Speaking God's Word with Boldness
Being bold in the Lord is certainly a characteristic that every Christian desires—or, at least, should desire. It was a trait of Christ (John 18:20) and of first century Christians (Acts 4:13; 28:31), and it is a trait that we must also possess (Hebrews 3:6, where “confidence” = “boldness”). With the importance of this quality in mind, let us take a moment to understand it a little more fully.
What is boldness?
Webster defines the word “bold” as being “fearless before danger” and “showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit.” It is a display of courage despite circumstances. Consider how Peter and John, who were just arrested for preaching the word of God (Acts 4:1-3), preached the name of Jesus and salvation (Acts 4:8-13); this was courage despite circumstances!
Biblically speaking, though, “boldness” is more encompassing than the simple understanding of courage. Strong defines this word as “all out spokenness, that is, frankness, bluntness, publicity; by implication assurance” (G3954). Thayer defines it as “freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech” and “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.” Hence, in the biblical definition, this is not only done courageously without fear, but openly, clearly, and with confidence. Read Acts 4:1-13 again and take note of the nuance of this word: See how Peter and John were not only courageous in their delivery; they were clear and confident, also.
(To be clear, when a lexicon gives different definitions of a word, it is because the understanding of the word differs in various contexts. This is why the same word is translated different ways in different verses. In the ESV, this word is translated “plainly” (Mark 8:32), “openly” (John 7:4); “boldness” (Acts 4:13), “courage” (Philippians 1:20), “bold” (Philemon 8), and “confidence” (Hebrews 3:6). This word must be understood depending on its context; my point, though, is that there is more to it than “simple” courage when it is being used as “boldness”; there is a willingness to speak very openly and confidently when we have this courage.)
Why are we bold?
First, we are bold because we are not ashamed. In Philippians 1:20 (“as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”), Paul sets having courage (or “boldness”) against being ashamed; these two attitudes are mutually exclusive.
We speak boldly of our God because we are not ashamed of him. In 2 Timothy 1:8-12, Paul says to Timothy: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” Note that, in Paul’s exhortation for Timothy to not be ashamed of the word, Paul says why he is not ashamed—because he has faith and knows what the God in whom he has believed is able to do.
We speak boldly of God’s word and are not ashamed of it because we know the power it is: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). This word is God’s power for salvation; there is no shame in this fact, only boldness!
Second, we are bold because of the hope that we have. Paul makes this point in 2 Corinthians 3:12: “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” The hope that Paul mentions here is in reference to the hope which comes with the greater glory of the New Covenant (see verses 4-11).
This fits perfectly with the first reason that we are bold: this hope that we have does not put us to shame (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit has clearly revealed that the hope (or “expectation”) we have in God’s promise is built on a solid foundation (Titus 1:2). Because we are unashamed, we are bold. Deeper than this, though, is our desire to make God’s word known if we have this expectation. There is an urgency within us to make this hope known to those who are without it (see Ephesians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
How do we grow in boldness?
First, if we are not as bold as we should be, let us petition God in prayer for boldness. Certainly, God is not going to act on us in a “miraculous” way to force us to be bold when we are unwilling; however, we can say with certainty that the same God who gives wisdom (James 1:5) is also able to give boldness.
This was the prayer of the brethren in Acts 4:29, and, after praying, they continued to speak God’s word boldly. God is not going to “shake the place we are in” (v. 31) to increase our boldness, but notice their prayer was to continue to God’s word with boldness. They were already speaking it boldly, and, after the prayer, they continued speaking God’s word with boldness. Undoubtedly, the “shaking” helped, but I think we can see that it was not a requirement; it was simply the means by which God chose to answer their prayer—which is the lesson to take away! God answered their prayer, and he will answer ours.
Second, notice that their focus was on God’s word; they quoted how it told of the vanity the people would display in their rejection (Acts 4:25-26). If we spend time focusing on God’s word—which tells of our hope (Colossians 1:5) and offers encouragement for hope (Romans 15:4)—then the boldness that comes with hope also increases. Let us be bold for the Lord!