And when he 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.”
And he saith unto him, “I will come and heal him.”
And the centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goeth; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he cometh; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he doeth it.”
And 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.”
The story of the centurion and Jesus here in Matthew 8:5-10 represents a marvelous example of faith; indeed, Jesus says that He finds in this Gentile centurion a faith greater than any He has seen in any Israelite, then the people of God. We can notice, moreover, that the centurion’s faith is great because he understands the nature of authority. He was a man under the authority of his superiors and yet himself over one hundred men, and he understood that his men would follow his every order. He saw that Jesus was vested with authority from above, and that at His word His will was done.
If we desire to be pleasing to God, we also must understand the nature of authority and be willing to obey authority in our own lives. Let us consider whom God has vested with authority, and therefore whom we should hear!
Earthly authorities. Earthly rulers are vested with authority from above, for God has established that earthly governments should rule over men for their own good (cf. Romans 13:1-4). It is God’s will, then, for people to be subject to earthly authorities (Romans 13:1-5), to pray for all authorities (1 Timothy 2:1-3), to pay whatever taxes are due (Romans 13:6-7), and to respect and honor the ruler (1 Peter 2:17). The only reason that one could possibly have for disobeying an earthly authority is if the earthly authority would require a person to directly violate God’s will (cf. Acts 5:29). We have little reason to disobey the government of the United States!
Spiritual authorities. There are many who would claim to be spiritual authorities; whom should we follow? Should we follow a “prophet”? Should we follow the Pope? Should we follow the dictates of a denominational council? What does the Bible say about these things?
The New Testament makes it rather clear that Jesus is to be our authority. Consider Matthew 28:18 and Colossians 3:17:
And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.”
And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Just as a check bears our authority with a signature, so everything we do should be done by the authority of Christ Jesus! We learn of Jesus and His will for us through the New Testament (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10). Jesus has not delegated His authority or the authority of His Word to any particular individual or group; we all are to look to Him in prayer and through His Word to determine how to be pleasing to God!
We seek to follow Jesus as He has established in His Word. We welcome anyone who would also like to follow Jesus, and we all can strive to live according to His Word. Be not deceived: there is no other name under heaven in which we can be saved (John 14:6). God has vested authority in Christ Jesus– let us recognize this and be willing to obey Him!
Ethan R. Longhenry