Summary: With Peter in prison, the church prayed continually for his release. When God answered their prayers, they lacked faith to believe. We can overcome in Christ, but we must possess faith to believe the Lord will provide.
Detained but not Defeated
Acts 12: 1-16
Our text deals with an intense time for the early church. God was clearly at work, and the church was growing. Thousands had been saved by the grace of God and the church’s influence was spreading. Such growth created much concern for the religious establishment in Jerusalem, and their disdain for the church resulted in intense persecution. It is believed these events happened about eight years following the stoning of Stephen. Even though Saul had been converted, the persecution had not decreased, and appeared to be growing.
While the early church endured much opposition, she prospered through the provision of our Lord. We too face much opposition in our modern culture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be effective in ministry while growing in our faith. The church has endured for two thousand years, and she will remain until the Lord calls for her. We will face adversity as we serve the Lord, but we do not have to succumb to defeat.
As we continue our Conquerors series, I want to examine the aspects of Peter’s encounter as we consider the thought: Detained but not Defeated.
I. The Adversity he Faced (1-4) – These verses reveal the great adversity Peter, and others within the church faced. Consider:
A. The Opposition (1) – Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. Bear in mind, this is several years following Pentecost and the horrific stoning of Stephen, and yet the persecution continues. Herod is purposely trying to intimidate those in places of leadership within the church. He has sanctioned their persecution. He sought to oppress the church and bring harm to those who adhered to Christian doctrine.
We are thousands of years removed, and yet this intense opposition continues. Records prove that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today. While we aren’t facing it on levels experienced in other countries, opposition to believers is on the rise in America.
B. The Desperation (2) – And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. Herod committed a heinous act in killing James. This too was an attempt to disrupt the church by removing one of her most effective leaders, while striking fear and dismay in the hearts of all who believed. No doubt this created an atmosphere of great concern and desperation within the church.
We remain in desperate times regarding global persecution. Many are forced to choose between their faith and their lives. The numbers increase annually as Satan and those who hate the church do all they can to hinder the Gospel and defeat the church. We are living in desperate times that call for faith and commitment to the Lord.
C. The Incarceration (3-4) – And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)  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. Knowing the Jewish leadership despised those who adhered to the Gospel, and in an effort to gain their favor, Herod continued his campaign of devastation against the church. He arrested Peter and placed him in the inner prison, under the watchful care of sixteen soldiers. This was a strategic move, calculated to bring the most praise from the Jews while striking intense fear in the hearts of those within the church. Peter was apprehended during Passover, the holiest of celebrations for the Jews. At this time, tens of thousands of Jews would have made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Likely, Herod intended to execute Peter following Passover, seeking to maximize the exposure among the Jewish population.
II. The Advantage he Enjoyed (5-11) – While Herod thought he had devised a fool-proof plan, Peter enjoyed a decided advantage that Herod knew nothing of. We find Peter enjoyed:
A. The Prayers of the Church (5) – Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. While Peter was kept in the inner prison, the church prayed for him without ceasing. They immediately began to intercede for Peter, calling out to God on his behalf. As we will discover, their prayers were not offered in vain.
The world and those who oppose the church seek every advantage to hinder the spread of the Gospel, but they cannot prevent the church from praying. Like the early church, we must be a people of prayer, continually interceding for those within the church. The needs are varied, spread throughout the world, but we can bring those needs before the Lord in prayer!
B. The Presence of the Lord (6-7) – And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.  And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. Herod thought his devious scheme was going according to plan, but God had a different plan. On the night before Peter was to be brought before the people, God showed up at the prison. He sent His angel to deliver Peter from the prison. While he slept, chained to a soldier on either side, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, freeing him from the chains that bound him.