If an encounter with God, or reconciliation, comes by faith (trust) what does this exactly involve? Here are the few things we need to understand and believe in order to approach Him, all seen in the experience of a Roman centurion who trusted in Christ.
And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he (the centurion) heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
And we’re looking this evening at four essential components of saving faith, and we see them in this passage, reflected in the experience of this Roman centurion. Now we speak of conversion to God, of coming to know him and to walk with him, and we’re repeatedly told in the Scripture that conversion is something that you come to by faith, that means to say you cannot earn it, you cannot do anything to secure it from God, there is no set of religious duties or ceremonies, no ritual, no technique that you can indulge in and excel in which will secure for you the blessing of God and acceptance with him.
We learn in Scripture, from cover to cover, that we are an alienated race and we have offended him and we are cut off from him, and that the only way we can know him and find him is by faith, actually by grace through faith. We have to trust him, and believe in him, and then by grace, that is to say unearned, undeserved, the blessing of conversion is fully bestowed and given. But what exactly is this? What is this faith? What does it mean? What are its elements or parts?
And there are broadly four, and we see them here, very simply reflected. ‘Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.’ Capernaum, in those days a very pretty town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. A lot of small fishing companies had their headquarters there. It was on a major trade route so there was trade and money to be had there, it was quite a centre, and it was a garrison town for the Roman occupation.
And in this particular town, well there was a garrison of, how many soldiers? We don’t know, at least a hundred because there was a centurion there. A centurion, I suppose
we would call him today ‘a captain’ except that a Roman centurion was not a commissioned officer in the Roman system, but you had to start there. If you were qualified and you had the money and you were a freeman as a Roman citizen and you wanted a military career, well you went in one of the lower ranks, such as a centurion. But some centurions commanded not just a hundred but two or three hundred men, and there are certain grounds for thinking that this particular centurion would have had two or three hundred in a major place like Capernaum. He answered to the regional governor for the Romans, who was Herod Antipas, so he was the paymaster.