TEXT: Acts 12:1-5
1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
We are in a series of messages titled “Praying Through the Bible: A Series on Every Passage and Verse Regarding Prayer in the Bible.” The purpose of this series is to encourage and motivate you to pray to the God of the Bible. We highlighted each of these over 500 verses and passages in the Prayer Motivator Devotional Bible. So far, we have completed 219 messages in this series.
This is message #220 titled, The Power of the Collective Prayer of the Church in the Midst of Impossible Situations, Part 1.
In this passage, we find the early church at a time when it is being persecuted by Herod. Christianity, being a new way of life, was highly suspect by nearly everyone. Jews though it blasphemous. And the Greeks and Romans were wary of anything that took worship away from their own gods. Christianity was already seen as a threat to the religious establishment and eventually would be seen as a threat to the political establishment as well. While the early church had some great successes up to this point, they also faced persecution. And that persecution was only about to get worse. There are three things that we see in this passage that put the church in a seemingly impossible situation.
First, the church had precedent against it. We see in this passage that “Herod the king — known to historians as Herod Agrippa I — stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.” The Jews had already carried out a campaign aimed at stamping out Christianity in Jerusalem and beyond. Paul, then known as Saul, was a part of that campaign as he “breathed out threatenings and slaughter” against the church. Stephen, a Spirit-filled believer, was stoned to death by the Jews. Now, Herod takes James the brother of John and kills him “with the sword”; the term indicates that he was likely beheaded just as John the Baptist was beheaded by this Herod’s uncle,, Herod Antipas. Both the Jews and the Romans had killed prominent members of the church. James was one Jesus’ Twelve Disciples. If James was not spared persecution and death, no one was safe.
Second, the church had politics against it. Luke tells us that when Herod saw that James’ death “pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.” Herod was concerned about his approval ratings. He found something that made the typically troublesome Jews very happy — killing Christians. So, he had Peter arrested during the Passover week. But, he didn’t kill Peter immediately; instead, he “intended after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” Herod wanted maximum exposure for Peter’s death . Once the Jews finished observing their Passover, he would make a spectacle of Peter, another of the Twelve, a prominent disciple of Jesus Christ. While Saul’s persecution of the church was carried out from misguided but sincere religious zeal, Herod’s persecution of the church was motivated solely by politics. It was not lost on the early church that two of the most prominent Christians — the ones who had been hand-picked by the Lord — were not spared persecution.
Third, the church had a prison against it. Herod knew that Peter had escaped prison before under inexplicable circumstances, so he took extra precautions to keep Peter locked up until he was ready to execute him. “He put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him.” A quaternion was a squad made up of four guards, typically appointed to keep watch over high-value prisoners. Peter would have been chained to two guards inside his cell while the other two guards kept watch at the door. The four quaternions would have changed places at the beginning of each of the four watches of the day.
How did the church respond to this seemingly impossible situation? They had precedent against them. They had the political climate against them. They had a prison and sixteen guards against them, but the church had prayer to God for them. The Bible says, “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” They did not protest James’ death or Peter’s imprisonment. They did not even appeal to Herod. But they did not give up. Even as it seemed that everything was turning against them, they turned to God in prayer. One commentator said, “Although Peter was locked in prison, the church was free to pray. When every other gate is shut and locked, the gate to heaven is wide open. We take advantage of that open gate through prayer.”
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Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.