A Man Under Authority
October 10th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
A MAN UNDER AUTHORITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-10-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, on WRR, with the great throng in the church, you are invited to turn to the First Gospel, Matthew, chapter 8, chapter 8, and we shall read together verses 5 through 13; Matthew, the First Gospel, chapter 8, verses 5 through 13 [Matthew 8:5-13]. This is one of the marvelous stories of our Lord about whom our choir, our soloists, our congregation sang so triumphantly tonight. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled A Man Under Authority. And the reading is Matthew 8:5-13, and all of us, on the radio, wherever you are, if you have a Bible, and here in the great congregation, reading aloud 5 through 13:
And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him,
And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
Now, our message will follow the story, verse by verse. And then, if God shall help me, I hope I can present a message at the end of this exegesis.
“And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum” [Matthew 8:5]; oh, what a stir of excitement and expectation! For cities are differently moved by different personalities. If to the city of Dallas there should come a Paderewski or a Toscanini, you can imagine the vibration felt in the spirit of all of those who love beautiful music. If a Jack Dempsey or a Joe Louis were to come into the city, you can imagine all of the pugilistic anticipators that would be buying tickets to go see men punch one another into unconsciousness. Different people are moved by different things.
When Jesus came to the city, what kind of folks and what kind of people were moved by His presence? Here in the city of Capernaum, you have a marvelous demonstration of that. “When He was come, they brought unto Him those that were possessed,” aberration of mind, “and all who were sick,” broken of body, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” [Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:16-17]. When the Lord came to town, there gathered round Him all the helpless, and the hopeless, and the brokenhearted, and the despairing, and the diseased in body, and those who were somehow not being able to be helped in mind––which to me is the most tragic of all of the brokennesses of the human life. They gathered around the Lord and they were brought to the Lord. And when He came into the city there was immediately an air of hope. O God, this illness; O God, this sickness; O God, this despair; O God, maybe there is an answer. That’s the Lord.
And out of all who could ever come, I can think of listening to the great musician, but after a while; or watching the acrobat, but after a while; or watching some unusual physical contest, but after a while; but forever, wouldn’t it be glorious and wonderful if somebody were here like the Lord? And you could take the brokenhearted, and take the sick, and take the despairing, and take those who were lost in mind and helpless in body; wouldn’t it be glorious if you could take them to the Lord Jesus? Well, such was this day when Jesus entered Capernaum [Matthew 8:5].
And as He came into the city, “There came unto Him a centurion, and said, Lord, my servant,” and he uses the word for “my child”; and were it not for Luke, who tells the same story, you might say that his boy, his little child at home was sick. But it’s a word of endearment. It is a servant that evidently he greatly loved. So he says, “Lord, my pais, my boy, my servant, is at home sick of a seizure, of a stroke, of a paralysis,” translated here “palsy”; “grievously tormented” [Matthew 8:6]. It was a type of illness that left the endeared servant, pais, boy, left him in agony and in pain. Now he doesn’t ask the Lord anything. He doesn’t make a prayer, neither make a request. He just says, “Lord, my pais, my boy, lieth at home sick of a paralytic stroke, and he is in agony” [Matthew 8:6].
Now what’s the matter is, you can’t pray it. The tears, and the broken voice, and the gesture of the hand, and the bended knee; all you have in cold print is just what you read here. But in the tone of his voice, and in the expression of his face, and in the look in his eye, and in the gesture of his hand, there was that desperate importunity. “Lord, my boy is at home, sick and grievously hurt.” It was a prayer, though not said like a prayer.
And the Lord said unto him, “I will come and heal him” [Matthew 8:7]. Isn’t that—just imagine such a thing as that. With the same omnipotence as He spoke and the stars were flung into space [Genesis 1:16-17]; as He spoke and the heavens were arched above us [Genesis 1:1]; with that same divine omnipotence, the Lord says, “I will come and heal him.” Then the humility of this centurion; the centurion answered and said, “Lord, no, no, not into my house. Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: just say the word, Master, speak the word only, and my boy shall be healed” [Matthew 8:8]. Do you see that? “Just say the word.” Oh, this man’s abounding, immeasurable, illimitable faith in the Word of God! Don’t you wish we had that sublime persuasion and faith today? When the Word of God is doubted on every hand, on every hand, in the pulpit, in the professor’s chair, in the school, in the newspapers, among the nations and peoples of the world; don’t you wish we had faith like that today? “Just say the word, just speak the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I am man under authority having soldiers under me. I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and I say to this man, Come, and he comes; just say to my servant, be well, be healed, and my servant will be well” [Matthew 8:8-9].
What a remarkable thing, what a remarkable thing. See this man speaking out of the experience of his life. He was a centurion; that was about the middle of that chain of command: the emperor, and then the general, and then the chiliarch, then the centurion, and the soldier, and the slave. And he, all of his life, had known that chain of command: “I am a man under authority,” he obeyed his chiliarch; “and I have soldiers under me, and they obey. I say to this soldier, Go, and he goes. And I say to this soldier, Come, and he comes [Matthew 8:9]. Now, Lord, You just say the word, and my servant will be well” [Matthew 8:8]. Do you see that? The Lord is an authority and is in command over heaven, earth, the spirits, angels, nature, the wind, the waves, disease, spirits, demons, all of it in His omnipotent hands [Matthew 28:18]. And this centurion, who lived in a world of authority and command, says to the Lord Jesus, “Master, just say the word, just give the command, and my servant will be well again” [Matthew 8:8].
“And when Jesus heard it, He marveled” [Matthew 8:10]. No wonder He marveled. He marveled and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, I have never found such faith, no, not in all of the household of God, not in all Israel” [Matthew 8:10]. Then the Lord lifts up His eyes and sees this centurion, this Gentile pagan centurion. He sees him as an earnest, as a harbinger, as a firstfruits of the glorious Gentile conversion that shall sweep the world. “I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down at the banquet table”; the Greek word is to be seated at the banquet table, “and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 8:11]. Then He turned to the centurion and said, “Go thy way: as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his boy was healed from that selfsame hour” [Matthew 8:13]. It’s a thrilling story.
Now I speak of the text, “For I am a man under authority,” “I am a man under authority” [Matthew 8:9]. I want to apply it, as he used it here with relation to himself, I want to apply it with relation to my own self and to your self. I want to apply it with regard to salvation. “I am a man under authority”: I don’t invent the message. I don’t invent the command. I don’t invent the mandate. I am but an echo. I am but a voice. I but say what I am told to say. I but repeat what I have read. I but deliver the message on the page of this sacred Book, for “I am a man under authority.” I cannot add to it; I cannot take away from it; I can but deliver the message written large here on the page.
May I illustrate? Our Lord said unto Peter, when Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”: “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus said, Upon this rock,” upon this rock, the rock of the deity of the Son of God, “upon this rock, upon this petra, I will build My church . . . And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth,” the Greek, “that shall have been bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, that shall have been loosed in heaven” [from Matthew 16:16-19]. “A man under authority”; “what you bind on earth,” using the keys of the kingdom, delivering the message of God, “what you bind in this earth shall have been bound in heaven. What you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” [Matthew 16:19]. Acting in the Spirit, and under the commandment, and delivering the message and mandate of God; what he does, and the message he proclaims, and the invitation that he gives, is that which shall have been ordained in heaven.
And the Lord repeated that in the eighteenth chapter to all of the disciples. Speaking of His church, and the discipline of the church, then the Lord said again, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” [Matthew 18:18]. When the servant of God acts in the Spirit of God, and then delivers the message that God has placed in his soul, that message and that mandate, binding and loosing, opening the doors of the kingdom, and shutting the doors of the kingdom, this is according to what God hath chosen in heaven. He doesn’t invent it, he doesn’t say it, all he does is echo it. He is just a voice crying what God has commanded; just a messenger delivering the Lord’s message.
So when I turn to the Holy Word of the apostles as they stand, men under authority, they don’t invent their message. They didn’t make this way of salvation. This is according to the elective purpose of God. And as men under authority, they deliver God’s message. Simon Peter said, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders . . . neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven whereby men must be saved” [Acts 4:11, 12]. Can a man be saved outside of Jesus? Can a man be saved apart from the confession of faith in the Lord Jesus? I am a man under authority. I have no right to say beyond what is delivered in the Book. And acting in that holy capacity as the messenger of God, a man under authority, Simon Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].
I turn the page, Acts 20, the apostle Paul this time, “I have showed you publicly, and I have taught you from house to house, witnessing both to the Jew and to the Greek saying, Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:20-21]. There’s no other way to be saved except to turn toward God and to receive by faith the Lord Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:8]. I turn once again to the epistles, Romans 10:9-10:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead—that He lives—thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
I don’t invent it. I don’t add to it. I don’t take away from it; a man under authority, as these apostles, announcing, announcing the prerequisites for entrance into the kingdom of God.
I was asked to come to the Veterans Hospital. I was told on the telephone the purpose of the call. A man said, “My brother is dying, and I have asked for you to come before my brother dies. Would you come?” I went to the hospital, and I had no idea, I had no idea of what had happened. When I entered the room, there was this man in a coma under an oxygen tent, plainly, patently expiring, dying. On one side of the bed stood his sister and on the other side of the bed stood this brother. And they had been in a heated and bitter altercation between, over the dying prostrate form of their brother, lying in between. On this side, the girl, the sister, the woman, and on this side the brother. And what they were vigorously debating was this: she said being a convert to a communion, she said, “If I baptize, sprinkle water on this body, he will be saved.” And on the other side, the brother said, “All of the baptisms and all of the sprinklings in the world could not suffice to save the soul of my brother. He must do something for himself.” And they were in a bitter altercation, a bitter one, over what they should do that that brother might be saved. When I walked into the room, immediately I felt it, and then was introduced to it. I refused to say anything there over that dying man, plainly expiring. I just had a prayer and appeal to God for mercy.
And when I walked out the brother walked with me. And he took me by the arm and led me into a visitor’s room. And he sat down by my side, and he said, “Preacher, as before God, as before God; tell me the truth. As unto God, as you shall give an account for your words to God, tell me the truth. We were reared by a godly Baptist mother. And that old mother said to us children, ‘Sons and daughters, you must repent of your sins. You must repent of your sins, and you must accept Jesus as your Savior [Acts 20:21]. You must do that. And if you do not repent of your sins, and if you do not accept Jesus as your Savior, you will be lost.’”
He said, “My old Baptist mother taught us that all the days of our lives, all the days of our lives. Now,” he said, “this boy that is dying has been a prodigal boy and has lived a desolate and a sinful life. And our sister,” he said, “has been a convert to another communion and another faith. And now my sister says that if I just baptize, if I just sprinkle water, that our brother will be saved, and his sins forgiven, and he’ll be in heaven someday. But my old Baptist mother said to us, ‘You must repent of your sins, you must; and you must accept Jesus as your Savior.’ Now preacher,” he said, “as unto God, as giving someday an account unto God, tell me what is the truth. What is the truth?”
And there came back into my soul the flood of the meaning of these words, “For I am a man under authority” [Matthew 8:9]. I cannot add to this message. I cannot take away from it. I do not invent this plan of salvation. This is a revelation handed down from heaven and I but repeat it. I but echo it. I but avow it. And I said to him, “According to the Word of God, all the baptisms in the world cannot wash the stain of sin out of the human soul. All of the proxy faiths and religions in the world, what somebody else believes, or what somebody else accepts, cannot suffice to the saving of my own soul. I must turn to God. I must turn to God. I must repent of my sins. I must confess my sins to God, and I must look in saving faith to Jesus [Acts 4:12, 16:31]. And if I do not, I am lost. I am lost. I am lost.”
Then I said to him, “And if your brother, if your brother has delayed so long, that now in a coma, and in death, he cannot turn to God, and he cannot repent of his sins, and he cannot ask forgiveness of his sins, and he cannot accept Jesus as his Savior, he dies beyond the pale of the grace of the mercy of the blood of Jesus. He is lost.”
That was about the hardest moment I ever lived through; for when I said that final word, that man bowed his head in his hands and began to lament, and cry, aloud, tears, bitter tears. And he repeated, “That’s what my old mother said. That’s what my old mother said.” It must be done personally. It must be done, you; and if I delay, and put off, and reject, and say no, and no, and no, and the days pass …
This morning, at the morning hour, there came a young man in such tears of brokenheartedness. And I said to him—he’s just a young fellow, he’s in school. I said, “Why are you so broken up?” And he replied, “At two o’clock this afternoon we bury my best friend,” a young fellow, “my best friend, at two o’clock this afternoon.” If I delay, if I say no, if I put off and that day comes, even hastily, unexpectedly, accidentally, and I stand in the presence of God, and I haven’t turned, and I haven’t asked God to forgive my sins, and I haven’t accepted Jesus as my Savior; if that day comes, and I am unprepared, I am lost. I am lost. And I have no authority to change it. I have no authority to add to it. I have no authority to take away from it. I am a man under authority, and the message I deliver is the one God hath written in the Book.
Oh, my brother, my sister, my young friend, turn now, turn now, look to Jesus now. Be saved now. Do it now. Then, whether in youth or old age, whether in the morning or at the setting of the sun, whether at midday or a midnight hour, if we are called to stand before God we are ready, we are ready. Do it now. Make it now. Come now.
May we pray? O God, O God, these invitations of our Lord are fraught with such deep and everlasting significance. To turn them down, to reject, to say no means to be lost; to be lost in this life, to be lost in death, to be lost at the judgment, to be lost in the kingdom that is yet to come, shut out from God forever [John 3:36]. But to turn, to open the heart, to accept the Lord, to believe in Jesus, to confess our sins and ask God for Christ’s sake to forgive us [Ephesians 4:32], is to be saved, is to be saved now, is to be saved in this life, is to be saved in death, is to be saved at the judgment, is to be saved in the kingdom that is yet to come [Romans 10:9, 10, 13; John 3:16, 10:27, 28]. O Lord, grant to us repentance unto salvation. Grant to us the gift of that confession of faith as shall write our names in the Book of Life [Revelation 20: 12, 15, 21:27], and keep us under Thee forever and ever. Lord, tonight give us souls. Bless our people as they pray in the invitation, and bless our people as they sing the appeal, and bless our people as they come; in Jesus’ dear name, amen.
While we sing our song of appeal, while we sing that invitation, you, somebody you, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. The best I know how, the best I know how, I do take Jesus as my Savior. The best I can, I ask God to save me and keep me forever, and here I am, here I come, unashamed, publicly, openly, I confess that faith in Jesus. I trust Him as my Savior. If I were to die tonight, I die trusting Jesus as my Savior.” As God shall say the word, as the Spirit shall whisper the appeal to your heart, shall press it to your soul, come tonight. “Preacher, tonight I want to consecrate my life in a new and meaningful way to God.” Or, “We want to put our lives in the fellowship of the church, the household of God” [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Or above all, “Tonight I take Jesus as my Savior” [Romans 10:8-13]; come. When we stand up to sing, stand up coming: “I decide for Christ tonight, and here I am. Here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.
I. “When Jesus entered Capernaum”
A. Different people
are moved by different things
Jesus came all the sick, broken-hearted, helpless, hopeless gathered around Him
II. Not a prayer but a piece of
information about centurion’s servant
does not demand he approach or request in some other manner
meets the man at his level and says, “I will come and heal him.”
III. Humility of the centurion
A. His faith
in the Lord
IV. Jesus was greatly impressed with the
A. Jesus sees this
centurion as a harbinger of Gentile conversion
B. As believed –
V. “A man under authority”
A. Applied to myself
and to you
1. I simply
deliver the message
2. Jesus to Simon
Peter (Matthew 16:16-19)
3. Jesus to the
disciples (Matthew 18:18)
They did not invent the way of salvation, but delivered the message (Acts 4:11-12, 20:20-22, Romans 10:9-10)
B. Applied to salvation