by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 13 November 26, 1997 Harlingen, Texas
Thesis:The requirement of a legitimate motive is actually a requirement for genuine faith.
1. There are at least three texts which address the issue of being able to move mountains by faith.
a. Matthew 17:20 says that a grain of mustard seed faith is all that is required (the entire argument is based upon the smallness of the seed).
b. Matthew 21:21 adds the qualification that we 'doubt not'.
c. 1 Corinthians 13:2 suggests that moving mountains requires 'all faith', but posits the possibility of a false motive.
2. There are these issues in possessing a mustard-seed faith:
a. A divine mandate/a legitimate grasp of the character of God.
b. A human commitment to obedience.
c. A human motivation that is centered upon real love.
Our Current Study:
BEGIN WITH A DISCUSSION OF THE QUESTION: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU THINK OF GREAT FAITH?
I. Clarification of the 'small/all' faith conflict.
A. Jesus' use of the mustard seed had to be because of its small size.
1. The references to the mustard seed in Jesus' teaching were references to the size of the seed.
2. There is no other significance to the mustard seed that isn't true of any seed. If Jesus had wanted to simply indicate that seeds do what they are designed to do, He would have simply said 'seed' (generic).
B. Paul's teaching about having 'all' faith, so as to be able to move mountains has these peculiarities:
1. It is in harmony with the disciples MISTAKEN notion that it takes a lot of faith to get God to apply His omnipotence [See Luke 17:1-6].
2. It is not particularly in harmony with Jesus' comments about 'great faith' which only arise on two occasions [Matthew 8:10 and 15:28] and are responses to a fairly remarkable logic of faith', not so much a level of strength of conviction.
a. In other words, great faith is not given as the presence of mental and emotional serenity about the willingness of God to say 'yes' to the request.
b. Great faith in Jesus' teaching is the ability to 'connect a larger number of dots' than most people have the ability to do.
3. It is not particularly in harmony with Jesus' comments about 'little' faith either.
a. Jesus spoke of 'little' faith within the context of a hardness of heart that dis-allowed the 'connecting of the dots' of the learning process: Matthew 16:8 compared with Mark 8:17-18.
b. Jesus spoke even more instructively when He tied 'littleness of faith' to a focus on the preservation of one's own soul: Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 8:26; and Matthew 14:31.
c. The clear implication is that one who is attempting to use 'faith' as a way to preserve one's 'soul' is exercising 'little' faith, which is a euphemism for unbelief.
d. Paul's use of 'all' faith without love is actually in direct contradiction with Jesus' teaching.
4. Our conclusion is that Paul is simply adapting himself to the typical thinking of the carnal Corinthians to make a point without having to explain all of the finer points.
a. His illustrations are beyond probability.
b. He is simply contrasting what the Corinthians mistakenly valued with what they ought to have valued.
Summary:Mustard-seed faith has these components:
1. A true grasp of the will of God as revealed by properly understood divine declaration or by properly understood divine character. [Note: Jesus' understanding that no true father would give a stone in the place of bread ALSO included the reality that a true father WOULD let you endure significant hardship for your sake as well as others' sake.]
2. A belief that God CAN do what He is committed to [Compare Mark 1:40 to Mark 9:22-23].
3. A willingness to put ALL soul-issues in God's hands.