Bold Witness

posted in: sermons, witness | 0

April 25, 2021

 

On the first Sunday after Easter, our Scripture led us to a consideration of UNITY.  Last Sunday, it led us to a consideration of RIGHTEOUSNESS.  Today we’re going to consider another principle of the Gospel-  BOLD WITNESS

 

Acts 4:5-12On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them  (Peter and John) in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” Then Peter, [a]filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “[b]Rulers and elders of the people, if we are [c]on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to [d]how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that [e]by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—[f]by [g]this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 [h]He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.”13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them [k]as having been with Jesus 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the [l]Council, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, “What are we to do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy [m]miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let’s warn them not to speak any longer to any person in this name.” 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all [n]in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man on whom this [o]miracle of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.

Acts 5:33-42-But when they heard this, they became infuriated and nearly decided to execute them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful as to what you are about to do with these men. 36 For, some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined him. [bc]But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee appeared in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he also perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, for if the source of this plan or [bd]movement is men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if the source is God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

40 They followed his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to [be]speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the [bf]Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and [bg]from house to house, they

The words “Bold” and “Boldness” are seen regularly in the Bible, and quite often in Acts and 2 Corinthians and in other letters to the churches.  The word bold or boldness has 2 meanings and each time it is used the one that is intended can be discerned from the context.

Meaning 1:  Brave, daring, courageous in the face of grave danger.

Meaning 2:  Impudent, forward, arrogantly self-confident, audacious, hardened,

Presumptuous, brazen

Meaning 1:

In every use of the word “boldness” in Acts, it is clear that the young church and its apostles are in some measure of danger and that the Holy Spirit is empowering them to stand firmly in the face of a threat.

Let’s look at some examples:

In Acts 4 that I read- Peter and John are being interrogated by the rulers, elders, Scribes, and all of the high-priestly family.  These inquisitors were well educated and were seeking to trip up the apostles to give reason to bring the governmental authorities against them.

 

In Acts 4:29 and 31 the reference is to “look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak with boldness”, again, a clear reference to courage in the face of danger being sought.

In Ephesians 3:11, too, we see a reference is to boldness in confidence (so that the wisdom of God may be known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places- a direct reference to standing against satan and his followers.  Again, a clear and present danger requiring boldness in response.

Also, in Philippians 1:20 Paul is in prison awaiting trial.  He’s expressing desire that he shall have “boldness” – full courage- so that Christ will be honored whether he lives or dies.

In  1 Tim 3:13- Paul describes the characteristics of what a deacon of the church is to be, in a place where the church was already being criticized by Hellenized Jews.  Boldness in the leaders is needed to withstand attacks from outside the church.

In Hebrews 10:19 the reference is to boldness to enter the holy of holies, a place that, prior to Christ’s death, was only to be entered by the high priest, a place considered to be so dangerous that a rope was tied around the priest so that if God struck him dead while he was in there, his body could be dragged out.

In a 2 Corinthians reference, it is important to note that Paul says this is the third time he has written to them and he is having to do so boldly.  They have had conflicts, serious difficulties with leadership and challenges to authority, They had fallen back into pagan and profligate living, tolerating sexual sin within their fellowship.  He is clearly warning them of danger and making a case for changing their behavior.

 

In 1 John 4:17 there is the classic contrast between perfect love and “fear” and another call for boldness (full courage) which is necessary when overcoming fear.

And in this  particular context, there are several additional references to us being bold (courageous) in coming before God, either in intercession for others or petition for ourselves.

What about that second meaning?   There are examples of that, many in the Old Testament

Meaning 2:

The wicked put on a bold face, but the upright give thought to their ways. Proverbs 21:29

(hardened, presumptuous, arrogant)

Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.  Ecc 8:1

(hardness,  arrogance)

 

In the NT, however, we do see references to this kind of arroagant boldness.  In  2 Peter 2:9-10 we read, “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment —especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority. Bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones.”(presumptuous and self-willed, not fearing to speak against men of exalted character)

 

With regard to “boldness” it’s not so much a “gift”, as it is part of the character of a confident believer.  Although there are several lists of gifts and fruit of the spirit,  “boldness” is not listed in any of the scriptures that list spiritual gifts.

It seems to me that the references to boldness in Scripture are for it to be used in circumstances of threat or danger to Christ’s witness or to His church or as a reflection of our confidence before the throne of grace based on our faith in Jesus Christ. It is part of the equipping of an individual to stand firmly in faith and to proclaim the Word of God.  Other words that may present themselves in the context of boldness are:  1.) Exhortation (to urge by strong, stirring argument, to appeal urgently, to press, inspire, advise, or advocate) or 2.) rebuke (express criticism or censure, admonish, chasten, correct, provide direct and pointed reproof, reprimand, check, chide, silence or blunt or put down rebellion, to call one back into compliance) – Both of these are to be used in the fellowship of believers and are quite different from boldness itself, although they may be done with a boldness of spirit.  Boldness is more of a “how”, not a what.

As Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure, just before his Ascension into heaven, he gathered them together.

 

We read in Acts 1:6-8 :

So, when they had come together, they began asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” But He said to them, “It is not for you to know periods of time or appointed times which the Father has set by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”

The power that raised Christ from the tomb is available to us to accomplish all that he has purposed for us to do.  That is what he told his disciples.  That is what Scripture tells us, too.  When Jesus specified to them that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth….. What does that mean for us today?

As I have considered Christ’s call to me individually and to his church in the world today, I think that translates to this:

We are to witness in the place where we are, our home town, or place of business- Our Jerusalem.

We are also to witness, to all Judea….. the country, the region, of which our community is a part.

We are to witness in Samaria-  That is, in foreign places, where people are different from us, to people with whom we may differ and perhaps even have had conflict or prejudice against in the past.

And to all the ends of the earth…… That’s pretty straight forward…  There is not a place on earth where we are not to provide a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I expect the disciples, when they heard this, remembered Jesus’ words to them when he was talking to them Matthew 24 about all kinds of terrible things that would happen, cataclysmic events that will point to the end of time. (Matthew 24:3-13)   He told them then, too, that the gospel of the kingdom would be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end would come.”   The preaching of the Gospel a constant message that Jesus talks about.  The Gospel, which is the good news about Jesus’ death and resurrection, must be preached in all the world–this doesn’t mean that every single individual person will hear the Gospel– but rather that every people group will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

Revelation 7 describes  a time when those who have come to Christ are from every tongue, tribe and nation.   This should greatly motivate us to be bold in our personal witness and to send and support missions and missionaries to all parts of the world.  One of the things I encourage in helping our ladies at Titus 2 evaluate a church to become a full member after they leave our program is to look for evidence of a bold witness to the work of Christ within the congregation and in the missions emphases of the church.  Do they embrace the idea of of the places Christ identified as “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” and relate to their own time and place, as they interpret their own call to be bold witnesses for Christ.  If we’re not telling others of him and his kingdom, we are failing to be disciples of Christ in the world today.   Let us be bold in our witness, unashamed, and joyful in claiming the name of Christ!