Why Mustard Seeds Move Mountains

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. ‑‑Matthew 17:20

In Biblical interpretation, there are certain principles that must be applied in order to properly understand what the Bible teaches. One of these principles is that we should interpret unclear passages in light of clear passages. If we’re being honest, not ever verse of the Bible is easy to understand. Matthew 17:20 is one of them. The best way to approach this verse is to let our understanding of the faith come from other passages in the Bible so to guide us in our understanding of this verse.

Joel Osteen says of this verse:

“As a believer, you already have enough faith on the inside of you to overcome any obstacle. God wants to work in your life today. Today, put your faith into action by declaring that your trust and hope are in Him. Use your mustard-seed faith, and it will go stronger and stronger. Always remember, you have everything you need when you have mustard-seed faith!”

Basically, Osteen and teachers like him say this verse is all about you. You have the power and the ability to do great things within you—it just has to be unlocked and tapped into. Faith is accessing the greatness in you. But the rest of Scripture don’t prescribe such ability to mankind, instead, it teaches of the inability of mankind. Matthew 19:26, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”

Mustard seed faith glorifies not the one who holds the faith [man], but instead glorifies the object of faith [God]. If there are two people, the first person has great faith and the second person has weak faith, but they both have faith in Christ. The first person’s great faith looks to God who does great things and the person with weak faith looks to God who does great things. So it has nothing to do with the faith of the person, but the reason mustard-seed faith does great things is because it looks to God who does great things. This verse should lead us to the mercy of God, not the narcissism of man.

So what is the greatness that God does? What does faith behold?

“Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25-26)

The greatness of God that faith beholds is not accomplishing our wildest dreams or sheer determination and positivity in troubling times. Instead the great things that God does is forgive sinners. He justifies the ungodly. In mercy and love He brings salvation to those who have transgressed and are otherwise without all hope.

Therefore, take heart dear sinner, Christ is for you. God in His mercy is about the business of doing great things. Specifically, the great thing He does is forgive all your sins. You are forgiven not because of any greatness in you—but because of the great mercy in Him. Therefore, find your rest in Him. His promises are certain—whether you are strong or weak, He makes good on His promises. Amen.

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