The book of Acts finishes with a characteristic picture of Paul: “He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:31)
It’s characteristic because it describes the apostle so well. It describes both the content of his ministry (Proclaiming the kingdom of God… Teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ) and the manner of it (“with all boldness”). And even that last phrase “without hindrance,” which refers to the freedom he was allowed, also seems to suggest something of the freedom he insisted upon! It’s as if he’s saying: “I do not accept any limitations.”
Luke often described Paul as “bold.” He stands in the marketplace, the synagogue, before friends and enemies and demonstrates the familiar adage of Proverbs 28:1, that “The righteous are as bold as a lion.”
It’s a trait of all the people who have been filled with the Spirit. In Acts 4, the church is threatened with persecution, told to be silent or face the consequences. Instead they pray, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness… After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
It’s a wonderful illustration of that song lyric: “Consuming fire, fan into flame, a passion for your name.” A passion for your name! A driving force, an invigorating wave of energy sweeping through me!
Now this does have another side to it.
I heard someone say recently, “Passion goes right when it invigorates and wrong when it intimidates.” That’s the other side.
Sometimes our “passion” can make us pushy and domineering, controlling the flow of conversation, and insisting on commanding attention. It can make us a bit “know-it-all,” quick to express an opinion and leaving little room for anyone to point out the other side of an issue.
In the little letter of 3 John we are introduced to Diotrephes, “who loves to be first.” The epistle provides only the barest of hints about who Diotrephes was and what he was doing. Several charges are raised against him: he loves to be first; he will have nothing to do with John (“the Elder”) and gossips maliciously about him; and he refuses to welcome travelling Christian workers. Evidently John and Diotrephes are engaged in a struggle for authority in the congregation to which Diotrephes belongs.
Jesus said that “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12). And this is what happened to Paul (in Acts 9). He was literally knocked off his high horse, and completely humbled. And what he saw changed his life. “Who are you Lord? I am Jesus.” Once the lordship of Christ was fully in place in his life he could be fully passionate in a way that invigorated and didn’t intimidate.
He called the Ephesians to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2). He reminded the Philippians about Jesus “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8).
Lord, I desire to proclaim the kingdom and teach about Jesus. Fill me with the driving force of energy that operates with boldness and sweeps aside hindrance, but Lord, knock me off my high horse so that I stay –or become (!) totally humble, patient and gentle with those around. Give me a passion that invigorates but does not intimidate.