The heresy of Pelagianism is named after its founder, Pelagius of the (354-420). Pelagius argued that Original Sin (the Fall of Mankind in Adam) did not so corrupt man’s nature that it left man incapable of choosing God and salvation without a special work of God in or through him. In other words, Pelagius believed and taught that grace was not needed to give man a will inclined toward belief and embrace of God, because he innately has the ability. Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that Original Sin so corrupted man that without a special work of God, man would remain dead in his sins.
The inherent sin of Pelagianism is that, with an inflated view of man, they have a deflated view of God. A man who is powerful enough to save himself does not need a God powerful enough to save him unilaterally and without assistance. Steven Furtick, the popular pastor of Elevation Church, recently posted a video in which he claimed to the congregation that “Jesus cannot overcome your unbelief.” You can watch the video below.
Furtick, in the clip entitled, “The One Thing Jesus Could Not Do,” attempts to extrapolate meaning from Mark 6:5.
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.
Furtick emphasizes the phrase, “could do no” (or “can’t”), in order to demonstrate that Jesus is less powerful than your unbelief. A careful exposition of the Text and a consultation with virtually any basic commentary tool (and there are many) would demonstrate that Furtick is grossly misinterpreting the passage and, as a result, besmirching the deity of Christ and limiting his attribute of omnipotence. Furtick’s point is that Jesus could not (was not able) to heal, even though he had the willingness and inclination. A haphazard reading of the Text, accompanied by poor hermeneutics, might lead an unqualified pastor to such conclusions.
In Greek the phrase is, “καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο ἐκεῖ οὐδεμίαν δύναμιν ποιῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὀλίγοιςἀῤῥώστοις ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας ἐθεράπευσεν.”
Is Furtick right? Was Jesus’ power limited by the unbelief of people? No. Consider commentary helps, which any dutiful pastor would consult before preaching a Text they did not already fully understand.
Consider the esteemed John Gill:
Or miracle; not that Christ had no power in himself to work miracles, though their unbelief and contempt of him were very great; but it was not fit and proper that he should do any there, since such were their prejudices against him: it is an usual way of speaking with the Hebrews, when either it is not “fit” and proper that a thing should be done, or they “will” not do it, to say it cannot be done; see Genesis 19:22; and even it is said of God himself, “So that the Lord could no longer bear, because of your evil doings”, Jeremiah 44:22. Not but that he could if he would, but he would not; nor was it fit and proper that he should; the same is the sense here: besides, in Matthew 13:58 it is said, “he did not many mighty works there”; and so the Arabic version here, “and he did not many mighty works there”; he did not think it proper to do any of any great consequence, nor did he. Wherefore the Jew (u) has no reason to object this to the divinity of Christ, as if there was a want of power in him. Christ is omnipotent, and he has given proof of his almighty power, by the miracles which he has wrought; and though he wrought no mighty work “there”, yet he wrought many elsewhere, which sufficiently attest the truth of his proper deity: the emphasis lies upon the word there; though he did not work any considerable miracle in that place, he did in others; which shows, that it was not a defect of power in him, that was the reason of it, but something else; and Matthew gives the reason of it, and says, it was “because of their unbelief”: not that their unbelief was an over match for his power; he could have removed that, if he had thought fit, but he did not do it; he, who is the author and finisher of faith, could have took away their unbelief, as the man that brought his dumb child to Christ, concluded he could; and therefore said to him, “Lord, help my unbelief”, Mark 9:24.
The reason for Jesus doing no works in any great quantity in Nazareth (other than the ones mentioned briefly) is because the people did not come to him in masse, which is how he was accustomed to performing miracles among the multitudes. Jesus did not go house to house performing miracles, as he did not have time. The multitudes came to him. We see this in places like in Luke 5:17-39, where a paralyzed man’s friends lowered him through the thatched roof in order to get him closer to Christ. With the multitudes’ unbelief, there was no one to guide the lame, paralized, deaf, and blind to the feet of Jesus to be healed. All those who would be healed would be those close enough already to the proximity of Christ that he could lay hands upon them (meaning they were already within arms’ reach). The finite human nature of Christ was limited in time and space, and the lame had to be brought. There was no lacking of his power or inability to perform miracles. The only limitation was presented in the sick simply not coming or being brought to him.
Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It is God who grants belief (Ephesians 2:8).
In other words, Jesus is not only capable of conquering your unbelief, he’s the only one capable of conquering your unbelief.