Centurion Faith

In the time when Christ walked the earth the Roman army occupied Israel. Centurions were Roman officers ... each a captain in charge of 100 Roman soldiers. One day Jesus came upon one such man. The encounter is recorded by Matthew:
And when He had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, entreating Him, and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering great pain." And He said to him, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. "For I, too, 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." 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. "And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; let it be done to you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very hour. (Matthew 8:5-13)
In the book of Acts we read about another centurion that Peter encountered:
“Now there was a certain man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually. (Acts 10:1-2)
We don't know much about Cornelius outside of what is written in Acts. Mathew Henry comments about him with this:
Pure and undefiled religion is sometimes found where we least expect it. Wherever the fear of God rules in the heart, it will appear both in works of charity and of piety, neither will excuse from the other.
I think that the key to understanding the faith of these men involves their fear of God. These men did not seem to be people who merely adhered to religious rules. This fear they had for God seemed to result in genuine care for others and moved them to pray. I think that the fear of the Lord is the key to a healthy faith.

The fear of God is an interesting animal ... it seems to show up when you least expect it. In 2001 I lost my job at a large corporation ... it was a difficult loss for me and I was very angry. As the days progressed towards my termination date I was frustrated at my inability to relocate within the company and became consumed with thoughts of payback. I conjured up e-mail after e-mail of what I would say to the appropriate men that had maligned me and caused me to lose my job. I wanted to tell others of how unfairly I was treated. I felt betrayed and wanted to vent my pain. It was during this time that the Lord began to speak to me about revenge ... the Holy Spirit began to make me aware of what I was beginning to do. One day, as I sat at my computer composing an e-mail message to an executive in my organization, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me ... You can go there if you wish ... but if you do I will not go with you. I’m not sure that I can adequately put into words the sense that came over me. I can only describe it as the fear of God. I immediately deleted the message.

You know, when we fear God we are not alone. I am reminded of what Moses said to God after the exodus from Egypt:

"If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here." (Exodus 33:15)
The fear of the Lord will keep us humble ... it will cause us to understand our true need for Him ... it will prevent us from acting unwisely ... it will cause us to pray. Moses knew who he was and who God was ... he was meek because he feared the Lord. The gospels say this about the centurion who watched Jesus die on the cross:
Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54)
Again we see the effects of the fear of God. It is a sad fact that many people are religious but know nothing of the fear of God. I think that it can be said that one who doesn't fear the Lord doesn't know Him very well ... these centurions seemed to know God well enough to fear Him ... and it affected what they said and how they acted.


  1. awesome post, Bob! The centurion story is one of my favs..and the one the Lord shows me if I have doubts that He will be there..wherever...
    I lost a job, too...very similar circumstances..and had the same epiphany. Cool! God is GOOD!

  2. Hi KB.

    I'll bet in hindsight you're fired up that you didn't bump off those little nasty-grams, eh? ;-)

    I know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And that it is a totally acceptable motivation for our coming to grips with our lostness and need for salvation.
    And I also know that, because that fear is just the beginning, it is gradually supposed to be replaced by a love for God.

    In my 19 years as a Christian, I can honestly say that my fear of Him did convert to a love. But sometimes, even now, my love is a bit, shall we say, "lacking"? and it is not uncommon for me to rely on my fear of Him to keep me from doing something I know would displease Him.

    Am I alone in that one?

  3. Thanks,

    This is a great reminder for us to stop and let God take over.

  4. The fear of the Lord is such a misunderstood phrase. I think the more we understand the love of God, the more deeply we will fear him. Awe is a better translation of the word than fear. The more clearly we see who He is, the more we will love Him in return, and the greater our awe will become. The host of heaven fall before Him in unspeakable awe, declaring His worthiness, His holiness, His great power. Leonard Ravenhill said that the highest form of worship is speechless adoration. That is the fear of the Lord, and I want to experience it more and more. Thanks for the reminder Bob.


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