The faith of the Roman centurion. The key to understanding how to grow in the faith of Jesus

Life in Christ Jesus is a life of faith; no one can come to Jesus by any other means, faith is the only way to approach Him.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Faith, however, is not the effect of man’s religious activity; the epistle to the Romans establishes in its doctrine that the faith through which man approaches God, and believes in Him, is a basic faith, it is a measure of faith that God delivers so that man has the spiritual capacity to recognize Him as God, and can enter by that faith, to the Grace of Jesus. Nevertheless, this measure of faith is a provisional faith, it is a faith of entrance to the Kingdom, but it is not enough to live and reach the Salvation of Grace. The man and woman who come to Jesus ‘have’ to grow in faith, otherwise they cannot continue to advance in the development of the spiritual life; the best example that illustrates this situation is the parable of the sower, in which Jesus explained that the seed is ‘The Word of the Kingdom’, and emphasized that the Word can be ‘snatched away’ by the evil one (the seed that fell by the wayside), it can be ‘hindered’ by persecution (the seed that fell on rocky places), and it can be ‘choked’ by the eagerness of this age (the seed that fell among thorns).

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Mathew 13:19-22

This parable highlights —and exhorts, at the same time— that the spiritual life does not consist only in believing, but above all, in remaining in what has been believed, hence the need to remain in the Word of Jesus’ teachings.

Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

John 6:60

Faith is the foundation of life in Christ Jesus, but not only as a means to obtain the petitions that we present in prayer, but above all as a purpose to build life in the Kingdom. You can see it in chapter 11 of the epistle to the Hebrews, when it says that by faith they subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.[1]

Everyone must grow in faith to overcome the onslaught of the world that seeks to stop the spiritual development of those born in the faith of Jesus. Faith does not consist in believing, but in acting according to the teaching of Jesus. Every action is established by faith, there is no other way; the Spirit leads the man and woman of faith in the adequate preparation according to the oppression that the world sends him; thus according to the text of Hebrews, not all people can quench violent fires, not all people can subdue kingdoms, not all people can receive their dead by resurrection; only those who grew in faith for such action are the only ones who can do it. Every action has a particular faith, it is the responsibility of man and woman in it to be sustained in the midst of the onslaught of the world.

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

The faith that overcomes the world is not a super faith; the faith that overcomes the world is a simple faith that does not demand of those who aspire to it that they have great knowledge about angelic and/or spiritual things. The faith that overcomes the world is based on Jesus, His work and His teachings; this is the message of the cross.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faithWho is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

1st. John 5:4-5

The example we have in the act of faith of the Roman centurion of Capernahum. The centurion was a man prepared for war, before his encounter with Jesus, the knowledge he had about the spiritual was practically null; however, his act of faith based on his own experience in the lines of authority within which he worked, helped him to establish a relationship with faith, and to understand that the life of faith depends on the position that the person occupies before the Word of God. Hence, the centurion’s greatest achievement was not the healing of his servant, but to have received the dignity declared by Jesus that he would sit at table with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.

What made a man with no knowledge of spiritual things receive such dignity? What is the path of faith that the centurion traces for the rest of the non-Jewish believers?

The act of faith of the Roman centurion did not consist in believing, he could not ‘believe’ because his cultural background had not developed such idiosyncrasy; the apostle Paul speaking of the idiosyncrasy of the peoples writes in the first epistle to the Corinthians, that the idiosyncrasy of the Jews is to ask for signs, and that of the Greeks the search for wisdom; [2] the idiosyncrasy of the Romans was to follow instructions, and we see this clearly in the words of the centurion.

So if we follow the example of the centurion we have to admit that the centurion’s faith was based on the understanding that he developed by making an association between his political-military idiosyncrasy, and the doctrine and work of Jesus as representative of the Kingdom of Heaven.

What kind of understanding did the Roman centurion develop? In the centurion’s words we can see manifested at least four clear understandings he had about Jesus and His work.

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Mathew 8:5-12

Understanding the Holiness of God: “… Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof…”

The first understanding the centurion developed about Jesus was about His Holiness.  Let us observe for a minute the Roman centurion’s response: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof. At first glance such a response could be considered as a feeling of low self-esteem, or perhaps a mea culpa for his immorality; however recognizing the centurion’s value and his performance among the Jews, such impressions have no validity, otherwise he would never have requested Jesus’ intervention.

The “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof”, on the contrary, shows the great concept that the centurion had about Jesus; John the Baptist also manifested that same understanding when he expressed: I am not worthy to untie the strap of His shoes.[3]  The centurion’s refusal to let Him into his house is only evidence of Jesus’ recognition of a Holiness and Perfection with which he was not accustomed to expose himself. In Luke’s account the story presents the centurion interacting with Jesus through messengers.[4]

Faith demands that we have a clear understanding of the Holiness of God; God is Holy and calls those who have believed in Him to be holy.[5]   It is not about religious recognition, it is about understanding that God’s Holiness surrounds us in everything we undertake:

Doing things with His Holiness in mind, moving in environments with His Holiness in mind, speaking to others with His Holiness in mind.

It is not a new lesson, it was the first lesson God delivered to Moses in the scene of the burning bush: take your shoes off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. The text says that Moses covered his eyes because he was afraid to see God. No one who does not understand about the Holiness of God can have faith, no one. Faith consists in understanding the Holiness of God.

In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul teaches that God dwells in unapproachable light and that none of men have seen Him, nor can they see Him. That God dwells in unapproachable light means that no one can see Him because of His Holiness; God is so Holy that the human eye can tolerate Him.

who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

1st. Timothy 6:16

In the epistle to the Hebrews we read that understanding about the Holiness of God is what enables us to approach Him.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

Hebrews 12:14

In the epistle to the Ephesians we read that faith is part of the life of a new creation in Christ Jesus.

and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Ephesians 4:24

The understanding of the Fear of God: “… Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only,…”

Along with the understanding of the Holiness of Jesus, the centurion also developed an understanding of the Fear of God. Fear of God and Holiness walk together, they cannot be separated.

Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof’, is nothing more than the manifestation of the Fear of God that the centurion developed because of Jesus’ action of wanting to visit his house; the centurion was not accustomed to a Roman dignity visiting his house, they were called to appear in the palace, but never visited, it was not the protocol order of the Roman militia; so when Jesus acceded to his request and went to his house, the act of Jesus shocked him, and led him to understand that he was not worthy, in dignity, to Jesus. Luke’s parallel account reports that the centurion did not even go to meet Jesus but sent messengers to say: I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.[6]

Fear of God means the finite that man sees himself in the face of the infinite of God; Fear of God is the understanding that God is everywhere, and that He weighs the hearts of all.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes:  but the Lord pondereth the hearts.

Proverbs 21:2

if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

Proverbs 24:12

Faith grows when it is built on the understanding of the Holiness of God, and the Fear of God.

The understanding of the Sovereignty and Majesty of God: “…I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”

The third understanding that the centurion developed was about the Sovereignty and Majesty of God. This understanding seems superfluous and unnecessary, for how does knowing that God is Sovereign and Majestic over all Creation solve my situation of sickness?

The centurion discovered that all government has an order, he knew that the lines of command are based on the fidelity to the authority of all those who are links of it, if someone disobeys he is considered a deserter, and the deserter causes much damage and instability in the troop, even the dissolution of the whole company. If Jesus preaches about the Kingdom of Heaven, His Word has authority, His Word is not just the proclamation of a doctrine. The centurion understood that Jesus is Sovereign and Majestic, and as such His authority transcends geographical distance.

How is it possible that a man without any knowledge of God knew how God acts?

God, though invisible, is not an abstract being; His Presence is present everywhere, and He sees even the most insignificant thoughts of human beings.

that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly…  6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.…   18 that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Mathew 6:4-18

Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.

Job 37:22

Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.

Isaiah 2:10

who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Hebrews 1:3

The understanding of the Lordship of Jesus: “…but speak the word only…”

The fourth understanding of the Roman centurion was about the Lordship of Jesus. ‘but speak the word only’ is not only the centurion’s expression of conviction that his servant would be healed, it was the expression that manifested his willingness to become a ‘soldier’ of Jesus. ‘but speak the word only’ represented the centurion’s acceptance to submit under Jesus’ line of authority.

What does the Lordship of Jesus mean? Lordship of Jesus means ‘abiding’ by the doctrine of His Word; Lordship of Jesus means the willingness to obey His precepts; Lordship of Jesus means the decision to allow oneself to be ‘crucified’ together with Jesus.

And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:27

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:62

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

20 which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church23 which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Ephesians 1:20-23

The act of faith of the Roman centurion who approached Jesus to ask for the healing of his servant leaves us with a great lesson. How a man without much knowledge of God and spiritual things surpassed in faith those who had ample knowledge on the subject, who had even been brought up in it. The greatest lesson that the centurion’s act of faith leaves us with has to do with the development of faith and life in Christ Jesus; faith does not consist ‘only’ in believing, if there is no understanding and action about what we believe, any knowledge we have becomes just information. May God grant that the study of this case may impact us to do the same.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Version, (AKJV).

Pastor Pedro Montoya

[1]     Hebrews 11:33-35

[2]     1st. Corinthians 1:22

[3]     Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; John 1:27

[4]     Luke 7:6

[5]     Leviticus 20:7

[6]     Luke 7:7

About the ministry

Treasure in earthen vessels is a ministry of doctrinal instruction and training, according to the teachings of Jesus set forth in the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We proclaim that Jesus the Christ is God incarnate, so that, through faith in His Name, and in repentance before Him, men and women may attain forgiveness of sins, and be reconciled to the Father.

Our work is to instruct and train men and women who seek to develop in the life of Faith, and to prepare in ministerial work those who have a call to ministry in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Our ministerial emphasis is on deliverance and spiritual warfare.


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