Summary: The account of God answering a church's prayer for deliverance from persecution. Like many times today, the church prayed, yet lacked faith God would answer their prayer until He delivered them.
GOD ANSWERS PRAYER THOUGH THE CHURCH DIDN’T BELIEVE GOD WOULD!
Audio Link to hear this sermon: http://chirb.it/pnrewg
1.) Today, I want us to look at a scene when there was a great turnabout in the climate of the church.
A.) One of the things I have always said is when everything is going well within the church watch out.
B.) When the church is growing, people are coming to Jesus Christ, and it seems like everything is going perfectly watch out.
C.) Whenever the cause and work of Jesus Christ is progressing, you can be sure that Satan will soon attack the church.
2.) This seems to be the scene in Acts 11 and 12.
A.) The church was growing powerfully.
B.) Even the Gentiles were being reached with the message of salvation.
C.) Antioch had just become an important new center of worship.
D.) Even the Old Testament prophecies that God’s people would receive a new name were being fulfilled.
da.) In Acts 11:26, Scripture proclaims that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.
db.) From this point on, “Christian” seems to have become the new official name for Those of the redeemed.
E.) All and all, it just seemed that Things could not get any better for the Church of Jesus Christ.
F.) Whenever that happens it is time for the church to put up a billboard and proclaim: a warning to be on your guard.
fa.) When the church is experiencing times of such triumphant blessedness in the power and presence of God that is the time when the need is perhaps the greatest for the church to get on her knees and to pray that God would continue to give spiritual victory, and to deliver that Church from the power of Satan.
faa.) For that is the time when the church has the greatest confidence, and the time Satan will most likely attack.
fab.) Acts chapter 12 is exactly that scene.
I. THE CHURCH EXPERIENCED PERSECUTION.
1.) Herod began persecuting the church.
A.) Acts 12:1
B.) This man who led the persecution would have been the grandson of Herod the Great who had tried to kill the baby Jesus around 47-48 years before this.
C.) To understand the situation, or the motivation, of Herod, we need to see that he was a very staunch supporter of the Jews.
ca.) Up until the time of the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, the Church was often under attack from the Jewish people and in particular the Jewish religious leaders.
cb.) Basically, this persecution was a means of Herod making himself popular with the Jews by trying to destroy the Church.
D.) Herod had arrested some of the church.
da.) His persecution became more intense than merely to arrest some of the church.
2.) James was put to death.
A.) Acts 12:2
B.) He was put to death with the sword.
ba.) You see in order to become popular with the Jews Herod had James beheaded.
baa.) This would have been in A.D. 44.
bab.) We can confirm this date through secular historical documents because the death of Herod is also recorded in this chapter of Scripture.
bb.) Both James and Peter were key leaders in the church, so the death of James and imprisonment of Peter would certainly have given the Jewish leaders great joy.
bba.) From verse 3, we see this killing of James and arrest of Peter would have been during the Passover feast, and so Herod had carefully calculated a time when the greatest number of Jewish people would be available to see and hear of his actions against the church.
3.) Peter went to prison.
A.) Acts 12:3-4
B.) From what we find in the Scriptures it seems this was a knee-jerk reaction to the excitement and joy it caused among the Jews when he had killed James.
4.) The future of Christ’s Church looked pretty bad.
A.) Certainly if we had been in the church at this time, it would have appeared to be a very dark and depressing time for the Church of Jesus Christ, and it might even have seemed as though the church might not survive what was upon it.
B.) A number of Christians were in prison.
C.) One of the church’s key leaders, the Apostle James had been killed.
D.) Another key leader, the Apostle Peter was in prison, and it appeared that he too would soon lose his life.
E.) To some in the church, I am sure this was beginning to look as though the church would not survive this persecution.
F.) The question is, what can the church do when this kind of persecution is coming upon it? The best thing the church can do is to take the problem to God.