Confidence · Faith · Persuade

Faith – Oligopistos – Matthew 16

Faith 2As mentioned in my earlier post, I was in discussion with my Sunday School teacher and we verred into the topic of faith.  This topic addresses the first Greek word in our table below


He had told me there are a number of Greek words in the New Testament that are translated “faith” in our English Bible, and I let him know I thought otherwise.

So I came home and did a quick study, using Blue Letter Bible web site.  The following table gives a summary of the New Testament Greek words used when describing our English word “faith”.

Strongs # Greek Transliterated English Equivalent
New Testament (Greek) for “faith”
G571 ἄπιστος apistos that believe not, unbelieving, faithless, unbeliever, infidel, thing incredible, which believe not
G1680 ἐλπίς elpis hope, faith
G3640 ὀλιγόπιστος oligopistos of little faith
G4102 πίστις pistis faith, assurance, believe, belief, them that believe, fidelity
G4103 πιστός pistos faithful, believe, believing, true, faithfully, believer, sure not tr
G6066 ὀλιγοπιστία oligopistia littleness of faith

little faith

Strong’s Number G3640 matches the Greek ὀλιγόπιστος (oligopistos), which occurs 5 times in 5 verses in the Greek concordance.

We will look at the the last of the four instances that Jesus (and only Jesus) used this Greek word in this post.

Matthew 16:5-12

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.

Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.”

But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?

Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?

Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?

How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.



Ortho...In our last post concerning Peters effort to walk on water, we considered Peter’s orthopraxy, that is the way he lived out his faith (in a very specific instance), and one of the many harsh experiences he had to under go to become a man of God.

This passage, the littleness of faith is referring to the disciples orthodoxy, that is thier interpretive understanding of the Lord’s teaching.

Lets set the stage.

The disciples had forgot bread.  A simple statement.

Jesus begins to teach on the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadduccess.  The word “leaven” stirred the disciples thoughts about bread, and they went directly to thier failure to supply. The disciples conscience started to condemn them, remembering that they had forgotten once (or twice) before.

As an aside, hadn’t the Lord supplied bread for them previously?  We are not to presume upon the Lord’s supply, but I feel this may have been simply an oversight on the disciples part.  The disciples had forgot bread.  Why was this foremost in thier thoughts?  Because they had thier mind on things below?  Because this seemed to be a habit?  Not sure.  Maybe not important.

metaphorJesus was speaking of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadduccess.  He was teaching metaphorically, not literally.  The disciples listened the the Lord literally, and missed the truth.

Jesus corrected the disciples immediately, referring to thier past history with bread.  Twice they had dropped the ball, and twice the Lord used the shortage to teach.  Here the Lord redirects the disciples to larger issues than simply food.

We so often get things sdrawkcab.  Seek ye first the kingdom of God, …


To the point, Jesus speaks to the disciples, and us about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  But what is that teaching?

The Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s Doctrine/Teaching

The passage clearly combines the Pharisees teaching with the Sadduccess teaching.  But they were worlds apart on various teachings.  I found this description informative (check here for more info.)

Religiously, the Sadducee were more conservative in one doctrinal area: they insisted on a literal interpretation of the text of Scripture; the Pharisees, on the other hand, gave oral tradition equal authority to the written Word of God. If the Sadducee couldn’t find a command in the Tanakh, they dismissed it as manmade.

I have always considered the Sadducee to be comparable to liberal elitists, and the Pharisees likened to the tradition laden believers within the church.  Both of these groups promoted a teaching that Jesus warned us of.

Dang it if I can’t find anything clear in this particular passage, but may I suggest a common thread of both these groups?

Both the Pharisee and Sadducee had these common traits

  1. They were both religious.
  2. They were both political.

1. Religion

no religionJesus came to create religion.  Why is He knocking it?


That is wrong thinking Carl.  Jesus did not come to create a religion.  (Dang it if it wasn’t religion that killed the Messiah.)  Jesus never used the word religion when He preached. He condemned both the Pharisees and Sadducees in thier religious practices (which of itself doesn’t condemn all religion). I can’t find any of the apostles referring to religion (in a positive way) except in the book of James, which definitely does not describe the religion touted by the groups we are speaking about.

James 1:26-27
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.


organized religionSo, how does your Christian life relate to the turmoil of the political landscape in your land?  Do you get caught up in the promises, the hopes that politicians freely provide.  Do you see that political power is a positive influence in your nation?

The Pharisee and Sadducee parties were heavily involved in acquiring and maintaining  influence upon the people through the political process.  Political power is the ability to exert external pressure to make citizens/subject to conform, to fit into a certain mold, to control a population.

Christianity_Politics_NationalismI am convinced that Christianity and political power cannot exist together.  Religion and politics can exist, since they both seek to influence souls externally.  Not so with Christianity.  Christianity is completely different – The Spirit of God is internal, living and powerful, convincing and convicting each believer to follow God.

Christianity is to be the voice calling corruption to the carpet, not to be in bed with the earthly power.

Somehow, I feel Jesus may have been alluding to this unholy partnership.  Whether this passage speaks of this topic, I will leave with the reader.

Back to the Littleness of Faith

No matter, the littleness of faith spoken of by the Messiah can be directly connected with the manner in which we hear His words.  As a technically trained professional, I struggle daily to communicate literally, clearly and without contradiction, in order to have my message understood.  Vagueness and metaphors are not my cup of tea. (Ooops)

Not so with the Lord.  He often spoke in parables, likening earthly things with heavenly things, communicating on a different level.  He sometimes came down to our level, but He didn’t stay there.  He is calling us to have ears to hear His message, not to change the intent of the message to conform to our culture and training.  This is a mighty challenge!

The Word is powerful, but it is powerful the message it supplies.  We need to hear not only the words but the intent behind them.

Let us not have littleness of faith in our understanding of the Word of God.

Please leave a comment to continue this discussion and come visit next time to continue our look at faith.

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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

2 thoughts on “Faith – Oligopistos – Matthew 16

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