fully dependent upon Jesus to do for us and through us what we cannot do ourselves.
In their attempt to cast out this demon, the disciples were not dependent on Jesus; they were dependent on their methodology. What Jesus is saying is: You have to understand that the only way you can do this is with Me and My power--your total dependence upon Me. It's not your programming; it's not your methodology. It's Me that changes people's lives."
An ongoing lifestyle of faith expresses daily dependence upon the Lord - looking to Him for daily bread, deliverance from temptation, and effectiveness in serving Him. When everything seems to be coming up roses, that's not a problem. But when the demands of life, the strains of temptation, and pressure of assorted trials come our way, faith gets a true workout. An aberrant theology that infiltrated the church over the past few decades implies that any hardship or trial means a failure of faith. But the Scripture teaches us just the contrary. The best lessons on faith are most often learned in times of weakness and even failure.
Notice Matthew's account of this incident:
Matthew 17:19-20 (NASB) Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" 20 And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
Matthew says, "Because of the littleness of your faith." This is the same word that the Lord uses in:
Matthew 14:31-32 (NASB) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said^ to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped.
It describes "poverty of faith," a lack of that ability to believe the Lord and lay hold of His promises. Notice what Jesus says in verse 20:
Matthew 17:20 (NASB) And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
We all know the importance of faith, but can our faith really move mountains? Are we to take this literally? Is Jesus saying that with even a small amount of faith we can change the landscape? I don't think so. When Jesus spoke about moving mountains, He was using a phrase which the Jews knew well. A Rabbi, who could really expound and interpret scripture, and who could explain and resolve difficulties, was known as an uprooter, or even a pulverizer, of mountains. To tear up, to uproot, to pulverize mountains were all regular phrases for removing difficulties. We see it used this way in:
Zechariah 4:6-7 (NASB) Then he answered and said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts. 7 'What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"
The work of rebuilding the temple was so massive it seemed like a great mountain. Here God promises that by His Spirit, that great mountain will be leveled into a plain.
He is referring to the mountain of difficulties that would disappear.
Jesus never meant this to be taken physically and literally. What good would it do for us to move mountains unless we worked for a land development firm. What Jesus was saying was: If you have faith, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest tasks accomplished.
All believers have faith, they have trusted Christ for their salvation, but most of them are not living in faith, trusting God in each and every area of their lives. Everyday and in every way we should be trusting God in our daily lives. But are we? Do we really trust God? When you are hurting and your life seems to be coming apart, do you trust God?
Do you understand that there are degrees of faith? We often think in terms of you either have faith or you don't. But the Bible talks of various degrees of faith. In Acts 6:8, Stephen was said to be "full of faith." The Greek word for "full" is pleres, which means: "complete or mature." In 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul said he wanted to perfect that which was lacking in their faith. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul said, "Your faith grows exceedingly." James talks about "dead" faith in 2:17 and 20, and he talks about "mature" faith in 2:22.
So the Scriptures speak of: little faith, great faith, weak faith, strong faith, lacking faith, perfect faith, dead faith, full faith, growing faith, and increasing faith. There are degrees of faith. All believers don't have the same amount of faith. Some believers are weak in faith. Some believers have dead faith.
How can we increase our faith? What is the main factor which determines the strength of our faith. It is our knowledge of God. The main explanation of the troubles and difficulties which most Christians experience in their lives is due to a lack of knowledge about God. We need to read and re-read the revelation that God has given of Himself. That is how to develop strong faith. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him:
Romans 10:17 (NASB) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
God wants us to trust Him! It pleases God when we trust Him:
Hebrews 11:6 (NASB) And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
There is no way we can live a life that is pleasing to God without trusting Him. God wants us to trust Him. Apart from faith, we cannot please God. So, apart from faith, it doesn't much matter what we do.
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