Luke 17:5
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
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(5) The apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.—The form in which the fragment that thus commences is brought before us suggests, as has been stated before (see Notes on Luke 7:13; Luke 10:1), that it was a comparatively late addition to the collection of “the words of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:35), and this is confirmed by the exceptional use of “the Apostles” for “the disciples.” It may have stood originally in an absolutely isolated form. On the other hand, its position here indicates a sufficiently traceable sequence. That command of a seven-fold—i.e., an unlimited—forgiveness seemed to make almost too great a strain on their faith. Did it not imply an almost miraculous victory over natural impulses, that could be wrought only by a supernatural grace? Was not the faith that could “remove mountains” wanted, if ever, here—a faith in the pardoning love of the Father, and in their own power to reproduce it? And so, conscious of their weakness, they came with the prayer that has so often come from the lips of yearning, yet weak, disciples of the Christ—reminding us of him who cried, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (see Note on Mark 9:24)—“Increase our faith.” May we not possibly think of Peter as having struggled to obey the rule which had been given to them before (Matthew 18:22), and as having found himself unequal to the task?

Luke 17:5-6. And the apostles said, Lord, increase our faith — That we may thus forgive, and neither offend nor be offended. And he said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard-seed — You would be able to overcome all temptations, even those, the conquering of which may be compared to the plucking up of trees and planting them in the ocean, that is, compared to things impossible. Some, taking this example (by which the efficacy of faith is illustrated) in a literal sense, have supposed, that the apostles desired Jesus to increase their faith of working miracles. But the expression is undoubtedly proverbial, signifying, not the working of miracles, but the doing of things extremely difficult.

17:1-10 It is no abatement of their guilt by whom an offence comes, nor will it lessen their punishment that offences will come. Faith in God's pardoning mercy, will enable us to get over the greatest difficulties in the way of forgiving our brethren. As with God nothing is impossible, so all things are possible to him that can believe. Our Lord showed his disciples their need of deep humility. The Lord has such a property in every creature, as no man can have in another; he cannot be in debt to them for their services, nor do they deserve any return from him.Increase our faith - This duty of forgiving offences seemed so difficult to the disciples that they strongly felt the need of an increase of faith. They felt that they were prone themselves to harbor resentments, and that it required an additional increase of true religion to enable them to comply with the requirements of Jesus. We may learn from this:

1. That Jesus has "the power" of increasing the faith of his people. Strength comes from him, and especially strength to believe the gospel. Hence, he is called the "Author and Finisher" of our faith, Hebrews 12:2.

2. The duty of forgiving offences is one of the most difficult duties of the Christian religion. It is so contrary to our natural feelings; it implies such elevation above the petty feelings of malice and revenge, and is so contrary to the received maxims of the world, which teach us to "cherish" rather than to forgive the memory of offences, that it is no wonder our Saviour dwells much on this duty, and so strenuously insists on it in order to our having evidence that our hearts have been changed.

Some have thought that this prayer that he would increase their faith refers to the power of working miracles, and especially to the case recorded in Matthew 17:16-20.

5. Lord—(See on [1683]Lu 10:1).

increase our faith—moved by the difficulty of avoiding and forgiving "offenses." This is the only instance in which a spiritual operation upon their souls was solicited of Christ by the Twelve; but a kindred and higher prayer had been offered before, by one with far fewer opportunities. (See on [1684]Mr 9:24.)

Though we be not to seek a connection of all those speeches of our Lord which are recorded by the evangelists, they sometimes heaping together many of his golden sayings, without so much as regard to the order of time when he spake them, or their dependence on each other; yet he that wisely observes the preceding discourse for charity, will easily observe an excellent connection of this verse with the former. No duty required of men and women more grates upon flesh and blood than this of forgiving injuries, nothing that the most of people find harder to put in practice; so as indeed where there is not a root of faith, this fruit will not be found. It is faith which worketh by love. Till the soul cometh steadily and fixedly to agree to those propositions of the word where this is required, as the indispensable will of God; nay, till it comes firmly to rest upon those promises, and hope for them, which are made to this duty; finally, till it comes to have received Christ, and forgiveness from him, and considers itself bound to forgive, as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven it, Ephesians 4:32; it will hardly come up to the practice of this duty. Hence it is that unregenerate men are usually implacable, malicious, always studying revenge. Nay, so imperfect are the habits and workings of faith in believers, that they often find it very difficult to forgive. The apostles therefore very properly pray, Lord, increase our faith after hearing this discourse. Others make the connection thus: Lord, we have now heard thee discoursing our duty as to love, now increase our faith, discourse to us something for the increase of that. But the former seemeth to be least strained. By the way we may observe from hence, that as the beginnings, so the increase, of our faith must be from God. In things truly and spiritually good, without him we can do nothing.

And the apostles said unto the Lord,.... Either on account of what was now said by Christ concerning offences, and forgiving injuries; being conscious to themselves of their own weakness to withstand temptations; and fearful lest they should be stumbled and offended with what they should meet with; or that they should give offence to others: and being also sensible of what spirits they were of, and of the difficulties of conquering them, and mastering the resentment of their minds, when injured and provoked; and also the necessity of divine assistance, of having fresh supplies of grace, and of having their graces, and particularly faith, strengthened, and drawn into a lively exercise; or on account of their not being able to cast out a devil from one that was possessed, Matthew 17:19 when words, to the same purpose, were spoken by Christ, as in the following verse; on occasion of one or other of these, though more likely the former, the apostles addressed Christ in this manner,

increase our faith; both the faith of working miracles, and the grace of believing in him: by which, as they express their sense of the weakness, and imperfection of their faith; and their great desire to have it increased, which might be for their comfort, and his glory; so they acknowledge his divine power, and that he is the author and finisher of faith; and that as the beginning, so the increase of it is from him: wherefore faith is not of a man's self, or the produce of man's freewill and power, but is the gift of God; and even where it is, it is not in man to increase it, or add to it, or to draw it forth into exercise; this also is the operation of God. And if the apostles had need to put up such a petition to Christ, much more reason have other men.

{3} And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

(3) God will never be utterly lacking to the godly

(although he may not be as thorough with them as they wish) even in those difficulties which cannot be overcome by man's reason.

Luke 17:5-6. At the conclusion of the whole of the great set of discourses, now at length appear separately the Twelve (οἱ ἀπόστολοι, not to be identified with the μαθηταῖς in general, Luke 17:1; Luke 16:1) with a special request. They feel that the moral strength of their faith in Jesus, i.e. just the loving power of their faith, is not great enough for that great task which is just set them at Luke 17:4, and ask openly, and with entire confidence in His divine spiritual power, Give us more faith, i.e. stronger energetic faith! It is addition in the sense of intensifying the quality. To suppose a want of connection (Paulus, Schleiermacher, de Wette, Holtzmann), would be justifiable only if it were necessary for πίστις to mean belief in miracles (comp. Matthew 17:20); but this the answer in nowise requires. The answer, Luke 17:6, says: “This your prayer shows that faith (which Jesus, indeed, conceives of in the ideal sense, as it ought to be) is still wholly wanting to you! If you had it even only in very small measure, instead of finding obedience to that rule too difficult, ye would undertake and see accomplished that even which appears impossible (which requires the highest moral power and strength).” According to the reading ἔχετε (see the critical remarks) the idea changes. In the protasis the relation is simply stated, but the apodosis is conditioned by the idea that that which is stated is not, however, actually present. Comp. on 2 Corinthians 11:4; Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. vii. 6. 15.[214]

ὑπήκουσεν] not again imperfect, but aorist: ye would say, … and it would have obeyed you (immediately even upon your saying). Comp. Xen. Anab. v. 8. 13. On the mulberry tree, see Pliny, N. H. xiii. 14; Dioscor. i. 182.

[214] Otherwise Buttmann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1858, p. 483: “Ye ask for an increase of your faith? Have ye then not enough? Verily, and if ye only had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye would be able, if ye wished (i.e. if ye had confidence in your own faith,—the courage of faith,—or made the right use of your faith), to say to this fig tree,” etc. But the “if ye would” is interpolated; the ἄν with ἐλέγετε simply signifies: in a case that may happen if the case of such a miraculous transplantation were supposed.

Luke 17:5-6. The power of faith (cf. Matthew 17:20).—οἱ ἀπόστολοι instead of μαθηταὶ. Luke 17:1. τῷ κυρίῳ: these titles for Jesus and the Twelve betray a narrative having no connection with what goes before, and secondary in its character.—πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν, add faith to us. This sounds more like a stereotyped petition in church prayers than a request actually made by the Twelve. How much more life-like the occasion for the utterance supplied by Mt.: “Why could not we cast him out?”

5-10. The Power of Faith. The Insufficiency of Works.

. the apostles said unto the Lord] The high title given, and the spontaneous united request, shew how deeply they had felt the previous lessons.

Increase our faith] Literally “Add to us faith,” without which we can never fulfil these great moral requirements.

Luke 17:5. Εἰπον, said) Being moved with the sweetness of His words, Luke 17:4, they were wishing to have a more abundant enjoyment of the Divine benignity.—οἱ ἀπόστολοι, the apostles) who had in an especial degree need of great faith.—τῷ Κυρίῳ, the Lord) This appellation being put here implies, that this petition was a very solemn one.—πρόσθες, add) They hereby recognise the Divine power of Jesus. Jesus deals with their petition in Luke 17:6, and Luke 17:7-10.—πίστιν, faith) which surmounts stumbling-blocks, and freely forgives offences.

Verse 5. - And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. The disciples, moved by the severe and cutting rebuke of their Master - a rebuke they probably felt their harsh, self-congratulatory state of mind had well merited-come to him and ask him to give them such an increased measure of faith as would enable them to play better the difficult and responsible part he had assigned them. They evidently felt their weakness deeply, but a stronger faith would supply them with new strength; they would thus be guided to form a wiser, gentler judgment of others, a more severe opinion too of themselves. Luke 17:5
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