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Luke 7 v 13. “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

In the preceding story the lesson was that salvation depends on faith in Christ with no dependence on personal merit. This is such an important lesson that Luke reinforces it with a story of the widow of Nain.

Nain was a town about 10 miles or 6 kilometres south-east of Nazareth. Jesus was there and had this amazing encounter. But notice the contrast. The centurion was a strong, authoritative man with huge resources and lots of good deeds to his credit. But this poor woman is simply a weak, desolate, widow. Jesus stopped this sad procession to the grave and raised her dead son to life and gave him back to his mother.

Notice here that no conditions were laid down and no promises extracted. This incredible gift of a new life was an unconditional gift, an action of unqualified grace. It stemmed from Christ’s compassion.

Now if you put the two stories together you can easily see what the conditions for salvation really are. The helplessness of the widow illustrates our helplessness before God. Good works, great resources makes no difference. Salvation is not of works, good, bad, many or few! It is by grace through faith. It is and always will be the gift of God.

So Luke put these stories together in this chapter so that his friend Theophilus, and we also, centuries later, could understand that the basic principles of salvation are the same. It is always a gift from God, on the basis of trust in Christ.

If you think you are a good person, the centurion teaches you that your personal goodness is irrelevant. If you are a bad person, or an inconsequential person, the poor widow teaches you that even if you have nothing the Grace of God can reach you.

But why did Jesus not see this faith displayed in the nation Israel? If salvation was a gift why did people not come to him in droves to receive it?

The answer is that salvation is not simply by faith. It is by faith IN CHRIST. No matter how dimly this is recognised – as the centurion did (7 v 7) or as the crowd at Nain did (7 v 16), however weak it may appear to be – faith in Christ alone obtains salvation.

But for many people this is where the problem begins as Luke will illustrate for us.

May God give to each reader a deep assurance of salvation because of an unwavering faith in Christ – and not in themselves.