26 October 2021

Boldness in the Spirit

In response to threats from the high priests, the fledgling church was filled with “boldness of speech” by the SpiritActs 4:5-31

Pulpit - Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash
After healing a lame man, Peter and John were confronted by the priestly authorities who were disturbed because they were “
proclaiming the resurrection.” The Sadducees rejected the doctrine of the resurrection but Acts stresses that it now takes place “in Jesus,” which made the doctrine of the resurrection as taught by the church distinct - [Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash].

The next day, the high priest and his entourage interrogated Peter and John after they had spent the night in custody:
  • Their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired - By what power or in what name, have you done this?” - (Acts 4:5-7).
In response, Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” This statement recalls the words of Jesus:
  • And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven; but to him that slanders the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues, and the rulers and the authorities, be not anxious how or what you will answer, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” – (Luke 11:10-12).
The lame man was “saved” (sozô) ANDmade whole” (hugies) in the name of Jesus. “Made whole” is significant in this context. Peter and John were testifying before the represents of the Temple. Under the Levitical code, a “lame” person was prohibited from full participation in the Temple rituals:
  • (Leviticus 21:17-21) – “Whoever of your seed throughout their generations that has a blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatever man he be that has a blemish, he shall not approach - A blind man, a lame man, or he that has a flat nose, or any thing superfluous… No man of the seed of Aaron the priest that has a blemish shall come nigh to offer the offerings of Yahweh made by fire.
The “lame man” was not just healed but made “whole” in the “name of Jesus,” thereby making him acceptable before God for participation in the worship of the covenant community. This was a radical departure from the Temple rituals that required certain rites to be performed to “cleanse” ritual defilement and restore an Israelite to a “clean” state.

In the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” The very man crucified by the “rulers of the people” was “raised from the dead” by God and, therefore, vindicated, both him and his ministry. Although rejected by the leaders of Israel, the “stone set aside by the builders, has been made the head of the corner. And in no other is there salvation, for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, by which we must be saved.”

The high priest and his associates took notice of the “boldness of Peter and John.” Unable to deny that a genuine miracle had occurred, they had no alternative but to release them, though not without making threats - (Acts 4:18-21).

Here, “boldness” anticipates the prayer of the church in reaction to these events, and the response of the Holy Spirit (“Grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness”). It translates the Greek noun parrésia, which had an original sense of “freedom of speech; the boldness of speech” – (Strong’s - #G3954).

Peter and John related these events to the assembly, then the members of the young church prayed in unison for divine assistance:
  • (Acts 4:23-31) – “And being let go, they came to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said unto them. And when they heard it, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, O Lord, You that made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant, didst say, Why did the Gentiles rage, And the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, And the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord, and against his anointed one. For of a truth in this city against your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were gathered together to do whatsoever your hand and your council foreordained to come to pass. And now, Lord, look upon their threatening, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant Jesus.”
  • (Psalm 2:2) - “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh and against his anointed.”
The prayer is the climax of this story. It ties together the several terms that have figured in the passage – “rulers,” “gathered together,” “threatening,” and “boldness” - and links them to the second Psalm.  The “rulers” and “kings of the earth” that opposed the messianic son in the Psalm are identified with the priestly leaders in Jerusalem that conspired to put Jesus to death, along with Herod, Pontius Pilate, the “Gentiles, and the people of Israel.” The Spirit responded immediately to the prayer of the congregation:
  • (Acts 4:30-31) – “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
This was not another baptism in the Spirit. Already, they had received that gift. Instead, the Spirit was energizing the young church to speak the gospel “boldly” regardless of threats and hostile acts by the priestly rulers of the Jewish nation.

The book of Acts applies the messianic prophecy from the second Psalm to the death of Jesus, and to the opposition to the church by the leaders of Israel. The fulfillment of the prophecy began in the life and death of Jesus.

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