This article looks at the first and second steps to prepare to speak boldly in the face of the cancel culture.
The first step is to examine yourself to make certain that you are saved. Unless you are saved, you will not possess the power of the Holy Spirit to enable you to speak out.
The second step is to pray to God for courage and boldness to biblically engage in the battle. In the absence of prayer, you will be most certain to fail at boldly speaking out in the face of the cancel culture.
Let’s take a look at each step.
SELF-EXAMINATION TO MAKE SURE OF SALVATION
The first step to prepare for battle it to examine yourself to make certain you are a believer, i.e., saved. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can a person persevere in the face of the cancel culture. Only a believer has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It makes sense to examine yourself to make sure you are saved and know that you know that you know you are a Christ-follower.
Self-examination of your salvation is not an unbiblical exercise. Quite to the contrary, the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter each present a strong biblical mandate for you to examine your salvation. 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 2 Peter 1:9-11 present their call for self-examination.
The Apostle Paul articulated this mandate when he wrote 2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV), which reads:
5 Examine [peirazete] yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test [dokimazete] yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to [adokimoi] meet the test!
By 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul intended to communicate to his audience a command that they continuously submit their faith to a thorough and extensive testing to discern the genuineness of their faith and thereby make certain it was not a phony, surface-only faith.[i]
Paul was very serious about the Corinthians expending the necessary time and effort to verify their salvation. Sometimes the phony can look like the genuine, and when it comes to salvation, the difference between the two is infinite.
The Apostle Peter called for self-examination when he wrote in 2 Peter 1:9–11 (ESV):
9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
By 2 Peter 1:9-11, Peter intended to convey to his audience that they were to intensely try their absolute best to prove the truth of their salvation.[ii] This was not something they were to be lackadaisical about because it concerned where they would spend eternity.
As a synopsis, 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 2 Peter 1:9-11 mandate that you rigorously conduct a thorough and extensive self-examination of yourself to see if you are saved or lost. Any inquiry about the genuineness of your salvation is weighty. It is worthwhile to take the time to make sure.
It is beyond the scope of this article to present detailed tests of salvation. I suggest that you look at the eleven apostolic tests of salvation contained in John MacArthur’s book Saved without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation. (Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Saved-without-Doubt-Salvation-MacArthur/dp/1434702952 ).
PRAY TO GOD FOR COURAGE AND BOLDNESS TO SPEAK OUT
The second step to prepare for battle is to pray to God for courage and boldness to biblically engage in the battle. One situation in which 1st Century Christians prayed for confidence and boldness to preach the gospel in the face of opposition is recorded in Acts 4:29–31 (NASB95), which reads:
29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all [pasēs] confidence [parrēsias ], 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled [eplēsthēsan] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness [parrēsias ].
As a brief background, because God healed a lame man and Peter’s preaching the gospel, Peter and John got into a lot of trouble with the Jewish authorities. These religious leaders warned Peter and John not to preach the gospel per Acts 4:17–20 (NET):
17 But to keep this matter from spreading any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 And they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God, you decide, 20 for it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
Peter and John went to their fellow believers and told them what had happened. The result was prayer that included the text of Acts 4:29-30 and the result in verse 31.
There are a number of very applicable takeaways from this example of Christian prayer in the face of genuine threats. First, when they directly addressed God as “Lord [kyrie]” they acknowledged to Whom they were lifting up their prayers. One inherent attribute of God is His sovereignty over mankind[iii] including those who were threatening these 1st Century believers.
Second, not that God needed them to give Him a synopsis they still described the circumstances (“take note of their threats”) to God.
Third, they were specific when they made two basic requests of God. One was that He, “grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all [pasēs] confidence [parrēsias ].” Note they acknowledged their existence as God’s “bond servants” which has the sense of a person being legally owned by someone else and whose entire livelihood and purpose was determined by their master.[iv]
Looking further at the first request, the NASB95 translates the Greek adjective pasēs as “all” and it means totality or completeness[v] The NASB95 translates the Greek noun parrēsias as “confidence” in v. 29 and as “boldness” in v. 31. It means a state of boldness and confidence, sometimes implying intimidating circumstances.[vi] The sense of the word is the trait of being willing to undertake activities that involve risk or danger; especially that involve being honest and straightforward in attitude and speech.[vii] The “Little Kittel”[viii] expounds on parrēsia:
2. Acts. In Acts we find only a human relation. In 9:27–28; 14:3, etc. the verb has almost the sense “to proclaim,” i.e., to speak publicly, whether to Jews, Jews and Gentiles, or Gentiles, whether to the people or their rulers. At issue here is bold and open speaking. But it is also effective speaking (4:13) even though there has been no formal training. The Lord grants the apostles this parrhēsía, and he confirms their speech by signs and wonders (4:29–30; 14:3). As may be seen from the example of Apollos, parrhēsía as open and eloquent speaking to a hostile world is a charism (18:25–26).
In the face of genuine threats, these believers (i.e., “bond-servants”) asked God to give them total and complete confidence (the NET reads “great courage” and the NCV reads “without fear” ) to effectively proclaim the saving truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The other request was that He would “extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” They knew that only through the power of Jesus Christ, i.e., “in the name of” Jesus, could authenticating healings, signs, and wonders occur. Note they fully appreciated that Jesus Christ was God the Father’s “holy servant.”
God answered in three basic ways. For one way, God gave them a dramatic physical confirmation of His response to their prayers when “the place where they had gathered together was shaken.” This unusual action had to have confirmed to these believers that God heard and was answering their prayers.
For a second way, God empowered them to carry out their request when “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” The NASB95 translates the Greek verb eplēsthēsan as “they were … filled with” and it means to cause something to be completely full.[ix] It has the sense of to be generously supplied with.[x] The verb is in the aorist tense and indicative mood which typically the filling was a “snapshot” event that took place in the past.[xi]
Note that these people were already believers so they had been indwelt by the Holy Spirit at conversion. For example, see 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Romans 8:11. To better understand this expression, a couple of resources are quoted. One commentary[xii] reads:
God’s immediate response to their prayer was a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. The verb “filled” (ἐπλήσθησαν, from πίμπλημι, pimplēmi) is the same word as in 2:4 where the events of Pentecost are described. The filling here is not identical to the one in Acts 2 and this filling does not imply that the experience of Pentecost was repeated here. The apostles already had received the baptism of the Spirit and it was the Spirit which empowered them as they stood before the Sanhedrin. Thus it is best to understand this filling as a renewal of the Spirit’s presence with the apostles and believers.
A translation handbook[xiii] says:
Again Luke indicates that in his thinking the filling with the Holy Spirit is something which takes place on specific occasions in order to empower people to do a particular task. In this case, as in the earlier instances, the Holy Spirit enables them to speak God’s message with boldness.
Overall, these believers were completely filled with the Holy Spirit for the task at hand.
For the third way, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they “began to speak the word of God with boldness.” The NASB95 translates the Greek verb elaloun as “speak” and it is in the imperfect tense which means the writer portrayed an action in process or a state of being that is occurring in the past with no assessment of the action’s completion.[xiv] Apparently, they preached the gospel with no contemplation they would stop preaching the gospel.
The takeaways from Acts 4:29-31 for 21st Century believers are:
(1) If you are going to speak out in the face of the cancel culture, you must bathe it in prayer. You will face opponents who have no mercy. Persistent prayer is a must.
(2) In your prayers, you must know who God is and His attributes including that He is omnipotent (all-powerful) and sovereign (is in control). You need to acknowledge His attributes that are relevant to your requests. Keep in mind that God is more powerful than all the forces of the cancel culture, which have the devil as their origin.
(3) In your prayers, it is helpful to describe your circumstances to God. By describing your circumstances, you gain a better comprehension of the specific requests you need to make of God. Speaking out in the face of the cancel culture encompasses a wide variety of issues. Circumstances will vary and that will cause different specific requests for specific situations.
(4) In your prayers, make specific requests of God. There are specific issues to speak out about, and your prayers need specificity.
(5) In your prayers, expect an answer and be ready for that answer. Be ready for God’s answer which may require you to take action. Possess the mindset that you are ready to respond as God directs. Note the result reported in Acts 4:31 (NET):
31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously.
Speaking out on issues in the face of the cancel culture is no easy task. Before you take a long road trip, you check out the vehicle. Before you speak out in the face of the cancel culture, you must check to be certain of your salvation. It is a prudent thing to do.
Speaking out on issues in the face of the cancel culture in your own power will not turn out well. You must pray to God for the power to speak out with courage and boldness. Only through speaking out in the power of the Holy Spirit will what you say have any impact.
In the next article we will look at steps three and four. The third step to prepare for battle is to spend the time to better know God’s Word, and especially the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. The fourth step is to strengthen your resolve to obey God and not mankind.
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell. But, your destiny can change.
Today can be the day of your salvation. Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved and a more concise description at my (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/10/20/there-is-hope-even-when-there-seems-to-be-no-hope-2/ ).
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[i] The ESV translates the Greek verb peirazete as “Examine” and it means to try to submit someone or something to thorough and extensive testing to learn its nature or character. See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 331). New York: United Bible Societies. The ESV translates the Greek verb dokimazete as “test” and it means to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use. See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 331. The ESV translates the Greek adjective adokimoi as “you fail to” and it has the sense of being phony such as, for example, to have a misleading appearance. See Logos 8, Exegetical Guide: 2 Corinthians 13:5.
[ii] When it comes to your self-examination of your salvation, the pertinent phrase reads, “be all the more [mallon] diligent [spoudasate] to confirm [bebain and poieisthai] your calling [klēsin] and election [eklogēn],”
The ESV translates the Greek verb spoudasate as “be … diligent” and it means to do something with intense effort and motivation. See Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 661. The ESV translates the adverb mallon as “all the more” and it has the sense to a greater extent or degree. See Logos 8, Exegetical Guide: 2 Peter 1:10. The ESV translates the Greek adjective bebain and Greek verb poieisthai as “to confirm” and it has the sense of prove to be true. See Logos 8, Exegetical Guide: 2 Peter 1:10. The ESV translates the Greek noun klēsin as “calling” which has the sense of the condition one enters upon the acceptance of a summons; especially all that is expected of a person who accepts God’s summons to the hope of salvation in Jesus. See Logos 8 Exegetical Guide: 2 Peter 1:10. The ESV translates the Greek noun eklogēn as “election” and it means to make a special choice based upon significant preference, often implying a strongly favorable attitude toward what is chosen. Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 360. The ESV Study Bible (Crossway), the study note at p. 2419 to 2 Peter 1:10 identifies Christ-like virtues to establish salvation:
But God’s race in salvation should not be taken for granted. Growing in the Christlike virtues mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5-7 will give believers increasing confidence that God really did call them and really did elect them to salvation before the foundation of the world.
[iii] Kyrie means one who exercises supernatural authority over mankind. See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 138). New York: United Bible Societies.
[iv] See Logos 9 Exegetical Guide.
[v] See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 690). New York: United Bible Societies.
[vi] See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 306). New York: United Bible Societies.
[vii][vii] See Logos 8 Exegetical Guide.
[viii] See Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 795). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
[ix] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 597). New York: United Bible Societies.
[x] See Logos 9, Exegetical Guide.
[xi] Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.
[xii] Gaertner, D. (1995). Acts (Ac 4:31). Joplin, MO: College Press.
[xiii] Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1972). A handbook on the Acts of the Apostles (p. 109). New York: United Bible Societies.
[xiv] Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.