Christians, Partly Unbelievers

Mk.9.24. “I believe; help my unbelief!”


John Calvin, commenting on the text, stated:

“He declares that he believes, and yet acknowledges himself to have unbelief.  These two statements may appear to contradict each other, but there is none of us that does not experience both of them in himself. As our faith is never perfect, it follows that we are partly unbelievers; but God forgives us, and exercises such forbearance towards us, as to reckon us believers on account of a small portion of faith. It is our duty, in the meantime, carefully to shake off the remains of infidelity which adhere to us, to strive against them, and to pray to God to correct them, and, as often as we are engaged in this conflict, to fly to him for aid. If we duly inquire what portion has been bestowed on each, it will evidently appear that there are very few who are eminent in faith, few who have a moderate portion, and very many who have but a small measure.”


Kim Riddlebarger on Mark 9.24, goes on to say:

“Calvin had it right.  Because of indwelling sin, each one of us remains partly an unbeliever until we die. This means that we will constantly struggle with faith, doubt, and with indwelling sin. Remember that the law is written on our hearts. The gospel is not. This is why we need to continually hear the word preached, and why we need to receive the sacraments on a regular basis. When we do so, we are saying “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” This man’s words are very much our own–or they should be. This should be our confession….


“It is precisely because we are partly unbelievers that we need to hear the gospel…. As partial unbelievers, our faith is weak and we go about the motions without the power and blessing of God, we will fail. But in Jesus, we have every resource we will ever need, and that without limit or measure.”


“Jesus knows we are partly unbelievers. It is not the strength of faith, nor the intensity of faith, that he’s looking for. It is the presence of faith. He simply asks us to trust in him, and seek his power through prayer. And when we do so, everything is possible. But it is only possible when we confess, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

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