Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Source of Boldness

Grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30)
This is one of the powerful evangelistic prayers of the early Church. Peter and John had just been arrested for preaching the Gospel, admonished by the magistrates to cease, and released on their own recognizance. So they gathered with the Church and cried out to God for boldness. That is the prayer you see above.

We see the answer to this prayer in the next verse: “And whey they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness” (v. 31).Boldness comes from the Lord. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul would later remind Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Boldness is a matter of faith. That is why some translations render it “confidence” (con, “with”; fide, “faith”). Where there is boldness, there is no intimidation. God has not given us a spirit of fear or intimidation. His Spirit is a spirit of power, love and sound mind (sometimes rendered “self-control”).

Earlier, Jesus promised the disciples, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). This was fulfilled a short while later on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). In the New Testament, power is the ability to operate in the supernatural, the divine working of miracles.

Now in Acts 4, the disciples were crying out for a greater experience of boldness, “all boldness”, and the power of the Holy Spirit. They desperately wanted, and needed, to walk in the fullness of it.

But notice how they asked God to increase their boldness — by stretching out His hand to heal, that signs and wonders may be done in the name of Jesus. They were not out to simply declare the Gospel by words, but also to demonstrate it by the power of God.

They had already seen the miraculous healing of a lame man at the temple gate — that’s what got Peter and John thrown into jail in the first place. Now they wanted to see the healing miracles multiplied. They wanted to keep on preaching the name of Jesus and doing the works of Jesus. Just as the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus with power, so that He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38), they wanted to operate in the same way with the same Holy Spirit anointing. For that is the commission Jesus gave them.

Is the Church today meant to walk in any less boldness, in any less manifestation of God’s power and might? I don’t think so. If anything, the need is greater today that it was back in the first century.

Does this stir up something inside you, as it does me? A desire for a more vibrant witness, a greater effectiveness in ministry and outreach? Then marinate in these Scriptures for a while. Paul said that faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Meditate on this Word until faith begins to arise in your heart to believe God for Holy Spirit boldness, and the working of signs, wonders and healing miracles. Then begin praying the prayer that those early Christians above prayed. And have an expectation for Holy Spirit boldness, for God’s healing hand, and for signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.

For more about the powerful prayers of the early Church, see Praying With Fire: Learning to Pray With Apostolic Power.