|CHRISTIAN LIFE AND DOCTRINE||April 2000|
Boldness of God’s People
THE WORD ‘BOLD’ is found only once in the Old Testament Scriptures; namely, in Proverbs 28:1. The wise man says from personal experience, “The righteous are bold as a lion.” This is an appropriate illustration, for a lion is a noble creature, with a complete absence of fear.
If God speaks in the Old Testament of boldness as one of the qualities possessed by his righteous people, we may be sure the same is true of those in the New Testament. Those who in this age have been drawn by the Father to Jesus as their Redeemer (John 6:44) and have consecrated themselves to him are justified through their faith in the ransom, and begettal of the Holy Spirit, and have become New Creatures in Christ Jesus.
OUR LORD’S EXAMPLE
All these must seek to possess the quality of boldness, prompting them to confess the Lord and his truth, by growing in this grace and attaining more and more of the character likeness of the Master. They must balance it with meekness and lowliness of heart, which were possessed in a superlative degree by Jesus. Jesus did not recklessly endanger his life as he sought to go forward in the work the Father had given him to do. He did not fail to take into consideration the dangers and difficulties of the way, but rested in full assurance of faith in the Father’s wisdom and power. We also should follow the example of our Master in his faith in the many assurances given in the Law and the Prophets of his providential care over his faithful people. For example, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them,” should inspire us.—Ps. 34:7
Never at any time during the three and one-half years of his ministry did Jesus show the least sign of fear, or lack of confidence in what was written concerning him. His was a humble boldness in doing his Father’s will, and in bringing to completion the work he had been given to do. We should not consider that there was a lack of boldness or courage when our Lord prayed in Gethsemane, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” (Matt. 26:39) He knew that his course was very near its end, and that he had but a few hours more to wait before the dreadful ordeal of crucifixion would be his experience.
It seems clear, however, that the ‘cup,’ or experience, from which Jesus prayed to be spared, was not his crucifixion, since he had come into the world to die for sin. He even had to experience the curse of the Law; for as Paul points out, crucifixion was a curse: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”—Deut. 21:22,23; Acts 5:30; Gal. 3:13
It has been suggested, with very good reason, that in the Gethsemane experience Jesus began to wonder whether his work of sacrifice had been perfectly performed. He knew that if he had come short, even in the smallest particular, he could not hope for a resurrection. The thought that he might never see his Father’s face again apparently was part of the cup he prayed might pass. This agonizing reverential fear and sense of the responsibility resting on him seemed more than he could bear. Hence Jesus prayed earnestly that he might be spared from enduring longer the sorrow and mental anguish he was then experiencing. The cross and uncertainty as to whether his work had been perfectly performed up to this time was on his mind. This going into death in uncertainty as to his future would then, it seems, be the cup from which Jesus prayed to be spared—‘let this cup pass from me.’
With reference to this, Hebrews 5:7, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott, reads: “He who in the days of his flesh, having offered up both prayers and supplications, crying aloud with tears to him who was able to deliver him out of death, and was heard for his devotion [or piety].” Here we are shown how the Father gave our Lord the assurance that up to this time all was well, and on receiving this assurance Jesus endured trustingly, and met his greatest and most crucial experience with humble boldness.
BOLDNESS OF THE EARLY CHURCH
This quality of boldness, or courage, begotten of faithful trust, is repeatedly shown in the New Testament records as one of the special characteristics of the Early Church, and especially of the disciples of the Master. They were given the privilege of continuing the work the Lord Jesus had begun. He said to them: “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”—John 20:21
In the accounts of the beginning of the great work of taking out “a people for his name” (Acts 15:14) to be the bride of Christ, we are repeatedly told of the boldness of the early disciples manifested in their faithful proclamation of this great salvation. (Acts 4:19,20; 14:5-7; 18:24-26; 19:6-8) Note in the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul’s earnest desire for more of this special spirit of the Master. He asks them to pray for him: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel.”—Eph. 6:18,19
Paul does not intend to convey that this message which he delighted to proclaim with good courage was something very difficult to grasp and understand—a great ‘mystery.’ The Greek word translated ‘mystery’ means ‘sacred secret.’ It is kept secret or covered up for a time, and then is uncovered, made plain, and is therefore no longer a mystery. Hence important truths for a time are kept secret. When uncovered they are no longer mysteries, but simple and easy to understand.
As the Lord’s people today well know, the mystery that Paul speaks of is that feature of the Gospel message which discloses that the Messiah, the Christ, as Jehovah’s Anointed, is not a single individual, but a company of which Jesus is the Head. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, … so also is Christ.” (I Cor. 12:12) These are to bless all the families of the earth with salvation from sin and death.
BOLDNESS IN PROCLAIMING THE MESSAGE
Such a wonderful message should be proclaimed boldly to all who have an ear to hear! Paul, as a prisoner in Rome, wrote to his beloved brethren in Philippi along these lines. Years before he had preached the Word to them with such good results. (Acts 16:10-40) He told them how the same boldness, confidence and love of his truth had caused the Lord to bless his message to many in Rome. He writes, “My bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace” [“throughout the whole pretorian guard,” Revised Standard Version, from which regiment pairs of soldiers were taken who guarded Paul night and day], and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear.”—Phil. 1:13,14
Paul’s faithfulness in proclaiming his Master’s message whatever the consequences to himself, had inspired many of the brethren to similar boldness and faithfulness. They were letting their light shine to the glory of their Master. In this way the Lord richly blessed the results of his efforts.
BOLDNESS IN PRAYER
The Scriptures exhort, “Let us … come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) We note, therefore, that in addition to manifesting boldness in proclaiming the Lord’s message, we must be bold—full of humble confidence—to take advantage of all the means of grace including that which is here mentioned; namely, that there should be boldness in prayer.
It is possible that, at times, on account of weaknesses or failure, we might hesitate to draw near to the Lord to ask for forgiveness. We might even pray for grace that weaknesses might be overcome. And this is doubtless a condition into which the great Adversary, if possible, would endeavor to lead us. At such times, we need more than ever to go to the throne of grace to obtain mercy—the mercy provided in Christ whose merit will cleanse us from all sin, directly or indirectly resulting from the fall. (I John 1:7) As it is written, “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit” even to the extent the New Creature has been loyal and faithful to all the principles of truth and righteousness.—Rom. 8:27
BOLDNESS IN THE LIVING WAY
Again Paul tells us that we should have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” (Heb. 10:19) Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott more correctly renders the passage: “Having, therefore, brethren, confidence respecting the entrance of the holies, by the blood of Jesus.”
Further, it is written: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Heb. 10:22) We should, indeed, have full assurance of faith regarding the new and living way to life that has been opened up by our great High Priest, Jesus. It is not a way such as it was under the Law Covenant, which only brought condemnation, but a way made possible by him who “should taste death for every man,” and who has now appeared “in the presence of God for us,” and who “ever liveth to make intercession” for us who are “in Christ Jesus.”—Heb. 2:9; 7:25; 9:24; Rom. 8:1
If at any time we feel we are failing to take advantage of the steps of grace, and the means of grace, by not coming with boldness, with confidence, to the throne of grace, we should remember that the Lord knows all about us, our weaknesses, our failures, better than we know them ourselves. “He knoweth our frame [to what extent we should be able to resist temptation]; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Ps. 103:14) We should remember too, that it was the humble publican rather than the self-confident Pharisee who was the more acceptable of the two.—Luke 18:10-14
BOLDNESS IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
Finally, John speaks of having boldness in the day of judgment. He says, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16,17) John’s mention of boldness in the day of judgment reminds us that the Gospel Age is the church’s day of judgment—the time when she is on trial for life. And it would be surely true to say that we could not pass our trial successfully, could not be pleasing to the Lord and enjoy his approval without confidence in his goodness, his love, and his power to assist and protect his people, and supply them with grace to help in every time of need.
If a child loves his father very much he has confidence in his kindly providences, and even in his disciplinary treatment. These are intended for his good. So, John indicates that if the love of God has been perfected in us, we shall have full confidence in the one who has placed us on trial for life, or, to have ‘boldness in the day of judgment.’
The Greek word here translated ‘boldness’ actually means ‘free utterance.’ This reminds us that utterance unhampered by fear is surely a desirable, almost necessary, requirement in our witnessing for the Lord. This will surely have the desired kind of influence upon those who hear, and who observe the way the witness is given. Note an illustration of this given in the account of an occurrence only a few days after Pentecost. The faithful and very forceful witness of the Master was still fresh in the minds of the Jewish leaders. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) And, we might surely add, ‘and learned of him.’ May we ever keep near to the Lord, and learn of him in respect to boldness and courage.