A sermon delivered by Howard Batson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Amarillo, Tx., on May 13, 2012.

Acts 4:31

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first but also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Dan Reiland recently wrote, “I remember giving some of the guys a hard time after a day of fishing. They spent ten hours and about $100 for the day.  The results? They had caught only three small fish that were barely bigger than a bait-sized snack.  I told them that I could go to the grocery store and get twice as much for about $25.00 in only 20 minutes.

“The difference is that while I may have delivered quick results, they were developing their skills as fishermen and I was not.  I may have outdone them that day, but over the long haul, they would produce results far greater than mine.

“If you want to become a fisher of men (people) you must go fishing! Ultimately it’s not about reading a book or listening to a sermon.  It’s about being filled with the Holy Spirit, being obedient (Matthew 28:18-20), and getting in the game.

“There are a few characteristics that are common among those who fish consistently and see results.  First, they have compassion (Matthew 9:35-36) for those who don’t know God.  Second, they possess a conviction about the truth of God (Acts 2:38-41).  They have a boldness that comes from this conviction.  And thirdly, they maintain a connection with God.  They understand that He is the real source of power that makes life change possible.”  (The Pastor’s Coach, January 2003)

In Acts 3, Peter and John were making their way up to the temple at three o’clock in the afternoon – a time of prayer.  There was a man there, begging.  He had been lame from birth.  Every day he would sit down at the gate of the temple, which was called Beautiful, so he could beg, so people would have pity on him, so he would be able to get just enough money each day to eat.  He couldn’t work.  He was lame.

He saw Peter and John about to enter the temple.  “Help me, help me,” he cried.  “Alms, alms for the poor.”  

“Look at me,” Peter said.  The man turned and gave them his attention.  He thought he was going to receive the clinking of a coin in his cup.

But Peter said to him, “I don’t have any money.  But what I do have, I give to you:  In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!”

Peter reaches down, grabs him by the right hand, raises him up, and immediately his feet and his angles were strengthened.  With a leap he stood up.  Isaiah the prophet had spoken of a day when the Messiah comes when the lame will leap like a deer.  He began to walk.  He entered the temple with Peter and John.  Notice verse 8 of chapter 3.  He is walking and leaping and praising God.  All the people who had given him alms, all the people who had seen him beg every day at the temple, at the Gate Beautiful – they were amazed that now he could walk, for he had been crippled since the cradle.

Peter, as always, sees the opportunity to preach.  The people had gathered in amazement over this healing, over the leaping of the lame.  So he begins.

“We didn’t make him walk by our own power,” said Peter.  “It’s the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers who has glorified His servant Jesus, the one you delivered up and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him.  But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact which I saw myself.  And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.  And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance when you did that to Jesus, just as your rulers did also.  But God had announced these things anyway, that His Christ, His Anointed One, would suffer.  Your behavior has fulfilled the prophecy of God.  Repent now.  Return.  Wipe your sins away, in order that there may be times of refreshing in the presence of the Lord….

“All the prophets spoke about Jesus – from Samuel and his successors onward.  They all announced the coming of Jesus….You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers…and it is for you firstly that God has raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Now, while Peter was preaching, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came down to hear.  They were perplexed and disturbed because Peter and John were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.  Remember, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection period, much less the resurrection of Jesus.  The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but not the resurrection of Jesus, but the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection at all.

They grabbed Peter and John, arrested them, and put them in jail.  But notice, many had believed (Acts 4:4).  The number came to be about 5,000 who had believed.

The next morning they are questioned before the high priest, much like Jesus was.  “By what power, what name, have you done this?”  Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit (verse 8), and he begins to speak.

“Are we on trial today for healing a sick man?  You want to know how he got well?  I’ll tell you how he is well. It was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene.  You crucified Him, but God raised Him from the dead.  By this name this man stands here before you in perfect health.  Jesus is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very cornerstone.  There is no salvation under any other name – not a name under heaven, not a name among men by which we can get salvation except the name of Jesus.”

Notice verse 13.

“Now as they observed the confidence (it is the word translated “boldness” elsewhere in Acts) of Peter and John….”

They are uneducated men.  They don’t have rabbinical training.  They are the men who had been with Jesus.  How do they speak with such confidence or boldness?

Perhaps you never noticed it before.  It’s one of the limitations of reading in the English translation as opposed to reading or studying the original language.  Sometimes it is translated “confidence” in Acts.  Sometimes it is translated “boldness,” sometimes “openness,” so you miss the similarity  But the word for boldness in either its noun form or verb form – it’s from the same root – occurs in the Acts of the Apostles twelve times. It means something like outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech (speech that conceals nothing, passes over nothing), openness in public, courage, fearlessness.

Open your Bible.  I want to show you how the preaching of the gospel occurs in the Acts of the Apostles.  Don’t miss it.  Turn with me to each passage.

1.  First, turn to Acts 2:29.

Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

Notice how Peter preaches in his very first sermon in the Acts of the Apostles.  As he preaches on the Day of Pentecost he says – notice – “I preach confidently.  I say boldly to you.”  Peter preaches with boldness.

2.  Turn over just a bit to 4:13, the one we just looked at.  Here it is again, the same word.  “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John.”  It’s boldness in preaching Jesus.

3.  Look at 4:29.

And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence…. 

Or all boldness.

They pray for boldness.

4.  Look at 4:31, just two verses down.

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and  they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with – what’s the word? – with boldness.

5.  Turn to 9:27.  Maybe you’ve never noticed it before.  When they are sharing the gospel, when they are preaching the gospel, they do it with boldness.  “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles (he’s speaking of Paul) and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he has spoken out (there is the word, the word we are looking for) boldly in the name of Jesus.”

“Paul is okay.  He’s one of us now.  He’s no longer persecuting the church,” Barnabas is arguing.  “Rather, in Damascus he preached (notice the word) boldly.”

6.  Look at verse 28 of the same chapter.  “And he was with them (Paul), moving about freely in Jerusalem…”  Notice how Paul is preaching even at the beginning, “…speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.”

7.  Chapter 18, verse 26, speaks of Apollos, another preacher of the gospel.  He began to “speak out boldly in the synagogue.”

8.  In chapter 19, verse 8, notice how the preaching occurs.  This is Paul at Ephesus.  “And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months.”

9.  Turn to Acts 26:26.  Paul is testifying before Agrippa and before Festus.  “For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also (how is he speaking, how is he sharing the gospel?) with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice…King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets?  I know that you do.”

10.  And I want you to notice, last of all, the final verse of Acts.  What is Paul doing in prison?  “Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness (it may say openness in your translation), unhindered.”

Just reading an English translation, it’s lost on you.  But I tell you, it is the Acts of the Apostles where the Word is preached boldly.  Matthew doesn’t use the word at all. Paul uses the word sparingly in his epistles.  It is here, when Luke writes concerning the history and the preaching of the early apostles, that he says to those readers, “I want you to know they preached boldly the gospel of Jesus.”

Back to Acts 4.  After they had noticed that the apostles had preached with so much boldness and the man was healed, they didn’t know what to do.  Look at 4:16.  “What are we going to do with these guys.  The miracle took place.  We can’t deny it.  We don’t want anything like this to get spread among the people.  Let’s warn them not to tell anyone else, not to speak in Jesus’ name anymore.”

But notice what Peter says in verse 19.  “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and what we have heard.’”

Despite the threat of the powers that be, Peter and John – once men who had denied any relationship with Christ, once men who had fled at the arrest of their Rabbi – were now men of confidence.  And now they said, “We can’t obey you.  We cannot stop telling what Christ has done for us.  We have seen Him crucified.  We have seen Him resurrected.  We’re going to tell the story.”

Despite the threats, Peter and John cry out to God (verse 24), cry out to the God who made the heavens and the earth , “God, let us speak your word with all boldness” (verse 29).

Look at verse 31.  They prayed.  The building was shaking.  The presence of the Holy Spirit is upon them.  They speak the word of God with – there’s our word – boldness.

In chapter 5 they are placed in jail.  Yet they escape by the power of God and stand in the temple (verse 25), teaching the people.  “We gave you strict orders not to teach in His name.”  But Peter and the apostles answered and said (5:29), “We must obey God rather than men.  You put Him to death, but God raised Him up.  He is exalted.  He is on the right hand.  He is a Prince and a Savior.  He brings forgiveness of sins.  We have witnessed it all.  And we must obey the Holy Spirit” (verse 29).

Congregation, we live in a world that tells us that we must be silent.  That we must not try to influence others.  That we must live and let live.  That we shall not be so arrogant as to try to influence someone’s religious beliefs, their core values.  That we must be open and accepting, tolerant and quiet in regard to our own beliefs.

Steve Brown observed, “Church becomes the place where a nice, pleasant, bland person stands in front of other nice, pleasant, bland people urging them to be nicer, more pleasant and more bland.  Jesus didn’t die to create nice, pleasant, bland people.  He died so that sinners would find grace and forgiveness, and, in the joy and exuberance of their discovery, would find it impossible to keep quiet about it.

“It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t condemn bad people.  He condemned stiff people.  We condemn the bad ones and affirm the stiff ones.  Whether it was a prostitute or a tax collector on an outcast, Jesus reached out to them.  It was a motley crew of riffraff that followed Him around, and it never embarrassed Him or made Him feel uncomfortable.  It still doesn’t.  But He’s still angry at the stiff ones.

“One of the most radical statements Jesus ever made is found in Matthew 9.  We’ve sanitized it and made it fit our institutional molds, and thus allowed it to lose its power.  I’m referring to these words of His:  ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means:  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Matthew 9:12-13).

“The difference between Jesus and us is that He didn’t condemn the bad people – He loved them and understood them even though He would have been perfectly justified in condemning them.  We, on the other hand, can’t condemn the bad people because we are they.  Therefore, our only alternative is to tell them, as fellow beggars, where we found bread.” (www.crossswalk.com/faith/510220.html)

I’ll be the first one to say that the people of God should always be humble.  They should never be obnoxious or overbearing.  With all of this I agree.  But I cannot agree that we must be silent, that we must be timid, that we must be bashful about the gospel of Christ Jesus. 

We are not arrogant in the gospel.  We are humble in the gospel.  Proclaiming the gospel is to say to the very ones to whom you proclaim it, “I am a sinner, too.  I am in your shoes.  He died for me, and He died for you.  I’m not ahead of you,  I’m beside you.  And I want to lead you to the crucified and resurrected Christ.”

Like Peter and John said, we’ve experienced these things.  And it is our proclamation, our witness that Christ has really changed our lives.

They preached with boldness.  Apollos preached with boldness.  Peter preached with boldness.  John preached with boldness.  Paul preached with boldness.  Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles that they all preached with boldness.  It was their very prayer, “Lord, give us the boldness – despite the atmosphere in which we find ourselves, despite our culture which is trying to shut our mouths – give us boldness to speak Thy word.”

Yes, even in the threat of bodily harm, imprisonment, and a beating they receive, they preach with boldness.

Like Peter, we must tell the story with all that we have – all openness, honesty, and courage.  We must say, as he said, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  He is:

• The One who fulfilled the word of the prophet. 

• The Holy One of Israel. 

• The One about whom all the prophets have spoken, from Samuel and his successors and onward. 

• The One who fulfilled the prophet Isaiah, the One who fulfills the words of the psalmist. 

• The One who was crucified, yes, died on the cross, but was resurrected. 

• The One in whose name we have the power as the people of God. 

• The One in whose name men are called to come in repentance, to turn from their wicked and evil ways.

It is the same story that Peter preached some 2,000 years ago with boldness that we must today, in our world and in our climate, preach without a hint of timidity.

In Soulguide, Bruce Demarest tells of Dateline NBC’s report on Boston oncologist Dr. Jerome Groopman.  Dateline followed the doctor for two years as he attempted to save the lives of Gene, who suffered from AIDS, and Elizabeth, who suffered from breast cancer.  As the patients were treated, Dr. Groopman grew in intimacy with them.  After watching them eventually lose their lives to their diseases, he concluded:  “If you care for someone without addressing his or her soul, you’re not really caring for them.”

Is the same not true for the Christian who walks among the spiritually dead of this world?  If we meet material and emotional needs, but never address the spiritual need, then we’re not really caring for them. (Michael Shannon, Preaching, Sept/Oct 2002)

I want to pray for you as we close this sermon that this week you’ll have that opportunity.  Maybe it’s somebody you’re going to run in to ­– you don’t even know them yet.  Somebody who is going to be at that moment in life when they have an open door and an open window.  The Spirit is going to tell you this is the time and this is the place and this is the person.  You are not responsible how they respond – no more than Peter and John were responsible for how the high priest received their message.  But you are responsible for whether or not you share the message with boldness.  I’m going to pray for you right now that God gives you the courage to be the proclaimer of the gospel He intended you to be, that your walk with the Holy Spirit will be such that you’ll recognize the open door and the opportunity, and that you’ll be a maker of disciples for Christ.

Let us pray.

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