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Acts 12





This chapter marks another dramatic shift in the narrative of Acts.  Although the apostles had been whipped, beaten, and threatened, and Stephen had been martyred at the hands of an angry Jewish mob, things now take an ominous turn.  James is the first of the apostles who is martyred and he is the first person martyred at the hands of the Roman government.

You might remember that James was the brother of John.  James was also the author of the Book of James that we have in our Bible.  By the way, just a little Bible trivia… the Book of James was probably the first book of the New Testament to be written.

The Herod in this chapter was the grandson of Herod the Great, who ordered all the male babies under 2 to be murdered at the time of Jesus’ birth.  The Herod in this chapter was also the nephew of Herod Antipas who had John the Baptizer beheaded.  In other words, the Herod in this chapter came from a scheming, evil family.  As they used to say in eastern Oklahoma, the nut doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

The Jewish elite didn’t care for this Herod at all.  He knew that.  So, he increased his persecution of the church to win over the Jewish leaders.  Since Gentiles were now openly a part of the church, the Jewish leaders were more than happy that Herod was attacking the church.  The execution of James went so well for Herod, he decided to arrest Peter and execute him.

When you get to verse 5, it is the night before Peter was to be executed.  He was in prison, chained between two Roman soldiers.  There were two other Roman soldiers guarding the door.  That may seem a little overboard but remember Peter had been imprisoned before and he inexplicably escaped.  It seems Herod wasn’t leaving anything to chance this time. But chance was not the issue. 

You probably noticed that Peter was asleep when the rescuing angel arrived.  Peter was so asleep that the angel had to smack him on the side to get him awake.  How is it possible that a condemned man could sleep so soundly on the eve of his execution?  There is only one possibility.  Peter trusted God completely.  If God created another jail break and Peter escaped, he could go on and preach the Gospel.  If God allowed him to be executed, Peter could go on to heaven.  Although we seldom see death as a viable victory, I truly believe Peter was so comfortable with whatever happened that he was sleeping very soundly.

There is another interesting aspect to this story.  It seems there was a group of believers who were praying fervently for Peter’s release.  They were, in fact, praying the night Peter escaped.  But when Peter got to the house where the prayer meeting was being held, no one but a servant girl named Rhoda believed that Peter was actually out of jail.  Can you imagine Peter standing outside of the house waiting to be let in?  But isn’t that just like us?  We pray and ask God to do big things and then when He does big things we are surpised.

The chapter ends with Herod being struck down by an angel of the Lord for not giving God glory.  And then we read where the word of God increased and multiplied.

That should be a great comfort and encouragement to us.  As difficult as circumstances may be, God is still sovereign.  He is still in control.  His Word is not going to return void.  His Word is going to do its holy, salvific work in lives of those who choose to hear.  God’s plan is going to be carried out.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

Acts 11





Yesterday we encountered the story of how God took the Gospel to the Gentiles.  Because we are Gentiles who look back on this event, it doesn’t seem that big of a deal to us.  After all, why shouldn’t we have the privilege of hearing the Gospel and the opportunity to be saved.  Both The Great Commission and the Acts 1:8 model point to the fact that Jesus wanted everyone to hear the Good News.

But as you get into this chapter, it is quickly evident that not everyone was that excited.  When Peter returned to Jerusalem he was quickly met by a group of Jewish men referred to as “the circumcision party” or “those of the circumcision”.  These may very well have been men saved by the grace of God through Jesus but who were still very ignorant of God’s great grace.  They were still trying to marry the Jewish law with Christianity.

They were men that still clung to the Jewish traditions.  One of those would have been the absolute necessity of circumcision.  This will be a major point of contention later.  Another one of those would have been the long standing cultural divide between Jews and Gentiles.  Many Jews would have thought of Gentiles as no better if not worse than dogs.  They would not have had anything to do with them in any way.  In fact, for Gentiles to even be recognized by religious Jews, they would have had to converted to Judaism.

Peter was quick to tell his story.  As he did, he made a most interesting comparison.  The Gentiles at the home of Cornelius were saved and received the Holy Spirit just like the disciples did on the day of Pentecost.  This is remarkable.  The Samaritans also received the Holy Spirit, but it was in a different way.  The Gentiles, however, had a very similar experience to what happened at Pentecost.  The satisfied those of the circumcision, at least temporarily.

From there the story shifts to the church in Antioch.  We are reintroduced to Barnabas.  I love the way he is described: a good man, full of the Holy Spirit, and faithful.  We should all desire to be known that way.

God was busy saving a lot of Gentiles in Antioch.  Barnabas got a bit overwhelmed and left to go to Tarsus to get Saul.  It is at this point in the Acts narrative that Saul/Paul will begin to take on a much more prominent role.  But in the meantime, Barnabas and Saul teamed up to disciple the believers in Antioch.

The fruit of that discipleship was evident.  First, disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.  In other words, this is the first time that disciples lived such unusually graceful lives that people identified them with Jesus.  Second, the church in Antioch sent financial help to Christ followers living in Judea.  This is the first time we really see a cooperative effort of churches ministering to other churches.  

Posted by Joe Ligon with

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