In Matthew 8:10-12, Jesus is speaking to those in Capernaum who are following Him. He marvels at the Roman centurion’s faith. This man realized that Jesus need only “speak the word… and my servant shall be healed” (Mat. 8:8). He acknowledged that what Jesus speaks will happen, alluding to His omnipotence, and that Jesus was a greater man than he (v. 9), alluding to His divinity. In answering the centurion’s confidence, Jesus exclaims, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (v. 10). He literally means this, for this centurion is not a Jew.
Jesus proceeds to shock the Jews in His audience by telling them that the Gentiles will be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e. heaven), while some of the Jews will not. “But the children of the kingdom (i.e. Jews) shall be cast into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mat. 8:12).
Jesus is teaching some most important principles regarding salvation. First, salvation is not guaranteed by birth or pedigree. The Jews were counting on their lineage to get them to heaven, but Jesus makes clear here that ancestry is not a factor in receiving the gift of eternal life. Your last name may grant you favors in your social or professional circles, but not in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This leads to the second principle: salvation requires a personal decision to place your faith in Christ. Though the faith in this context is that Jesus can heal, Jesus further indicates this man’s faith to be saving faith, hence verses 11-12.
Many church denominations have departed from upholding the Bible as their final authority. Even in colonial America, the Biblical teaching on salvation was watered down, giving rise to the “halfway covenant”. This type of apostasy continues all around us to our present day. But we must be concerned with people misunderstanding how to be saved even in our own churches. Some men and women that fill our pews may assume that they are right with God because of their religious upbringing, though they’ve never personally accepted Christ’s offer of salvation. How tragic that would be!
May we pray to preach the gospel clearly to men and women and for the Spirit to work in their hearts.