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God’s Word for You

Luke 7:9-10 faith

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, February 9, 2018

9 When Jesus heard these things, he was amazed at him. He turned to the crowd that was following him and said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.” 10 And when the men who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

Jesus identified the centurion’s faith as a faith he had not found before, even in all the believers of Israel. This was not a condemnation of his followers, but praise for the centurion. The servant was healed at this moment, while the messengers were with Jesus: he was still sick when the messengers went outside, but he was healed by the time the messengers came back in the house.

Faith is the trust or reliance of the human heart on the promises of God’s grace in the gospel. Only the person who puts his trust in Christ as his Savior is a believer. This is called fiducia cordis by theologians, faith of the heart. It is not merely knowledge of Christ in the mind or intellect, since many unbelievers possess a large knowledge of Jesus and his words but do not believe in him. Without trust, their knowledge is useless, and will condemn them to a worse place in hell, like Bethsaida as opposed to Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 11:21).

Faith is also fides specialis, personal faith. The promises of the gospel are embraced by the individual, “not,” David Hollaz explained, “as though a special promise were given in a special way to the believer (as some misuse the term), but because of the special application to the individual of the general promise of the grace of God and the merit of Christ” (Examen, “On Faith,” Q. 2). The Bible teaches again and again that the terrified sinner may trust in God’s promise of grace and the forgiveness of sins to himself, and be certain of God’s saving grace. In this way Scripture opposes those who try to denounce this doctrine. Paul said, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). David said, “You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:5). Mary sang, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). And Habakkuk sang, “I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:18).

Faith is also fides actualis, actual faith; an act of the human will. Because faith, the special faith of the heart, apprehends the justification (“not guilty” verdict) which comes from God, it cannot be (as some teach) an otiose faith with no real or practical value. On the contrary, the faith of the Christian is a continuous, valuable, lifelong act, by which the Christian lays hold of and trusts in the forgiveness of sins offered in the Gospel. It does not matter if that Christian is waking or sleeping, energetic or comatose, still wet from baptism or closing his eyes in death; his faith is like an extra organ, a third hand connected to his very flesh, which is grasped by God who will not let go of us. Jesus calls even the babies “these little ones who believe in me” (Matthew 18:6), and Peter assures us, “Repent and be baptized…the promise is for you and your children” (Acts 2:38). Luther said, “God wishes and desires that we should ardently long for this grace, and faith does this very thing. Faith considers grace to be the highest good, therefore hungers and thirsts for it intensely, and thus obtains it” (St.L. VII:30).

The centurion sets an example for us, but we must not despair that his kind of faith is unattainable. God is the one who gives faith, and Paul says in Romans 12:3: “Think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” If your faith is tender and precarious, always teetering on the edge of doubt or forgetfulness, then pray that God would test your faith often so that he turns you back again and again to trust in him, and that you would learn the priceless lesson not to trust in anything in this world for your salvation, but to trust in Christ alone. Remember the words of David: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1). If your faith is strong and unwavering, be gentle with people around you who question you or who have doubts. Do not let your faith judge them and send them away miserable. Let your faith be a beacon, and gently tutor them in God’s grace, or invite them to come with you to hear and study the word of God. It is not the law, or a wagging index finger that shames people to trust in Jesus. It is only the gospel, the welcoming hand of forgiveness in Christ. Let the gospel of Jesus Christ be on your lips and in your life. Thank God for your faith, your special, personal, actual faith of the heart. Fear, love and trust in God above all things.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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