Praying for Faith: 5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
Why do the apostles make the request: “Increase our faith”? Does their request indicate that one can have more or less faith? If one remembers that pístis (“faith”) is also translated as “trust” then our own experience is that indeed with can trust to different degrees. But what was it that indicated their faith was somehow lacking?
Jesus commissioned them and sent them out with power over demons and diseases (9:1-6). They preached and healed; went about without any supplies of their own. They had trusted God for their necessities. They trusted God to heal the sick and cast out demons. They trusted God and proclaimed the coming Kingdom of God. Why do they now ask for more faith? Did they need more faith to stand up to temptations to sin? To cease from causing others to sin? To rebuke those who had sinned against them? To forgive one another? Perhaps moving mulberry trees (or mountains as in the parallels) into the sea is an easier act of faith than moving us to “rebuke” and “forgive” people who have sinned against us.
Culpepper (Luke, 322) writes on this verse:
The disciples’ plea in this context conveys the recognition that on the one hand faith is a dynamic process and one can grow in faith. On the other hand, the disciples ask that the Lord add to or strengthen their faith, thereby recognizing that faith is not just a matter of their own strength. In both of these aspects, Luke’s concept of faith is similar to Paul’s who writes of righteousness as being revealed “through faith for faith” (Rom 1:17) and declares that we have been saved by grace through faith and that this it not of our own doing (Eph 2:8).
I think that our growth in Christ is nearly always a movement from faith to faith (rather than only from unbelief to faith). While the faith I have today is similar to the faith given at baptism, it is also different. As we grow in our intellectual and physical skills and abilities yet remain the same person, so too, who we are today is both the spiritually same and different than who we were as an infant. Either way we are loved by God.
Luke 17:5 Increase our faith: Literally, “add faith to us.” The text gives no reason for the request. Possible conclusions are (a) the request to increase faith is given as a response to the high demands of forgiveness (vv.3-4) and to avoid scandal to the little ones (vv.1-2). Or (b) these verse sets are unconnected and Luke has inserted this material here as a separate thought.
- Alan Culpepper, Luke in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995) pp. 320-24
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. ©