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From Persecution to Prayer (Acts 12:1-17)

October 9, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon illustrates that Christianity is a real faith, with real people, in a real world. Pastor Carter makes clear the world is not like the Church, neither should the Church be like the world. The focus of this sermon is on two important lessons to know about spiritual warfare, the strength of the world is no match for the Church and the strength of the Church is prayer.

The Strength of the World: Persecution

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people (Acts 12:1-4;ESV).

The strength of the world is violence. Jesus told His disciples that “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that you may have life and have it more abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:10).” James and Peter were captured by Herod, whose family had a reputation for murdering without hesitation and carried out the works of the devil (cf. Matthew 2:13, 11:12; Mark 6:27; Luke 9:9, 13:31, 23:11). Herod was no longer playing nice with these “Christians”, he set his marks on the leadership of the Church, starting with the Apostle James. Nevertheless, the death of the Church is the seed and power to bear fruit for the Kingdom (John 12:23-28).

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The Strength of the Church: Prayer

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke himAnd the chains fell off his handsAnd he went out and followed himWhen they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left himWhen Peter came to himself, he said, Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting (Acts 12:5,6-11; ESV).”

James is killed, Peter is imprisoned, and the Church begins to pray. They did not take matters into their own hands, instead they casted their cares unto the Lord, who was faithful to give an answer (Matthew 7:7-11). Pastor Carter demonstrated that prayer provided rest and rescue for Peter. There is little doubt that Peter remembered the time when Jesus slept on the boat while a storm was brewing and found himself with this same reliance on God to sustain him despite the troublesome circumstances he faced (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:36-41; Luke 8:23-25). Likewise, how amazing it was for Christ to show Peter that He is King of Kings by sending an angel to rescue him, when Peter once thought that Christ was in need of rescue during His hour of temptation (Matthew 26:51-56; John 18:10-11).

Will you stand for Christ or deny Him?

The power of the Gospel is in redemption, forgiveness, and mercy. When the world takes up the sword against Christians, Christians do not respond with the sword, because Christ has called them out of the world (John 17; Romans 12:1-2, 21). Jesus Christ, the King of Glory came into the world to destroy the works of the devil by fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law and laying His life down for His sheep (1 John 3:8).

Are we, as servants, greater than our Master is? If you are in Christ, you are called to do whatever you must do to bring glory to God, whether in your life or death because you realize that nothing can separate from His love (Romans 8:32-39). Biblical faith does not deny reality, but it requires us to rely on God to work all things for His glory and our good.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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