“Emmanuel’s Surprise” – Matthew 8:5-13

May 24th, 2015

Matthew 8:5-13

“Emmanuel’s Surprise”


Service Orientation:  One is empowered in direct proportion to the potential power inherent in that authority which is over him, and to the extent that he submits to that authority over him.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. — Romans 13:1


Background Information:

  • (v. 5) Capernaum, the city where Jesus lived and made His headquarters during his Galilean ministry, was one of many towns and villages along the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It had a bustling fishing industry, as well as numerous merchants, artisans, and scribes.  Although it was not a strong Roman outpost, there were some soldiers stationed there.  A centurion was one who had command of a hundred soldiers.  It is very possible that, as small as the garrison at Capernaum was, the man who came to Jesus in this story was the top Roman officer in the city.  But he came in abject humility, not asking Jesus for help but begging for it.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 226)
  • (v. 5) Capernaum, located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, was the largest of the many fishing towns surrounding the lake. Jesus had recently moved to Capernaum from Nazareth (4:12-13).  Capernaum was a thriving town with great wealth as well as great sin and decadence.  Near a major trade route, it housed a contingent of Roman soldiers even though Galilee was not under Roman occupation until after the death of Herod Agrippa in A.D. 44.  Because Capernaum had the headquarters for Roman troops, the city was filled with heathen influences from all over the Roman Empire.  This was a needy place for Jesus to challenge both Jews and non-Jews with the gospel of God’s kingdom.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 150-1)
  • (v. 5) We learn from Luke that this centurion actually came to Jesus through some Jewish intermediaries, because he felt spiritually unworthy of approaching Jesus personally and perhaps also because he thought he would be rebuffed because of his military position. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 12)

(v. 5) Roman centurions were the backbone of Roman military effectiveness and as such, were paid around 15 times as much as an ordinary soldier.

  • (v. 5) Often the sons of Roman senators or powerful figures would begin their careers at this level. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 151)
  • (v. 5) These centurions were the long-service, regular soldiers of the Roman army. They were responsible for the discipline of the regiment, and they were the cement which held the army together.  In peace and in war alike the morale of the Roman army depended on them.  In his description of the Roman army Polybius describes what a centurion should be:  “They must not be so much venturesome seekers after danger as men who can command, steady in action, and reliable; they ought not to be over-anxious to rush into the fight, but when hard pressed, they must be ready to hold their ground, and die at their posts.”  The centurions were the finest men in the Roman army.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 301)
  • (v. 5) It is interesting to note that every centurion mentioned in the NT is mentioned with honor. There was the centurion who recognized Jesus on the Cross as the Son of God; there was Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to the Christian Church; there was the centurion who suddenly discovered that Paul was a Roman citizen, and who rescued him from the fury of the rioting mob; there was the centurion who was informed that the Jews had planned to murder Paul between Jerusalem and Caesarea, and who took steps to foil their plans; there was the centurion whom Felix ordered to look after Paul; there was the centurion accompanying Paul on his last journey to Rome, who treated him with every courtesy, and accepted him as leader when the storm struck the ship (Mt 27:54; Acts 10:22; 26; 23; 17; 23:23; 24:23; 27:43).  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 301)
  • (v. 5) This Roman centurion was apparently different from many other Roman soldiers who despised the Jews. He may have been a “God-fearer” who worshiped the God of Israel but was not circumcised (see Acts 2:5; 10:2).  Luke also explains that the elders reported to Jesus that “this man deserves to have you do this [healing] because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue” (Lk 7:4-5).  This centurion had apparently heard about Jesus’ healing powers.  He may have known about the healing of the Roman official’s son (which probably occurred earlier, see Jn 4:46-54).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 151)
  • (v. 5) It is quite clear that this centurion was an extraordinary man, for he loved his slave. It may well be that it was his totally unusual and unexpected gentleness and love which so moved Jesus when the centurion first came to him.  Love always covers a multitude of sins; the man who cares for men is always near to Jesus Christ.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 302)
  • (v. 6) The great Greek philosopher Aristotle said there could be no friendship and no justice toward inanimate things, not even toward a horse, an ox, or a slave, because master and slave were considered to have nothing in common. “A slave,” he said, “is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave” (Ethics, 1161b).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 12-3)
  • (v. 6) He was tenderly anxious about his servant, who, according to Luke’s expression, was “dear to him.” Then we get as the crown of all the beauty of his character, the lowliness of spirit which the “little brief authority” in which he “was dressed” had not puffed up.  “I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 379)
  • (v. 7) Jesus had just reached out and touched a leper: he would not hesitate to enter the house of a Gentile, an action that, though considered defiling by the rabbis, was not prohibited in the OT.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 74)
  • (v. 8) He wished for Jesus’ power to help and to heal his servant, but there was one problem.  He was a Gentile and Jesus was a Jew, and, according to the Jewish law, a Jew could not enter the house of a Gentile for all Gentile dwelling-places were unclean.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 303)
  • (v. 11) The Jews looked forward with all their hearts to this Messianic banquet:  but it never for a moment crossed their minds that any Gentile would ever sit down at it.  By that time the Gentiles would have been destroyed.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 303-4)
  • (v. 11) This “feast” is the banquet of celebration in the kingdom of heaven.  Few Jews understood, however, that Gentiles would also take their places at the feast with the patriarchs of the Jewish nation–Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  A Jew who would sit at a table with a Gentile would become defiled.  Yet Jesus pictured the patriarchs themselves sitting down with Gentiles at the great feast.  No wonder Jesus’ teachings caused such a stir among the religious leaders of the day!  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 154)
  • (v. 12) This passage is one of the strongest passages in Matthew on God’s rejection of the unbelieving Jewish people (see Rom 9-11). The “darkness” is a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth–a common biblical description of hell.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 154-5)


The question to be answered is . . . Why is Jesus so amazed at the Centurion’s faith?


Answer:  Not only was the Centurion a Roman and therefore out of the loop concerning the Messiah, but his keen understanding of authority brought about an immenseness of faith that Jesus found to be a pleasant surprise.


Most of us have been exposed to such a mutilated form of biblical submission that either we have embraced the deformity or we have rejected the Discipline altogether.  To do the former leads to self-hatred; to do the latter leads to self-glorification.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 113)


The Word for the Day is . . . Authority


What can we learn about authority and Jesus’ opinion of it from Matthew 8:5-13?:

I-  Legitimate authority is God established and is designed to promote human flourishing through justice and order. (Prv 24:21; Jer 27:8-17; 29:4-14; 2 Mt 6:10; 17:24-27; 22:15-21; Acts 19:38-39; Rom 13:1-7; Cor 13:10; 1 Tim 2:1-2; Heb 13:17; 1 Pt 2:13-17)


True authority (which is promoting good) is not suppressing my individuality but enabling it to flourish in more and more complex societies.  — Victor Lee Austin


True authority enables and increases freedom, including especially the ability of persons to act in concert for goods not able to be achieved but only by corporate action.  — Victor Lee Austin


True authority brings about greater human flourishing.  — Victor Lee Austin


The basic aim of the one in authority is not to hurt but to help, “to do you good.”  As the result of the work and watchfulness of these governmental representatives the believer is able to lead “a tranquil and quiet life in all gravity and godliness” (1 Tm 2:2).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Romans, 435)


Even a Communist dictatorship is better than no state at all.  The darkest days in Israel’s history were those days described in Jg 17:6 when “everyone did as he saw fit.”  Just a few days (a few hours!) Without law in today’s world and all would be chaos, just as in the book of Judges.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Romans, 243)


In our own civilization, if every individual had liberty to do exactly as he pleased for only three days, all would be chaos.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Discipline, 121)


Paul’s main view of the state was that the Roman Empire was the divinely ordained instrument to save the world from chaos.  Take away that Empire and the world would disintegrate into flying fragments.  It was in fact the pax Romana, the Roman peace, which gave the Christian missionary the chance to do his work.  Ideally men should be bound together by Christian love; but they are not; and the cement which keeps them together is the state.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Romans, 174)


A state is essentially a body of men who have been covenanted together to maintain certain relationships between each other by the observance of certain laws.  Without these laws and the mutual agreement to observe them, the bad and selfish strong man would be supreme; the weaker would go to the wall; life would become ruled by the law of the jungle.  Every ordinary man owes his security to the state, and is therefore under a responsibility to it.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Romans, 174)


Robert Haldane comments that “The institution of civil government is a dispensation of mercy, and its existence is so indispensable, that the moment it ceases under one form, it re-establishes itself in another.  The world, ever since the fall, when the dominion of one part of the human race over another was immediately introduced (Gn 3:16), has been in such a state of corruption and depravity, that without the powerful obstacle presented by civil government to the selfish and malignant passions of men, it would be better to live among the beasts of the forest than in human society.  As soon as its restraints are removed, man shows himself in his real character.  When there was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes, we see in the last three chapters of the book of Judges what were the dreadful consequences.  (An Exposition of Romans, 581).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Romans 9-16, 225)


Every form of government, whether good or bad, cruel or benevolent, is divinely decreed by God.  He has ordained that man should rule over man.  There is no other way to maintain an orderly society.  So it is a basic rule of life that men are to submit to those in power.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Romans, 339)


“Submit…to Governing Authorities” (Rom 13:1)

     The duties we owe to governing authorities include:

*honoring them to support civil order (Prv 24:21; Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pt 2:13-14, 17)

*praying for them (1 Tm 2:1-2)

*obeying the laws of the land that provide for public safety and justice (1 Pt 2:1-16; Ti 3:1)

*paying taxes to enable public officers to do their work (Mt 17:24-27; 22:15-21; Rom 13:7) (Foundations of a Living Faith: The Catechism of the Free Methodist Church, 46-8)


If you take obedience to the laws of the country lightly–if you say, “Well, everyone is doing it” or “They’re crazy laws anyway” or “It’s not my law; I didn’t write it or vote for it”–if you do that, then you are contributing to a spirit of lawlessness that will issue in anarchy and eventually lead to the loss of civil liberties and to a dictatorial government.  On the other hand, if you obey the laws of the land, you will be contributing to society by helping to sustain a stable and liberty-respecting government.  (James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 4, The New Humanity, 1666)


We must not expect too much from the state because the business of the state is mainly negative.  Its main function is to control and to limit evil and the manifestations of evil.  The state, whether it be a monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, or any other form that you may choose, can do very little positive good, and people have got into trouble when they think it can.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 13, 58)


The Lord would be pleased, of course, if all those in authority were decent men.  But wicked and evil men sometimes come to power.  So we find people in authority ranging from cruel kings to crooked cops.  Even so, God backs them for He would rather have them than none at all.  To have no law is anarchy.  That brings ruin.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Romans, 339)


Authority is the objective correlate of freedom.  — O’Donovan


Furthermore, praying “Your Kingdom come” involves a commitment to do God’s will.  Matthew’s record of the Lord’s Prayer expands this phrase:  “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10).  To pray “Your kingdom come” is to pray for the bending of our wills in profound obedience to his.  It is a commitment to consciously submit everything to his authority.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, p. 157)


II-  All authority is established by God.  Legitimate authority is to be obeyed.  (Mt 8:8-10 ; see also: Nm 26:9; Dn 4:31; 7:6, 12-14; Mt 10:40-42;  Rom 13:1-7; 2 Cor 10:8; 1 Tm 2:1-2; Tt 3:1-2; Heb 13:17; 1 Pt 2:1-6)


In the opening command, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (v. 1), “everyone” is emphatic:  every believer.  So strong is the thought that verse 2 concludes, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Romans, 240)


The universal call to submit to authority touches the root of our corruption.  Everyone is a sinner, and every sin is an act of revolt against authority.  If we respected the authority of God perfectly, we would never sin.  Sin is a refusal to submit to the governing authority of God himself, and God knows that about us.  If we are not willing to submit to God, it is more difficult to submit to the police department, the government, and other authorities that rule over us.  It is the duty of every Christian to be in subjection to the authorities.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 440)


In addition to rulers (see also Ti 3:1), Paul also calls on believers to submit to their spiritual leaders (1 Cor 16:16) and even to one another (Eph 5:21; i.e., in the ways Paul outlines in 5:22-6:9).  Christian slaves are to submit to their masters (Ti 2:9), Christian prophets to other prophets (1 Cor 14:32), and Christian wives to their husbands (1 Cor 14:35; Eph 5:24; Col 3:18; Ti 2:5).  In each case, one person is to recognize the rightful leadership role that another human being has in his or her life.  (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, 429)


Submission to God is revealed in submission to others.  So when you have a recalcitrant child, he does not submit to God (no matter what he tells his youth group leader) if he will not tidy up his bedroom at his mother’s request; he does not submit to God.  If a wife is cantankerous, nagging, like a dripping tap; she does not submit to God.  If a husband is bombastic, sarcastic, demanding, unloving, hypercritical; he does not submit to God.  If a man will not submit to civil jurisdiction; he does not submit to God. (Alistair Begg sermon, Submitting to God – pt 1)


Why do we end up with such incompetent people in authority?  Because we mistreat the ones that are there and no one worth their salt wants to be in a position of authority knowing that no matter what kind of a job they do, someone is going to be attacking them.  — Pastor Keith


Tertullian to the Roman government:  “Caesar is more ours than yours because our God appointed him.”


God casts the deciding vote in every election.


We need to be cautious, however, in our interpretation of Paul’s statements.  He cannot be taken to mean that all the Caligulas, Herods, Neros and Domitians of NT times, and all the Hitlers, Stalins, Amins and Saddams of our times, were personally appointed by God, that God is responsible for their behavior, or that their authority is in no circumstances to be resisted.  Paul means rather that all human authority is derived from God’s authority, so that we can say to rulers what Jesus said to Pilate, “You would have no power [exousia, authority] over me if it were not given to you from above.”  Pilate misused his authority to condemn Jesus; nevertheless, the authority he used to do this had been delegated to him by God.  (John Stott, Romans, God’s Good News for the World, 340)


It helps to remember that our Lord suffered under Pontius Pilate, one of the worst Roman governors of Judea; and Paul suffered at the hands of the worst Roman emperor, Nero.  Thus while the Christians of Rome lived in fear of unjust persecution, they were nonetheless to give cheerful submission to the earthly monarch.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Romans, 340)


The OT had denounced pagan nations and their rulers — but some of the very prophets whose denunciations were fiercest also told Israel that God was working through the pagan nations and their rulers for Israel’s long-term good (Assyria, in Isaiah 10; Cyrus, in Isaiah 45; Babylon itself, In Jeremiah 29).    (N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone, Romans: Part Two, 87)


The size of our God is greatly determined by our ability to see how He is able to work through those in authority over us.  (Bill Gothard, Basic Seminar Textbook, 19)


“There is no power, but of God.”  Therefore, wherever powers exist and flourish, they exist and flourish because God has ordained them.  (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, 181)


The centurion knew how the chain of command worked.  He was a link.  He correctly concluded that the same laws applied to spiritual power.  The greater Jesus’ authority, the less necessary his physical presence to accomplish his will.  Jesus’ words indicated much more than his authority; they revealed his concern.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 154)


Man does not establish authority; he acknowledges it.  This is the proper procedure, though seldom observed.  Man wants to acknowledge only that authority which he himself establishes or at the least gives consent to.  All other authority is offensive to his sense of autonomy and ultimacy.  As a result, the claims of Scripture are particularly offensive to the natural man, because so much is involved in the admission of their truth.

To recognize the claims of Scripture is to accept creaturehood and the fact of the fall.  The fall necessitates an infallible Savior and an infallible Scripture as Van Til has shown.  Moreover, the concept of the infallible Word involves and requires the idea of God’s complete control over history.  This means that God is self-contained and ultimate, controlling all reality, with all reality revelational of Him, knowing all things exhaustively because He controls completely.  To accept fully the concept of the infallible Word is to claim all facts for God and to insist that reality can only be interpreted in terms of Him and His Word.  This runs counter to the natural man’s claim to be the point of reference and the source of ultimate interpretation of factuality.  But it is this sin of man which makes Scripture necessary.  Scripture speaks to man with authority, and with sufficiency, that is, as a completed Word.  It speaks with perspicuity, clearly and simply telling man who he is, what the nature of his sin is, what his remedy is and where it is to be found.  The attributes of Scripture are thus necessity, authority, perspicuity and sufficiency.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 145)


Reason is not God and possesses no such authority.  Its judgments are based on the tenuous, sinful, and subjective pre-suppositions of a creature and are neither grounded in being or in truth.  Reason can only establish a connection with being and truth insofar as it rests, not on its own mythical authority, but on God and His Word.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 14)


I cannot overemphasize the importance of “taking charge” of a strong-willed child during the early years of his life.  This is not accomplished by being harsh, gruff or stern.  Instead, the relationship is produced by confident and steady leadership.  You are the boss.  You are in charge.  If you believe it, the child will accept it also. ( Dr. James C. Dobson; Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, 88)


Mrs. Wesley recommended overlooking “childish follies and inadvertencies,” but never to ignore “willful transgressions.”  What did she mean? . . .

Thus far, I was dealing with what Mrs. Wesley called “follies and inadvertencies.”  Then we turned a corner.

They do not emanate from willful, haughty disobedience.  In my opinion, spankings should be reserved for the moment a child (age ten or less) expresses a defiant “I will not!” or “You shut up!”  When a youngster tries this kind of stiff-necked rebellion, you had better take it out of him, and pain is a marvelous purifier.  When nose to nose confrontation occurs between you and your child, it is not the time to have a discussion about the virtues of obedience.  It is not the occasion to send him in his room to pout.  It is not appropriate to wait until poor, tired old dad comes plodding in from work, just in time to handle the conflicts of the day.  You have drawn a line in the dirt, and the child has deliberately flopped his big hairy toe across it.  Who is going to win?  Who has the most courage?  Who is in charge here?  If you do not answer these questions conclusively for the child, he will precipitate other battles designed to ask them again and again.  It is the ultimate paradox of childhood that a youngster wants to be controlled, but he insists that his parents earn the right to control him.

The tougher the temperament of the child, the more critical it is to “shape his will” early in life.  However, I must hasten to repeat the familiar disclaimers that have accompanied all my other writings on this subject.  I am not recommending harshness and rigidity in child-rearing techniques!  I don’t believe in parental oppression, and indeed, our own children were not raised in such an atmosphere.  Furthermore, I want to make it clear that corporal punishment is not to be imposed on babies. ( Dr. James C. Dobson; Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, 91-2 )


III-  Legitimate authority is not bound by space & time and can be delegated.  (Mt 8:8; see also: Gn 41:40; Lv 18:4; 25:18; Nm 27:18-23; Dt 1:9-11; Mt 10:1; Mk 6:7-13; Lk 9:1-6; Isa 22:20-24; Jn 17:2;  Acts 9:14; 26:10-12;  1 Thes 4:2)


He himself was a man under authority because final authority rested with the Roman emperor.  The emperor delegated responsibility to various officials, such as this centurion.  Thus, when the centurion gave orders to soldiers under him, he spoke with the authority of the emperor.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 152-3)


When Jesus spoke, God spoke.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 153)


All “authority” (exousia, as 7:29) belonged to the emperor and was delegated.  Therefore, because he was under the emperor’s authority, when the centurion spoke, he spoke with the emperor’s authority, and so his command was obeyed. A footsoldier who disobeyed would not be defying a mere centurion but the emperor, Rome itself, with all its imperial majesty and might (cf. Derrett, NT Studies, 1:159f.).  This self-understanding the centurion applied to Jesus.  Precisely because Jesus was under God’s authority, he was vested with God’s authority, so that when Jesus spoke, God spoke.  To defy Jesus was to defy God; and Jesus’ word must therefore be vested with God’s authority that is able to heal sickness.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 201)


IV-  Faith or submission to legitimate authority enjoys God’s blessing (no matter who you are) because it pleases God. (Mt 8:10-11; see also: Dt 6:3-4, 24-25; 12:28; 28:1-2; Jer 11:3-4; Rom 13:1-7; Gal 6:7-8; 1 Tm 2:1-2; Heb 11:6; 1 Pt 2:13-17)


In submission we are at least free to value other people.  Their dreams and plans become important to us.  We have entered into a new, wonderful, glorious freedom–the freedom to give up our own rights for the good of others.  For the first time we can love people unconditionally.  We have given up the right to demand that they return our love.  No longer do we feel that we have to be treated in a certain way.  We rejoice in their successes.  We feel genuine sorrow in their failures.  It is of little consequence that our plans are frustrated if their plans succeed.  We discover that it is far better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 112)


The essence of submission is not “getting under the domination of authority but rather getting under the protection of authority.”  Authority is like an “umbrella of protection,” and when we get out from under it, we expose ourselves to unnecessary temptations which are too strong for us to overcome.  This is why Scripture compares rebellion and witchcraft–“Rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sm 15:23).  Both terms have the same basic definition–subjecting ourselves to the realm and power of Satan.  (Bill Gothard, Basic Seminar Textbook, 20)


My dear friend, nothing binds a man to Christ but trust.  Nothing opens the doors of His Kingdom, either here on earth or yonder, but reliance upon Him.  And although you were steeped to the eye-brows in religious privileges, and high in place in His church, it would avail nothing.  The Kingdom of Christ is a Kingdom into which faith, and faith only, admits a man.  Therefore from the furthest corners of the world Christ’s sad prescience saw the Gentiles flocking, and the Jews who trusted in externals, cast out.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 384-5)


As a soldier he well knew what it was to give a command and to have that command instantly and unquestionably carried out; so he said to Jesus, “You don’t need to come to my house; I am not fit for you to enter my house; all you have to do is to speak the word of command, and that command will be obeyed.”  There spoke the voice of faith, and Jesus laid it down that faith is the only passport to the blessedness of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 303)


The Jew had to learn that the passport to God’s presence is not membership of any nation; it is faith.  The Jew believed that he belonged to the chosen people and that because he was a Jew he was therefore dear to God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 304)


Being a physical descendant of Abraham was a great privilege and advantage (Rom 3:1-2), but in spite of what most Jews believed, it did not guarantee salvation.  It is the children of Abraham’s spiritual faith, not the children of his physical body, whom God adopts as His own children (Rom 8:14-17; Gal 3:7-9, 26-29; cf. Rom 4:11, 16).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 14-5)


Why do we all accept the outmoded disciplines of an authoritarian past when we travel by air?   Because the safety of our own skins is at stake.  This is not a case of possible damage to mind or soul.   This is an area where physical well-being is at risk.  So we put up with all the regulations the authorities choose to impose, knowing they ensure that we can travel in safety.  It is nonsense to pretend that the in the modern world regulation, discipline, and obedience to authority are outmoded.   People who work in air-traffic control, or space-travel control, or a hospital operating theatre know well that regulation, discipline and obedience are as essential as ever. (Harry Blamires; Recovering the Christian Mind, 113)


I said that every Discipline has its corresponding freedom.  What freedom corresponds to submission?  It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way.  The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today.  People will spend weeks, months, even years in a perpetual stew because some little thing did not go as they wished.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 111)


He felt genuinely unworthy for Jesus to go to that much trouble for him, and no doubt also did not want Him to break the Jewish tradition of not entering the house of a Gentile in order to avoid ceremonial contamination.

The centurion’s twice addressing Jesus as Lord indicates much more than courtesy.  Jesus testified of the man that He had not seen such great faith in all of Israel (v. 10).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 13)


The 29th chapter of the apocryphal book of Second Baruch pictures what Jews believed would be the great heavenly feast at which all Jews were going to sit down and eat behemoth, the elephant, and leviathan, the giant sea monster, or whale–symbolic of an unlimited amount of food.  In the eyes of many Jews, one of the most significant and appealing things about the feast was that it would be totally free of Gentiles.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 14)


This sharing of the Gentiles in the blessings of the Jews started to happen already during the old dispensation (1 Kgs 8:41-43; 10:9; Jer 38:7-12; 39:16-18), has been taking place on a much larger scale during the entire new dispensation, and will become evident especially when the countless multitude gathered out of every nation will be standing before the throne (Rv 7:9).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 397)


The more humility the more faith; the more diffident we are of ourselves, the stronger will be our confidence in Jesus Christ.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 103)


The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes this universal theme–Jesus’ message is for everyone.  The OT prophets knew this (see Isa 56:3, 6-8; 66:12, 19; Mal 1:11), but many NT Jewish leaders chose to ignore it.  Each individual has to choose to accept or reject the gospel, and no one can become part of God’s kingdom on the basis of heritage or connections.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 155)


The centurion’s protest, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof,” may refer to his being a Gentile.  Lk 7:7 seems to show, however, that he was thinking more of his own moral unworthiness.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 152)


The centurion asked Jesus for help, not for himself but for someone else.  He crossed racial, social, and political barriers to present his servant’s plight.  But he didn’t tell Jesus what he wanted.  He simply described his servant’s condition:  paralyzed and in excruciating pain.  He allowed Jesus to decide if and how he would help.  The centurion practiced wisdom in what he did and what he didn’t do.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 151)


If ever there is a genuine paradox to be found in Holy Writ, it is at the point of freedom and bondage.  The paradox is this:  When one seeks to rebel from God, he gains only bondage.  When he becomes a slave to God, he becomes free.  Liberty is found in obedience.  The Anglican poet John Donne understood this when he wrote in in a sonnet, Except You enthrall me, never shall I be free. (R.C. Sproul; If There’s a God, Why Are There Atheists?, 142)


If we take Matthew’s version, there is another lovely trait.  He does not ask Christ to do anything.  He simply spreads the necessity before Him, in the confidence that His pitying love lies so near the surface that it was sure to flow forth, even at that light touch.  He will not prescribe, he tells the story, and leaves all to Him.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 379)


The extreme cruelty and ruthlessness of recent history suggest that when man makes himself, his bosses, his society, or his race the measure of all things, he becomes less human rather than more.  The other side of the paradox is more hopeful.  When man makes something outside himself the measure of all things–when his absolute is God–he becomes more human as a by-product.  God lifts him into genuine humanity.  (Chad Walsh, Early Christians of the 21st Century, 52)


In the Gospels there are only two things at which Jesus “marveled”:  this man’s faith and the unbelief of His own people (Mk 6:6).  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 148)


V-  Unbelief or resistance to legitimate authority is subject to God’s curses (no matter who you are) because it offends God. (Mt 8:12; see also: Lv 10:1-4; Nm ch 12; 16; 26:8-10; Dt 11:26-29; 28:15-45; 30:1-20; Bk of Judges; Isa 1:1-4; Jer 17:27; Dn 9:11;  Mal 1: Mk 6:6; Rom 13:1-7; 2 Pt 2:10-12; Jude 1:8-10)


Hollowness is the disintegrative disease of weightlessness brought on by our crisis of cultural authority.  (Os Guinness; Fit Bodies Fat Minds, 93)


If I refuse for no just reason to submit to the authority of my employer, or my parents, or my teachers, or my government, ultimately I am in defiance of God, and I become a participant in lawlessness which is the spirit of the antichrist.  Christians are to be part of the complex of righteousness, not the complex of lawlessness.  We become models of submission to authority which the world is not.  We are called to obey God, and by obeying civil magistrates we show our spirit of submission and obedience to God himself.  (RC Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 214)


The logical ramification is simple.  Because civil government is an institution of God, to rebel against government is to rebel against the god who has established it.  In his commentary on Romans, the nineteenth-century Scottish evangelist Robert Haldane wrote, “The people of God then ought to consider resistance to the government under which they live as a very awful crime, even as resistance to God Himself” (An Exposition of Romans, 579).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Romans 9-16, 220)


The tears of which Jesus speaks here in Mt 8:12 are those of inconsolable, never-ending wretchedness, and utter, everlasting hopelessness.  The accompanying grinding or gnashing of teeth (cf. 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; see especially the very similar Lk 13:28; occurring, however, in a different context) denotes excruciating pain and frenzied anger.  This grinding of teeth, too, will never come to an end or cease (Dn 12:2; Mt 3:12; 18:8; 25:46; Mk 9:43, 48; Lk 3:17; Jude 6, 7; and Rv 14:9-11).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 398)


American society is awash in relativism.

What is the basis for law if there is no absolute truth?  The basis is whoever has the majority–rule by the 51 percent.  Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that “law is the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.”  Pure pragmatism.

The inevitable result is tyranny, drawn into the vacuum of moral chaos.  If authority cannot be established among people by their shared assumptions, by their agreement about the meaning of life, then it will be imposed on them from the top.  As William Penn said, “If we are not governed by God, we will be governed by tyrants.”

When truth retreats, tyranny advances.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 292)


We have reached the turn of the century and the post-Christian society isn’t working.  It’s as simple as that.  But nobody is going to say so.  Nobody’s going to admit it.  Why?  Because erotic passion is assumed to be a stroke of destiny that overtakes people, overwhelms them in an irresistible tide of wholly admirable mutual devotion.  That is the post-Christian estimate of erotic love.  It is a god.  It has its own authority.  No man or woman of sincerity and generosity can resist it.  There is no freedom of choice in relation to it.  In comparison to its power and authority, the claims of growing children count for nothing.  As for the husband or the wife from whom the new partner is being detached, they too must peaceably accept the inevitability of their loved ones’ surrender to the destiny that has claimed them. (Harry Blamires; The Post-Christian Mind, 52)


When parents allow their kids to argue about every order or assignment, there is an authority problem in the family–and it doesn’t necessarily belong to the children.  There are plenty of parents who either have refused to accept the authority that goes with having children or have not realized they are supposed to take it.

During the sixties all authority came under question, and today we are living with the consequences.  Although respect for authority died three decades ago, authority itself did not.  The world is still set up in such a manner that God, as Creator, has authority over it, and He has given parents authority over their children so they will learn respect and obedience from a loving source.

Children know instinctively that someone has to be in control, and they figure “Why not me?”  When a parent stumbles at all in this area, questioning even for a moment his or her own authority, children jump at the chance to step in and take over.  If this happens regularly, the parents may as well say, “Look, being the authority is too much trouble, so whenever it’s easier for me, you can be your own authority.”  One of the many problems with this scenario is that the child is somehow supposed to read the parent’s mind and know who’s in charge of every different situation.  This, of course, is impossible and leads to the kind of scene we see so often in public places: parents begging for obedience.  (Jay Kesler; Raising Responsible Kids, 19-20)


Manipulations!  It’s a game any number can play, right in the privacy of your own home.  The objective is to obtain power over the other players, as we have seen.  It will come as no surprise to parents, I’m sure, that children can be quite gifted at power games.  That is why it is important for mothers and fathers to consider this characteristic as they attempt to interpret childish behavior.  Another level of motivation lies below the surface issues that seemingly cause conflicts between generations.  For example, when a three-year-old runs away in a supermarket, or when a nine-year-old refuses to straighten his room, or when a twelve-year-old continues to bully his little brother, or when a sixteen-year-old smokes cigarettes or drinks liquor, they are making individual statements about power.  Their rebellious behavior usually represents more than a desire to do what is forbidden.  Rather, it is an expression of independence and self-assertion.  It is also a rejection of adult authority, and therein lies the significance for us.  (Dr. James C. Dobson; Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, 112)


A child’s attitude toward parental authority is also like that.  He passes through a brief window of opportunity during late infancy and toddlerhood when respect and “awe” can be instilled.  But that pliability will not last long.  If his early reach for power is successful, he will not willingly give it up–ever. ( Dr. James C. Dobson; Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, 93)


Hence it is evident how graciously Christ pours out his grace, when he finds the vessel of faith open.  Though he addresses these words to the centurion, there can be no doubt that, in his person, he invites us all to strong hope.  Hence we are also taught the reason why God is, for the most part, so limited in his communications to us:  it is because our unbelief does not permit him to be liberal.  If we open up the entrance to him by faith, he will listen to our wishes and prayers.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 384-5)


VI-  As one submits to authority one can be empowered to exercise authority. (Mt 8:9, 13; see also: Dt 11:27; 1 Sm 12:14-15; Ps 75:6-7; Dn 7:26-27; Mt 18:19; 21:22; 25:14-30; Mk 11:24;  Lk 10:1-20; 11:9; 19:12-27; Jn 14:11-15; 15:7, 16 Acts 5:32; Rom 6:16; 12:1-2; Gal 6:7-8; Heb 11:6; Jam 4:2-3; 1 Jn 3:21-22; 5:14-15; Rv 2:26-27)


Leadership is not wielding authority–it’s empowering people.  — Becky Brodin


When we submit what and where we are to God, our rule or dominion then increases.  In Jesus’ words from the parable of the talents (Mt 24), our Master says, “Well done!  You were faithful with a few things, and I will put you in charge of many things.  Share what your Lord enjoys”; that is, share the larger direction or governance of things for good (cf. Lk 16:1-12).  For God is unlimited creative will and constantly invites us, even now, into an ever larger share in what he is doing.  Like Jesus, we can enter into the work we see our Father doing (Jn 5:17-19).  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 24)


The centurion’s approach is striking, not only in his humility, but in that he attests Jesus’ authority by an illustration from his own command under the authority of Rome.  He thereby recognized Jesus’ authority as under the command of God, with resources and power commensurate with the command!  The centurion states that he is a man “under” authority, recognizing that the extent of one’s authority is determined by the authority over him.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 111)


The meaning of his statement is, “I know how to obey, myself being under authority, and having others under me I know how servants obey.”  By implication, seeing Jesus to be under God’s authority, he extends the perimeters of Jesus’ authority to all that God grants.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 111)


Jesus commended the man’s faith (cf. Also v. 13).  The greatness of his faith did not rest in the mere fact that he believed Jesus could heal from a distance but in the degree to which he had penetrated the secret of Jesus’ authority.  That faith was the more surprising since the centurion was a Gentile and lacked the heritage of OT revelation to help him understand Jesus.  But this Gentile penetrated more deeply into the nature of Jesus’ person and authority than any Jew of his time.  Matthew’s words stress even more than Luke’s the uniqueness of the centurion’s faith and underline the movement of the gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles, or rather from the Jews to all people regardless of race–a movement prophesied in the OT, developed in Jesus’ ministry, and commanded by the Great Commission (28:18-20).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 202)


It is objected, that nothing belongs more peculiarly to God than to accomplish by a word whatever he pleases, and that this supreme authority cannot without sacrilege be yielded to a mortal man?  The reply is again easy.  Though the centurion did not enter into those nice distinctions, he ascribed this power to the word, not of a mortal man, but of God, whose minister he fully believed Christ to be:  on that point he entertained no doubt.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 381)


Because Jesus obeyed His Father’s law, He was able to exercise His Father’s power.  “Only say the word,” was a high expression of faith.  “As thou hast believed” (13) is always the measure of our experience.  We have only as much as we appropriate.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 46)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How should we respond to the Bible’s teaching about authority?:



A-  If you are in a position of authority:  With fear and trembling recognize you will be judged more severely because to whom much is given, much is required.   Loving, diligent, godly, servant leadership is God’s standard for those in authority. (Jer ch 23; Ez ch 34; Mt 20:20-28; Mk 9:35; 10:35-45; Lk 12:42-48; 22:24-27; Jn 13:15; Heb 13:17; Jam 3:1)


As a leader, it is vitally important that you keep in touch with your boss on a regular, sacrosanct basis.  Chances are your boss can provide an aerial view that will make your path more clear.

Jesus kept in constant contact with his boss. (Lauire Beth Jones;  Jesus Ceo, Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, 12)


“Fathers, Do not Exasperate Your Children” (Eph 6:4)

The Scriptures teach that those in authority have duties to those subject to them.  Thus:

* parents should provide for the material, emotional and spiritual needs of their children, (2 Cor 12:14; 1 Tm 4:8) and they should not exasperate their children with unreasonable demands (Col 3:21)

*governmental officials should govern justly, as public servants, without regard to personal profit or advancement (Dt 17:14-20)

*pastors and bishops should follow the example of Christ, Who gave His life for His flock.  They should not seek to profit or lord it over others. (1 Pt 5:1-6; 1 Tm 5:1-2)

The Scriptures do not instruct us to obey parents, governors or spiritual leaders when they demand that we violate our conscience and disobey God (Jd 6:25-32; Acts 4:18-20).  Nor do the Scriptures excuse tyranny that those in authority might exercise.  God Himself will hold them accountable for such misuse of authority. (1 Kgs 21:1-26; Prv 29;14) (Foundations of a Living Faith: The Catechism of the Free Methodist Church, 46-8)


“As a result of historical developments and changes of psychological habit the idea of authority has been totally severed from the idea of love.” (Harry Blamires; The Christian Mind, 137)


Jesus Christ clarified reality for His followers as they had never understood it before. A leader is a servant. The one charged with authority must lead in love.  Jesus did, and He is still changing the world.  Perhaps he had even influenced Mohandas Gandhi, who said:

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by fear of punishment and the other by the art of love.  Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent.(Stu Weber; Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart, 72)


It is not our work to rule the world, but to submit to him that does.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 50)


“Some congregational-type churches oppose strong pastoral leadership on principle.   Congregationalism was developed along with American Democracy, and strong pastoral authority seems undemocratic to some Christians.  Where this feeling persists, it will be overcome if the church wants to move into a position of growth.”  (Peter Wagner; Your Church Can Grow: Seven Vital Signs of a Healthy Church,  62)


I have known many unhappy men who believed that “strength” meant “control”. They believed that being the spiritual leader meant they were the spiritual dictator. They acted as though every decision that needs to be made was theirs to make, as though they were the order-giver, commander-in-chief, and head despot.

That, however, is not strength; it is actually a form of acute weakness.  Men who believe that need to control every aspect of their family’s lives are filled with fear.  They are afraid to let others succeed, they are afraid the world could get along just fine without them.  At bottom, they are afraid to let God be God and are unwilling to live by faith in a sovereign Lord.

Several phrases often betray such men, demonstrating their lack of strength and glaring weakness.  Phrases such as: “Don’t talk back to me!”  “Don’t question my authority!”  “Do it because I said so.”

The problem with such phrases is that they simply demand rather than affirm the child and then explain what is wrong on the basis of a principle.  Being strong does not mean:

*    covering up our failures

*    suppressing our feelings

*    demanding our own way

*    having no close friendships

*    making all the decisions

*    controlling everyone’s behavior

*    leaving religion to women

It may be that this problem of control comes out most strongly in the issue of discipline.  How we discipline our children demonstrates more about our own character than we may care to admit.  Controlling, dictating dads don’t make good disciplinarians, and they don’t produce healthy, God-fearing children.  It takes strength to discipline in a godly way, and controlling dads don’t have it.

Godly discipline takes place in a home only when it takes place in the heart of a man.  Discipline is the overflow of a vital, growing relationship between a man and his God.  We cannot discipline our children if we have not disciplined our own walk with God.

Spiritual discipline is not a set of rules; it grows out of a relationship.  It is not behavior modification; it is inspiring in our children an inner desire to please God.  It is not being the lord of the manor; it is leading your family out of the relationship you enjoy with the Lord of glory. (Floyd McClung Jr.; God’s Man in the Family, pgs. 69-71)


B-  If you are under authority:  Submit wholeheartedly to authority (as unto the Lord) until you are 100% sure that to do so would be to forfeit your submission to God. (Ex 1:18-21; Dn 1:1-16; 3:1-30; ch 6; Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-13; Acts 4:1-20; 5:27-32; Eph 6:7; Col 3:23-24)


Of all the Spiritual Disciplines none has been more abused than the Discipline of submission.  Somehow the human species has an extraordinary knack for taking the best teaching and turning it to the worst ends.  Nothing can put people into bondage like religion, and nothing in religion has done more to manipulate and destroy people than a deficient teaching on submission.  Therefore, we must work our way through this Discipline with great care and discernment in order to ensure that we are the ministers of life, not death.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 110)


104 Q.  What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment?

  1. That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me; (Ex 21:17; Prv 1:8; 4:1; Rom 13:1-2; Eph 5:21-22; 6:1-9; Col 3:18-4:1) and also that I be patient with their failings (Prv 20:20; 23:22; 1 Pt 2:18)–for through them God chooses to rule us (Mt 22:211; Rom 13:1-8; Eph 6:1-9; Col 3:18-21). (The Heidelberg Catechism, 58)


Revolutionary subordination commands us to live in submission to human authority until it becomes destructive.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 124)


This centurion’s approach to Jesus is astonishing in its humility and its display of faith.  At the risk of casting slurs, one must admit that centurions do not normally treat representatives of conquered peoples with utmost respect.  Yet here is a Roman centurion treating Jesus, one of the conquered Jews, as if he were of a rank so exalted that the humble home of the soldier was not suitable for him.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 163)


Christians are not to use their freedom in Christ as a handy excuse for disobeying the laws of the state.  Civil disobedience should come only after submission to authority has been practiced.  We should be informed and willing to question the motives of those who govern us, but we should be more demanding and more suspicious of our own motives.  We must be careful not to be ruled by our sinful desires.  Our protest may not be spiritual but rooted in our offended pride or hatred of any authority.  This response is not directed by Christ or the Holy Spirit.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans, 250)


Believers should never allow the government to force them to disobey God.  Jesus and his apostles never disobeyed the government for personal reasons; when they disobeyed, they were following their higher loyalty to God (Acts 5:29).  Their disobedience was not cheap; they were threatened, beaten, thrown into jail, tortured, and executed for their convictions.  If we are compelled to disobey, we must be ready to accept the consequences (see 1 Pt 2:13-14; 4:15-16).  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans, 248)


It is important to note that, even while refusing to do what God had forbidden, those four faithful men of God showed respect for the human authority they had to disobey.  Speaking for the other three as well as for himself, Daniel did not demand deference to their beliefs but respectfully “sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself” (v. 8, emphasis added), and he referred to themselves as the commander’s “servants” (vv. 12-13).  In obeying God, they did not self-righteously or disrespectfully malign, contend with, or condemn civil authority.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Romans 9-16, 215)


Once again, God honored his servant’s faithfulness.  “Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (v. 23).  Again it is important to note Daniel’s lack of malice and his genuine respect for the human authority his conscience forced him to disobey.  After being released unharmed, he said “O king, live forever!” (v. 21).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Romans 9-16, 215)


You can endure and rejoice in troubles in direct proportion to how much you believe God is in charge of your troubles.


Christians must resist when asked to do an immoral act.  The sexual applications are obvious, but this also extends to ethical areas in which many are constantly asked to compromise–for example, falsifying records for “security reasons,” perjury for the sake of the department, covering for subordinates by means of falsehoods.  Christians must never think it is okay to commit immoral or unethical acts simply because the state has requested it.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Romans, 241)


Like individual believers, a local church is obligated to observe civil laws such as zoning, building codes, fire safety regulations, and every other law and regulation that would not cause them to disobey God’s Word.  A church is only justified in disobeying an ordinance that, for example, would require acceptance of homosexuals into church membership or of hiring them to work on staff.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Romans 9-16, 216)


Obedience to Authority:  Means doing what is commanded without delay, attitude or explanation. — Pastor Keith


Obedience is not innately understood nor instinctively followed.  It must be nurtured and cultivated through self-discipline, reward and punishment. — Pastor Keith


C-  Choosing the Authority to whom you will submit:  Know the spirit to whom you are submitting.  It leads to either life or death.  (Dt 30:15-20; 1 Chr 29:10-20; Ps 75:6-7; Prv 14:12; 29:15; Jn 14:6; Rom 8:4-16; 12:1-2; Eph 6:12; Phil 3:19; Rv 5:6-14)


By viewing himself as unworthy, he showed himself worthy for Christ to come not merely into his house but also into his heart.  He would not have said this with such great faith and humility if he had not already welcomed in his heart the One who came into his house.  It would have been no great joy for the Lord Jesus to enter into his house and not to enter his heart.  For the Master of humility both by word and example sat down also in the house of a certain proud Pharisee, Simon, and though he sat down in his house, there was no place in his heart.  For in his heart the Son of Man could not lay his head.  (Augustine, Sermon 62.1)


So often, and to their great shame, Christian people have quarreled over politics.  That is quite unforgivable.  Ultimately the disagreement is caused by a false view of what the state can achieve, otherwise no one would get so heated.  I have known churches to divide on political issues.  I have known Christian people who do not even speak to one another because of their different political views.  It is almost unthinkable, but it has often happened, and it is all due to a failure to understand the teaching of this great and important section of Romans 13.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 13, 58)


A country usually gets the kind of government it deserves, and it may be that one of the determining factors is the attitude of the average citizen toward those whom he selects to serve him.  (Abingdon Press, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX, 605)


The Christian is never to expect too much from the state.  This is always a difficulty.  People always expect too much from it.  Let me emphasize that by saying that Christians should never get excited about the state.  They should never get excited about politics.  They are to be interested; they are to vote; they must be intelligent and informed; but they should never get excited about one political party or the other.  But Christians often do, and to the extent that they do, they come under the condemnation of the Scriptures.

That was the whole fallacy, surely, behind the French Revolution of 1789.  People went mad.  Liberty!  Equality!  Fraternity!  The Revolution was going to solve all problems; it was going to put the world right.  Well, political revolution has not put the world right, and it never will.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 13, 57)


“Give up your old way of life, and trust me for a new one.”  Jesus then calls those who have repented and believed to “follow” him.  Similarly, in Jesus’ day a disciple would give up his own plans in life to follow and live with a rabbi, learning the Torah and all the rabbi’s ways.  In choosing these words, Jesus gives an invitation that is familiar to his Jewish hearers:  “Come.  Be with me.  Learn from me.  Give up your own way of life.  Do what I do.  Learn to live as I do.”  However, though these words in one way are quite familiar to the first-century Jews who hear them, in another way they are strange.  For Jesus is much more than a rabbi:  he is Lord and Christ.  The lives of those who choose to hear and follow Jesus are not to center in the Torah, but in Jesus himself.  His disciples are to give full allegiance and devotion to him.  Few images express more vividly the total commitment and absolute loyalty Jesus demands:  loyalty to God’s kingdom is expressed in loyalty to Jesus.  (Craig G. Bartholomew & Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 136-7)


Throw away the excuses and face reality!  The fact that you are grumpy in the morning does not mean that “you got up on the wrong side of the bed.”  It means your old sinful nature is in control.  Because you enjoy hearing some “dirt” about other people does not mean you have an inquisitive mind.  It means that you are not abiding in Christ.  Because you easily “blow your cool” does not mean you have a short fuse.  It means you have a weak connection to Jesus.  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 125)


Depravity is man’s own way.  (Chuck Swindoll sermon, “How Fights Are Started and Stopped”)


Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”  The marginal reference in my NAS Bible gives “But a child left to himself” as a more literal translation for “who gets his own way.” Interestingly, the Hebrew text uses just the word left and leaves it at that. “But a child left brings shame to his mother.”  Meaning what?  Left in his room?  No.  It suggests “left in the same condition in which he was born.”  A child left without training will bring shame to his mother.  (Chuck Swindoll; Living Above the Level, 231)


Jesus was remarkably indifferent to those who held political power.  He had no desire to replace Caesar or Pilate with His apostles Peter or John.  He gave civil authority its due, rebuking both the Zealots and Peter for using the sword.  This infuriated the religious right of His day.  Eager to discredit Jesus, the Pharisees and Herodians tried trapping Him over the question of allegiance to political authority.

“Tell us,” they asked, “is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

The question put Jesus in the middle:  If He said no, He would be a threat to the Roman government; if He said yes, He would lose the respect of the masses who hated the Romans.

Jesus asked them for a coin.  It was a Roman denarius, the only coin that could be used to pay the hated yearly poll tax.  On one side was the image of the Emperor Tiberius, around which were written the words Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus.

“Whose portrait is this?” He asked.  “And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied impatiently.

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” replied Jesus, handing the coin back to them.  They stared at Him in stunned silence.

Not only Had He eluded the trap, but He had also put Caesar in his place.  Christ might simply have said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  That’s all that was at issue.  It was Caesar’s image on the coin, and Caesar had authority over the state.

What made Him add the second phrase, “Give…to God what is God’s”?

The answer, I believe, is found on the reverse face of the coin, which showed Tiberius’ mother represented as the goddess of peace, along with the words highest priest.  The blasphemous words commanded the worship of Caesar; they thus exceeded the state’s authority.

Jesus’ lesson was not lost on the early church.  Government is to be respected and its rule honored.  “It is necessary to submit to the authorities,” wrote the apostle Paul.  “If you owe taxes, pay taxes.”  But worship is reserved solely for God.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 116-7)


Worship Point:  What kind of an moron are you to refuse to worship the One who has authority over all?   Really!  Think about this!  (Mt 28:18; 11:27; Lk 10:22; Eph 1:18-23; Col 1:16; 2:10-15; 1 Pt 3:22)


In all our approaches to Christ, and to God through Christ, it becomes us to abase ourselves, and to lie low in the sense of our own unworthiness, as mean creatures and as vile sinners, to do any thing for God, to receive any good from him, or to have any thing to do with him.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 103)


He had not built a synagogue for the Jews without exposing himself to some hatred and to some risk:  and the only reason why he loved that nation was, that he had embraced the worship of one God.  Before Christ healed his servant, he had been healed by the Lord.  This was itself a miracle.  One who belonged to the military profession, and who had crossed the sea with a band of soldiers, for the purpose of accustoming the Jews to endure the yoke of Roman tyranny, submits willingly, and yields obedience to the God of Israel.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 378-9)


Gospel Application:  Jesus submitted perfectly to authority and now all authority has been given to Him.  We too can have access to this kind of authority if we submit to Jesus.  (Mt 9:1-8; 10:1-16; Mk 6:7-13; Lk 9:1-6; 10:1-24; Jn 1:10-13; 19:11; Rom 8:1-17; Gal 4:1-7; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Jn 3:1-2; 2 Pt 1:3-4)


Spiritual Challenge:  Every minute of every day authorities of one sort or another are clamoring for our submission.  I challenge you to think about the source and spirit of those authorities as you are preparing to make every decision.  (Josh 24:15)


Susannah Wesley’s definition of sin:  “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is a sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.” ~ The Fountain


“You asked for a loving God:  You have one.  The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “Lord of terrible aspect,” is present:  not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes . . .  It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.”  (C. S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain, 46-7)


As life became easier and diversions more plentiful, men are less willing to accept the authority of their clergy and less willing to worship a demanding God, a God who dictates how one should live and puts a great many bodily and psychological pleasures off limits.  (Robert H. Bork; Slouching Towards Gomorrah, 281)


Jesus is not some kind of powerful resource to be pulled out of one’s hip pocket in times of trouble only to be ignored until the next crisis.   He refuses to be used.   Not on account of his pride but for us to be reminded of with Whom we are dealing.  — Pastor Keith



It is noteworthy that each of the Roman centurions mentioned in the NT are spoken of favorably.  And from the biblical record it seems likely that each of them became a believer in Christ.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 12)


Quotes to Note:

That the disadvantaged more often received His blessing was due to their more often being humble and aware of their need.  Likewise, that the advantaged more often failed to receive His blessing was due to their more often being proud and self-satisfied.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 15)


This is how we tend to look at life nowadays.  The weaker the sense of a structured universe in which human beings have to play out their lives, the less likely it is that they will bear in mind obligations to any authority outside of themselves.  If the role of a human being is inevitably played out in an environment which is a random aggregate of fragmentarinesses, he or she will clearly have to find meaning and pattern within his or her own being.  One reason for the decay in our time of respect for authority, of the sense of obligation to principles and codes, is precisely this loss of any sense of an earthly scene in which there is design and purpose, in which things may hang together irrespective of your participation or my participation in experiencing them.  (Harry Blamires; Recovering the Christian Mind, 157-8)


The thing that Christ seeks is faith, and wherever it is, he finds it, though but as a grain of mustard-seed.  He had not found so great faith, all things considered, and in proportion to the means; as the poor widow is said to cast in more than they all, Lk 21:3.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 104)


God uses even unworthy and culpable men as means to the accomplishment of His purposes (cf. Acts 4:24-28).  But on the other hand the offenses of governments do not undo the fact that it is God who has given the power–even the power which they now misuse–and that He can use even unrighteousness for the accomplishment of His purpose.  (Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans, 428)


“He is worthy,” the elders had said.  But the centurion, on hearing Christ’s answer, becomes overwhelmed with the sense of unworthiness.  After all, who is he in comparison with this Exalted One, this personal embodiment of majestic authority, all-embrasive power, and condescending love, a love that bridges every chasm and overleaps every obstacle of race, nationality, class, and culture?  Who is he to cause this kind Master to commit an act that would put him in conflict with the time-honored custom of his own people, according to which a Jew does not enter the house of a Gentile lest he be defiled (Jn 18:28; Acts 10:28; 11:2, 3)?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 395)




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