Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In the Old Testament the word “boldness” is found but a few times. The root meaning is a place of refuge; then to take refuge; then to be confident, sure, without care. In the New Testament the word comes from two smaller words having the meaning of “all” and “to flow, to run like water.” Together this compound word has the meaning to be outspoken, frank, even blunt; to be confident in utterance, and bold in spirit and demeanor. Sometimes the King James translates this word as confident.
The Lord Jesus was always bold in His preaching and teaching. “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29). Jesus even said, “I spake openly (boldly) to the world: I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing” (John 18:20). There were times when Jesus spoke in parables (John 16:25) and did not walk openly or boldly among the Jews (John 11:54) because His hour was not yet come. But Jesus always insisted that He told them openly that He was the Christ, and that the works which He did bore witness of Him, even though the Jews complained that He made them doubt because he did not teach plainly, boldly, without ambiguity (John 10:24, 25). When Jesus died on the cross, taking our sins out of the way, and spoiling principalities and powers, “He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them personally” (Col. 2:15). The work of Jesus was not performed in a corner, but openly, publicly, boldly, without any concealment, hesitancy, or ambiguity.
The child of God is called to reveal the same boldness that Jesus always demonstrated. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth” because they are plagued with a guilty conscience and have no peace, “but the righteous are bold as a lion” because they know all things are right before their God and them (Prov. 28:1). Thus, Joseph of Arimathaea “went in boldly unto Pilate” because he would bury the body of Jesus in his tomb (Mark 15:43). Because we have an High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities and is sinless, “we may come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Because of the blood of Jesus, the new and living way, we may have boldness to enter into the Holiest, which is the presence of God (Heb. 10:19). Because Jesus promised never to leave us nor forsake us, we may boldly say that He is our helper, and we need not fear what man shall do unto us (Heb. 13:6). This bold access with confidence is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:12). And this faith will see the child of God to the very end, so that we have boldness in the day of judgment (I John 4:17).
The question arises, of course, what is the relationship between boldness and humility, and how does this boldness differ from pride? Pride is self-confidence; boldness is confidence in Christ. A proud man looks to all that he has done; a bold man openly rejoices in the perfect work of Christ in gaining his righteousness, and imputing that righteousness to him freely. Thus this boldness is essentially humility. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Tit. 3:5). Boldness in God! The boldness of faith that unites us to Christ and makes us partakers of all His benefits!
Most often, the word boldness occurs in connection with the preaching of the gospel. Peter and John, though ignorant and unlearned men, preached with boldness the name of Jesus, so that the Sanhedrin took note of them that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). When they had been released from prison, they met with the church, praying that they might with all boldness speak God’s word; their prayer was heard, for God shook the house with an earthquake; and they continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:29-31). Paul spoke with great boldness to the Corinthians (II Cor. 7:4). He was unwavering in his boldness, for he spoke boldly as always (Phil. 1:20); and once even for the space of three months in one place (Acts 19:8). Paul did not have a natural boldness of character that fitted him for preaching, but this was given him by God as an apostle. Hence he solicited the prayers of the church at Ephesus “that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). Even though he is in bonds he wants to continue to speak boldly, as he ought to speak (Eph. 6:20).
Why ought the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed with boldness? First, because it is true! No one can ever gainsay the preacher who preaches the Word of God. Secondly, because it is important! “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Faith is worked by the Spirit in connection with the true preaching of Christ. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). And thirdly, preaching must be with boldness because of the authority of the one who preaches! Prophets, apostles, pastors are ambassadors for Christ. God speaks through them. They speak in Christ’s stead (II Cor. 5:20). With the authority of their office, they boldly command repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ. The only possibility for lively preaching and true eloquence is boldness based on these points.