“Lessons from Acts 12”
The events of Acts 12 revolve around the first event that occurs in the chapter: the death of James. King Herod realized that Christians were having a larger cultural impact than anyone had anticipated. So, decided to send a message through violence. By killing James, he hoped that the church would become afraid and therefore cease growing, or at least at such a rapid rate. I believe Herod feared the church, as it took away some of the power he had over people, and because he did not understand it. Most men naturally fear what they do not understand.
When Herod killed James, he saw that the Jews (many of whom still hated Christians) were pleased by it and decided to continue persecuting disciples. He arrested Peter during the Passover feast (days leading up to the Passover itself) and put him in jail between two soldiers. Herod presumably intended to kill Peter after the Passover and made sure he would not escape. The church did not give up, but rather prayed earnestly for Peter in this trial.
Thankfully, none of us are in any danger of being arrested for following Christ, but there are other struggles and persecutions we face. Sometimes we have the tendency to give in to difficulty, to relinquish hope. We must not! These brethren didn’t, they turned to God, as we should in our times of difficulty. My immediate reaction might have been anger or developing a plan to bust Peter out of prison, but what it should be is prayer. These people serve as a good example of a proper reaction to hard times.
Peter was set free from prison by an angel. Notice what it says in v.9. Peter thought he was just having a vision. This typically reactive, impulsive, angry man was not doing what we might have expected, but rather he had accepted what he was going through. He left it in the hands of God. If it was the will of God for Peter to die, that was okay with him. He had grown a great deal and learned from what he saw Jesus go through. Sometimes we must accept that it could be God’s will for us to go through difficulty and learn from it. Even though Peter thought he was having a vision, he obeyed the angel, and his obedience allowed him to walk out a free man. I would like to be able to say that my desire to obey God is so intense that I obey Him even in my dreams!
Peter found other disciples at the house of John Mark’s mother, Mary, and at first they did not believe it was him. We might have a hard time believing it if our brother was arrested and sentenced to death and later that night showed up at our door. However, after meeting them and telling them what happened, they realized it was him. Take note of what the disciples were doing when Peter got there: praying. I don’t know what for, but it’s altogether possible that they were praying for Peter as he knocked at the gate. God does not work today in miraculous ways as He did in the first century, but prayer works. Don’t doubt it for even a second.
One final takeaway from this chapter: The Lord punishes evil and causes the righteous to prosper. Herod was killed for his pride and murderous acts. The church continued to grow despite what he tried to do. God’s Word increases and is multiplied when Christians overcome their hardships through Him. They provide opportunities to tell people about what God has done for them. Peter didn’t waste opportunities like that, neither should we.
I hope this blog article has been encouraging and thought provoking for you. I encourage you to read Acts 12 yourself and study it in detail to see what else you can get out of it. Like all of God’s Word, it is a rich text.