WHERE HAVE ALL THE BOLDNESS GONE?
“Lord … enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”
The history of the early church in the book of ACTS would be like opening a series of windows and gives you vivid glimpses of the great moment and personalities according to William Barclay, author of the book “the acts of the apostles.”
Some personalities in human history curves their greatness in their campaign but leaves a mark of grief and sorrows to many lives in their time. The story of the early church on the other hand gave a new life for people who once live in darkness, joy and comfort to those who suffer and sorrow, but they couldn’t have done this campaign that change the lives of people without God on their side. The Holy Spirit gave them supernatural abilities when they were all baptized during their fellowship (Acts 2:1-4) and next thing happened, people in their time witnessed a great signs and wonders and great demonstration of courage of the believers in preaching the good news. Because of their boldness to proclaim the Gospel, the numbers of the believers added was rapidly increased. (Acts 2:41 “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”) (Acts 4:4 “But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.”). They had great courage in their vocation to obey what they have been told to them by our Lord (Matthew 28:19,20).
Knowing all of this, do we see the Christians nowadays goes in the same direction were the early church Devoted their lives for the sake of preaching the gospel? How great it would be to hear more Christians nowadays bold enough in bringing the Good news to the world without hesitation. But it’s so sad to hear that many secular and religious groups are much bolder to broadcast their interest than the church that was commanded to preach the gospel.
I think the whole problem of the Christians nowadays in terms of evangelizing the world is lack of Devotion to follow Christ. People just give their lives to Christ in their own convenient way. They will follow Christ for as long as there is nothing to loose. But if we truly follow Christ, we will seek to obey his command to preach the good news (Mark 16:15 “He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the
gospel to all creation.”) And if we truly follow Christ we will desire to be filled with the spirit that gives the power and zealousness to share the goodness of being in Christ (Acts 2:4 “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”.)
When the Disciples encountered Jesus after the resurrection, we are certain that their minds were open to understand his teaching and his command that led them to forget their own personal interest and devoted their lives to Christ. Their devotion to follow Christ led them to be bold in three areas of their Christian life.
1. THEY HAVE BOLDNESS TO SPEAK THE TRUTH. ACTS 4:1-12
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone”. 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Here is the case of two Galilean fishermen who used by God to healed the lame man in one particular place in the temple called “BEAUTIFUL GATE”, The gate that lead to a largest, busies and most crowded area in the temple called “THE GENTILE COURT”. The gentile court was the area when unusual things happen will draw attention and a good spotlight for promotion. Clearly the incident gains a widest publicity on the part of two ordinary people but great leaders of Christianity.
Peter and John didn’t took advantage of the event to make publicity for themselves but used this opportunity to preached the Gospel and rest of the story end up in a great number of people surrendered their lives to Christ. But they were also arrested and brought them in the supreme court of the Jews called SANHEDRIN, the same court were our LORD JESUS put to trial and condemned to death. The officials in the SANHEDRIN demand them an explanation to what they think chaotic event happened inside the temple.
The unschooled Galilean fishermen filled with the Holy Spirit stood on the ground and made his speech in front of the wealthiest, the most intellectual and the most powerful people in the land and yet he displayed something that William Barclay described as “the world greatest demonstration of courage”.
I read an article regarding public speaking, it said that public speaking is often cited as the world most common phobia, beating out trip to dentist, fear of animal or insects (Arachnophobia, Acrophobia) and even death on the list of biggest fear, it seems that people would rather commit suicide than to speak in public. Have you ever thought what made Peter so confident to share the Gospel? There are three factors we need to reflect on his boldness to speak the truth.
HE ESTABLISHED A CAUSE OF CURIOSITY. V.9 “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed”. The lame man since birth that healed was the point of interest that made people curious inside the temple and the reason why they were in Sanhedrin for questioning. When people in the temple saw this man walking with Peter and John they were amazed and looking for an answer to what had happened to the lame man. ACTS 3:9,10 “When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
God has given us blessings and abilities. It may not be a spectacular talent but when we begin to share or use this things to other, like peter and John we will also create an interest for the other to come to us to discover something that made us different It’s so sad sometimes this blessings and abilities doesn’t even use to establish an interest in the heart of the people. It doesn’t need to be a great miracle but even a simple act of kindness make a difference. EPH. 2:10 “For we are Gods handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
HE WAS KNOWLEDGEABLE TO CLARIFY THE ISSUE. V.10 “…. It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth… that this man stands before you healed.” V12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” The issue was the man who was healed that cause the people to be interested to listen to the gospel. Peter was able to explain the supernatural act of God because he has been with Jesus and witnessed his miracles and he understood his teaching and his command. The point is He was competent enough to deliver his message with confidence because he was knowledgeable about the truth.
Can we able to explain the truth when we don’t even know the truth? How can we able to explain spiritual matters when we don’t spend time to study and understand the scripture? How can we share the way of salvation if we don’t know about it? We need to consider what makes peter confident and capable to explain the truth was because he was knowledgeable about it. Remember the gospel we proclaim was like a “beggar tells another beggar where to find a bread”
HE HAS A DIVINE SOURCE OF COURAGE. V.8 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: Rulers and elders of the people!” Here we see a different peter that denied the Lord for three times when he was arrested and brought in the same court for questioning stand the ground and tell the truth with boldness because he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
To overcome the feeling of inadequacy and lack of confidence, we need to understand that studying the scripture is not enough we need to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us courage to speak the truth. According to John 14:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” And 2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self- discipline”.
Another area that we need to look where they were bold was…
2. A BOLDNESS TO STAND FOR THE TRUTH. Acts 4:14-20 “But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 What are we going to do with these men? They asked. Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, which is right in Gods eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”.
When Peter finish explained everything, the Sanhedrin couldn’t find anything to file a case against them. They cannot deny the fact that the lame man was healed in the name of Jesus. There’s nothing they could do than to let them go from Sanhedrin. But they don’t like them to spread out the Good news so they attempted to stop them and threatened their lives if they will continue to proclaim the name of Jesus. But here is the occasion were we see a totally changed disciples whom once denied and run away from the Lord during the time when he was arrested, (Matthew 26:56b “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” Matthew 26:69-74.) Stood on what they believed and will fight for their faith until the end. What made them strong and firmed in their conviction was because THEY VALUE GOD’S WORD MORE THAN ANYTHING. V.19 “But Peter and John replied, which is right in Gods eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!” these people willing to stand for the cause and obeying God’s word was their highest priority). THEY WERE ALSO MOTIVATED TO SPEAK THE TRUTH. V.20 “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”. Everything that they have heard about prophecy of the coming messiah was true and confirmed when they saw the resurrected Christ. What they saw and heard from Jesus drives them to obey his last command as Dr. James Kennedy’s slogan says, “his last command should be our first concern.”
Their commitment were tested and refined when they faced opposition who persecuted them but even they knew the peril of choosing to stand for what they believed was true, they stood on it.
One of the classic examples of courage to stand on what is right was Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah better known as Sadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel chapter 3. King Nebuchadnezzar made the decree that anyone or any nation must bow down to worship the golden statue that he made. But these three young men refused to obey the decree even though they knew the danger of their choice; they would rather die for the truth than to be rewarded for a lie. They didn’t die in refusing to obey the decree but their deep conviction saved them.
Do we still have the motivation to obey God even when our faith is tested? How do we react or respond when our conviction is tested is the question for many Christians and churches nowadays to answer? Do we draw the line when conviction is at stake? Or are we just simply say, “If we can’t beat them, them let’s join them.” And as the scripture says in Psalm 11:3 “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Paul encourage the Corinthian to stand firm to what they believed in 1 Corinthian 15:58 “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
The disciples never destroy their courage because their faith remind them that God is always in control of every event. Nothing happens without his knowledge and permission.
The last area in which they were bold was…
3. A BOLDNESS TO STAY IN THE TRUTH. Acts 4:23-31 “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them”…
“…31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly”
When Peter and John returned to other disciples and told them their story, we learned the reaction of the early Christian church in the time of vulnerability. These people decided to stay in the assembly despite the fact that they were fully aware of the danger in the direction they choose. The early church Believers realized the troubles that were now bound to fall upon them, nobody runs away but they response in prayer not to remove the obstacles but a strength and boldness to overcome it. These people mean business in following Christ.
Some people want to follow Christ with reckless impulsive courage like the man in Luke 9: 57,58 “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, I will follow you wherever you go.” “Jesus replied, Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” The response of our Lord seems irrelevant but I think what he mean was “ if you follow me, you have to follow me all the way.” We do not follow Christ because of provision. We don’t follow Christ for crown and glory and neglect the cross. Following Christ requires a total commitment and sacrifices. We need to count the cost and be willing to abandon everything else that has given us security.
Following Christ was like the story of JRR. TOLKIEN about “the journey of Bilbo baggins the hobbit and the dwarves to the lonely mountain.” Somewhere along the way, they encountered scary creatures that hindered them to continue their journey but their deep longing to see the lonely mountain motivates them to overcome every obstacle they met along the way.
Would you be willing to stay on the course of following Christ despite the fact that you know the road is rough and narrowed (Matthew 7:13,14)?
The courage of the Church nowadays in terms of spreading the Gospel lies in the hands of every Believer. It is base on our own prerogative weather we obey the command of our Lord to go and preach the good news to every nation (mark 16:15). But unless we totally commit our lives to Christ and have the desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit we will not have the boldness to proclaim the kingdom of God, strong conviction to stand for the right and willingness to continue no matter what lies ahead in the journey of our Christian life. Like our theme this year “TOGETHER WE WILL GATHER” if were willing to go back to the courage once possessed by the early Christian.
Preaching delivered by Pastor Marlon Almonte
on 10 March 2013