by Ken Gardner

Of course Christians must be bold--we all understand that. "The righteous are as bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1). Even though unbelieving Jewish leaders "marvelled" at the boldness of Peter and John (Acts 4:13), the apostles prayed for and were given more boldness to speak God's word (vv. 29, 31). Immediately after he was converted Paul "preached boldly in the name of Jesus" at Damascus and Jerusalem (Acts 9:27, 29). On the first missionary journey "Paul and Barnabas waxed bold" in Antioch, rebuking stubborn and rebellious Jews (Acts 13:46), and in the face of persecution in Iconium they spoke "boldly in the Lord" (Acts 14:3). Many other passages could be cited showing that children of God must be bold (Acts 18:26; 19:8; Ephesians 3:12; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:20; I Thessalonians 2:2, I Timothy 3:13; Hebrews 4:16; 13:6). Again, we all understand that Christians must be bold.

BOLDNESS IS NOT A VIRTUE! But some people seem to think that boldness is a virtue. To them boldness is a beatitude, if not the supreme beatitude. But Jesus never said, "Blessed are the bold, for they shall have their way" or "Blessed are the bold, for they are always right." The people Jesus blesses really don't sound all that bold: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted (Matthew 5:3-12; Of course these individuals are bold, they have true boldness, and are not interested in putting on a show). Our Lord never said, "I desire boldness and not sacrifice," but he did say, often, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" (Matthew 12:7; 9:13). There's quite a bit of difference between boldness and mercy. Paul never said, "Now abideth faith, hope, boldness, these three; and the greatest of these is boldness." You know what he said in I Corinthians 13:13. Peter never said, "Add to your faith boldness. . ." (II Peter 1:5-7). He said say to add virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, love--did he make a mistake and leave out boldness? When Paul spoke of the fruit of the Spirit, did he forget to include boldness? "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness [kindness], goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23). Where do you see boldness in that list?

Boldness is not a virtue in and of itself. Boldness and goodness are like speed and direction. It doesn't matter how fast you are going if you are going in the wrong direction. First make sure you're going in the right direction, then work on speed. Likewise, it doesn't matter how bold you are if you're not doing the right thing. The boldness that Jesus, Paul, Peter and first-century Christians had was more of a determination to do what's right, regardless of the circumstances or consequences. It was not a desire to be bold simply for the sake of being bold.

Boldness is really not something to be proud of. Anyone can be bold, even the foolish, the childish, the wicked. In fact, ungodly people are probably more inclined to be bold than humble servants of God. It's not surprising that arrogant people are bold, is it? It's the haughty, not the humble, who "speak hard things" (Psalm 94:4). "They speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth" (Psalm 73:8-9). They "puff" at their enemies (Psalm 10:5). They say, "With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" (Psalm 12:4). They "speak with a stiff neck" (Psalm 75:5). They are bold enough to "strive with their Maker" (Isaiah 45:9), and to say, "I am a God" (Ezekiel 28:2). They feel they are "wiser than Daniel," that there is "no secret" they don't know (Ezekiel 28:3). Some are so bold they "stretch out their hand against God, and strengthen themselves against the Almighty" (Job 15:25). They speak "stout words" (Malachi 3:13-14). They "clap their hands among us, and multiply their words against God" (Job 34:37). Insolent Cain, who smarted off, "Am I my brother's keeper," wasn't shamed by his wicked deed nor humbled by the very presence of God. Insurrectionists Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Number 16) were pretty bold, challenging Moses, the man who had (as God's instrument) defeated Pharaoh, leader of the most powerful nation on earth. Similarly Jeroboam was no coward--he "lifted up his hand against" Solomon, of all people, led a successful rebellion against Solomon's son, became a powerful king himself, even instituted a new religion (I Kings 11-14). He was bold, but he was forever known as the man who "made Israel to sin." Job's friends were not too timid to accuse him of great wickedness.

Other examples could be given. The rebellious people of Jeremiah's day boldly declared, "We will not walk in the old paths and the good way" (Jeremiah 6:16). Goliath was bold (I Samuel 17), and so was Benhadad (I Kings 20:10), Sennacherib (II Kings 18:19; Isaiah 10:8-15), the Philistines (I Samuel 4:9), and Diotrephes (III John 9-10). All were bold, and all were bad. I doubt James and John, in their later years, were proud of their nickname "Sons of Thunder," but some in the church today seem determined to assume that title for themselves. The bold Pharisees "loved the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues" (Matthew 23:6). They were bold enough to demand and take responsibility for the death of an innocent man: "His blood be upon us, and on our children" (Matthew 27:25). Now that's mighty bold.

By the way, the protesters disrupting the DISD board meetings--they're pretty bold, aren't they? They're certainly taking a stand, aren't they? No one's going to ignore them, no one's going to push them around! But do you appreciate their boldness? Regardless of the merits of their case, do any of us condone their means?

BOLDNESS IS NOT VOLUME! Mark Twain said, "Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid." True boldness is not being loud . . . but loyal. It's not drawing the attention of others to you but focusing your attention on God. Would any criticize Moses for not being bold? Yet he was remembered for his meekness (Numbers 12:3). Does Michael the archangel deserved to be condemned for not being bold? I don't think so, even though he "durst not bring against the devil a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 8-9). Should David have taken a bolder stand with Saul? Or is he to be commended for his reticence? Should Esther have marched in to King Ahasuerus and boldly declared, "Now look here, King, that Haman is a scoundrel who doesn't deserve to live. You need to take care of him"? Jesus was bold--he denounced the Pharisees to their face (Matthew 23)--but he also wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37), he wept at Lazarus tomb, and it was prophesied of him, "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench (Matthew 12:17-21; Isaiah 42:1). Just how bold was Jesus when he spoke with the Samaritan woman, and the woman taken in adultery? How bold should we be when restoring the lost? Shouldn't we restore the lost in a spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1)? Yes, we should be bold, but not in the way many people think.

BOLDNESS IS NOT VALUABLE! Boldness is not valuable, not without righteousness. Anyone can be bold, even the foolish, the childish, the wicked. Boldness may even be a problem. It may be a problem in our relationship with others. "He that blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him" (Proverbs 27:14). Being proud of our boldness can cause us to be blind to our shortcomings. Nabal was about as bold as they come. He certainly spoke his mind. He wasn't intimidated by David, no, not at all. But it was his boldness that was his problem. He was "such a son of Belial [scoundrel, NKJ, worthless fellow, ASV, ill-natured, RSV], that a man cannot speak to him" (I Samuel 25:17). One translations says, "He's a bully who don't listen to anyone" (CEV).

No doubt the Pharisees considered themselves bold, bravely upholding the law of God, but they couldn't see that they were simply jealous of Jesus. The apostles obviously thought they were bold--they all said to Jesus, "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. . . . Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee" (Matthew 26:31-35). Their boldness contributed to their failure to see their own weakness, and they fled when soldiers arrested Jesus.

Sometimes our boldness can make it hard for us to accept criticism, even kind, constructive criticism. In stead of examining the criticism--and ourselves--it's easy to say, "I'm just being criticized because I'm bold." Faithful Christians do not condemn boldness, not boldness coupled with goodness.

Boldness has its place, of course, but our first concern should be on being right--in conduct, in speech, in doctrine. Then, and only then, can we concern ourselves with being bold. Christians must be bold, but being bold doesn't give us the right to run roughshod over the feelings and opinions of others, or to think that we have all the answers in every matter, both opinion and doctrine. Someone has said, "The man who is brutally honest enjoys the brutality quite as much as the honesty. Possibly more." We need to be careful if we enjoy our boldness.

The Bible doesn't say, "Happy is the man who is always bold." It says, "Happy is the man that feareth always" (Proverbs 28:14). God said,

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Let us not glory in boldness, but in righteousness.