Proclaiming the Word with Boldness (Wed. May 4)

The word of the day is “bold.”  Many people today have claimed the privilege of promoting their views boldly and without restraint.  Not wanting to be drawn into futile arguments, others have kept silent.  But what about the Gospel of the Resurrection?  How forthright are we in proclaiming the most important message of Christ’s work of salvation?

Today in our reading of Acts 4:13-22, we hear Peter’s daring proclamation that salvation is obtainable only in the Name of the Crucified and Risen Christ (Acts 4:12).  In response, the council of religious authorities “marveled” “…when they saw the boldness of Peter and John,” though they “perceived that they [the apostles] were uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13).  Today we consider what constitutes powerful and convincing speech that produces faith in Jesus Christ.

Witness to  Christ That Is Bold and Unrestrained

The Greek word for “bold speech” is a compound of the words “all” and “speech.”  In other words, the apostles’ speech was “free of restraint.”  They “told it all.”  We might say they were “outspoken” to the point of being “blunt” (Strong’s #3954, 194).

This way of talking cannot be silenced.  It “tells it the way it is” and will not stop until it, “tells it all.”  It disregards the standard protocol that gives some the privilege to speak their mind, and others do not.  Thus, the Jewish Council realized that these were unlearned men in the matters of religion (OSB fn. on Acts 4:13).  Yet they did not defer to the authority of the religious leaders but spoke so forcefully that the “rulers, elders, and scribes” “marveled.”  The Greek term for their reaction has the sense of astonishment mixed with admiration (Strong’s #2297, 113).  Even those who arrested Peter and John could not dismiss the miracle or the apostles’ miraculous way of speaking.

Outspoken Proclamation Comes from Conviction

Where does such a straightforward way of communication come from?  It arises from the conviction that overpowers the speaker and convinces the hearer.  Consequently, when warned to stop “speaking in the Name of Jesus,” Peter said, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).  In this way of preaching Christ, the speaker is so sure of the message that he persuades others by the force and sincerity of his words.  Or, as in the case of the Jewish council, Peter’s confidence confounded the religious officials, and they took it as a threat to their power and position.

But where does such conviction come from?  We might think that it comes from the simple fact that Peter and the apostles were eyewitnesses to the mighty acts of God in Christ.  And yet, the Risen Lord told them that they were to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (OSB Luke 24:49).  Thus, the witness to the Crucifixion/Resurrection required the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon the witnesses (Acts 1:8).

Boldness that the Holy Spirit Empowers

Therefore, when the frustrated authorities released Peter and John, they reported what they had said to the “chief priests and elders” (OSB 4:23).  And the whole assembly glorified the power of God to carry out His will against His adversaries (OSB Acts 4:24-28).  And they prayed that they might speak the Word with “all boldness” and that signs and wonders of healing would accompany their preaching.  The answer came immediately in a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit (OSB  fn. on Acts 4:31).  The result was that all of them were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” All, not just Peter and John, but every member of the Body of Christ, “spoke the Word of God with boldness” (OSB Acts 4:31).

For Reflection: The Bold Witness of the Laity

This incident of the power of bold witness to the Resurrection prompts one to ask about the boldness of the proclamation of the same Gospel today.  If the everyday witness of the laity is hesitant, it will not attract anyone to faith in Christ.  If we restrain ourselves from speaking about the grace of God, salvation, and eternal life in Christ, no one will be drawn to seek the Lord.  But if our manner of speaking echoes our mode of living and we speak and act boldly in the Name of Christ, then, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, they will influence others.

Powerful Preaching

Likewise, current preaching and teaching of the Word may be sincere, scholarly, even relevant to today’s issues.  But is it as outspoken, fearless, and frank as the communication we find in today’s reading?  Or is it proper, respectful, and correct but docile and restrained?  Such mild preaching produces uninspired Christians.  Deference to the ways of the world and fear of opposition make preaching timid and hesitant.  But, as we have said, it is conviction that fires up the hearts of those who hear it.  The audaciousness of outspoken speech inflames those who hear it with either persuasion or opposition.

Prayer for Renewal of the Holy Spirit

Conviction convinces.  But the boldness that cuts to the heart does not come from our own power.  For the Word to bear fruit, the Holy Spirit must empower both the proclamation and the reception of the message.  Therefore, in this Paschal season, we might begin now to pray for the renewal of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  Our prayers might include that we, like Peter and John, would be empowered by the Holy Spirit and proclaim the Word of the Crucified and Risen Christ with convincing boldness (OSB 4:11 and 4:31).

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