Celebration of Freedom Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Celebration of Freedom
Our study of Acts has been very exciting for me, and I hope that’s been true for you and that you have learned some new thing.I hope that you are also getting a better understanding of what it was like to be part of the Early Church. In Chapter 9 we read about Paul’s conversion, which was a turning point in the Church, for Paul had been chosen by God to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. But first, he had to be released from the imprisonment that was the emptiness of his former relationship with God. His former relationship didn’t solve his sin problem because what he experienced before his conversion was a diplomatic relationship with God. What Paul enjoyed after his conversion was a warm, loving relationship with his Father.
In chapter 10, the message of Jesus had also spread to the Gentile community. We read about Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who brought his family into the Christian fold. The Gospel was now spreading very rapidly.
In chapter 11, we read that the message of Jesus had spread to Antioch. It was there that the believers were first called Christians. They were true believers.
Now we come to chapter 12. Here we will discover that the non-Christian world was deeply disturbed and determined to do everything possible to halt the spread of the gospel. When things are going well in the Church look out! Satan will find a way to create problems.
Let’s begin our study by reading today’s scripture, Acts 12:1-16.
1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.
2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.
5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers, and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.
7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”
12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.
13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer.
14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate.
15 But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”
16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
We are told here that Peter has been thrown into jail. The Herod that is mentioned is Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. He began to attack Christians, and especially their leaders. The attack against Christians was for both religious and political motives. Herod had been careful to observe Jewish customs, and in that way, he sought to popularize himself with the Jews. In order to gain and keep their support, he beheaded the Apostle James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John.
Then Herod imprisoned Peter but postponed the execution until after the Passover Feast. Herod made sure that Peter could not escape. In verse 4 we read that Peter was “delivered to four squads of soldiers,” and in verse 6 we were told that “Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and there were guards before the door of the prison.” But Herod made a mistake because he underestimated the power of a praying church. We read in verse 5 that “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” It looks like Peter’s situation is hopeless and that the same fate awaits him as happened to James. However, the church was praying for Peter and God responded to their prayers, and as a result, Peter will be dramatically released.