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by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, July 14, 2019

“I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Luke 7:8).

Who said this? A Roman centurion said it. He was an officer in the Roman army with 100 soldiers under him. His servant was about to die (v. 2). This centurion wasn’t mean to the Jews like so many Romans were. He was a friend of the Jewish people. He paid to build a synagogue for them (v. 5). He was interested in the real God. He sent the Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal his servant (vv. 3, 4). Jesus got near the man’s house. The centurion said to Christ, “You don’t have to come here.” He said,

“Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Luke 7:6-8).

Jesus said, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (v. 9). What does it mean that the centurion had “great faith”? The man trusted Jesus to heal his servant without going to the house. Why did he trust Christ to do that? Because he trusted his soldiers to do what he said. Because his general trusted him to do what he was told. The centurion had learned to “trust and obey.” As an old hymn says,

Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
   (“Trust and Obey” by John H. Sammis, 1846-1919).

That centurion wasn’t converted, but he came from a Roman culture. That means he grew up with other Romans and learned to act the way they acted. In that culture people did what they said. They had learned to trust and obey. That was the way they lived. It was their culture. So he trusted Jesus to heal his servant. This morning I want to talk about what a good culture that trusts and obeys did for him, and what it can do for us.

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I. First, the centurion and his culture.

The centurion said to Jesus, “You don’t have to come here. I know you can heal my servant without going there.” Why did he think that way? That was his culture. He grew up with other Romans. He learned to be like them. He expected things to get done. He was “a man under authority.” People told him what to do, and he did it. He told his soldiers what to do, and they did it. He had learned to trust and obey. This man expected things to be done right, not messed up.

What was that centurion like? He didn’t drop out of school, or out of the army. He wouldn’t be a centurion if he did that. He didn’t suddenly move and run away. If he started something, he finished it. That was the Roman army.

Let me ask you a question. Why did Rome take over most of the world? Today films about Rome show chariot races, fighting gladiators, and the Emperor lying down with someone dropping grapes into his mouth. That kind of man didn’t conquer the world. It didn’t happen through men like Nero. Rome won its wars because of men like the centurion. They meant what they said. They did what they said. They trusted and obeyed.

One of their sayings was, “A Roman’s word is his bond.” They kept their word. But many people today break their word. They follow their feelings, not their promises. You can’t have a good church with people like that!

The centurion was willing to die for Rome. He would fight through mountains and deserts for Rome. He would rather die than disobey his orders. That was the Roman way. Children obeyed their fathers. Soldiers obeyed their officers. Many people today are not like that. They follow their feelings, not what God says in the Bible. You can’t have a good church with people like that. Learn from the centurion! Learn to “trust and obey.”

That’s the way Rome was built. When the Romans gave up the old ways and turned into a mob watching lions eat Christians while their emperor ate grapes, their empire stopped growing. Then it started to fall. Today their buildings are in ruins and their empire is gone.

But that centurion lived by the old ways. I can’t imagine him being late to a meeting. He would never run away. He never rebelled against the Emperor. He never disobeyed his general. He did what he was told. He was a man who trusted and obeyed. That was why he said to Jesus,

“I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Luke 7:8).

Most people today are not like him. They follow their feelings. They break their promises. They follow their bad culture, the bad things they saw other people do. You can’t have a good church like that. The Bible says a lot about the culture of a church. This brings me to the second point.

II. Second, the church and its culture.

The Bible doesn’t only speak about salvation, evangelism and prayer. It says what the culture of a church should be, what the way of living in a church should be. God commands churches to be orderly, as the centurion was. The Bible says,

“Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40).

What should be done “decently and in order”? All things!

The Bible tells Christians how to live their lives “decently and in order.” Turn to the book of Titus, chapter 2, verses 1 to 6. It’s on page 1284 of the Scofield Study Bible. Listen as I read it.

“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded” (Titus 2:1-6).

What kind of person does God want? What culture do these verses teach? They teach Christians to do things “decently and order.” They tell people to be sober and serious. They tell people to behave themselves. Were they ever happy? Of course they were! Did they ever have fun? Of course they did! But they behaved themselves. That sounds old-fashioned, but it’s what the Bible says!

Many churches today have a bad culture. They follow the ways of the world. I visited a new-evangelical church one Sunday. Most of the people were dressed in T-shirts and jeans, some even in shorts. I said, “They don’t dress for work that way. People should dress better for church than for work, not worse.” The music was meant to entertain people, not to worship God. I heard a woman sing, “I’ve heard a thousand times what they say you are, but you came in the night with a whisper of love.” In other words, “I’ve heard people say you’re angry at sin, but you came to me in the night with love no matter what I do.” That was false! That wasn’t God, that was a demon! In the sermon I heard a man say, “Life’s not fair, but God is good.” Then he told the people how they could handle their problems and do better in life. He didn’t say that the quote was the title of a book by the lost heretic Robert Schuller. Schuller was the preacher who told John Wayne before he died that he was fine the way he was and didn’t need to be saved. Four years ago Robert Schuller died and met God’s judgment. But his message lives on and sends thousands to Hell. That is a new-evangelical church. What they do and what they believe follows the world, not the Word of God!

Now let me tell you what a good church is like. The Bible says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” In a good church the people “trust and obey.” The First Chinese Baptist Church was that way when Dr. Timothy Lin was the pastor. They did things “decently and in order.” A few weeks ago Dr. Hymers and I visited a Chinese church in Northern California. That church did things “decently and in order.” The meeting began on time. Everyone was there. There was no sloppiness. The people were dressed well. There was no disobedience. There was no complaining. The pastor was in charge and the people followed him. They trusted and obeyed. They paid attention during the sermon. Nobody closed their eyes. Nobody went to sleep. The teachers and ushers and workers in that church did their jobs. They did what the pastor said. He could count on them. All things were done decently and in order. That is the culture of a good church.

A good church does not have divisions and splits. The Bible says,

“Obey them that have the rule over you [your leaders], and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief” (Hebrews 13:17).

That is the culture of a good church. It does not have splits. If it has splits, it is not a good church. People who split a church do not “trust and obey” God’s Word. And the Bible says,

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).

That is the Word of God! That is a good church. It does not have divisions. The people agree together. They are “joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” That’s a church that follows the Bible!

In a good church, there are no divisions. There are no splits. The people control themselves. They don’t complain. They trust and obey. Do you? They read the Bible and think about it. Do you? They pray every day. Do you? They listen to the sermons. Do you? If the pastor teaches something, the people believe it and do it. All things are “done decently and in order.”

We are going to start a new church in the San Gabriel Valley. If we want to have a good church, we must have a good culture, a good way of thinking and living. We must do things “decently and in order.” What can we do?

First, bring in people from a good culture. Bring in people who have learned to trust and obey. Most people in the inner city have a bad culture. They follow their feelings. We must look for people with a better culture. That is why we will have a special outreach to Chinese people. Their culture emphasizes respect for parents. It emphasizes study and work. Most of them are not unstable or rebellious. They have had thousands of years of the teaching of Confucius. Culturally, they are not rebels. They study, work, and behave themselves. That is a good culture. They have learned to trust and obey by living with others who trusted and obeyed.

Second, improve (make better) the culture we have. We must never have splits again. If we had had no splits, we would have thousands of people by now. Splits almost destroyed our church. Splits must be taught out and taken out of our church forever! Never again!

What else can we do? Let me tell you what they do in professional sports. The coach always makes the players practice “the fundamentals.” In baseball, they throw the ball over and over. They hit the ball. They catch the ball. Yes, they are good players and they have done those things before – but they practice them again and again. In basketball, the players dribble (bounce) the ball. They pass the ball one to another. They have done those things before – but they practice them over and over again. They do what the coach asks them. They trust and obey their coach.

Let me ask you a question. Will you be as good as the lost basketball players? Will you trust and obey as much as they do? Will you live and practice the fundamentals of the Christian life? What are the fundamentals? I will give you some of them. Come to the services early, in time to pray. Do you do that? Did you do that this morning? Read the Bible every day and think about what you read. Do you do that? If you don’t, you won’t get anything out of God’s Word. Have a prayer list and pray at least ten minutes a day. Do you do that? If you don’t, you won’t get answers from God. Do you pay attention during the sermons? Or do you sit through them with your eyes closed, or looking down at the floor? If you close your eyes, you can come to church for a thousand years and get nothing. We give you a manuscript of every sermon. Take it home, read it, and think about it. Do you read the manuscripts? If you don’t, you can sit here for years and not get much. I don’t know of any other church that gives you word-for-word manuscripts of the sermons. Read them! When the pastor says something, remember what he says. Write it down. Then remember it and do it. Do you do that? These are some of the fundamentals. If you do them and keep doing them, you will be a better Christian and we will have a better church!

Please stand and sing hymn number 6, “Trust and Obey.” Think about the words as you sing them.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
   What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
   And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
   To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
(“Trust and Obey” by John H. Sammis, 1846-1919).

Some of you have not trusted Jesus. You have heard the Gospel, but you have not paid attention. I beg you to listen to me now! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus shed His Blood on the Cross to wash your sin away. You must trust Christ or you cannot be saved! If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, come and stand at the front of the church now. Amen.



by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

“I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Luke 7:8).

(Luke 7:2, 5, 3, 4, 6-8, 9)

I.    First, the centurion and his culture, Luke 7:8.

II.   Second, the church and its culture, I Corinthians 14:40; Titus 2:1-6;
Hebrews 13:17; I Corinthians 1:10; John 14:6.