Summary: The battle for the hearts and souls of men is still raging, even though we may not like the image. Satan will always oppose God, and use men to do it. What is our response?
Passage: Acts 12:1-19
Intro: In my lifetime, I have observed a paradigm shift in the church.
1. the Christian life used to be viewed as a battle, the participation in a war.
Il) Onward Christian Soldiers, Am I a Soldier of the Cross, Faith is the Victory
2. but that has changed. Now it is an adventure to be savored. Experienced
3. the question is not what we are used to, what we grew up with.
4. we need to find the Biblical viewpoint and stick with it.
5. the participants may have different names, but the situation is the same.
6. the great thing about the book of Acts is that it shows the churches response to the schemes and attacks of the enemy.
7. here is a powerful example that we can learn from . The battle is still raging, even though we may not recognize it.
I. Satan’s Scheme, Using Herod
1. Satan isn’t mentioned in this passage, but can’t you smell him?
2. we know that Satan, instinctively opposed to God, will oppose the church, seek to destroy it.
PP Herod’s scheme was fueled by Satan
3. here he is working through Herod, who had a plan.
4. Herod Agrippa was part of a hated ruling family, grandson of Herod the Great.
5. he “got” the Jewish religion every time he was in Jerusalem, in order to win the favor of the Jews.
6. and as a practicing Jew, he was aware of the divisive nature of the church and used it to his advantage.
7. vv1-2, arrested some, beheaded the apostle James, the brother of John, one of the “sons of thunder”
8. and notice v3..”when he saw that this pleased…”
PP Herod’s scheme was motivated by a desire for power
9. but this victory was not the end.
10. “he proceeded to arrest Peter…”
11. very public, very bold to arrest the well-known leader of the church.
PP Herod was emboldened by apparent victory
Il) I’m sure that as Hitler murdered millions of Jews, he was emboldened to continue because there were no repercussions.
12. so Herod continued, went for the “big score” of executing Peter
13. he was aware of Peter’s past escape from prison as recorded in Acts 5, when Peter and John escaped from jail.
14. so he took precautions, 4 squads of 4 each, two chained to Peter in 3 hour shifts, two standing guard at the door.
PP Herod was dedicated to a path that history had proven to be foolish.
15. Peter and John did escape the first time, Jesus did rise from the dead, Saul had become a follower of Christ, the church continued to flourish in spite of persecution.
16. nevertheless, Herod joined the ranks of those who were opposed to what God was clearly doing.
17. so he arrested Peter, put him in jail, and was set to publicly try and convict him, and then execute him.
18. he had all the cards, all the power, or so he thought
19. all power is given by God
PP Romans 13:1
20. most leaders don’t understand this
II. The Response of God’s People
1. when it came to human power, the church in Jerusalem was destitute.
2. one of their leaders had been killed, most of their number run off by the Jews
3. they were opposed by the Jewish hierarchy, who the Romans sought to please
4. they had no defender in gov’t circles, no political power,
5. there was even a growing division in their ranks concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles.
6. and now their main leader was on trial for his life, other leaders in hiding. (we’ll prove this later)
7. their response is very instructive.
8. without human power, they crept into the lap of their only friend.
9. v5 is beautiful. It is the only thing they did.
10. they did not storm the prison, did not circulate a petition, did not stage a hunger strike.
11. they prayed long and hard, through the night.
12. one of the positive results of crisis is that it makes us pray.
13. other options are out, we are helpless, we pray.
14. and when we pray, God has promised to give us peace so we don’t go off and do something foolish because we are afraid.
15. these men and women recognized that the battle was spiritual, not physical.
16. that the solution lay in the spiritual realm, not in the human.
17. so as humans they got into the spiritual realm, where their power was limitless. They accessed God!
III. God’s Powerful Intervention
1. the scene in jail and beyond is almost comical.
2. Peter is snoring between his two guards, chained to both, with two more at the door. V6