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Divine Intervention

Divine Intervention – Acts 12:1-25

 

rockWelcome to Church everyone as we continue our sermon series through the Acts of the Apostles. This Sunday we are focusing on Acts 12:1-25 and the theme of ‘Divine Intervention.’ The passage, which draws a contrast between the destructive power of Herod and the saving power of God, can be helpfully broken down into 3 subsections; Herod’s plot (vs. 1-4), Herod’s defeat (vs. 5-19) and Herod’s death (vs. 20-24).

Luke, the author of Acts, placed this story into the narrative to vividly illustrate a recurring theme throughout the book; that although the early church suffered serious opposition from the powers that be, the Gospel continued to advance despite the hostility. In fact, on many occasions the opposition proved to be more of a help than a hindrance, as God in his sovereignty used all circumstances for the furtherance of his Kingdom purposes in the world.

Upon reading the passage, as John Stott has pointed out (BST, Acts, p.213) we are left to admire the artistry with which Luke depicts the complete reversal of the Church’s situation. At the beginning of the chapter Herod is on a rampage – arresting and killing Church leaders; by the end of the chapter, he is himself struck down and dies. The chapter opens with James dead, Peter in prison and Herod triumphing; it closes with Herod dead, Peter set free and God’s word triumphing. Such is the power of God to overthrow hostile human plans and establish his own in their place. Tyrants may be permitted for a time to bully and boast, but they will not last. In the end, their powers will be broken and their pride abased, for God always has the last word. And if this does not seem to be the case, it’s because the last word has not yet been said.

Even though we who are in traditional western churches have become accustomed to declining church attendance, the reality is that the spread of the Gospel which began in the backblocks of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago has now spread to the ends of the earth, and recently has led to the exponential growth of Christianity in countries like China, Africa, India. In fact, throughout church history, the pendulum has often swung between expansion and opposition, growth and decline, advancement and retreat, yet we have the blessed assurance that even the powers of death and Hades will never prevail against Christ’s church, since it is built securely of the rock of Jesus, himself. May this encourage you greatly as you continue to live your life for the one who gave his life for you.

Acts 12:1-25

James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

12About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.2He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.3After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)4When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.

Peter Delivered from Prison

5While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.6 The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison.7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists.8The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’9Peter* went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.10After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him.11Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’

12 As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying.13When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer.14On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate.15They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she insisted that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel.’16Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed.17He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, ‘Tell this to James and to the believers.’* Then he left and went to another place.

18 When morning came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter.19When Herod had searched for him and could not find him, he examined the guards and ordered them to be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.

The Death of Herod

20 Now Herod* was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they came to him in a body; and after winning over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for a reconciliation, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.21On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the platform, and delivered a public address to them.22The people kept shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!’23And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

24 But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.25Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to* Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark.