Boldness in the Spirit

In response to threats from the high priests, the young church was filled with great boldness of speech by the Spirit – Acts 4:5-31. 

After healing a lame man, Peter and John were confronted by the priestly authorities. They were disturbed because the apostles were “proclaiming the resurrection,” and the Sadducees rejected belief in the resurrection of the dead. But the church claimed that the resurrection takes place “in Jesus,” and that made its resurrection doctrine especially distinct.

The next day, the high priest and his entourage interrogated Peter and John after they had spent the night in custody. “They inquired, by what power or in what name have you done this?” - (Acts 4:5-7).

At that moment, Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and responded with a statement that recalled the words of Jesus – “When they bring you before the synagogues, and the rulers and the authorities be not anxious how or what you will answer, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” – (Luke 11:10-12).


According to the passage, the lame man was “saved” (sozôAND “made whole” (hugies) in the name of Jesus, and the Greek term rendered “made whole” in English is significant. Peter and John were testifying before the priestly representatives of the Temple, and under the Levitical code, a “lame” person was prohibited from full participation in the Temple rituals - (Leviticus 21:17-21).

The “lame man” was not just healed but made “whole” in the “name of Jesus,” making him acceptable before God for participation in the worship rituals of the nation. But he was “made whole” without any of the required Temple rituals that would have “cleansed” the man of ritual defilement and restored him to a “clean” state.

And the (formerly) lame man was made whole “in the name of Jesus of Nazareth,” the very man crucified by the “rulers of the people.” Moreover, the new church was proclaiming that God “raised him from the dead,” vindicating him and his words. Although he had been rejected by the priestly leaders of Israel:
  • The stone set aside by the builders has been made the head of the corner. And in no other is there salvation, for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, by which we must be saved.”

The high priest and his associates took notice of the “boldness of Peter and John.” Unable to deny that a genuine miracle had occurred, they had no alternative but to release them, although not without making threats - (Acts 4:18-21).


In the passage, the term rendered “boldness” anticipates the prayer of the church in reaction to these events, and the response of the Holy Spirit (“Grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness”). It translates the Greek noun parrésia, which had an original sense of “freedom of speech; boldness in speech” – (Strong’s - #G3954).

Peter and John related these events to the assembly, then the members of the young church prayed in unison for divine assistance:
  • (Acts 4:23-31) – “And being let go, they came to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said unto them. And when they heard it, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, O Lord, You that made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant, didst say, Why did the GENTILES rage, And the peoples imagine vain things? The KINGS OF THE EARTH set themselves in array, And THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER, against the Lord, and against his anointed one. For of a truth in this city against your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were gathered together to do whatsoever your hand and your council foreordained to come to pass. And now, Lord, look upon their threatenings, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant Jesus.”
  • (Psalm 2:2) - “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh and against his anointed.”

The prayer before the church is the climax of the story, and it ties together the several terms that have figured in the passage – “rulers,” “gathered together,” “threatening,” and “boldness” - and links them to the second Psalm.

The “rulers” and “kings of the earth” that opposed the messianic son in the Psalm are identified with the priestly leaders in Jerusalem who conspired to put Jesus to death, along with Herod, Pontius Pilate, the “Gentiles and the people of Israel.” And the Holy Spirit responded immediately to the congregation:

  • (Acts 4:30-31) – “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

This was not another baptism in the Spirit – they had received the gift of the Spirit already when it was poured on the Day of Pentecost. Instead, the Spirit was energizing the young church to speak the gospel “boldly” regardless of any threats or hostile acts by the priestly rulers of the Temple in Jerusalem.

And it is noteworthy how the book of Acts applies the messianic prophecy from the second Psalm to the death of Jesus and the opposition to the church by the leaders of Israel. And that means its fulfillment began with the life, death, and resurrection of the man from the insignificant village of Nazareth.



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The Spirit of Antichrist