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What is that one thing you wish you had more confidence to do? As Christians, we have the desire to share our faith with our friends and family members, but we often lack the confidence to speak the good news of the gospel. In Ephesians 6:19–20, the Apostle Paul shares a startling prayer request: Pray “also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Twice Paul repeats his request to speak boldly. If Paul had on his prayer list the need for boldness as a witness, then perhaps you and I should add it to our lists.
The grand story of Acts gives a unique and powerful picture of the gospel’s going forth in the midst of pressures and uncertainty and tracks the movement of the gospel in the early church. A major theme throughout is transformation from weakness to boldness among the people of God. The people of Acts can first be seen in the final hour of the gospel of Luke startled and frightened before Jesus, who Himself rebukes them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38). These are the people whom God will use to build His church? Chapter one of Acts marks the beginning of this narrative with a mere 120 followers of Jesus filled with fears and doubts, unsure of what to say or do. In a world that is hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ, transformation does occur, and these meek disciples rise up with confidence that results in the rapid growth of the church. Amazingly, by the end of Acts, Paul is described “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (28:31). How did this confidence arise? Focusing in on Acts 4 gives us a glimpse of how this boldness is possible.
First, the source of their boldness is the Holy Spirit. Peter and John are on trial before the Sadducees for proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection from the dead when the council is shocked by their boldness for the gospel: “And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit” spoke with boldness and conviction of the salvation found in Jesus (4:7–8, 13). The council was “astonished” at Peter and John’s “boldness,” especially since they were “uneducated, common men,” yet “they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (v. 13). How in the world did these average fishermen speak with power and persuade with boldness, teaching and proclaiming the very wonders of the kingdom of God? Peter and John spoke with authority because they had been with the One with ultimate authority and power. It is one thing to have Jesus next to us; it is something else entirely to have Christ in us. God has given us the Holy Spirit to give us boldness to share our faith and to continue this worldwide mission.
Second, the message of their boldness is salvation in Christ alone. In verses 5–12, Peter had been arrested and would soon be examined. After spending the night in jail for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus to the crowd of people, Peter does not flinch, stating that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (v. 12). Peter gives them the bold message of the gospel that salvation can only be found in one place by one name: Jesus Christ. This was a tough claim in Peter’s day, and it still is in our day. Pluralism surrounds us. Sharing the message that salvation can be found in only one place is scary, yet that name is the only hope for the spiritual healing of all humanity. The name of Jesus is the only place we can trust for our salvation, our redemption.
Third, the purpose of their boldness is to make Christ known. Peter and John are charged in verses 18–20 not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
How can they keep such wonderful news to themselves? This boldness helped them to listen to God and not to man. Peter’s remark about listening to God implies that they had a clear command from God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember Acts 1:8 where Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The purpose of their boldness and ours is for the gospel and the glory of God to reach the ends of the earth. Just think—because of the boldness of Peter and John and Amy Carmichael and Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd and other people like them, the gospel is on the move to the very ends of the earth. What started with 120 disciples in Jerusalem has spread around the globe to you today, surrounded by the ones God has placed before you. Because of the Holy Spirit in us, our beautiful salvation in Christ alone, and the far-reaching purpose of spreading the very glory of God to the ends of the earth, we can be bold.