“If Emmanuel shall be for you, who shall be against you?”
For Charles Spurgeon, the radical faith of Luke’s Roman centurion reminded him that “The greatest light may enter into the darkest places.” Here was a “Gentile.” Indeed, not only a Gentile, but a “Roman soldier,” and not any soldier, but “a soldier clothed with absolute power.” And yet, Spurgeon marveled, he was a “tender master,” a “considerate citizen,” and a “lover of God!”
In Spurgeon’s view, since “the best pearls have been found in the darkest caves of ocean,” it was to be expected that “God should have even in Sardis a few that have not defiled their garments.” Furthermore, refused to believe that social or economic class could limit personal virtue. Indeed, he affirmed, “Let no man think that because of his position in society he cannot excel in virtue.” Even for the “working man” surrounded by blasphemers the charge to virtue was pointed. After all, “Where should the lamp be placed but in the room which else is dark?”
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon laboured to articulate that “The humility of the centurion was not at all injurious to the strength of his faith.” Pondering the centurion’s word, “I am not worthy…,” Spurgeon wondered where his “self-abasement” came from. Was it from being a “Gentile,” or from “sundry rough and boisterous deeds” performed as a soldier?
Instead, as Spurgeon recalled the life of John Bunyan, he noted that many “eminent men” spoke badly of themselves. Thus, when Christians made “abject confessions,” it was not that they were “worse than others,” but rather that “they see themselves in a clearer light than others.”
But, Spurgeon also warned his hearers that “you are much more sinful than you think.” Even “more unworthy than you yet know yourself to be.” Spurgeon spoke sternly because he did not want his congregation to think their sin problem was only “skin deep.”
However, Spurgeon also knew that a humble sense of unworthiness “should drive you to Christ.” As he said, “you are unworthy,” but “Jesus died for the unworthy.” In Spurgeon’s view, a humble knowledge the sinfully broken self should “impel you to fly to Jesus.” The gift of salvation Christ Jesus was free for those who would surrender their works and humbly receive it by faith.
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon also noted that “The centurion’s great faith was not at all hostile to his humility.” While he acknowledged that the centurion’s faith was “extraordinary” he lamented that “it ought not to be extraordinary.” Rather, Spurgeon argued “we ought all of us to believe as well in Christ as this soldier did.”
Indeed, the centurion who was accustomed to wielding power and authority recognized the qualities immediately in Christ. As Spurgeon noted, the centurion “[enthroned] the Lord Jesus as Captain over all the forces of the world.” He saw by faith that Christ “had but to speak, and it is done.” Turning from the centurion to his congregation Spurgeon offered acclamation to Christ, saying, “All hail! Great Emperor, once slain, but now for ever Lord of heaven and earth!”
Furthermore, Spurgeon saw faith and humility working together. For the centurion, his faith acted upon humility by “making him content with a word from Christ” and not demanding a sign. This was critical, as Spurgeon remarked, “it is one of the worst forms of pride to question to the promise of God.”
In the final section of his sermon, Spurgeon offered points of “Application.” Here Spurgeon exhorted his congregation to humble trust. He told them to “take God at his word as thy child takes thee at thy word.” Indeed, if a parent could ask such trust from their child, shouldn’t God be able to ask the same?
Charles Spurgeon saw faith and humility going “hand in hand to heaven.” As a result, those with “distressed minds,” conscious of their unworthiness could believe that Jesus Christ “is able and willing to save you thing very morning.”
Seeking to aid the fearful sinner Spurgeon exclaimed, “He is divine, but how he bleeds!” “He is divine, but how he groans!” “He Smarts!” “He dies!” Indeed, could any sin overcome the blood of Christ? The answer was, and is, and emphatic no.
Why you should take up and read:
For Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the story of the Roman centurion provided a rich example of great faith and lowly humility. Indeed, faith and humility were not opposed to each other, but as Spurgeon said would go “hand in hand to heaven.” For those wanting to grow in faith or humility, the reader is encouraged to take up and read.
Here is the link the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-centurions-faith-and-humility#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.