Sermon Notes

The Curious Case of Radical Faith


  •  The task set before me today by the Spirit of our Sovereign Lord is both profound and difficult. Profound, because of the magnificence of its implications in the Christian life, and difficult, because of the pride of the human heart. Therefore, you too will find this passage profoundly beautiful and infinitely difficult. And as such, I want you to hear with the best attention and care you can give to what I am about to share. I am going to talk about faith.
  • Now, this may seem odd to you given that only last week Brother George addressed the very same issue in his sermon.
    Brothers and sisters, this isn’t odd. Consider it rather that God is repeating Himself that we may give much care to take this message to our hearts. I want to take all that Bro. George shared last week, and pull you even deeper into the depths of God’s mighty work in pruning your faith.
  • The main gist of his message last week was the importance of the Christian faith that is anchored in the belief in a Sovereign God. That if you understand and believe in the sovereignty of God, then the faith that such a conviction produces is unshakable.
    He also touched upon the need for such faith to be built up and exercised. It is a growing faith. As we study this passage, I will touch upon several of these things and try and pull you deeper into its implications, till you are completely immersed, baptized in the truth of Christ.

A note on faith

  • In this passage, we have the story of the amazing faith of a centurion. We are all accustomed to hearing such stories of faith from people around the world, across history.
    Faith is a staple word in the Christian home, and Christians from every nation, tribe, and tongue, from every denomination and heritage, lay their claim on this word.
    And we know that if this were actually true, that if every professing Christian were truly in the faith, then the world would have been a much better place. In fact, just a few verses before, we saw this reality,
    Matthew 7:22-2322 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Faith is not, therefore, inherent in every person who professes to be a Christian.
  • In James 2 we read that there is a kind of faith that is considered a ‘dead faith’. This is a kind of faith that acknowledges, even accepts, the commands of truth as being true indeed, but does not go so far as to actually obeying or keeping those commands. It is a faith that produces no work, and it is dead. Therefore, faith that is essential in the life of a Christian, is of a particular nature or particular kind. This is very important for us to understand.
    In just the previous section in Matthew 8, we read about the leper who came, in faith, to Christ seeking to be healed. Yet we know that once he received his healing, he went his own way having disobeyed the clear and direct instruction of the Lord to go to the priests and perform the Mosaic ritual of cleansing. That, from a display of commendable faith (a leper approaching Jesus in those days) to urgent and immediate disobedience. That is why Brother George in his sermon talked about faith as necessarily being built up and exercised. Therefore, the faith that is essential to the born-again believer isn’t an idle or dead faith, but alive.
  • Now, in constantly referring to this faith as being essential, I mean that without this faith, no professing Christian is a real Christian. And we read this last week, in Hebrews 11:6And without faith, it is impossible to please GOD.
    Or as we read in Romans 14:23, whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Thus faith is such an essential component of Christianity that those without it are blameworthy, not blameless. Yet this faith is not of any kind but of a very specific kind. Not all faith renders one blameless. The leper’s faith that brought him healing does not render him saved. The faith of the large crowds that followed him without food did not justify them when they abandoned Jesus because of His hard message. The faith of the disciples did not rescue them from the raging storm, but Jesus in calming the storm also rebukes the lack of their faith. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:5 tells us that there is a faith that has the appearance of godliness but denies its power.
    James 1:26 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthlessHere is why I am doing this systematic introduction to ‘faith’. We know that faith has a measure of intensity, that there is such a thing as greater and lesser faith. That David himself, when he fought Goliath, acted in great faith, and in deceiving Bathsheba and her husband, acted in the utter lack of faith. From faithfulness to unfaithfulness, in this king of Israel, we see the highs and lows of his faith.
    Yet, David is always known as a man of faith, a man after God’s own heart. This is a distinction we all are able to make, that faith is often measured to differing intensities. That in displaying great faith in one particular area of our lives, we may yet end up exposing the lack of it in another area of our lives.

    • This distinction we often make, but there is one that we often fail to make. The distinction between the faith of the believer and the unbeliever.
      Yes, beloved, there can be the exercise of faith among unbelievers. In 1 John 5:1-5, we read,
      Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

      • Jonathan Edwards comments the following about this text,
        It is a doctrine taught in this text, that saving faith differs from all common faith in its nature, kind, and essence. This doctrine is inferred from the text, thus it is said, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God;” by which is manifest that there was some great virtue that the apostles and Christians in those days used to call by the name of faith or believing, believing that Jesus is the Christ and the like, which was a thing very peculiar and distinguishing, and belonging only to those that were born of God. Thereby cannot be meant, therefore, only a mere assent to the doctrines of the gospel, because that is common to saints and sinners, as is very evident.

        • What Edwards is trying to say here is that when John says that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, he is not saying that anyone who believes this is heaven-bound. Because sinners are more than capable of believing this fact. If this verse referred only to a mere assent (meaning agreement), then such belief is common to saints and sinners.
        • So, he points out that this word ‘believe’ here (or faith if we can call it that) for believing that Jesus is the Christ, is of a very peculiar and distinguishing nature, belonging only to those born of God. Some great virtue that the apostles sought in others.
        • Therefore, Edwards distinguishes this as ‘common faith’ and ‘saving faith’. He goes on to elaborate that the difference between these two kinds of faith is not a difference of intensity, but a difference in the very nature, kind, and essence.
    • Beloved, do you know what this means? This means that someone can rise in mere assent (or intellectual agreement) upon the doctrines of God, and display various acts of faith, and yet, be without true and saving faith. I want to help you discern the difference between the two kinds of faith by the end of this sermon.
  • What is Faith?
    Hebrews 11:1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
    You heard a lot about this verse last week from Brother George. I will summarise this to say that faith is the assurance and conviction in the sovereignty of God. As we were taught last week, the attitude of our faith is not nearly as important as the object of our faith. Christ is that object.


  • And here we have the story of the faith of a centurion.
    v5 – When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.”
    • On His return from Galilee, He encounters a centurion.
      A centurion was a Roman officer who acted as a commander to a hundred men.
      If the first person that Jesus healed in this chapter was a reject of the Jews for being a leper, then the office of this gentile was one that was hated by the Jews. The centurions were known to be violent and oppressive, and the Romans often raised the natives to hold that office. Some of them were probably half Jewish.
      But this centurion was different.
    • He calls Him Lord. For which commander of a hundred men calls a carpenter’s son, Lord? This centurion was definitely different.
      For which commander of the Roman army would plead for the life of his servant?
      Everything about this centurion seems unusual.
    • Here we have the faith of the centurion – his assurance and conviction in God’s sovereignty.
  • v77 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.
    • Jesus acknowledges the request of a Gentile. He who came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel has agreed to heed the cry of an outcast, of the tribe of the unbelieving – a pagan, an idolator.
  • v8 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant,3 ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
    • Who amongst us, in receiving such answer to prayer, would ask for less and not more? Overwhelmed by the response of Jesus not only to heal his servant but also to come to his home, the centurion is brought to his knees. He never expected Jesus to come, only heal.
    • As a man in authority, he understood that the authority of the Lord would suffice.
  • v1010 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel 4 have I found such faith. 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
    • On hearing this, Jesus exalts the faith of this centurion by saying that He has not seen such faith in anyone in Israel.
      The word ‘such faith’ as it is used here does not refer to the kind of faith, but to the intensity of it. In other words, Jesus is saying that He has not seen such great faith in anyone in Israel, which is a great insult to this nation under God. That in all the truth contained in the Jewish Scripture, in all their heritage of God’s mighty work in them, it was the Gentile, the unbeliever who showed great faith.
    • And his faith was rewarded. His servant was healed at that very moment.
  •  Now, what if I told you that in this wonderful story, the centurion never actually met Jesus? You see, we have the same story in Luke and he gives us a lot more details.
    Luke 7:2-10 – 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

    • What Matthew does here, is summarise the story in order to address the main aspect of this exchange between the centurion and Jesus.
    • But reading Luke gives us a clearer picture of this encounter.
  • The centurion, a Gentile, was a compassionate person. He cared for his servants and the people. He built the Jews in the area of their synagogue and showed a love for the Jewish nation. He was surrounded by friends. He was a good man. Yet, he was a Gentile, a pagan.
    • What is astounding in Luke’s account is that the Jews who worshipped God found the faith of this man worthy to have Jesus do this for him, and this pagan man found himself unworthy to presume to even come to Jesus.
    • Brothers and sisters, we have a lot of reason to believe that this centurion had ultimately come to saving faith in Christ considering the positive light in which he, and others like him, are mentioned in the NT.



  • You see beloved, it is not the great faith of this centurion that has my primary attention, but the kind of faith that he has. Surely his faith was great in that he believed that Jesus could heal with a command from anywhere in the world without even entering his home.But look at the nature of his faith. A faith set on the Lordship of Christ. He calls Him Lord. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant,3 ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
  • A man of his authority understood how authority works. He himself was under others with authority, and over others in authority. Every man under him does whatever he is commanded, whether it is to ‘go’ or ‘come’. And likewise, he himself does whatever those in authority above him commands.So, when he heard about Jesus, who commands the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the dead to come alive, this authority does not come from man. The humility of the centurion comes from the recognition of who Jesus is. He is Lord of heaven and earth. You see, the faith of the centurion is not a mere assent that has an appearance of godliness. It is not a mere attitude of faith. This faith is rooted in something deep. This faith is bound in the revelation of who Jesus is.Jesus is not merely someone who has the special gift of healing, He is the very authority over sickness and disease. He is God. According to 1 John 5, this is saving faith.
  • Therefore, great faith is not a rare occurrence or an anomaly in the life of the Christian who has such saving faith.
  • v1111 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
    •  The sons of the kingdom refer to the Jewish people who were chosen by God as a nation unto Himself, through whom He would bring salvation to the world.
    • These sons, the true heirs to saving faith, practiced and failed in the outer courts of common faith. Because having an outward appearance of godliness, they were inwardly as worldly as they could be. They praised God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. Many among them will be lost forever in outer darkness, in hell.Whereas, those that did not praise His name, those far from God, will come, from east and west, having received life through saving faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • How can we tell if the exercising of our faith, is an exercise of ‘saving faith’ or ‘common faith’?
    Love for God!