Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 5, 1970
NUMBER 43, PAGE 2b-3

Great Faith

H. Osby Weaver

After introducing a parable for the purpose of teaching men "that they ought always to pray," Jesus concluded the paragraph by asking, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

This approximated the condition which Jesus found at his first coming. In spite of the advantages of the Jew which Paul said was "much every way" Rom. 3:2, Jesus charged them at different times with having "little faith." According to what is written, only twice did Jesus accredit anyone with having "great faith" (Matt. 8 and Matt. 15), and then it was said of those whom we might least expect to possess this degree of faith, that is, Gentiles who had not had the Jews' advantages.

Since this, no doubt, was a great compliment and evidence of acceptability with God, we should analyze these instances and see of what great faith consists and then emulate it in our own lives if we would also stand approved.

In this analysis, we shall limit our remarks to the case of the centurion in Matt. 8:5-13 for brevity's sake: "When He (Jesus) was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth in the house sick of the palsy, grievously tormented

(1). So the first mark of "great faith" which we see here is concern for the sick, the infirm, the diseased. The centurion was not a selfish man. His interest was not confined to his own welfare. He could weep with those that weep. He was a compassionate, sympathetic man.

(2). Secondly, he not only could be touched with the feeling of another's infirmity, concerned with those less fortunate than himself, but he set about to do something about it. His faith manifested itself. It wasn't just faith only. He no doubt was a busy man with great responsibility, but he was not too busy to lend a hand in whatever way he could to the indigent.

(3). In this instance, all that he could do was petition the Lord in behalf of the servant. This required courage which is another sign of great faith. It does not require much courage to beseech our heavenly Father in the confines of our own closet, especially since He has told us that we are not rebuffed for our frequent approaches (Jas. 1:5), but it required a lot of courage then for that Gentile, a Roman soldier to force his way into the presence of one whom he knew to have authority even over grievous palsy.

Great faith still demands conviction and the courage of it whatever the risk involved. We may have to sacrifice personal relations and financial gain, but great faith never wavers regardless of the cost.

(4). The centurion had regard for an inferior. This perhaps is the best estimate of one's true character. What one does for another because his job depends upon it, or acts discreetly because of the pressure of public opinion is not a fair measure of one's character. But what one does for another, especially an inferior to whom he owes no service and for which there is no reward; no one to care whether he does it or not, and no one to whom he must account for not doing it, provides a real test of one's true character. Only one of great faith can survive this test.

The affectionate term which the centurion used with reference to his servant is further proof of his concern for this inferior. The text lists him as saying "my servant" but the footnote has "my boy."

(5). Another badge of great faith is seen in the officer's humility when he said, "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof." Now, there was certainly nothing wrong with his "roof." He was not ashamed of the house in which he lived. Seeing that he held the position that he did, usually with confiscatory powers, he perhaps lived in one of the finest houses in that city, and in another place the Jews said "he hath built us a synagogue," so he had the ability to provide a nice place to live. The house was not the problem, it was his own personal feeling of unworthiness in relation to his conception of the greatness of Christ, which conception was correct. This was a sign of his humility which is also a symbol of great faith.

(6). The centurion's faith in the power of the Lord's word was complete. The faith of the woman in Matt. 9:21 was strong when she said within herself, "If I do but touch his garment, I shall be made whole." But when compared to that of the Roman officer, her faith was scanty and short. In regard to his faith in the power of the word, he rises above those of his generation and ours. The woman said, "I must get close enough to touch him if I am to be made whole." The centurion said, "His bodily presence is unnecessary — but only say the word!" It is no wonder that the Lord had not seen so great faith in Israel.

There are those today who claim faith in the Lord that need their faith strengthened in regard to the power of the word. Some have gone into foreign lands to preach and have sent back word that "you can't convert a man on an empty stomach." Is this not a lack of faith in the power of the word? Does such an one really believe that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation?

Those of the past as well as those of today who would turn the church into a little theater and promote every worldly interest in efforts to attract people to the Lord, just do not believe in the power of the word. They have a depreciated faith, if any at all.

Those who contend that the gospel is not sufficient to convict and convert one evidences a lack of faith in the power of the word. Great faith requires that we accept the Lord's word as being sufficient for every need. Great faith asks nothing more than "only say the word."

(7). The centurion had proper respect for proper authority. He did not come "demanding" but "beseeching." He had the utmost faith in the supremacy of Christ. He said that he was a man set under authority, that is, he had his superiors whom he must obey. In addition to that, he was also a man of authority with his inferiors who had to "go when he said to go, and come when he said to come." His reasoning was, that if these channels of authority existed among men with the subordinates obliged to obey orders issued by other human beings, then the authority of the Son of God was superlative and irresistible; that when he commanded, from his orders there was no appeal; there was none higher! Great faith still has the same attitude toward authority.

(8). Great faith always wears the crown of success. The centurion received what he came beseeching.

It is true that what men call "great faith" is not always great in the eyes of the Lord. We should not be overly concerned about whether or not men think our faith great or small, but we should be intensely interested in what the Lord thinks.

Our present acceptability with God is not determined by what we have been nor by what opportunities we once had. In spite of the Jews' past advantages and blessings, great faith was not found among them.

— 1838 N. Shaffer, Orange, California