HE’S A CHAIN BREAKER!
1. An airline company was disturbed over a high percentage of accidents so they decided to eliminate human errors by building a completely computerized plane.
2. On its maiden voyage, the plane was filled with passengers. "Ladies and gentlemen," came a voice over the PA system, "It may interest you to know that you are traveling on the world’s first completely automated and computerized plane. Now just sit back and relax, because nothing can go wrong....go wrong....go wrong....go wrong....."
3. Wanna bet? THINGS DO GO WRONG IN LIFE! And you don’t have to live very long in this world to find this out. We’re going to read about a man in Scripture who had something go wrong, and the measures God took to straighten it out.
C. HE’S A JAIL-BREAKING GOD
1. God’s in the business of setting captives free. He started way back there with the Israelites in Egypt. He broke their chains and brought them out of the land of slavery to live in the Promised Land.
2. God continued that Chain-Breaking career by sending Jesus, the Deliverer, who said, “He has sent Me to…proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” Isa. 61:1-2, NKJV.
3. Then God invaded the Book of Acts, where in
a. Acts 5, God broke all the apostles out of Jail;
b. In Acts 12, He broke Peter out of Prison;
c. And in Acts 16, God broke Paul & Silas out of jail at Philippi with a prison-exploding earthquake!
4. This morning we’re going to look in detail at one of God’s best Jail-breaking episodes. The title of this message is “He’s a Chain-Breaker!”
1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church….2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also….4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. 5….Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 [Then] Peter…described how the Lord had brought him out of prison.
I. THE VICIOUS, BRUTAL DICTATOR - HEROD
A. HIS DOMAIN
1. He commanded an area as great as his grandfather, Herod the Great and had annual revenues of 12 million drachmas.
2. In A.D. 41, King Herod Agrippa I was given rulership over Judea and Jerusalem, so he had just gotten control AND was trying to curry favor with the Jews by persecuting Christians.
B. RULED BY TERROR
1. Some evil natures must have someone to abuse. He wasn’t concerned whether they were good or bad.
2. Herod was Murderous – he killed James with the sword.
3. His Motive for arresting Peter -- "he saw it pleased the Jews;" the Jews -- who he previously hated.
4. How vain are fences, walls, and bars to shut in God's chosen! How vain are swords to slay, and prison doors to confine the truth of the Living God!
5. THERE WAS NO PRISON THAT COULD HOLD PETER IF GOD WANTED HIM FREE!
II. THE ARREST OF PETER
A. WHY PETER?
1. He was the chief channel through which God was working to save the Jews. Peter, James, and John – Jesus’ three intimate disciples.
2. Who do you think the devil most wants to bring down? The leaders. "Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered."
3. Some people have trouble staying out of prison because of their criminal conduct, but Peter had trouble staying out of prison because of his Godly conduct.
B. STRONG GUARD OVER PETER
1. Do you think that Herod was worried about keeping Peter behind bars? Herod had gained respect for the Christian leaders ability to escape -- they had escaped before (Acts 5:18-23).
2. 16 soldiers, two chains, and three gates were between Peter and freedom. What’s between you and freedom? Herod could have had Peter chained to sixteen HUNDRED soldiers, and it wouldn’t have made any difference! YOU CAN’T STOP GOD!
C. OFTEN ROLE REVERSAL: PRISONER & TYRANT
1. Verse six says "Peter was sleeping" (Msg. “Slept like a baby”) but I bet Herod was walking the floors!
2. Herod's plan was – to condemn Peter to death, but God's plan was – to release Peter and condemn Herod!
III. THE CHURCH AT PRAYER
Luke’s Greek construction (vs. 5, µ??…d?) points out not only the Tyrant’s attack, but a pivotal event that would overthrow it – a remarkable prayer meeting!
A. WHAT KIND OF PRAYER?
1. FERVENT PRAYERS:
a. MOTIVATION. James had just been killed and Peter was scheduled for execution. They were intensely concerned about losing Peter too.
HUMOR: SOME PEOPLE THINK PRAYER DEPENDS ON THE VOLUME OF YOUR VOICE. Like the Guy in a library walks up to the librarian and says, “I’ll have a cheeseburger and fries, please.” The Librarian responds, “Sir, you know you’re in a library, right?” Guy says, “Oh, sorry. [in a whisper] I’ll have a cheeseburger and fries, please.” WITH THE EARLY CHURCH, IT WASN’T THE VOLUME, BUT THE INTENSITY!
b. PARTICIPANTS. Notice, the MASSES weren’t there, but a select group. When Peter was freed, he wondered where he should go and remembered the place where TRUE BELIEVERS were meeting. Don’t fret if prayer meetings are small; it’s always been the few, but God still answers them!
c. TIMING. The timing points to its being earnest prayer. They were praying all night. An “without ceasing.”
d. DEPENDENCE. These believers believed in the REAL POWER in prayer. They didn't call a meeting to devise a plan for Peter’s escape, or to bribe the guards, or to establish a PAC (political action committee) to lobby Herod to lay off. Instead, they called a prayer meeting to beseech God. Don't say, "What can prayer do?" but "What can it NOT do?", For all things are possible to him/her that believes!
B. 3 EXTRAORDINARY POWERS OF PRAYER SEEN HERE
1. POWER TO RELEASE GOD’S WILL IN THIS WORLD
a. God, as the Impartial Judge, awaits an advocate to intercede on people’s behalf.
b. As Ezek. 22:30-31 says, “I sought for a man among them [to]…stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them…”
c. God wanted Peter spared but was waiting for the Church to intercede. If they hadn't prayed, Peter might have died; if we don't pray, those we love may not be delivered.
2. POWER TO OBTAIN ANGELIC ASSISTANCE
a. According to Heb 1:14, angels are spirits sent to serve the heirs of salvation.
b. The Lord Jesus told us that Angelic support was to be gained by prayer; “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Mt. 26:53.
c. When the Church prayed, angels were released to bring deliverance to Peter. It can happen today.
3. POWER TO TRANSCEND THE LAWS OF NATURE
a. Our world is normally governed by the laws of nature. Certain laws can override other laws (for example the law of gravity can be transcended by the law of lift, to fly).
b. God, as Sovereign, has often overridden natural laws in Biblical history – Noah’s flood, destruction of Sodom, Israel crossing the Red Sea, Joshua stopping the sun, etc. When He does this, we call it a miracle.
c. The Early Church was up against a problem there was no natural solution to. They prayed for the miracle of Peter’s deliverance.
d. Many miracles happened in this account: Herod’s delay till after Passover; all the guards seemingly unconscious; the chains all fell off; the gates unlock & open by themselves, etc.
e. Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” Matt. 21:21-22. The Church prayed and Peter was removed from the prison.
1. ONLY A PRAYING CHURCH…Can change the world and Control the destinies of nations!
2. The Early Church WAS A CHURCH HELL COULDN’T HANDLE! They were a church who was FULL OF THE SPIRIT, who KNEW THEIR AUTHORITY, and KNEW HOW TO PRAY.
IV. PETER’S DELIVERANCE
A. A PICTURE OF US BEING SET FREE
1. “LIGHT SHONE” (vs. 7). There was hardly a darker place than where condemned criminals suffered their punishment – yet God illuminated it!
2. “STRUCK PETER, WOKE HIM UP.” Paul described us as “dead in sins and trespasses.” God sometimes has to strike us to wake us up.
3. “CHAINS FELL OFF.” In the presence of God sin and bondage lose their power. Chains impossible to break without God, became powerless to bind Peter – with God. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”
4. BROUGHT OUT. No gates, bars, or soldiers could keep Peter in that prison! Not all of Caesar’s Legions could have done it!
B. HIS HUMOROUS RECEPTION WITH THE DISCIPLES
1. RHODA. Many are known for their intelligence or great feats; Rhoda is known for being a little clueless. When I get to heaven, I have one question I want to ask her; "Why didn't you open the door?"
2. IMAGINE YOU’RE RHODA: I, your Pastor, have been arrested by an evil monarch, whose planning to execute me first thing in the morning. I've obviously made a prison break and I’m fleeing for my life. The tyrant's thugs are probably right behind me. Would you leave me locked outside the door while you went to tell everybody I was safe? I hope we don't have any Rhodas in this church!
3. UNBELIEF OF THE DISCIPLES
a. Now if all that wasn't bad enough, Sweet Rhoda goes in to tell the people of Faith and Power who are still … praying, binding and loosing, claiming Angelic intervention … that Peter is outside:
b. When they hear that Peter is at the door, far from shouting "PTL! or Glory!", instead they tell her, "You're Crazy!"
c. They add this wonderful faith-filled thought, "If Peter’s out there, he must be dead and his disembodied spirit has come to haunt us!"
d. Aren't you glad they put this in the Bible? They were people just like us.
4. MEANWHILE, PETER…is still outside knocking, wondering if he'll be arrested before he gets in.
5. CONCLUSION OF THE STORY.
a. Herod executes the jailers – Peter’s escape was at great cost to them.
b. Herod made a speech, and when he didn't give glory to God for the praise he received, he was eaten by worms and died. Yet Peter was still alive!
c. GOD IS THE GOD OF DELIVERANCE!
A. ILLUSTRATION: Caught Smuggling Bibles
1. Back when Romania was still under Communist domination, there was a Christian who regularly smuggled in Bibles. To be caught doing it was an offence punishable by prison time, but God had been faithful and he had never been caught – until now. With his car loaded with Bibles, he was stopped at his own border and his cargo discovered.
2. He was in anguish. A Bible costs a month's wages in Romania, and he was carrying nearly two hundred; it would be a long prison stretch. He prayed, “God, I have faith in you. You know I’m doing this for You; please make a way out for me!”
3. Just at this moment another car pulled up to the border. Out stepped a businessman who was well known at the station; he walked breezily into the inspection shed greeting each of the guards by name. At the sight of the Bibles he stopped short.
4. "Bibles?" he said. "I don't suppose you would be willing to sell them to me? They are confiscated, right?" "Yes, they are confiscated, but we could not possibly sell them to you." The businessman winked. "Not even," he said, "for. . ." and he leaned over and whispered a figure into the ear of the customs man.
5. The official's eyes grew large. "Are they really worth that much?" "More. I shall make a profit." The official said, "Let me talk with my comrades." After they huddled, the official nodded with a smile. So the businessman paid them in cash, got the Christian man’s help in loading his car with the Bibles, and drove on to Romania.
6. The Christian stood there in awkward silence. "Am I still charged with smuggling Bibles?" the priest asked at last. "Bibles?" said the customs official. "What Bibles? There are no Bibles here. You'd better move along while the gate’s open."
7. The Bibles may have gone on the black market, but at least they made it into Romania safely, where some believer can buy them. Open Doors, Brother Andrew.
B. ALTAR CALL
1. Some of you need Deliverance, but there’s a requirement: Ex. 3:7-8 reveal THERE WILL NEVER BE DELIVERANCE WITHOUT A CRY FOR DELIVERANCE! “The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people….heard them crying out….So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians.’”
2. You have to be SICK OF YOUR SIN, tired of your old life, fed-up with your unhappy state, desperately wanting God to change who and what you are. If you will cry out to God for a change, He will come on the scene and deliver you!
3. How many of you would say, “I’m sick of my situation; I’m ready for a change” – and you’re willing to come to the front and cry out to God for it?
4. Rom. 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” ARE YOU DOING THAT? Are you being transformed? If you want that, come to the front!