Speaking Jehovah’s Word with Boldness
“And now, Jehovah, . . . grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.”—Acts 4:29.
1, 2. (a) After being resurrected, what interest did Christ have in his disciples, and so what instructions were given them? (b) How extensive was the witnessing to be?
ALTHOUGH death had separated Jesus from his disciples, they did not forget his invitation to become “fishers of men.” They knew this meant speaking God’s word among the people. But how would they proceed? They needed guidance and direction.
2 To the disciples’ great joy, the resurrected Jesus appeared to them on a number of occasions before he ascended to his Father. (1 Cor. 15:3-8; John 20:20) Thus he was able to give them further instructions concerning their future work. In Galilee, he said:
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
The Christian work of making disciples, baptizing and teaching them, must reach out to the people of all the nations. How encouraging it was to know that this resurrected Son of God would be with Christians in their Kingdom work daily until the conclusion of the system of things!
3. What part does holy spirit have in it, starting at Pentecost?
3 Jesus had promised his disciples that a helper, the holy spirit, would come. (John 14:16, 26) What would this be, and how would it operate? Just before ascending to his Father, Jesus told those disciples:
“You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
What a grand prospect for an extended witness! The disciples returned to Jerusalem, and there they were persisting in prayer. The 50th day from Jesus’ resurrection was Pentecost, and the disciples were all gathered in one place. Suddenly there was a noise “like that of a rushing stiff breeze,” with other miraculous manifestations. Jehovah was pouring out on them the promised holy spirit, his active force. And what did that spirit move them to do? It caused them “to speak . . . to make utterance.”—Acts 2:1-4.
4. How was the “good news” received on that occasion?
4 The time had come to do a lot of ‘fishing for men.’ With the help of holy spirit, those disciples could speak God’s word in a multitude of languages. Thus, in their native tongue, people attending the festival of Pentecost from many parts of the world were enabled to hear about “the magnificent things of God.” Onlookers were astonished. Then Peter stood up and spoke out boldly in explanation. He bore thorough witness concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, calling upon those present to repent, be baptized and get saved from that crooked generation. What was the result? About 3,000 accepted the word! These were baptized and added to the Christian congregation. There was great rejoicing, as “Jehovah continued to join to them daily those being saved.”—Acts 2:5-47.
5. (a) For what purpose do Christians come before rulers in times of opposition? (b) What encouragement is there for us in this?
5 This witnessing by power of holy spirit had produced many new praisers of Jehovah. These, in turn, rejoiced to go forth daily, and their public witnessing filled Jerusalem with the “good news.” Peter and John took the lead in this work, calling on the people to turn around and get their sins blotted out, in order to receive spiritual refreshment from Jehovah. Many of these listened gladly to the “good news”—but not so the chief priest, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees. They arrested Peter and John, and placed them in custody. Thus the disciples began to feel the hatred of which Jesus had forewarned them, when he said:
“Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves; therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations. However, when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour; for the ones speaking are not just you, but it is the spirit of your Father that speaks by you.” (Matt. 10:16-20)
However, by now those “fishers of men” could rejoice in a large catch of about 5,000 new believers. How they must have thanked Jehovah for that increase! We, too, are encouraged by their service report.—Acts 4:1-4.
SPEAKING BEFORE RULERS
6. (a) What did Peter and John do when brought before the rulers? (b) Why were they well fitted to do that?
6 The next day there was a gathering of the rulers, and these questioned Peter and John about their activity, including their healing of a crippled man. Here was a fine opportunity for a further public witness. As Jesus had indicated would happen, holy spirit now empowered Peter to say:
“Rulers of the people and older men, if we are this day being examined, on the basis of a good deed to an ailing man, as to by whom this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you impaled but whom God raised up from the dead, by this one does this man stand here sound in front of you. This is ‘the stone that was treated by you builders as of no account that has become the head of the corner.’ Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)
These vital truths had to be proclaimed! So the apostles were outspoken. They did not hold back. Peter and John were plain fishermen, but they had been trained by Jesus to speak in a dynamic way, with confidence and conviction. As witnesses of Jehovah, they spoke because they wanted to be declaring God’s word.—Compare John 7:15-18, 45, 46.
7. What do we learn from the account at Acts 4 concerning the thinking and objectives of the opposers?
7 How grateful we should be to Jehovah for the record in Acts chapter 4! For not only does this show clearly how genuine Christians must speak with boldness, but also it reveals the twisted thinking of worldly rulers who oppose God’s work. After the apostles had given that bold witness, the rulers sent them outside the Sanhedrin hall while they consulted together. What was their objective? They could not deny that a noteworthy sign had occurred in the name of Jesus Christ. But their thinking was to stop the spread of true worship. They reasoned that by threats they could frighten the apostles and so bring a halt to their speaking in Jesus’ name.—Acts 4:16, 17.
8. What shows that the disciples were not afraid?
8 However, would mere threats stop those Christian witnesses of Jehovah? Let true Christians today take note of their fearless example:
“With that [the rulers] called them and charged them, nowhere to make any utterance or to teach upon the basis of the name of Jesus. But in reply Peter and John said to them: ‘Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.’” (Acts 4:18-20)
Fearful of public opinion, the rulers released the apostles, after threatening them. By help of God’s spirit, those Christians had defeated the persecution.
CONTINUING HELP FROM JEHOVAH
9, 10. (a) What procedure did Jehovah’s servants follow, and what desire was in their hearts? (b) For what did they make request, and how were they answered?
9 After their release, the apostles went back to the congregation. They reported to the brothers what had occurred, and then the congregation did what Christians should always do under such circumstances. They spoke to Jehovah in prayer. Theirs was a prayer of faith, expressing their keen desire to keep serving God. They said:
“Sovereign Lord, you are the One who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all the things in them, and who through holy spirit said by the mouth of our forefather David, your servant, ‘Why did nations become tumultuous and peoples meditate upon empty things? The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one.’ Even so, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with men of nations and with peoples of Israel were in actuality gathered together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, in order to do what things your hand and counsel had foreordained to occur. And now, Jehovah, give attention to their threats, and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing and while signs and portents occur through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”—Acts 4:24-30.
10 The disciples did not ask to be taken out of the work or away from the threats of the enemies of truth. They knew their commission from Jehovah—to be his witnesses. Their heart’s desire was to keep speaking God’s word with all boldness, and they requested his help in this. They would never succumb to fear. Was Jehovah pleased with this attitude? The record tells us:
“When they had made supplication, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were one and all filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.”—Acts 4:31.
11. (a) What resulted from their speaking boldly? (b) Why did not imprisonment make them stop the work?
11 Those witnesses of the Kingdom continued their work with renewed vigor, and Jehovah was with them. “Believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.” (Acts 5:14) As a result, the religious leaders became angry again and put the apostles in prison. However, it was Jehovah’s will for their witnessing to continue in Jerusalem. So he sent his angel to release the apostles, and to tell them:
“Be on your way, and, having taken a stand in the temple, keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.” (Acts 5:20)
Being put in prison did not frighten the apostles into silence any more than did the threats of the priests and rulers.
12. How did the apostles next come to give a testimony before the court, and were they intimidated?
12 However, the apostles were again arrested by the officers and brought to the Sanhedrin hall to face an angry high priest, who said:
“We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” (Acts 5:28)
In that unfriendly court, with officers guarding them and the high priest speaking so strongly against them, would the apostles cave in? Not so.
“In answer Peter and the other apostles said: ‘We must obey God as ruler rather than men. The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew, hanging him upon a stake. God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.’”—Acts 5:29-32.
13. What was the counsel of Gamaliel, and how did the court view it?
13 Here, again, we are indebted to the Scripture record that shows the warped thinking of those who oppose God’s work. Although the apostles were good men, the court had in mind doing away with them. However, the esteemed law teacher Gamaliel rose and spoke timely words of counsel to the religious rulers. He said:
“Men of Israel, pay attention to yourselves as to what you intend to do respecting these men. For instance, before these days Theudas rose, saying he himself was somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined his party. But he was done away with, and all those who were obeying him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose in the days of the registration, and he drew off people after him. And yet that man perished, and all those who were obeying him were scattered abroad. And so, under the present circumstances, I say to you, Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.” (Acts 5:34-39)
This wise counsel of Gamaliel was accepted in part. Although the religious leaders did not stop their fighting against God, at least they did not do away with the apostles. Instead, they gave them a severe beating, ordered them to stop speaking about Jesus, and let them go.—Acts 5:40.
COURAGE UNDER TEST
14. How did the Christians then act courageously and with what results?
14 Did all of this discourage the apostles from speaking God’s word with boldness? The account answers:
“These, therefore, went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:41, 42)
Courageously the apostles and other Christians continued to busy themselves with the word of God and to speak with boldness, and Jehovah blessed their work.
“The word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.”—Acts 6:7.
15. What were some of the things Stephen spoke boldly, and in what way did the religionists react?
15 Now that priests, too, were turning around and becoming Christians, there was no letup in the opposition of the hard-line religious leaders. Very soon, the zealous witness Stephen found himself before the Sanhedrin. He gave a powerful testimony, in which he reviewed the outworking of Jehovah’s purposes. But the opposers angrily rushed upon him and stoned him to death. It turned out for Stephen just as Jesus had foretold: “The hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.”—John 16:2; Acts 6:8–7:60.
16. (a) Then what happened to the rest of the Christian congregation? (b) What viewpoint did they have toward their material things?
16 Stephen’s martyrdom was the signal for a wave of bitter persecution.
“On that day great persecution arose against the congregation that was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1)
But would this silence Jehovah’s witnesses of that time? Here, indeed, was another Satanic attempt to break up the activities of God’s servants. They had to leave behind houses and possessions. However, they had the right viewpoint on material things. In this, they were like those Christians to whom the apostle Paul later wrote: “For you both expressed sympathy for those in prison and joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession.”—Heb. 10:34.
17, 18. (a) How does the action of Phillip and other scattered Christians show us the way to defeat Satan’s methods? (b) What blessings came from Jehovah?
17 The disciples fully appreciated that they must continue to be faithful witnesses of God and of Christ. Hence, “those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” (Acts 8:4) Philip went to the city of Samaria, where he kept speaking the word with boldness, bringing much joy to the people. Soon, he had other believers associated with him, and a message was sent to Jerusalem informing the apostles that Samaria had accepted the word of God. Peter and John went there, holy spirit fell on the Samaritans, and the Christian congregation became established there.—Acts 8:5-8, 14-17, 25; 9:31.
18 Those Christians of the first century had the right point of view. They prayed that Jehovah would keep them speaking the word of God with boldness. That is what they did, with the help of his spirit, and he blessed them. As the record says, “the hand of Jehovah was with them”!—Acts 11:19-21.
SPEAKING WITH BOLDNESS NOW
19. What evidence do we have that Jehovah God and Christ have been with the Christian witnesses in modern times?
19 Down through the centuries, Jesus has been true to his promise: “I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:20) Now that we have arrived at that time, how thankful we are that more than 2,000,000 witnesses are ‘speaking Jehovah’s word with boldness’! And our God has so blessed the work of these “fishers of men,” that “this good news of the kingdom” has become known in all continents on the face of the earth, even as far as Antarctica. It has penetrated into remote mountain areas and to small islands scattered about in the seven seas. (Matt. 24:14) Yes, the witness work has reached into every nation “to the most distant part of the earth,” and all this has been accomplished by Jehovah’s spirit.—Acts 1:8; Zech. 4:6.
20. How has the Devil shown his opposition to the bearers of God’s Word, and can his representatives stop the work?
20 As God’s Word foretold, the Devil is angry, for he knows his time is short. He continues to oppose the work of witnessing. (Rev. 12:12, 17) The Devil and his dupes hate Jehovah’s Witnesses because these Christians are “no part of the world.” Many of them have been scattered from their homes by persecution. Hundreds have met a violent death, as did Stephen in the first century of our era. (Rev. 17:6; 20:4) But the work has proved to be of God. Men have not been able to overthrow it, as true slaves of God keep speaking his word with boldness. In this way they have overcome, yes, defeated the Devil’s schemes.—Compare Ephesians 6:11, 12; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8, 9.
21. (a) What is the work Jehovah wishes to have done now? (b) Why do we want to finish the work given to us, and how can we keep speaking the word with boldness?
21 Today, the Kingdom ‘fishing’ work continues to move forward, in spite of mounting opposition. And Jehovah’s blessing keeps being manifested upon it. In the last service year alone, Jehovah’s Witnesses have rejoiced to see 113,672 new persons baptized. How happy these are to share in speaking Jehovah’s word! This is God’s work for us today, and it should be in the hearts of all those dedicated to Jehovah to keep busy in it, for it is their assignment. (1 Cor. 9:16) Does your heart move you to speak Jehovah’s word with boldness? As world conditions keep on worsening, our determination should be to continue telling out the good news of the Kingdom until the work is finished. When opposition arises, we are not dismayed. We remember that Jesus not only started but also finished the work Jehovah gave him to do. (John 17:4) He prepared us to face the world’s hatred. May we ever be like him, and like the apostles and other Christians of the first century, as, in full faith, we seek Jehovah’s help in accomplishing his will concerning us. May our united prayer be always: “And now, Jehovah, . . . grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.”—Acts 4:29.
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Jehovah God blesses the work of modern-day “fishers of men”