First Baptist Church Laredo
Wednesday Night Bible Study - 7/22/2020 - Acts 12:1-24
  • Even though the Gentile church was growing, God was still active in the Jewish congregation. This passage has some practical implications. Why does God choose to deliver some of his children and allow others to suffer? Why does God spare some and allow others to die? It doesn’t seem fair and equatable by our standards. Think about and we will deal with this subject at the end of the lesson.

    1. James is martyred and Peter is jailed (Acts 12:1-5)

    We don’t know why Herod lashed out against these particular members of the church. Likely, Herod was trying to keep the peace in his provinces and thought this was the way to achieve it.

    A. James, the apostle, is martyred. (Acts 12:1-2)

    Acts 12:1–2 CSB
    1 About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, 2 and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword.
    James is the first of the apostles to be martyred. We don’t know why he targeted James.

    B. Seeing the response of the Jews, Herod targeted Peter. (Acts 12:3-4)

    Acts 12:3–4 CSB
    3 When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After the arrest, he put him in prison and assigned four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.
    If you remember, at first, the church was enjoying the favor of the Jewish people, but something happened. The Jewish people were poisoned against the church. They wanted to see the destruction of this new sect of disciples of Jesus. Ironically, Peter was arrested during the “Festival of Unleavened Bread”. Another name for this festival would be the Passover. They were supposed to be celebrating God bringing salvation to his people, but they wanted to stay in their chains. They wanted the message of salvation silenced.

    C. The church responded to the situation by praying. (Acts 12:5)

    Acts 12:5 CSB
    5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was praying fervently to God for him.
    We must always remember the power of prayer. These early believers knew they had to pray. They prayed fervently, earnestly, and continuously. This same word “earnestly” is used of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden in Luke 22:44. This is wholehearted pleading with God.

    2. Peter’s rescue (Acts 12:6-19)

    A. Peter is rescued from jail. (Acts 12:6-10)

    Acts 12:6–10 CSB
    6 When Herod was about to bring him out for trial, that very night Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while the sentries in front of the door guarded the prison. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell. Striking Peter on the side, he woke him up and said, “Quick, get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 “Get dressed,” the angel told him, “and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Wrap your cloak around you,” he told him, “and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed, and he did not know that what the angel did was really happening, but he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 After they passed the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went outside and passed one street, and suddenly the angel left him.
    If you remember, God had done this before. Back in Acts 5:19-20, God rescued the disciples from jail in much the same way. This story contains much irony. Peter is imprisoned during the Feast which is celebrating deliverance and salvation. Now we see another irony.

    B. God’s answer to prayer is dismissed as craziness. (Acts 12:11-16)

    Acts 12:11–16 CSB
    11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s grasp and from all that the Jewish people expected.” 12 As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was called Mark, where many had assembled and were praying. 13 He knocked at the door of the outer gate, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Peter’s voice, and because of her joy, she did not open the gate but ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the outer gate. 15 “You’re out of your mind!” they told her. But she kept insisting that it was true, and they said, “It’s his angel.” 16 Peter, however, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
    Rhoda was overjoyed that Peter was at the door. She was so ecstatic, she forgot to do the obvious thing and let him in. The people who were praying thought she was out of her mind. They thought it was his angel. The Jewish people believed in guardian angels. They thought that angels have a ministry of protecting us and guiding us. They thought that the guardian angel looked like the person they were guarding. So, the church thought Rhoda was seeing Peter’s guardian angel.
    While I can’t develop a full doctrine of the ministry of angels from this passage, there are several passages of Scripture which have indicators which point towards special activities of angels to guard and protect God’s people. A key verse for this is found in Hebrews 1:14.
    Hebrews 1:14 CSB
    14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?
    In some way, God sends his angels to minister to believers. Never pray to angels or address them in worship. Rather, perhaps, we ask God to send us protection and guidance. Then, he dispatches the forces of heaven on our behalf.
    Peter continued knocking at the door while the believers were arguing about whether it was Peter or not. They could have just gone and checked, saving the argument. Maybe somebody finally suggested to go and check. Here Peter is delivered by God from jail, but is unable to get into his friend’s house because of a gate. They finally go to the gate and let Peter in.

    C. Peter explained what happened and went underground. (Acts 12:17)

    Acts 12:17 CSB
    17 Motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. “Tell these things to James and the brothers,” he said, and he left and went to another place.
    Peter wanted them to know what God had done. He wanted James, the brother of Jesus, and the church at Jerusalem to know. Then, he went underground. No one knew where he went. I think there is a practical lesson here. Peter was delivered by God from a situation, but then he exercised wisdom by getting out of town. We shouldn’t have a martyr complex where we seek confrontation with those who want to do us harm. Sometimes, the best course of action is to get out of town.

    D. Herod responded to Peter’s rescue by executing the guards. (Acts 12:18-19)

    Acts 12:18–19 CSB
    18 At daylight, there was a great commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had searched and did not find him, he interrogated the guards and ordered their execution. Then Herod went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
    Herod took this matter seriously. He wanted to know what had happened. Not being able to get an answer, he has the guards executed. Frustrated by Peter’s rescue, Herod left town.

    3. Herod’s Death (Acts 12:20-24)

    A. Herod’s defeat is soon replaced with triumph. (Acts 12:20-22)

    Acts 12:20–22 CSB
    20 Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Together they presented themselves before him. After winning over Blastus, who was in charge of the king’s bedroom, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the king’s country. 21 On an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a speech to them. 22 The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!”
    We aren’t given the information as to why Herod was angry with Tyre and Sidon. We do know he was starving them into submission. Seeing no alternative, the people asked for peace and flattered Herod by claiming Herod was a god among men. History records that Herod was wearing a garment made completely of silver. Naturally, the garment would sparkle and shine when light touched it.

    B. God punished Herod for his blasphemy. (Acts 12:23)

    Acts 12:23 CSB
    23 At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died.
    History also records Herod’s death. We are told that Herod had violent abdominal pains and died five days after this delegation from Tyre and Sidon arrived. Ironically, King Herod, while shining on the outside, was full of rottenness and decay.

    C. The Church continued to grow and multiply. (Acts 12:24)

    Acts 12:24 CSB
    24 But the word of God spread and multiplied.
    Herod had tried to suppress and harm the church, but his efforts failed. Hostility to the church did not stop the church’s mark forward for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Now I want to deal with this question.

    Why did God rescue Peter and allow James to be killed?

    Both, as far as we are told, are faithful followers. Both are doing the work of God. I would have to think the believers would have prayed for James’ release. Here is the answer:

    We should trust in the sovereignty of God in each and every situation.

    Simply put, we don’t know why and it must not be our business to know why. Our job is to be obedient and faithful. We leave the outcomes to God, regardless of the challenges and difficulties we face. God always has the last word and he will do what is best in every situation, even if we don’t understand at the time how it is best. This is the work of faith in our lives. We have faith in God. He is in control of all things and exercises his sovereign control in ways we don’t and can’t understand. The question is, “Do you trust God?” I am reminded of the story and answer of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
    Daniel 3:16–18 CSB
    16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
      • Acts 12:1–5NIV2011

      • Acts 12:1–2NIV2011

      • Acts 12:1–2CSB

      • Acts 12:3–4NIV2011

      • Acts 12:3–4CSB

      • Acts 12:5NIV2011

      • Acts 12:5CSB

      • Acts 12:6–19NIV2011

      • Acts 12:6–10NIV2011

      • Acts 12:6–10NIV2011

      • Acts 12:11–16NIV2011

      • Acts 12:11–16CSB

      • Hebrews 1:14CSB

      • Acts 12:17NIV2011

      • Acts 12:17NIV2011

      • Acts 12:18–19NIV2011

      • Acts 12:18–19CSB

      • Acts 12:20–24NIV2011

      • Acts 12:20–22NIV2011

      • Acts 12:20–22NIV2011

      • Acts 12:23NIV2011

      • Acts 12:23CSB

      • Acts 12:24NIV2011

      • Acts 12:24CSB

      • Daniel 3:16–18CSB

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