How to Witness-bold or gentle

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Question

People tell me I should be bold, but I’m not a very bold person.  Aren’t we supposed to be gentle like doves when we talk to lost people?

Answer

How we witness to others is of great importance so this question deserves careful consideration.  So let’s first consider what it means to “be bold.”

Be Bold

Last Christmas, a dear friend gave me a coffee mug that proclaims “Be Bold.”  Now, those words on a coffee mug might be intended to express a preference for bold-roast coffee, but to me, the words have a much different meaning. 

In my mind, the proclamation is of biblical significance.  It reminds me of the importance of being bold in my testimony of who Jesus is and what He has done for me and also being bold in my witness to others about how Jesus loves them and desires that they come to Him in faith.  

Evangelism is a gift that is given to all Christians.  We are all called to testify of Jesus and witness to those who do not know Him (Mat 28:19).  While not all Christians are evangelists by profession (their daily jobs), we are all evangelists by possession (we belong to Jesus and He is ours).  How we evangelize is a variable, and yet being bold is expected.  “I’m not a bold person. I’m not capable of boldly proclaiming the gospel,” might be the objection of some Christians. However, we all have the capability of speaking boldly.  It’s only because boldness is underemphasized, misunderstood, and even underestimated that many fear they cannot boldly speak. With the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we can be bold.

Boldness of the Apostles

Peter and John were bold (Acts 4:13, 4:31). 

Paul (Acts 9:29, Acts 19:8, Ro 15:15) and Barnabas (Acts 9:27, 29) were bold (Acts 14:3).

The same power that emboldened Peter, John, Paul and Barnabas (Acts 4:29) dwells within every person who belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Holy Spirit who testifies to us about Jesus, and He is the one who instructs us in the Word of God and encourages and empowers us to boldly share the gospel of saving grace.

So why is there an ever-growing trend away from boldness and toward meekness alone in our witness for Christ?

I would suggest that it is because we have misunderstood, and even redefined, both of these words.  What we really need to do, is embrace that both boldness and meekness are necessary.  Let’s look at each of these words and understand how boldness and meekness combined will generate a more persuasive testimony and more effective witness.

Meekness

When we think of “meek,” what often comes to mind is Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”  The meaning of the word “meek,” as used here and in other verses, does not mean timid or weak.  It means, quiet or gentle.  As in 1 Peter 3:15, 1 Pet 3:15  Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.  The word meekness, as it applies to our testimony, means a kind and humble spirit, a loving attitude toward others, and words that are gently spoken.

Boldness

Most Christians will have no problem with the idea of meekness as the way to speak in witnessing.  Everyone wants to be liked and to have their words accepted, and being meek (kind, gentle, humble, etc) is always a way to gain friends and influence people.  It’s the old saying “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  And, we are told that the Lord’s words are “sweeter than honey” (Psa 119:103),  so the words of our testimony must definitely be spoken with meekness.  But this does not negate the necessity of boldness.  

When Christians are called to “be bold,” it often creates a sense of angst and a reasoning that boldness is almost rude or manifests intolerance.  However, understanding what the word really means reveals the necessity of boldness in our witness.

Understanding Biblical Boldness

There are two distinct and opposite meanings to the word “bold.”  Sadly, for many people, the word has come to only imply an “in your face” kind of obnoxious forcing of oneself or one’s ideas upon another.  That fails to acknowledge the first and foremost definition of the word, which is not a negative trait.  To “be bold” and to exhibit boldness means to be a person who takes action, or assertively puts forth his ideas.  To be bold is to exhibit confidence and courage in what is said and done. Synonyms for the word “bold” include, “daring, brave, courageous, valiant, adventurous, fearless, dauntless, audacious, daredevil, heroic, spirited, confident, assured, gutsy, spunky, feisty. 

The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary confirms this longstanding interpretation of what to “be bold” means in both a positive and negative context. Written when Christianity was used to instruct and teach both children and adults, the dictionary uses Scripture to clarify and illustrate meanings of words:

BOLD, adjective
1. Daring; courageous; brave; intrepid; fearless; applied to men or other animals; as, bold as a lion.
2. Requiring courage in the execution; executed with spirit or boldness; planned with courage and spirit; as a bold enterprise.
3. Confident; not timorous.
We were bold in our God to speak to you. 1 Thess 2:2.
4. In an ill sense, rude, forward, impudent.
5. Licentious; showing great liberty of fiction or expression; as, the figures of an author are bold
6. Standing out to view; striking to the eye; as bold figures in painting, sculpture, and architecture.
7. Steep; abrupt; prominent; as a bold shore, which enters the water almost perpendicularly, so that ships can approach near to land without danger.
Where the bold cape its warning forehead rears.
To make bold to take freedoms; a common, but not a correct phrase. To be bold is better.

Blessed Boldness

Boldness is a very important part of our testimony.  And yet our boldness must be guided by the Holy Spirit and must issue from a tender, kind, and loving heart.  The boldness we want to infuse into our words and actions is that of confidence, but not confidence in our ourselves.  

Paul reminds us that we, “who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh…” (Phil 3:3).  Our confidence, our courage, our boldness, comes from God (Ps 27:1, Eph 3:12, 6:10).

We are never to fear man.  And, we are always to speak God’s Word with boldness

Psa 56:3-5 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?  All day they twist my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil.

Psa 56:11  In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Be Bold

Trust God and have confidence that it is the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through you to give both the boldness and the meekness that is needed to powerfully share your faith in Jesus and to effectively testify of His saving grace that He offers to all.

2 Tim 1:7-8  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power [boldness] and of love [meekness] and of a sound mind [knowledge]. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord… [speak with confidence and assurance in the Lord Jesus Christ]

But, Paul said…

Those looking to justify not being bold, and to use it as an excuse to not witness, might raise the words of Paul when he wrote:

2 Cor 10:2  But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

Do not let this verse minimize your boldness or justify you silent witness.  John Gill (1697 – 1771), in his exposition of the Bible, explains this verse and tells how it does not minimize boldness.

“But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present” : That is, Paul entreated them that they would so behave for the future, that he might have no occasion to use that power and authority they called boldness, which [the boldness] he had received from Christ for edification, and not destruction.

 

Be bold and be meek (2 Cor 10:1,1 Peter 3:15). 
Be wise and be gentle (Mat 10:16). 
Speak boldly of Jesus!

 

(2 Cor 3:12)  Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech;

(2 Cor 7:4)  Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.

(Eph 3:12)  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

(Eph 6:19)  and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,

(Eph 6:20)  for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

(1 Th 2:2)  But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.

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