With All Boldness
“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30
A few days ago I was in a meeting where one of our US Senators was the main speaker. As I listened to him speak directly and decisively to some of the issues facing our nation and the inability of our elected officials to come together and do the job of governing and representing the best interest of what the founding fathers called the commonwheal or the general welfare of the nation; in other words, looking out for the good of all the citizens of the nation, I was struck by the sudden realization that it doesn’t matter what this present body of elected congressmen and women, and senators do or don’t do as long ad they are relying on the wisdom of human knowledge and understanding alone there will never be any improvement in the affairs of this nation. It will only continue to deteriorate, decline and eventually become like all other corrupt nations of the ungodly world, despotic, desperate, and depraved, treating its citizenry with cruelty, intimidation, depravation, punishment and death for even the slightest opposition to or criticism of the ruling classes. Such was the world into which the Church of Jesus Christ was birthed.
In Acts chapter four we have a record of the events surrounding the preaching of Peter and John in the early days of the church following the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers who waited together in one accord in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension. By His command they waited there until they received the power to be His witnesses throughout the world beginning first at Jerusalem, the seat of religious and political authority for the Jews in that day, and then extending beyond it to the whole world.
From the moment when the Holy Spirit came to rest upon and to be in them they received power to be Jesus’ witnesses by preaching the truth of God with boldness and by many signs, wonders and miracles that followed their preaching.
It was on the occasion of one such miracle that Peter and John were arrested for healing a man, a beggar, who had been lame from birth, and for preaching that it was by the power of the name of Jesus and by faith in that name that the man was made whole. [See Acts 3]
Here is part of what Peter and John preached that day at the gate of the Temple.
“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” Acts 3:13-16
The miracle was witnessed by all the people gathered there that day for prayer. It was around 3:00 in the afternoon, the ninth hour of the day. When the people saw what had happened to the man they were naturally amazed and they ran after Peter and John expressing their sense of awe and amazement. They began to look on them as though they were super men having super powers. But Peter moved quickly to disabuse them of that notion and pointed them to Jesus by whose name and power this man was healed and made completely whole. Through faith in Jesus’ name the man was made strong and by the same faith he was “given perfect soundness.”
Among the people gathered that day were also the officials of the Temple, the priests, the captain of the Temple, and the Sadducees who were greatly disturbed that Peter and John preached in Jesus the Resurrection from the dead. So they arrested them and kept them in prison over night. Despite this, there were still 5000 men who believed Peter and John’s message and were saved that day.
So the next day the high court of the Jews (the Sanhedrin) including the High Priest of the Temple came together to judge Peter and John for preaching about Jesus and for saying that it was by Him people were being healed. But Peter spoke clearly and decisively that the man was indeed healed by the same Jesus that they crucified and that by faith in His name the man stood before them that day.
So the events unfolded.
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the “stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. ’Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” Acts 4:8-18
Did you ever think you would see the day when Christians in the United States of America would be prohibited to speak the name of Jesus in public gatherings particularly in prayers? But this is exactly what has been happening more and more over the past 20+ years in many public and private forums; on college campuses and public schools, in social and political groups and gatherings. The trend was initially begun under the guise of “not wanting to offend” people of other religions.
Ironically, most of the colleges and universities in the United States (and in Great Britain) in the early days of this nation were established by Christian Churches seeking opportunities to educate God-fearing men and eventually men and women to assume leadership in the church and instruct others in the Word of God. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Morehouse in America and Oxford University in England and many others were all founded as religious institutions. Today, many of those same institutions decry any religious affiliation and have become centers of the most anti God and particularly anti-Christian thought in America and Europe.
Likewise, social organizations and institutions who pride themselves on being champions for inclusion and tolerance are totally dismissive and restrictive when it comes to allowing even the mention of the name of Jesus Christ in invocations, speeches and other references to God or religion. At the same time all other religions, non-religions, and even atheists are welcomed and encouraged to express their beliefs and philosophies freely.
Like Peter and John before the religious/political leaders of their day Christians in America are increasingly being told not to speak or pray in the name of Jesus. (if indeed prayer is allowed at all). While there is no official legal or national prohibition to expressing our faith in Jesus publically, the current cultural opposition to us is growing daily and has almost completely consumed the news media and most of social media forums.
The question is what do we do about it. How should we respond to those who threaten us, and attempt to silence us when we speak the truth and stand to demonstrate the power of God’s love and grace? We can, I believe, take our cue from Peter and John.
“But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.” Acts 4:19-23
Imprisoned for their faith and threatened with a stern warning to never speak in the name of Jesus again, Peter and John responded decisively to their accusers, saying you be the judge of what is right in the sight of God, to listen to Him or to you. But as for us we have a commandment from God which has not been rescinded nor canceled, therefore we will speak what we have seen and heard.
Now the religious leaders of their day had a problem. The evidence of a miracle of God was standing before them, the man once lame, was now walking, leaping and praising God. They saw it and so did all the people. And the people were all praising God for the great miracle He had done. So they had to let Peter and John go free.
They immediately went to their companions and told them all that was done to them. When the people heard it they all began to pray.
“So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: “Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’ “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:24-31
None of these men were scholars in the Law of God, they were ordinary people, yet they were bold to speak because they had experienced life transformation by being with Jesus. Their boldness was not one of a mental decision and determination, but the result of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in them.
Now during the trial of Peter and John the rulers, elders and scribes, Annas the High Priest, Caiaphas and John and Alexander and many of the kindred of the High priest made a startling observation that they surely must not have understood the full implication of what they realized.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John they realized they had been with Jesus. People who spend time with Jesus have a boldness that comes from the inner working of the Holy Spirit in them. The Greek Word for boldness is parrhesia (par-rhay-see-ah).
Outspokenness, unreserved utterance, freedom of speech, with frankness, candor, cheerful courage, and the opposite of cowardice, timidity, or fear. Here it denotes a divine enablement that comes to ordinary and unprofessional people exhibiting spiritual power and authority. It also refers to a clear presentation of the gospel without being ambiguous or unintelligible. Parrhesiais not a human quality, but a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit. (Source: See, NKJV New Spirit Filled Life Bible, WORD WEALTH, Acts 4:31 boldness)
Dear ones, we are not called to make the gospel of Jesus Christ any more or less than it is. We are called to speak the truth in love and to tell the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ with Holy Spirit empowered boldness. We are not called to change or diminish the truth of our message in order to make it more palatable for those who oppose us and our God. We are not called to be offensive, but if our message offends we must remember that Jesus our Lord who came preaching salvation and going about doing good and healing all who were sick and oppressed of the devil, also was accused, of being offensive and unjustly judged and crucified because of it.
We need to pray for boldness, for a fresh impartation of the Holy Spirit and power to speak God’s Word to the world and by our boldness (parrhesia) to demonstrate the Spirit and power of God.
We can change our world. The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer. We need a national Holy Spirit demonstration of the power of God. It begins with us opening ourselves to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit and yielding our hearts, soul, mind and strength to doing the work of living Jesus in the sight and hearing of the world.
The fields are ripe and ready for harvest.
“Do you not say, “There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:35