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.