September 23, 2021

September 23, 2021

September 23, 2021

John Crabtree
Clergy
Three Rivers District

 

Speak the Word with Boldness
Acts 4: 13-21, 29-31 NRSV

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. 14 When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. 16 They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.

The Believers Pray for Boldness

23 After they were released, they went to their friends[a] and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25 it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:[b]
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
    and the peoples imagine vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
    and the rulers have gathered together
        against the Lord and against his Messiah.’[c]
27 For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant[d] Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants[e] to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant[f] Jesus.” 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

Devotion

Who among us has not been thrilled by the bravery of the early church believers as they boldly and fearlessly proclaimed Christ as Lord in the face of opposition, threats, and outright violence?  I prayerfully hope that I will be filled with that holy boldness if I have the opportunity to share the Gospel in such hostile situations. 
 
The fact that Peter and John were fishermen makes it even more special.  They were just ordinary, hard-working men, the “salt of the earth” as folks like to say around here.  God has always had a tendency to pick “ordinary folk” to do his extraordinary work.  Scriptures are filled with stories of younger siblings (Isaac, David), people with speech impediments (Moses), tradesmen (most of the apostles), and other people being called upon by God to work for the Kingdom and proclaim the truth of Christ. To see ordinary people called by God and equipped to do the work of the Kingdom with holy boldness is really encouraging.  There is a place for me and you in that work.
 
Peter and John were able to speak about Jesus because they had been steeped in the teachings and thoughts of Jesus.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is often eloquence in expressing our ideas and a holy boldness to speak truth to power, but that comes as a result of time spent getting to know Jesus.  Time spent in worship, Scripture study, and prayer.  We cannot expect to pour out what we are not first filled with.  We often pray for God to give us the heart and mind of Christ which is nothing more than learning to love as Jesus loves and seeing the world as Jesus sees.
 
It is also instructive to note that in our text, Peter and John did speak with truth and boldness, yet the hearers were not convinced.  I imagine that in our mind’s eye, we can see ourselves filled with the Spirit’s power and our eloquence moving others to repentance and new life in Christ.  The only thing that saved Peter and John from imprisonment, beatings, or death was the fear the rulers and elders had for the crowds.  Their hearts were hard, and they cared more for keeping their power and control over the people of God than they did for hearing the Word of God.  The holy boldness we are striving for is not only eloquence is sharing the Gospel, but also a bit of divine disregard for the dangers involved. 
 
Finally, we need to remember not to confuse holy boldness with bullying.  We are instructed to speak the truth with love and remember that we must first get the log out of our own eye before we focus on the speck of sawdust in another’s.  We are also instructed to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  However, when the opportunity to speak does come, we have to do so with humility, love, and truth.  The scribes and Pharisees failed in their duty because they substituted their own ideas and preferences for God’s, so we must be diligent to seek first God’s will so that our words might be pleasing in God’s sight.  May God grant us grace that we might have discernment, and wisdom that we might rightly apply Christ’s teachings.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,
Give me your words to speak in every situation,
            and grant me the boldness to speak them unafraid.
Help me to see others as Christ sees them
Help me to love and serve others as Christ would.
Guide me that I might be an ambassador of your love and your Kingdom.
To you be the glory.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen