“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” Acts 4:29.
This ought to be the cry of all of God’s people, especially in this our time, when Satan and his hosts flaunt themselves to be the bold and daring ones. There is a world to be won for Christ; there are scattered saints to be gathered home to the one fold; there are bulwarks of false religion to be battered down; and all this must be done before time is swallowed up into eternity. “Put on thy strength, O Zion…shake thyself…arise!” We are yet too fearful, too timid, too careful, and too “wise.” While we shrink back from performing our task, Satan boldly steps forward regardless of what anybody says or thinks. That will never do! Boldness must meet with boldness. We must jar the enemy into reality and show him with whom he has to do.
Holy boldness has always characterized God’s people. It marked the preaching of John the Baptist. Whether it thundered across the countryside, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” or struck its target in the palace of King Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife,” his voice was invincible. Similarly, boldness was an ingredient in the lives of the apostles. When commanded by the chief priests and elders not to speak in the name of Jesus, they responded with a fiery prayer for boldness quoted in our text above. Compromising spirits would readily have replaced the name of Jesus with a less “offensive” expression such as “the higher power” or “mother nature,” but the apostles would not bow to such cowardly absurdity. Cowardice cannot live in flaming hearts that are lifted up to God in prayer. Such hearts get filled with the Holy Ghost, who in turn fills such lives with brazen acts that turn the world upside-down.
Without question, holy boldness was stamped on the face of every spiritual reformer throughout the ages. The saints of the 1880 Reformation had a special commission to spread the truth on the one body of Christ, a truth fiercely hated and attacked by the devil and his sect-loving adherents. Once more, boldness was the need of the hour. Mother Sarah Smith possessed it and declared, “God took all the shrink and fear of men and devils out of me.” Bro. Warner, in whose trust this divine work was laid, promised “Babylon and all her concomitants…nothing but fire, sword, and hammer, and confounding blasts from the armory of God’s Word.” Bless God for these saints. They loved the praise of God more than the praise of men.
Now here we are. Will we flinch in the face of man-fearing spirits, peer-fearing spirits, reproach-fearing spirits, and what other fearing spirits there may be in the air? “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power” (2 Tim. 1:7). Oh, that God would grant us a fresh outpouring of this spirit of power!
What produces boldness? Firstly, holiness is the groundwork of boldness. “The righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). Then, having close communion with God and knowing Him intimately will kindle more of this blazing element, for “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John…they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Accordingly, “the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits” (Dan. 11:32). Exploits are bold, daring acts, like living pure and holy lives in this wicked world and standing firm and true for God in the face of opposition. In fact, persecution actually elicits boldness. Paul’s imprisonment caused the brethren to grow confident and to be “much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil. 1:14). Thus we read repeatedly in the scriptures, that when the enemy was stirred up, the saints grew bold in the Lord, who then “gave testimony unto the world of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3).
Lastly, boldness increases as spiritual vision increases. When we see how sin is exceeding sinful, we grow bolder in rebuking it. A fuller understanding of the truth will cause us to wax bold in exposing error. A clearer vision of the church will prompt a bolder stand against false religion. A keen perception of the brevity of time and of the approaching Day of Judgment will trigger a boldness in our dealing with lost souls, and will embolden us, for our own soul’s sake, to resist temptations and to press the battle to the gate. A life of ducking and dodging here, will find us quailing over there. Hence, if we wish to have “boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17), we will have to have a good supply of it here and now.
“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were ALL filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31. We dare not say, “This is not for me.” This is for all of God’s children. The Lord is as willing to answer prayer now as He answered then. Let us come “boldly unto the throne of grace” with our need of boldness, so that “we may boldly say,” in the face of each task, trial, and threatening foe, “the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:6).