General James Green
Hebrew #1: amats — “to be alert, strong, prevail, fortify, steadfastly minded” (Strong’s #553).
Hebrew #2: chazaq — “to seize, be strong, fortify, conquer, force, hold fast, prevail, seize, be urgent and BEHAVE VALIANTLY” (Strong’s #2388).
THE WORDS “courage” and “courageous” have many nuances in the Bible and in extra-Biblical writings. Mainly, the Greek term occurs in the two forms θαρρέω and θαρσέω. The second one is said to be the earlier form. It has the basic sense of “to dare,” “to be bold,” and so, “to be of good courage,” “to be cheerful,” “to be confident.”
I will note that the LXX (Greek Old Testament) contains 12 texts in which at least one form of the term is found. I won’t bore you with the many writings (outside the Bible) where these terms are used.
In the Scriptures, these words always mean “to be of good courage,” “to be confident” and “not to be afraid.” In the New Testament, the Evangelists and Acts have θαρσειν, and Paul and Hebrews use θαρρειν.
This Greek word in the LXX is a summons which men issue to one another in times of emergency and stress and anxiety (see Moses to Israel in Ex. 14:13 — “Moses told the people, ‘FEAR NOT, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD…’”; see also 20:20; then observe Elijah to the widow of Sarepta in Βασ. 17:13, and the prophets in Zeph. 3:16, et al.).
The basis of the summons is the readiness of Yahweh to help, and, in the context of which I write, it may be a “Divine Summons” to the people to STAND UP AND FIGHT! I’ll call to your remembrance Haggai chapter 2 where the Word of the LORD came to this prophet and spoke: “Yet now be STRONG, ALERT and COURAGEOUS, O Zerubbabel … be STRONG, ALERT and COURAGEOUS, O Joshua … be STRONG, ALERT and COURAGEOUS, all you people of the land … for I am with you, says the LORD of hosts (LORD of ARMIES!)” (2:4). Then in verse 5 we come across these words: “…so My Spirit stands and abides in the midst of you; FEAR NOT!”
In Zechariah 8:13 we find the Word of the LORD saying: “Fear not, but let your hands be STRONG and HARDENED” (see also Jer. 22:8, 9). The Word continues in v. 15, “…FEAR NOT!”
If we counted the many times the words “FEAR NOT” and “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS” are used, we’d get the impression that men by nature are fearful.
BE STRONG! BE COURAGEOUS!
“BE STRONG, COURAGEOUS AND FIRM, FEAR NOT, NOR BE IN TERROR BEFORE THEM (pagan nations — 31:3); for it is the LORD your God who goes with you…” (Deut. 31:6). Moses called Joshua and said to him: “Be strong, courageous and firm…” Now, go to the book of Joshua (who was likened unto Jesus) where we find these (Hebrew) words again: “BE STRONG, AND OF GOOD COURAGE” (1:6). In verse 9 we read, “Have not I commanded you? BE STRONG, VIGOROUS AND VERY COURAGEOUS; BE NOT AFRAID, NEITHER BE DISMAYED…” (Amp. Bible). Note the word “commanded.” He did not say “asked,” “requested” or “suggested,” but “COMMANDED.” Joshua was under God’s COMMAND.
I’ve been amused over the years as the Church sings songs about being “soldiers for Christ.” Yet I see no sign of the modern “Church” being UNDER COMMAND! (At least, not under GOD’S command!) They treat the Holy Spirit as if He was a glorified errand boy; while Jesus is simply a “partner” or “comrade,” not their COMMANDER. And, do we see any sign of God’s enemies put to flight? HA! The “Church” has hopped in bed with every vile enemy that calls from the streets at all hours (especially during every “gay” parade!).
Joshua 1:6 and 9, and now in v. 18, we read: “…only BE STRONG, VIGOROUS AND OF GOOD COURAGE.” Make note of this: verses 9 and 18 use the words “commanded,” “commandment,” and “commandest.” Pay close attention to v. 18: “Whoever rebels against Your COMMANDMENT, and will not harken to all You COMMAND him, shall be PUT TO DEATH…” This is WAR! Now, DO YOU REALLY THINK GOD HAS CHANGED?
“Joshua said to them (Israel), ‘Fear not nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage; for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom you fight.’” I have written dozens and dozens of articles on how Israel sadly forsook the LORD, worshiped pagan idols, did pagan things that provoked the WRATH of God and therefore forced God to use pagan armies to overthrow Israel — in JUDGMENT. Again, DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT GOD HAS CHANGED? Wait and see what He will NOW do to all those who have provoked Him! This is a TIME of GOD’S HOLY WAR!
David, the psalmist, makes mention of this very thing: “BE STRONG and let your heart TAKE COURAGE, all you who wait and hope for and expect the LORD!” (Ps. 31:24).
Matthew 9:2 reads: “…they brought to Him a man paralyzed…and when Jesus saw their faith He said to the paralyzed man, ‘TAKE COURAGE…’” Read Mt. 9:22: “…TAKE COURAGE”; Mt. 14:27: “…TAKE COURAGE! I AM; stop being afraid”; Mk. 6:50: “…TAKE HEART! I AM! Stop being alarmed and afraid.”
Behind the Summons
It may be noted that behind the summons lies the reality that Christ can support everything He says, with authority, just as He did in His life and work, through completed obedience and the demonstration of Holy Ghost power and authority. Jesus Christ can grant us all we need, for He made the way for us already, having conquered the world, the devil, and death. He is OUR COMMANDER gone before us!
Summons/commands are all part of Christianity. And Jesus is the CAPTAIN. The Gospel, which consists of both His proclamation and His action, gives joy and confidence. It is through obeying commands that enemies are defeated, for mere church attendance or simply a verbal “profession” of faith does not cut it. We have to take ACTION!
Actually, confronting FEAR, ANXIETY and DISTRESS can put them to flight. Hiding from them only makes one MORE FEARFUL!!
John 16:33 (in the Amplified Bible) is pretty uplifting: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but BE OF GOOD CHEER [TAKE COURAGE; BE CONFIDENT, CERTAIN, UNDAUNTED]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm and have conquered it for you.]”
This verse is a “WARFARE” text — it promises VICTORY.
We have NOW entered into a time of WAR — God’s Holy War against ALL those who have oppressed and are opposing Him. This is not the time to exercise your pride, but to exercise humility. We are summoned to θαρσειν in every respect. We MUST place our lives in the hands of Christ — who has overcome the world.
Received New Courage
Acts 28:15: “When Paul saw them (other Christians), he thanked God and received NEW COURAGE.” We know that “courage” can wane. We’ve all experienced this.
This New Testament Greek word (28:15) θάρσος (tharsos/tharʹ-sos) means “DARING; BOLDNESS.” This “boldness” comes, of course, from the Holy Spirit. This is what we need so much these days, for terror and fear stalk the land.
The verb τολμάω is found in writings outside the Bible (in Homer, etc.). This particular Greek word is derived from τόλμα, which = “courage” (for more info, see Liddell-Scott). I have researched these terms, and they’re more specifically rendered, “to lift up, carry, bear,” or “I have borne”; also, “I endure.”
τολμάω is found in the Greek Old Testament only 7 times; only 2 instances with Hebrew originals (Job 15:12 and Esther 7:5). The verb means: “to dare” (see 3 Macc. 3:21 — used of a legal alteration; and 4 Macc. 8:18 — used of fatal disobedience). It also means “to presume” (in 2 Macc. 4:2, the challenging conduct of an inferior towards a superior).
Philo (c. 20 B.C. - 50 A.D.) used the word τολμάω to mean “to venture.” In his De Opificio Mundi (Op Mund 26), Philo writes about “to venture the assumption.” In his De Somniis (Som. 1, 54) he writes, “who would dare advance assured statements about what is not known for certain?”
Josephus, on the other hand, used this Greek word (and related words) over 200 times, according to professor Rengstrof. Josephus used it in the sense of “to have the courage” and “to be confident.”
Really, there is just too much here to write about. So let’s press into the New Testament.
τολμάω with ἀποτολμάω
If one cares to research it out in the Gospels, Acts, and Jude, one will find that τολμάω and related terms (e.g., ἀποτολμάω) are used: 4 times in the Synoptics; 2 times in Acts; once in John; and once also in Jude.
“Joseph, he of Arimathea, noble and honorable in rank and a respected member of the council (Sanhedrin), who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, daring the consequences, took courage and ventured to go to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mark 15:43, AMP Bible).
Note the word “daring” and “courage.” Joseph ventured, daring to approach the Roman procurator directly. This took courage.
Positive / Negative
It is pointed out by Greek scholars that our Greek words can be used in both the negative and positive. The negative serves to denote fear or anxiety. Note Mark 12:34 (AMP Bible) where Jesus says, “…you are not far from the Kingdom of God. And after that no one ventured or dared to ask Him any further question.”
In John 21:12 we find “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ But none of the disciples ventured or dared to ask Him, ‘Who are you?’ because they [well] knew that it was the Lord” (AMP).
In Acts 7:32 we read where Moses stood before the burning bush and “trembled and was so terrified that he did not venture to look” (AMP). The word “venture” means “a dangerous undertaking, taking a risk, exposed to danger, being brave.”
So, as a Christian, we will, at times, face danger, fear, terror — but we must exercise COURAGE!
He makes use of this Greek word in various ways (see Rom. 5:7; Phil. 1:14; 2 Cor. 10:2; 2 Cor. 11:21; Rom. 15:18). In fact, upon viewing the entire New Testament, we can say τολμάω (including associated terms / cognates) has the same range of meaning as in profane Greek and Josephus, both in the good sense (“to have the courage”) and the bad (“to presume, denoting fear/anxiety”).
Greek scholars tell us that what makes a “venture” is danger or propriety; what prevents the “venture” is recognition of the supremacy of another, or reverence for God, or fear of the holy. They also point out that τολμάω does not denote the “venture” of existence.
“Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, ‘I have been found by those who did not seek Me; I have shown (revealed) Myself to those who did not [consciously] ask for Me.’ [Isa. 65:1]” (Rom. 10:20, AMP).
ἀποτολμάω is only used in Romans 10:20 to strengthen the quotation formula, according to scholars.
Paul also uses another Greek word — τολμηρότερος. In the case of this word, which occurs only in Romans 15:15, one is not to seek reasons why the Apostle wrote “a little boldly” to the Romans, for behind this saying naturally lies the conviction that Paul had something special to say.
Boldness Amidst Contention
“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ” (1 Thes. 2:1-6).
Here we encounter the Greek word παῤῥησιάζομαι, “to speak boldly” or “freely.” In our text, Paul vindicates his conduct that he showed during his time with the Thessalonians. He had been slandered by his opponents and accused of insincerity in his preaching of the Gospel. Let’s face it, every minister of the Gospel faces the temptation to PLEASE men, i.e., seek acceptance, approval, and too often, glory (v. 6). Especially in this “men-pleasing” generation, ministers only want to teach/preach what is politically correct and “seeker-friendly” (which is “SIN-FRIENDLY”!). They do not want to offend anyone. But may I point out that the Word of God is the “SWORD OF TRUTH” that CUTS and SEPARATES. Jesus makes this very clear in Matthew 10:33-36.
Yielding to the temptation to make the SWORD of the SPIRIT plastic, leads to tolerating both sin and sinner. And by flattering words (v. 5) ministers hope to get $$ offerings or positions so desired. But Paul was for none of this — “We were BOLD in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much CONTENTION” (v. 2; see also Acts 13:46). Acts 13:46 (in the KJV) says: “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold...”; the Amplified Bible reads: “...spoke out plainly and boldly” (the aorist participle here signifies “waxing bold”). In Acts 9:27 and 29 we find the word “boldly” in the KJV, and in the Amplified we find “confidently,” “courageously,” and “boldly” (see also 18:26; 19:8). In 26:26 we find, “I speak freely.”
The comparative degree of the above Greek adverb signifies “the more boldly,” as in Romans 15:15. In some texts, tolmēroteron / tolmētēs means “presumptuous” (KJV), or “daring” (as in 2 Pet. 2:10 in the Amplified, rendered “presumptuous and daring”).
Anyway, I think by this short Bible study we can know for certain that
Christians are called to be VALIANT, BOLD, DARING AND COURAGEOUS for both the Lord and the Gospel — PRESS ON!