It is not easy to stand for right in the face of potential persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). It is a challenge to speak when one suspects an audience to be unreceptive (James 4:17). It is doubly difficult when, as Christians attempt to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), they stumble and fumble for just exactly what to say or do (1 Peter 3:15). These relevant issues do not, however, mitigate a timid silence or cowardly retreat (Romans 1:16) for what we say and do define our loyalty to God.
It can be argued, from a study of the lives of New Testament Christians as recorded in Acts, that the very tribulations Christians endure may generate that boldness so essential to faithfulness. Note the Apostles’ setting: in Acts 4, the “favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47) had already begun to give way to animosity and resistance from those very people who should have been the most receptive: the Jews. “Being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (4:2), the Sadducees hauled Peter and John before their “rulers, elders, and scribes” and some notable names amongst the High priest’s family (vs. 5-6). After threatening them (v. 21), they released them. What was Peter and John’s response?
They prayed, “Now Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word” and “they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29, 31). Under danger to life and limb, the church grew by the thousands (4:4), “and believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (5:14) for “in those days… the number of the disciples was multiplying” (6:1) and “the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great number of the priests were obedient to the faith” (6:7).
The persecutions reached such a crescendo that angry, rebellious Jews “stoned Stephen as he was calling on God” (Acts 7:59) and fanned an already fevered flame into a conflagration of persecution. “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (8:4) and Luke lays out the history of the New Testament church of Christ serving with boldness.
Paul warned Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). One might correctly draw the conclusion that the religious tranquility so longed for by those ready for peace at any price was never in the mind of Christ (Matthew 10:34ff) and, further, is not conducive to growth in the Kingdom. Our lot is battle, and churches of Christ will grow today when each individual Christian willingly dons the armor of God being “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Answer boldly, children of God!