Matthew 17:20 & Faith (2)

Ok… coming back to it all.

~ The previous post tried to make the point that when Jesus was discussing “small faith” he was discussing something different from what He was discussing  “faith the size of a grain of mustard.”

~ Now to that I want to add the following blurb from a commentary on James found at The commentary is by Dr. Thomas Constable of Dallas Seminary.  On page 12 of the commentary Dr. Constable says,

“In Scripture asking in faith always means one of two things. It means either believing God will do what He has promised or, if He has not promised, believing that He can do what the person requesting asks (cf. Matt. 8:1-4; Mark 4:35-41).”

~ I refer to the two sense of faith as will-faith & can-faith. The terms are clunky but will do for now. The two sense of faith can be found all over the Bible.  For example, when Abraham is told that he will have a son, even though his body is as good as dead, Abraham believes that this will happen. He does not simply believe that this can happen. Another example is the woman with bleeding.

Or take for example the Canaanite woman or the Centurion or blind Bartimaeus or Jairus or the man who took Jesus at His word – all of these folks knew what Jesus could do. They did not know what He as a matter of fact would do.  That is why they approached Him. Jairus did not say to himself “I know Jesus will heal my daughter and everything will be just fine.” He in fact did not know what Jesus would do. He knew what Jesus could do and he hoped.  Jairus had can-faith. I would also say that he had a low level of can-faith.

The Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 is an even better example. Jesus ignored her several times and then would say to her that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Now here is the thing. This woman did not know what Jesus would do. For all she knew, Jesus would simply tell her to go home. She knew what Jesus was capable of. She knew who He was. She knew what he could do. She had can-faith. In fact she had a very high level of can-faith because Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”

(Comment in passing: can-faith is the more common situation that we find ourselves in in life. I know someone who had a job interview recently. I know of a Nepali woman who last week was diagnosed with cancer – stage IV. I am praying. Do I know what the outcome will be? No. Do I know what God will do? No.)

The point: There is such a thing as will-faith and such a thing as can-faith. Both can admit to degrees. They can be high or they can be low.

~ Now a mouthful:

I will have one more post where I will try to make the point that while these two forms of faith can admit of degrees,

having a high or a low degree (= the disciples inability to heal the boy) of can-faith can result in your request being granted or not being granted,


having a high or a low degree ( = as in a grain of mustard seed) of will-faith will definitely result in your request being granted.

Whew… {add link}