Tagged: questions about the Bible

The greatest person of faith: A Roman centurion?

Thirteenth in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.

Consider Matt. 8:10: Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith” (HCSB).

In Matt. 8:5-13, a Roman centurion appeals to Jesus on behalf of an ailing servant. The Lord offers to come with the soldier and heal the servant, but the centurion replies “only say the word, and my servant will be cured.”  Jesus’ response acknowledges the centurion’s great faith. In fact, He says, “I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith.” So the question arises: Is the Roman centurion the person of greatest faith Jesus ever met?

That’s probably not the point of Jesus’ statement. Rather, Jesus declares that this Gentile soldier has a more accurate understanding of Jesus’ identity and purpose than most of the Jews throughout Israel, even though He came to the Jews (John 1:11). At times, Jesus limits His miracles due to a lack of faith (Matt. 13:58). He weeps over Jerusalem because the city will soon suffer the consequences of the people’s rejection of Him (Luke 19:41). And He wonders out loud whether the Son of Man will find faith on the earth when He comes (Luke 18:8). No doubt this centurion’s faith was a great encouragement to the Messiah.

As for faith, the apostle Paul writes that God has given all of us a “measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3), and the writer of Hebrews provides an extensive list of great people of faith (Heb. 11). But as for who has the greatest faith … that’s a judgment best left to God, who knows every heart and will judge righteously one day.

Are there times we shouldn’t talk about Jesus?

12th in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.

Consider Matt. 8:4 – Then Jesus told him, “See that you don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed, as a testimony to them.”

Is the leper whom Jesus healed really not to tell anyone? Obviously, he has to say something to the priest in order to fulfill the requirements of the law. But what about his family, friends and others in the community? Is he expected to hide this obvious miracle from their eyes — especially since now, for perhaps the first time in years, he’s able to have personal contact with the ones he loves? What’s the point of Jesus’ stern command?

Quite simply, it appears Jesus is making it clear that the time has not yet come for Him to be fully revealed as the promised Messiah. Although in some private settings — as with the Samaritan woman at the well and in the presence of His closest disciples — He affirms His Messianic identity, He carefully calculates the day in which He must ride triumphantly into Jerusalem and be hailed King of the Jews. Until Palm Sunday, however, He must continue His earthly ministry without inciting His followers to prematurely declare Him King or His detractors to prematurely seek His death. All is done in God’s perfect timing. His command to the healed leper to hold his tongue looks to His future date with destiny, when He is declared King and fulfills the role of Suffering Servant in a single week.

The apostle Paul puts it well in Gal. 4:4-5: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (KJV)

One final note: After Christ’s resurrection, the recipients of His grace are never commanded to hide the message of the Messiah.

What makes a Christian?

Eleventh in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.

Consider Matt. 7:21-23: Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’ 

Claiming to be a Christian doesn’t make one so. Doing good deeds – even miraculous deeds – in the name of Jesus does not secure salvation for anyone. Satan is capable of the supernatural, and his followers masquerade as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). More than 2 billion people in the world today call themselves Christians, yet Jesus is clear that many self-professed Christians will stand before Him in judgment one day and be cast from His presence.

So what makes a Christian? Jesus says a Christian is one who does “the will of My Father in heaven.” What is His will? To believe on Jesus and not on human efforts (John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.

Calling yourself a Christian — even attending church regularly —  does not make you a Christian any more than living in a garage makes you a car.

In Matt. 7:23, is it true that Jesus “never” knew those who called themselves Christians but in fact were not? Of course He is aware of them; as the eternal Son of God, Jesus is all knowing. But the word “knew” in this context refers to a personal relationship.

That is what it means to be a Christian in a nutshell — to have a personal, everlasting, unbreakable relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus did all of the work necessary for sinful people to be restored to a right relationship with Him. To enter that relationship we must entrust our lives — our eternal destiny — to the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.