1. This morning I want to preach to you about the only two people in the Gospels that the Lord Jesus Christ said had great faith. But before my sermon I want to speak to you for a few moments, by way of exposition, on the subject of Biblical faith.
2. Faith, of course, is that special something with which you lay hold of Jesus Christ, to the saving of your soul. Romans 5.1 declares, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Faith is also the stuff by which the Christian life is continually lived after coming to Christ, as Romans 5.2 declares: "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
3. So, faith, whatever it is, is really important stuff; the stuff of which the Christian life is made, the stuff of which every Christian is concerned, and the stuff of which every lost person ought to be concerned. To review for you are who are converted, and to lay some groundwork for you who are not converted this morning, let me ask some simple questions and then show you the straightforward answers to those questions in God's Word. After the exposition Gary Isenberger will come and lead us in a song, and then comes my sermon.
4. Consider these three questions:
1A. HOW DOES A PERSON GET FAITH?
1B. Keep In Mind, First, That There Are Two Kinds Of Faith. There Is The Common, Garden Variety, Faith That Everyone Is Familiar With, Which Has Nothing To Do With Sin Or Salvation Or God Or Jesus. This Kind Of Faith Everyone Has, And Isn't Really Good For Anything, Cause It's So Common.
1C. This is the kind of faith expressed by a basketball coach who calls time out and designs a play for the best shooter on his team, in the hopes that one last, desperate, shot will win the game for them. The coach has "faith" in his premier shooter.
2C. This is the confidence that a husband has in his wife or that a wife has in her husband. In short, this type of faith has no supernatural element to it, and is actually an expectation of the future based upon a person's observed behavior in the past.
2B. But We're Talking About Faith Of The Supernatural Variety, Faith Which Has Expectations About God's Behavior In The Future Based On God's Behavior In The Past. Not All Men, Paul Tells Us In Second Thessalonians 3.2, Have This Supernatural Kind Of Faith.
3B. Okay, So There Are Two Kinds Of Faith And We're Talking About The Supernatural Kind. How Do You Get It? Romans 10.17: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." In Other Words, The Faith We're Talking About Comes Audibly, Through The Ear Gate. And If You Will Look At The Context Of This Verse You Will See That The Precise Means By Which Faith Is Communicated To People Is The Preaching Of God's Word.
4B. So Then, Those Of You Who Do Get Faith Will Faith Through The Preaching Of God's Word.
2A. QUESTION #2. WHERE DOES FAITH COME FROM?
1B. Remembering That We Are Focusing On The Supernatural Kind Of Faith, And Not The Normal And Routine Kind Of Faith That Is So Common As To Be Ordinary, We Would Expect The Source Of The Supernatural Kind Of Faith To Be Different Than The Source Of Common Faith.
1C. That is, does this faith come from inside you or from outside you? Is it something you conjure up, or is it something you get from somewhere else or from someone else?
2C. Ordinary faith is very obviously something you conjure up from within. We know this because so many people have this kind of faith, whether they be Christians or Jews, Muslims or Hindus, atheists or agnostics.
2B. Where, Then, Does Supernatural Faith Come From? We Would Expect This Kind Of Faith To Come From Outside Us, But From Where, Specifically? Turn To Ephesians 2.8: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." Here We See It Plainly Declared. This Faith, Which Is So Important To Getting Saved, We Also See In This Verse, Is The Gift Of God.
3B. That Explains Where It Comes From Outside A Person. That Also Explains Why Some Have This Faith And Some, As Paul Pointed Out To The Thessalonians, Do Not Have This Faith. To Some God Gives This Faith And To Some He Does Not Give This Faith.
4B. Those Who Are Given This Faith Are Given It By Means Of Bible Preaching, Audibly, Through The Ear Gate. Those Who Are Not Given This Faith Are Those Who Are Not Exposed To Preaching, As Well As Those Who Can Sit Under As Many Sermons As They Want, But Who God Will Never Give The Gift Of Faith To For Belief In Jesus Christ.
5B. So, You See How Tremendously Important It Is To Sit Under Gospel Preaching, And How Very Important It Is To Avoid Distracting Others During Gospel Preaching. It Is The Means By Which God Gives To Sinners The Gift Of Faith They Will In Turn Trust Christ With.
3A. ONE MORE QUESTION BEFORE WE STAND TO SING. WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED FAITH THAT WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT?
1B. Faith, No Matter What Kind Of Faith You Are Talking About, Is Something That's Intangible, Something You Can't Touch Or Feel Or Taste Or Hear Or See. So, Whether You Are Referring To The Common, Garden Variety, Faith Or The Supernatural Kind Of Faith That Only God Gives, There Is No Kind Of Faith That You Can See Or Touch Or Hear Or Taste Or Smell.
2B. The Kind Of Faith That's Ordinary And Common, Though It Cannot Be Felt Or Seen Or Tasted Or Touched Or Heard . . . Is Based On What Can Be Seen And Heard And Felt And Tasted And Smelt. So, In This Regard, Common Faith, Ordinary Faith, Is Tied To, Is Forever Bound To, This World We Live In. The Supernatural Kind Of Faith, However, The Kind God Graciously Gives When His Word Is Preached, Is Completely Different As To Its Nature As Well As Being Different As To Where It Comes From.
3B. Turn In Your Bible To Hebrews 11, Where We Will Read Verses 1, 3 And 6: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. . . Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
4B. In Hebrews 11.1 We See That This Supernatural Faith Given By God Does Not Have To Do With What Can Be Seen, Heard, Felt, Tasted And Smelt, But With The Future ("things hoped for") And With Circumstantial Evidence ("evidence of things not seen," or felt or smelt or heard or tasted, you might well add). And What Circumstantial Evidence Might That Be? The Testimony Of Scripture Concerning Things We Have Not Observed First Hand. This Is Quite Different From Ordinary Faith, Where Your Confidence Is Based On What You Have Seen With Your Own Eyes Or Have Heard With Your Own Ears. Not So Biblical Faith. Not So Saving Faith.
5B. Verse 3 Very Clearly Shows That Supernatural Faith Deals With Subjects And Matters That Are Completely Beyond The Scope Of Human Investigation Or Verification, The Creation Of The Universe We Live In Being A Wonderful Illustration. There Are Just Some Things God Wants You To Take His Word On, Rather Than Relying On Your Own Investigation Skills, Because Spiritual Issues And The Matters Of Eternity Lie Outside The Scope Of Human Investigation.
6B. Finally, In Verse 6 We See That Faith Of This Kind Is Absolutely Indispensable As The Means By Which God Is To Be Approached And By Which God Is To Be Pleased. And Let Me Remove Any Possibility Of Confusion By Reminding You That No Sinner Can Approach God Except Through The Person Of His Son, Jesus. In John 14.6 Jesus Said That "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." And Hebrews 7.25 Shows Us Jesus Is "able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him."
7B. Faith, Then, This Supernatural Kind Of Faith, Is A Confidence In Someone, A Reliance Upon Someone, That Is Based Not Upon Your Own Judgment And Analysis Of Evidence That You Have Gathered With Your Own Senses (such as seeing something yourself or hearing it yourself), But Based Upon The Testimony Of Another, Based Upon Circumstantial Evidence.
1. The faith that is our concern is something that is given to people who listen to God's Word being preached. It is given by God as a gift to some, since not all have it or will ever get it. And it's actually a confidence in, a reliance upon, a trusting of some object of your faith.
2. Now, we know, from the sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ and from the writings of Peter and Paul and John in the New Testament, that the proper Object of the faith which God gives, the proper Object of the faith which results in peace with God and the forgiveness of sins, is and can only properly be the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. So, now that you know what faith is, where it comes from, and how you get it, let's all stand as brother Isenberger comes to lead us in song.
1. The subject of this morning's message is "Great Faith." By way of introduction, allow me to describe for you the chronology of a person's life who passes from death unto life through faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Somehow and in some way the sinner hears the Word of God preached, since faith comes by hearing. Of those sinners who hear God's Word preached, some of them are given the gift of faith and they thereby lay hold of Christ, thereby they trust Jesus, thereby they believed on the Lord Jesus, to the saving of their eternal and undying souls.
3. Now, we know that it doesn't take a great deal of faith to get saved. As a matter of fact, since it isn't the faith which saves at all, but since it's Jesus Who is the savior of men's souls, a man can be thoroughly converted with just a smidgen of faith.
4. The apostles, one time, said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." Now, that's a commendable request. And we read in Romans that people are given varying amounts of faith. But the Lord's response to their request for more faith was to show them how very beneficial even the tiniest amount of faith is.
5. I say these things to point out to you that the amount of a sinner's faith is an irrelevancy when it comes to getting converted, since it isn't the amount of one's faith which saves, but the Savior. If you have the tiniest amount of faith, mingled with doubt though it may be, but your faith has for its Object the Lord Jesus Christ, then you have faith sufficient to be as saved from your sins as saved can possibly be, since Jesus is able to save to the uttermost anyone who comes to God by Him, Hebrews 7.25.
6. But my sermon today is about great faith, so let's begin to move in that direction. As nearly as I can tell, in the New Testament there are four specifically named individuals whose significant faith was remarkable enough to be pointed out.
7. We read that Barnabas was "full of the Holy Ghost and of faith," in Acts 11.24. Then there was Stephen, marvelous Stephen, godly Stephen, the first deacon Stephen, who was said to be "full of faith" in Acts 6, verses 5 and 8. But these men, marvelously blessed of God as they were, were Christian men, servants of God, who were "full of faith."
8. Those I want to parade before you today for their "great faith" were not Christians when we first read of them, were not servants of God, were not even Jewish. Turn in your Bible to Matthew chapters 8 and 15. Once you locate both those chapters please stand for the reading of God's Word.
9. Matthew 8.5-13: "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 marvelled, 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." My first text is found in Matthew 8.10, "great faith."
10. Now we read Matthew 15.21-28: "Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." In this passage my text is found in verse 28, "great is thy faith."
11. Please close your Bible. My message will not take long, but will move too quickly for you to read Scripture and listen carefully at the same time.
12. Two different Greek words are used in these two phrases of our text, "great faith" and "great is thy faith." The first great faith, the great faith of the Roman centurion, translates the Greek word "tosoutas" into the word "great." The great faith of the Syrophenician woman, the Canaanite woman, is described using the Greek word most of us recognize right away, the word "megalh," which is the adjective form of "mega.." And we use the word "mega" all the time, don't we?
13. So, we have two people with huge faith, with large faith, with great faith. What do we know about the great faith of these two individuals? I must move quickly because of the time.
1A. FIRST, THE POSSESSORS OF THIS GREAT FAITH
Is it not a surprise that two people such as these would be the possessors of such remarkable faith? And is it not a wonderful thing to see in God's Word, two thousand years before it became a popular notion among the literati and sophisticates, that God is no respecter of persons? Consider these two:
1B. The Roman Centurion Was An Officer In The Imperial Roman Army, The Army That Occupied Hostile Jewish Territory. No More Hated Individual Was Likely To Live In That Region Of Galilee, Long A Hotbed Of Jewish Opposition To Roman Occupation. Yet, Somehow, This Man Had Seen And Heard The Lord Jesus Christ, Or One Of His Disciples, And Through The Hearing Of God's Word Preached Came To Be One Who Possessed Great Faith.
2B. The Other Surprising Possessor Of Great Faith Didn't Even Live Within The Confines Of Jewish Territory, But Lived To The North And West, In The Region That Used To Be Phoenicia. Precisely Why The Lord Jesus Journeyed Briefly To This Region, We Do Not Know For Sure. Precisely How This Woman Came To Hear Of The Master, And Came To Know Of His Ministry And Message, We Also Do Not Know. We Just Know This: The Savior Said She Had Mega Faith, Huge Faith.
3B. You Are Here Today Without Christ. Consider This, My Friend. From Time To Time God Grants To This Sinner Or That, According to A Scheme You And I Will Never Figure Out, A Huge Deposit Of Faith. How Do You Know It's Not To Be You Who Is The Next One To Be Given Great Faith?
2A. NEXT, THE PERSEVERANCE OF THIS GREAT FAITH
Perseverance is a characteristic that's noble in its insistence, in its persistence, in its determination. And such perseverance of great faith we see with these two.
1B. What Must This Centurion Have Overcome To Beseech The Lord As He Did? Imagine The Stares, The Hatred He Felt From The Throngs Of People As He Pushed Through The Crowd, And The Sullen Murmurs As He Approached The Savior. And How He Was Willing To Humble Himself And Plead For The Life Of His Servant, A Man In His Position, With Roman Spies No Doubt In The Crowd Who Would Report His Words And Deeds To His Superiors.
2B. Then There Is This Woman Of Canaan. What A Drama Was Played Out With Her. She Pleaded For Mercy, But The Lord Jesus Answered Her Not A Word. The Silence Must Have Been Deafening Before The Disciples Took Their Cue Saying, "Send her away; for she crieth after us." How Very Wrong They Were. She Cried Not After Them, But After The Savior, With A Faith That Was Great And About To Be Put On Display. Then He Said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Did She Stop? No. She Spoke Again. The Lord Refused Her Again. But She Spoke Again, Her Faith Pressing, Pushing, Persisting, Persevering, Until Jesus Said, "O woman, great is thy faith," And Then Gave Her The Desire Of Her Heart.
3B. Will God Give You That Kind Of Faith; The Faith To Overcome Fears And Anxieties, The Faith To Overcome Social Obstacles, The Faith To Insist And Persist On Getting The Impossible From The Savior? Will You Lay Claim To That Which Seems Impossible To You, The Salvation Of Your Own Soul, Because You Actually Believe That With God Nothing Is Impossible? The Centurion Did. The Syrophenician Woman Did. Will It Be Said Someday That You Did?
3A. THIRD, THE PERCEPTION OF THIS GREAT FAITH
What is it that those with faith can see that those without faith cannot see, that those with great faith can see clearly, while those with little faith see, but only dimly see? Remember, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
1B. Was There Evidence To The Physical Eye That The Lord Jesus Christ Would Reward The Faith Of The Centurion? Had Anything Gone Before That Would Have Convinced the Multitudes That Jesus Would Grant The Request Of The Much Despised Roman? No.
2B. And What About The Syrophenician Woman? Perhaps Even More Despised Than The Centurion, She Didn't Even Have Imposing Authority Or A Commanding Military Presence That Evoked Grudging Respect. On What Basis, Therefore, Did This Woman Approach The Lord Jesus Christ? What Did She See, Even Through His Silence And Through His Rebuff, That Convinced Her That He Was A Merciful Savior, That He Was Her Merciful Savior?
3B. My Friends, That Man And That Woman Saw With Their Faith Into The Very Heart Of God! Despite The Obstacles, Despite The Difficulties, Despite The Resistance That Might Be Met, They Knew What Only Faith Knows, Saw What Only Faith Sees. Do You See, Clearly, That Jesus Saves To The Uttermost Those Who Come To God By Him? Are You One With Great Faith?
4A. FOURTH, THE PRAYER OF THIS GREAT FAITH
1B. Both The Centurion And The Canaanite Woman Exhibit The Prayer Of Great Faith By Their Remarks. Notice How Specific They Were. Notice How Bold They Were. Yet, Notice How Very Reverent They Were, Completely Lacking The Comfortable Familiarity Of Those With Far Less Faith Than They.
2B. The Centurion Recognized That The One Who Stood Before Him Had Power That Was Undiminished By Distance. There Was No Need For The Master To Come To His House To Heal His Servant. He Could But Say The Word. After All, As A Man Under Authority, The Centurion Saw In The Savior Before Him One Who Possessed All Authority, On Earth and In Heaven. And To This One He Pleaded For And Was Granted His Request.
3B. With The Canaanite Woman It Was A Far Different Realization That Provoked Her Prayer. The Psalmist Tells Us That The Secret Of The Lord Is With Them That Fear Him, And So It Was With This Woman. What Boldness She Displays Toward The Savior. How Very Forward She Seems To Be To Those Who Are So Much Less Knowledgeable Of Him And His Ways. Some Would Have Turned And Sadly Walked Away At The Silence Of The Savior. Still Others Would Have Felt His Rebuke. But His Rebuke To Her Was A Challenge To Press Ahead, Much As Abraham Had Challenged God To Save Sodom If Ten Righteous Souls Could Be Found, And Much As Moses Had Challenged God to Spare The Nation He Had Said He Would Destroy.
4B. When Weak Faith Tries To Pray Big Prayers The Result Is Silliness And Disappointment. But When These With Great Faith Seek To Lay Hold Of God For Great Things, They Get Great Results. Do You Have Great Faith To Lay Hold Of A Great Savior For Great Forgiveness? Now, Be Reminded That Any Sinner With But Little Faith Can Lay Hold Of Christ . . . He Is Truly A Great Savior To Anyone Who Comes To Him. But Perhaps God Does Today Grant You Great Faith To Come To The Great Savior, Though It Is Seasoned With Great Humility, Being As It Is A Gift From God.
5A. FINALLY, THE PRIZE OF THIS GREAT FAITH
1B. The Great Prize Of Great Faith, Or Any Faith For That Matter, Is Christ. For With Faith The Sinner Lays Hold Of Christ, With Faith The Sinner Comes To Christ And Owns Him, With Faith The Sinner Casts All Upon Him For Salvation And Deliverance From Sins.
2B. As Well, There Is Rejoicing In Heaven Whenever A Sinner Repents Of Sin. And Make No Mistake About It, There Has Been No Real Coming To Jesus By Faith, No Real Laying Hold Of Jesus By Faith, Unless And Until There Has Been A Turning From, A Forsaking Of, Sin When Christ Is Gained.
3B. But Such Are The Prizes Of Any Amount Of Faith By Which A Sinner Gets Saved, Whether Great
Or Small. Is There Some Prize Of Great Faith? Yes, There Is. There Was No Smile On The Savior's Face When He Said To Peter, "Oh, ye of little faith." But When The Lord Jesus Christ Heard The Centurion, "he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." What A Commendation From A Delighted Savior.
4B. And Picture The Look On Our Compassionate Savior's Face, And Hear The Tenderness In His Voice, As He Finally Turned To That Blessed Woman And Said, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." I Thank God For The Initial Silence Of The Savior, For The Initial Cold Response To Her. For It Was Only Then That The Enormity Of Her Faith, Only Then That The Richness Of Her Faith, Could Have Been So Majestically Displayed.
5B. But So You Don't Think That Great Faith Procures For Those With It Personal Commendation, Listen To The Words Of Paul To The Corinthians: "For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" And Is Not Faith A Gift That God Gives To Sinners?
1. I have never preached about great faith before. I have never before preached to a crowd in the hopes that one or two among them might come to possess great faith. And I hesitated to do so this morning because my own faith is so frequently cautious and puny.
2. But while reading a Spurgeon sermon that suggested this sermon to you I thought upon those infrequent sinners to whom God gives great faith, and I thought I should preach on the subject.
3. Great faith is sometimes given to those who are as undeserving of God's mercy as other sinners; no more and no less. And God doesn't seem to be more wonderfully glorified by the salvation of a sinner with great faith than by the salvation by a sinner with little faith. God is glorified in either case.
4. In the past God has given extra faith to some sinners to lay hold of Jesus. Perhaps He will again today.