The Faith of a Centurion

The Faith of a Centurion

In Preparation...

  • Look up the definition of faith and belief.
  • Write as little or as much as you are led to write about your own faith in Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.

Do we hope it's true or know it's true

5 And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him,
6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.”
7 Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
9 “For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.
10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.
11 “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;
12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.
Matthew 8:5-13 (NASB)

There is much in the world that is not in line with how God would have people behave. We only have to take a look at the evening news or our favorite social media platform to see that. Within the body of the church, there is also much that is not as God intended as well. Both are very sad states of affairs for us to be in. For some, the longing is for the return of Christ right now to set things aright. But what if that were possible before Jesus returns?

In today’s scripture passage we see a military man, the Centurion, come to Jesus on behalf of someone who served him. We aren’t told much about the servant other than that person is lying at home “…fearfully tormented.” We don’t know if that servant is a man or a woman, just that they are in distress to the point that the Centurion has come to Jesus. What does that mean that the Centurion has turned to Jesus?

In that time frame it means no other medical or spiritual authority has been able to help the servant. The Centurion, being a military man is familiar with the chain of command. This means he likely began at the simplest and most readily available resource that he deemed would be able to address the situation. When that first resource failed him, he would move to the next higher power, and so on up the chain of command. Finally, having had all other resources fail him, he came to Jesus because he heard how this man of God was able to heal people. Note, this is not an act of desperation in the hope that Jesus could heal his servant. The Centurion knows Jesus can heal him. He believes it. He ascribes a level of understanding to this knowledge that we do not hear in this scripture today because we have a different definition of the word “faith” than that which was used in Matthew’s day. It is that older definition we need to rediscover if we are to understand what it means to have the faith of the Centurion, and how that can help us heal our churches and the world today.

Faith Strong's 4102-pistis

Greek Word: πίστις

Transliteration: pistis

Phonetic Pronunciation: pis’-tis

Root: from

Cross Reference: TDNT – 6:174,849

Part of Speech: n f

Vine’s Words: Assurance, Assure, Assuredly, Belief, Believe, Believers, Faith, Fidelity

English Words used in KJV:

faith 239

assurance 1

believe + 1

belief 1

them that believe 1

fidelity 1

[Total Count: 244]

from (peitho); persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstract constancy in such profession; by extensive the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself :- assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity. 

James Strong, Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary, (Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “4102”.

Belief Strong's 3982-peitho

Greek Strong’s Number: 3982

Greek Word: πείθω

Transliteration: peithō

Phonetic Pronunciation: pi’-tho

Root: a primary verb

Cross Reference: TDNT – 6:1,818

Part of Speech: v

Vine’s Words: Agree, Agreement, Belief, Believe, Believers, Confidence, Confident, Friend, Obedience, Obedient, Obey, Persuade, Trust, Yield

English Words used in KJV:

persuade 22

trust 8

obey 7

have confidence 6

believe 3

be confident 2

miscellaneous translations 7

[Total Count: 55]

 

a primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexive or passive to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty) :- agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) confident, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

James Strong, Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary, (Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “3982”.

The Greek word for faith used by Jesus in His words, and written by Matthew for us today is pistis. Today we hold this as something that carries with it the idea that we believe something strongly. However, if we look at the root of faith, peitho, we discover something more than simple earthly belief.

Peitho is more to convince or sway by argument with the idea of being obedient. Where the word faith is used in scripture from the Greek word pistis it is a divine convincing where God has revealed truth through the Holy Spirit such that the person who has pistis-faith is convinced that the idea is truthful to the point that it comes from God. Here where the Centurion comes to Jesus requesting that He heal the servant the Centurion is convinced of the truth of the idea that Jesus has the power to heal the servant, not just a hope for that healing or a belief that it is possible. The Centurion accepts Jesus can heal as a fact and is not entreating for something hoped for. He is asking that a real service be performed. This is the level of faith Jesus remarks upon and for which Matthew wrote the word pistis.

This has implications for us today. Note, however, this does not mean that when we pray for something and believe we have the faith of a mustard seed then that thing prayed for does not happen that we didn’t actually have the faith we thought. Discernment is required to understand how God’s decisions are made and why they are right. Sometimes that ‘no’ cannot be understood at the moment, but only until later (which might also be when we stand before Jesus and can ask Him these types of questions).

How did Jesus heal the Centurions Servant? Jesus spoke and told the Centurion, “…as thou hast believed, so be it done…” The interesting thing here? The Greek word behind ‘believed’, pisteuo, has its root in pistis where it means specifically to credit or entrust something to Jesus.

Why should we care about this exchange? Because when we find ourselves longing for the return of Jesus to set the world right, to heal the world of what ails it, perhaps we should seek out Jesus and ask Him to heal it by speaking the words.

Belief Strong's 4100-pisteuo

Greek Strong’s Number: 4100

Greek Word: πιστεύω

Transliteration: pisteuō

Phonetic Pronunciation: pist-yoo’-o

Root: from <G4102>

Cross Reference: TDNT – 6:174,849

Part of Speech: v

Vine’s Words: Belief, Believe, Believers, Commit, Commission, Intrust, Trust

English Words used in KJV:

believe 239

commit unto 4

commit to (one’s) trust 1

be committed unto 1

be put in trust with 1

be commit to one’s trust 1

believer 1

[Total Count: 248]

 

from <G4102> (pistis); to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ) :- believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with. 

James Strong, Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary, (Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “4100”.

 Perhaps rather than seeking Christ to do something for us, we should ask Him what we can do carrying that pistis, that faith, in our heart that He is wiser than we are knowing what the world needs better than we do. Perhaps Jesus is already moving to heal the world if only He can find enough workers to go into the fields rather than sitting around lamenting how bad things are.

31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field;
32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.”
Matthew 13:31-32 (NASB)

36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
38 “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Matthew 9:36-38 (NASB)

Digging Deeper

  • Research the life of a Roman Centurion including duties and responsibilities assigned to one.
  • Compare and contrast your own life to how you envision the life of the Centurion from today’s passage might have been.

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