Authority and Faith
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” (Matthew 8:8-10).
“Faith” is one of the most misunderstood concepts presented in the New Testament. A lot of people equate faith with some kind of mental agreement to a proposition. In such a view, having faith in Jesus is like having faith that two plus two equals four. The statements are accepted as true, but such faith does not lead to real transformation or change.
The reality of faith goes far deeper than the idea of accepting a proposition as true. Faith is really about trust, and it is a quality that all people have. It is not as if there are some people who live by faith and others who do not; everyone trusts in someone or something. The question involves where we place our trust.
We place our trust in that which we have invested with authority. Notice the conversation that takes place between the centurion and Jesus in Matthew 8:8-10. The centurion wants Jesus to heal his servant; he is a man under authority with people under his authority, and he understands that the word of the one with authority is sufficient to accomplish the task. Jesus then declares that in this centurion He has found greater faith than among any of the Israelites!
Why does Jesus talk about faith when the centurion has been talking about authority? The centurion has confidence that Jesus has the authority to heal his servant; the centurion understands that all Jesus needs to do is to say the word, since He has power. The centurion, based on his understanding of authority, places his trust in Jesus. He has confidence that if Jesus has power over the creation, as he has heard, then all Jesus will need to do is say the word and it will be done.
The centurion, therefore, models true faith–an understanding of authority leading to trust in the One who has authority. Such is consistent with Peter’s declaration before the Jews on Pentecost in Acts 2:36: God made Jesus both Lord and Christ. And how do the Jews respond? They are cut to the heart and want to know what they are to do in response (Acts 2:37). They hear that Jesus has been given authority, and they believe that this is true; they now want to know what they must do in order to express their trust in Him.
The connection between authority and faith is often missed by people today. We often would rather forget about the reality that we are placing our confidence and trust in certain people and ideas, and that when we do so, we act as if they have authority. This is true whether we are following after the ideas of our parents or the beliefs of the most recent celebrity on entertainment shows. It remains true whether we place our trust in the declarations of scientists or in the revelations of the Bible.
In the end, we cannot definitively know everything about everything. We will place our trust in someone or something. Who deserves that trust? What ideas represent truth so as to justify confidence in them? The One who deserves our trust is the One who has authority (Matthew 28:18), Jesus of Nazareth, and so it is right for us to trust in Him and what He has revealed to us through His Word. We must accept the truth that Jesus is Lord; then we must act like Jesus is Lord, seeking to live according to His will, walking as He walked, becoming conformed to His image (Romans 8:29, Galatians 2:20, 1 John 2:5-6). Let us declare Jesus as Lord of our lives, not ourselves or any other, and be saved!
Ethan R. Longhenry