By Joe R. Price
One of the striking features of the apostolic work is the energy and boldness with which they proclaimed the soul-saving message of truth (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 4:29-31; 9:20, 22, 27, 29). They saw boldness in preaching the gospel as not only desirable, but morally obligatory: “praying . . . for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:18-20). They were constrained and compelled by divine appointment to preach boldly. We are under the same divine appointment: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Boldness is not arrogance or a display of “knowing it all.” Such evil must never accompany gospel teaching. “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Thayer says the word which “boldness” translates means “freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech . . . openly, frankly, i.e. without concealment . . . without ambiguity or circumlocution . . . without the use of figures and comparisons . . . free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage . . . the deportment by which one becomes conspicuous or secures publicity” (491).
Bold preaching is not an “intellectual exercise” that leaves one wondering what the truth is, or whether we can even know the truth (remember Pilate’s “what is truth?”).
Boldness is being plain spoken in what one says. Clarity, not ambiguity, is a trait of gospel preaching. The “uncertain sound” is not characteristic of boldness (1 Cor. 14:8).
Bold gospel preaching draws attention to the message we preach, not the messenger (1 Cor. 1:18-21; 2:1-5; 4:9-13; Acts 14:1-7).
Bold teaching and preaching is the result of one’s confidence (faith) in the credibility, accuracy and truthfulness of the gospel. Rarely will one who is unsure of his message show boldness in its proclamation (cf. 2 Tim. 1:8-13).
But beware! False teachers can be bold, too (cf. 2 Pet. 2:18; Jude 16). Every message, no matter how boldly presented, must be analyzed under the microscope of inspired Scripture to verify its credibility (Acts 17:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17). Then we can boldly live truth and teach it to others.
Bold gospel preaching has never received wide acceptance. Sin and error love darkness rather than light (John 3:19-21). Even some brethren disdain bold preaching intended to spread the truth and save souls. Some refuse to publicly debate the gospel when differences exist, insisting that it does more harm than good. (Gladly the apostles did not share their thinking! Please read Acts 6:6-8; 9:29; 15:1-2; 17:1-4, 17-19; 18:4-5.)
Others resist publicly identifying teachers of error lest we “lose our opportunity” to reach them. But, it is because their error is public that a bold challenge is warranted! God knows that publicity vindicates truth and protects the innocent (Rom. 16:17-18).
Why does the Lord want us to be bold when we teach the gospel? He wants the gospel to gain publicity so that more may openly hear and understand its message of salvation (Luke 12:3). Then, more will be saved by its power (Rom.1:16). Be bold, my brethren! (1 Cor. 16:13).
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