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Peter's miraculous escape from prison
Acts 12

Three weeks ago we started this series in the Book of Acts.

-The Book of Acts was written by Luke in the 60's AD and recounts for us the first 30 years of the Church's life
-Acts 1:8 is the key verse of the Book of Acts-- laying out for us the mission of the church (which is to take the message of Jesus and repentance from sin to all the world and faith in Jesus) and the essential role of the Holy Spirit in the mission

Last week we studied Acts 8 together. In this passage we encountered a man who became a big enemy of the church (as recounted by early church history) The man's name was Simon and he was a scorcerer- who for a time gave all appearances of being a Christian and yet who wasn't one. From this passage we learned that...

a. Sometimes God uses persecution to spread the Gospel of Christ and to build his church
b. The message of forgiveness and peace with God - through faith in Jesus- is for all people
c. Not everyone who claims to be follower of Jesus is one
d. We need the filling and power of the Holy Spirit in order for our service to Jesus to be effective.

Today we are going to study Acts 12 together.

-The date is 44 A.D and the church is 10 or 11 years old
-There is a famine in the land --- As prophesied by Agabus in Acts 11
-After a window of freedom from persecution, the church is once again persecuted-- this time by Herod Agrippa--- who first arrests the Apostle James and has him beheaded, and then arrests Peter with the intent of making a public spectacle of him. However, by the power of God, Peter is miraculously delivered and on went the church.

READ TEXT

Lessons and principles of Acts 12

1. Persecution and suffering for the sake and name of Jesus is part of the Christian life v.2-4

James was arrested and beheaded. Peter was arrested with plans for his execution as well

Interesting to note that this time the instigator is not the Jewish religious leaders but King Herod -- a crafty politician who actively sought to curry Jewish favor that his rule would be easy and his relationship with the Emperor in Rome, good.

In John 15:20 Jesus says; "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also."

In 2 Timothy 3:12 the Apostle Paul, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, writes; "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,"

What is our response to be? Faithfulness. Steadfastness. Perseverance.

Side note: James death fulfilled the words of Christ regarding his death.

Remember how James and John came to Jesus with their mother and asked to be granted positions at the right and left of Jesus' heavenly throne. Following their petition Jesus asked them "Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" Matthew 20:22. In response they said "Yes", to which Jesus said "You shall indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." (Mark 10:39)


2. We are to be a church and a people of prayer. v.5

The context of Acts 12:

James the Apostle is arrested and instead of being miraculously delivered as the Apostles were in Acts 5, James is summarily beheaded. Immediately following this, Herod seeing that this pleased the Jews and increased his popularity, arrested Peter. At this point the church springs into action-- calling a prayer vigil on behalf of Peter.

A couple of verses on prayer

In James 5:13-16, James the half brother of Jesus, by the leading of Holy Spirit, writes; "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

"Pray without ceasing" 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Application for us:

-Are you in trouble? Pray. Is there a decision to be made? Pray. Pray, not just by yourself but with other believers
-Pray and wait on God--- interesting to see that God's deliverance was at the very last hour (the night before his trial and death)
-Pray and fast and confess your sin that it might not stand in the way of your prayers


3. Nothing is impossible for God

Do your situation is impossible? Nothing is impossible for God

Ponder Peter's situation:

The authority of Rome is against He's in a Roman jail. Sixteen guards have been assigned to him. King Herod has determined to try and kill him. From an outside perspective it appears all is lost--- AND YET-- God delivers Peter in an incredible way, sending an angel to lead him out of the Roman prison and to freedom.

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD

Unsaved loved ones, bad marriage, cancer, sickness, no job, debt, whatever it may be-- nothing is impossible for God.

Now of course this doesn't mean that God is bound to do everything we ask of Him, yet the point is No trouble, no trial, no disease, no difficulty, no matter what Satan has arranged by way of opposition--- nothing is impossible for God, nothing is to hard for God--- so go to Him!


In Genesis 18:14 God says to Abram regarding his promise to give Abram and Sarah a son in their old age; "Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

In Luke 1:37, after Mary questions the angel regarding the announcement of her giving birth to Jesus without having relations with a man "For nothing is impossible with God"


SIDE BAR: SOME EXTRA THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

A couple of things to note as it regards Peter's deliverance

A. Peter was at peace v.6

How do we know? He was asleep--- which is something I find to be incredible given the tension and anxiety we usually experience in tough situations.

Obviously, he had peace from God, from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit

In Psalm 4:8 it says; "In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety."

B. God used an angel to deliver Peter v.7

God used an angel to shut the mouths of the lions that would have otherwise eaten Daniel (Daniel 6:22). Here in Acts 12 he uses an angel to deliver Peter from prison.

In Hebrews 1:14 it says of God's angels; "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Hebrews 13:2 also says; "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

C. The gathered church-- the very same one praying for his deliverance-- had a hard time believing it v.12ff

Note the humor in the text: Peter left standing at the door knocking

Point: Lord: Strengthen our faith!


4. Those who oppose God will get what's coming to them. Justice will be done v.20-25

Read v.20-25

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Psalm 89:14

It's a very unwise thing to make oneself an enemy of God and to be in league with Satan's plans; and yet, this is what Herod did in his rejection of Jesus and in his persecution of the followers of Jesus.

Struck by an angel

In v.7 we are told that the angel struck Peter on the side and woke him up. The word for "strike" implies that there was some force to the blow-- reflecting the urgency of the situation. Here the angel struck Peter that he might save him from his situation.

In v. 23 we are told that after failing to stop the crowd from declaring him a god and giving the glory to God, that an angel struck Herod and that he immediately was afflicted by worms-- leading to a painful death. Here the angel struck Herod to judge him

Josephus: A Jewish historian reported this event of the people of Tyre and Sidon allying themselves with Herod, from another perspective. He wrote of how Herod "clad in a garment woven completely of silver, illumined by the rays of the sun, was wondrously radiant and by its glitter inspired fear and awe in the eyes of those who gazed upon him--- leading to their shouting out "Be merciful to us, for although to this point we have only reverenced you as a man, from now on we shall consider you as being beyond a man" Josephus records that Herod, after hearing of their praises, looked up and saw an owl over his head and that immediately conceived that this bird was to him a messenger of ill tidings. At this Herod experienced a severe pain in his bowels, and after 5 days he died.

Despite Josephus' embellishments the point is, both Acts and Josephus both agree that Herod died a painful death related to his bowels--- the Bible record being the accurate one.

Point:

-A day of judgment is coming. God is holy. He will punish all unrighteousness and sin.
-Those who oppose Jesus, and his church are the enemies of God and under his wrath
-There is a way to escape the judgment to come: repentance from ones sins and faith in Jesus Christ

An interesting verse to consider

"How long Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Revelation 6:10


5. Give God the glory

Herod's great error: In addition to persecuting the saints, was accepting praise and worship reserved for God. His pride led to his downfall. v.22

Herod's sin compares to Nebuchadnezzar's in Daniel 4, except that Nebuchadnezzar repented of his sin and then gave glory to God-- sending a letter out to all the empire that he ruled, praising God.

In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in times of success and failure, in times of plenty and scarcity we are to give thanks and praise to God-- for He is our Maker and worthy of praise. (Job 1:21 says; "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

At all points we are to guard against PRIDE-- for pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)


REVIEW

Acts 12 recounts for us the death of James and the deliverance of Peter from the clutches of Herod Agrippa

Acts 12 also teaches us...

1. Persecution and suffering for the sake and name of Jesus is part of the Christian life v.2-4
2. We are to be a church and a people of prayer. v.5
3. Nothing is impossible for God
4. Those who oppose God will get what's coming to them. Justice will be done v.20-25
5. Give God the glory-- be on guard against pride