This past week I had opportunity to volunteer at SPMS. I participated in a book talk – where I read a book that students were reading and then discussed the book’s meaning, literary development, and life relevance. Honestly, the book I read had the first half boring, and the students agreed. It was boring because it focused on ordinary events without any drama. Once the book characters encountered challenges, then the book became interesting. We identified each character changing and growing through hardships. Likewise in life, normal is boring but adversity brings maturity.
Today we dive into Acts 12-14 with the continued development of Christians encountering trails and enduring in faith.
EXAMINE Acts 12-13 Spirit Filled Mission
Acts 12 1 About that time Herod the king
Luke notes historic details like this to give readers a
- Timeline (~AD 41-44 was Herod Agrippa’s rule in this area, who was grandson of Herod the Great during Jesus’ birth).
- Trustworthiness. Remember, Luke is writing an orderly account of Jesus Christ and the early church.
laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
Luke outlines the church in Jerusalem experiencing persecution not just from the hands of religious Jews but the Roman government. Interestingly, the religious leaders were conspiring with secular government to accomplish their desires of eradicating Christianity. Whenever religion befriends politics, it will eventually get robbed and stabbed in the back. Rome not only persecuted Christians, but they will eventually massacre the Jews and destroy Jerusalem’s walls (minus the Western wall of wailing) and temple in 70AD.
This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.
Luke notes Peter’s imprisonment through Passover, because trial and execution over a religious holiday was an illegal trial. Yet, that is exactly what they did in crucifying Jesus.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
The church accomplishes its greatest works and mission by earnestly praying for others. Luke’s other time describing prayer with this earnest is about Jesus in the garden (Lk 22:44). Prayer is not a supplementary act of meaninglessness but an essential weapon of spiritual warfare.
- What hinders you from praying with earnestness and an essential response to life’s problems?
– Life’s business. Shouldn’t life’s business include God? (Lk 2:49; Mt 6:33) Most of us are too busy NOT to pray!
– Ministry work. One of my greatest concerns is doing God’s work without God’s power. One person exhorts: “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.”
– Worldliness. Perhaps one of the reasons your prayers are infrequent and unfocused is because you no longer recognize the Spirit’s voice. If you’re listening now – Jesus is calling you to meaningful prayer for self and others.
Ps 4:8 “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
Ps 112:6-7 “For the righteous will never be moved… they are not afraid of bad news; their heart is firm and steady trusting the Lord.”
- Do you have anyone praying for you like this? A church family is one who loves us in ways we don’t know we need. They weep with us and for us, intercede for us with prayer and advocacy, and are an overall presence to remind us we are better together and do not have to walk alone.
If you do not know this kind of love and support, we invite you to avail yourself toward the next step of membership and meaningful community (family small groups / men & women).
6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison [4 squads of 4 soldiers rotating every 3 hours].
If you are about to die the next day, and likely by cruel and painful means, and chained to soldiers, do you sleep or stress?!?
Peter slept for two reasons:
1) Peter trusted the words of Jesus. Just a few months ago, Jesus instructed Peter he would not die until he was old (Jn 21:18). So, Peter knew he was not submerged by Satan or debilitated by an evil empire. Instead, Peter had unshakeable confidence in the hand of God. God’s providence gives us peace, so we can rest in the things we cannot control, and passion for the things within our power.
2) Peter treasured being with Jesus. If it was Peter’s time to die, then he was born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading kept in heaven and guarded by God’s power (1Pet1:3-5). Peter did not fear one who could kill the body, but One who, after death, has the power to release us into hell or rescue us to heaven (Lk 12:5).
- Do you fear the grave more than God? Do you not realize death is but a doorway into the presence of God? God is the fountain of life (Ps 36:9). If we fear God more than the grave, we will not have regrets or insecurity but hope and peace.
If we fear God more than the grave, we will not have regrets or insecurity but hope and peace.Tweet
7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side [strike hard; kick in the pants] and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.
If you ever go to prison, you would want Peter as a cell mate because he’s always getting out!
8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord,
Door opened automatically like at grocery store or mall; or angel used Jedi powers.
and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
Peter thought he may had been dreaming but it’s reality.
12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
Peter doesn’t go to the other apostles but to one of the church’s family small groups. Notice the group’s activity is praying together (imperfect tense – ongoing).
13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.
Peter must be thinking – “Look friends, an angel just busted me out of prison and it’s not a good idea for me to be standing on the street. Can someone seriously just open the door and let me in!”
Rhoda was a servant girl – likely very young child. Listen to them 🙂
15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”
They thought Peter had died and it was his ghost!
But Rhoda was persistent!
16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.
Even though the church had been praying, they still did not connect Peter’s knocking on the door as an immediate answer to their prayers. Eventually, it dawned on them to answer the door. Peter enters and has to settle everyone down – “Shhh… yes, I know. I was the one chained!” He explains it all to them, no doubt telling of God’s faithfulness to sustain us in trials and be a refuge in difficulty.
Acts 12:20-25 Herod gets angry at God and wants to fight, but God never loses a battle. Herod is struck down and gets eaten by worms.
- Believers, let us not get frazzled or agonizing over secular politics. The throne does not reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. or anywhere in Washington D.C. We can do more and make a greater difference through gathering in prayer groups, sharing Jesus with neighbors, and serving our community in ordinary ways in the name of Jesus.
- Acts 12:24 “But the word of God increased and multiplied.”
Acts 13 1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
While the Jerusalem church endures persecution, the Antioch church becomes a missionary sending hub to reach the nations. We note several characteristics of a healthy church from Antioch.
- There was foundational discipleship. Antioch was the first location believers were called Christians (11:26). The church at Antioch was a refuge to persecuted Christians (11:19). It was also a place of faith instruction for new believers, like Saul/Paul (11:26). All of this arose from individuals in the congregation, not hired staff doing the work of ministry. Antioch was a healthy, stable foundation from which effective ministry could be established and advanced.
– Meaningful Membership.
– Every member has Elder shepherd oversight.
– Every member encouraged to participate in Family Small Group.
– Every member encouraged to serve according to gifting.
– Members to grow godly generations (home to community).
- There was shared leadership. There were at least five leaders who were said to be prophets and teachers; likely more since all these are sent out. These men were recognized with specific giftings that aided the church to fulfill its mission and vision. The leadership was shared and diverse, representative of the larger Church. Barnabas was from Cyprus, Simeon was also called Niger (which means Black) was from Sub-Saharan regions of Africa, Lucius from Cyrene (modern day Libya), Manaen was upper class related to the Herods, and Saul from Tarsus (modern day Turkey). That means, of the five leaders mentioned: 1 is from the Mediterranean, 2 from Africa, 1 from the Middle East, and 1 from Asia. They had varied backgrounds, yet God blended them together to accomplish his world-wide mission.
SPBC shared leadership
– 7 Elders with 2/7 vocational pastors.
– Developing future Elders through groups and recruitment.
– Ministry team leaders: CM, YM, Men/Women, Etc.
– Never do anything alone… tricky but necessary to develop.
Michael Green says of shared leadership “[It] preserves the church from imbalance and from undue dependence on one individual leader from megalomania and from burn out. It was a very wise arrangement. But in many modern churches it simply does not happen. There is usually one person who is the pastor, and all too often the congregation’s attitude is something like this: ‘You are the expert. We have hired you. We expect you to get on with it, with a little help from us.’ And from that fundamental flaw flows loneliness in ministry, polarization between pastor and people, exhaustion, blinkered vision, and an unsatisfactory situation where the pastor is glad to have a stage to play on and the people are glad to let him, because they can criticize him in peace, and can be spared the inconvenience of undue commitment.”
3. There was authentic worship. Vital to the church’s mission was corporate worship. Noted elements in this atmosphere for worship included fasting, suggesting intense focus on God for specific purposes, and prayer which was reciprocal communication as the Holy Spirit spoke to the church. Thirdly, their worship was faith responsive as they acted on the Spirit’s leading, commissioning individuals to service. Antioch gave five of their best leaders for the cause of missions, no less! In all, worship has a broad meaning in the OT & NT but it is interesting to note these three specific elements.
– Gatherings are weekly revivals… so thankful, as I weep in worship!
– Worship from home should 1) from necessity 2)w/ commitment.
– Groups have prayer support.
– Missional sending: Local / BOC summer 2022 / DR-Cuba
4. There was evangelistic fervor. Antioch was hub for sending missionaries into regions where the gospel was vacant. This church took Jesus’ command to disciple the nations seriously and at all costs (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Their strategy is important as they started with those who they considered receptive to their message, in Jewish synagogues. However, they also engaged people and places that were hostile to the gospel. Their evangelistic zeal shows how God uses obedience and availability over talent and personality (consider the fact that Saul was once a persecutor of Christians!).
– Tools with 9Arts, 3 Circles, Inviter Cards, Apologetic seminars
– Endless exhortation for #WhosYour1
– Outreach events: until we embrace “all hands on deck…”
5. There was mutual ministry. While Barnabas, Saul, and the others were sent out, they were not forgotten. The church placed hands of prayer over them as a sign of care and concern for their physical and spiritual well-being. Love and support was continued as they sent handwritten letters back and forth to communicate needs and encourage; some of these are in our NT. Even more, the believers at Antioch showed Christian compassion and generosity to those in need by providing famine relief to Jerusalem, hundreds of miles away (11:29), and continuously spreading the gospel.
SPBC Mutual Ministry
- Goes beyond Sunday or a single class; it’s a culture of doing life together and living out the “one another” passages. It’s helping, praying, caring, sharing, serving, rejoicing, mourning and loving others.
- Elders/Pastors are frequently available and making contacts.
- Directory & Breeze is a tool for care.
- “Where’s _______?” Um, have you contacted?
- Someone returned to SP and while several reached out, unfortunately the person focused on those who did not reach out. That’s unfair… but still shows the value of multiple contacts.
- “Where’s _______?” Um, have you contacted?
- Feeling vs Reality can be slippery slope… assume the best.
A verse stood out to me this week…
“When Barnabas came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and exhorted them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” Acts 11:23
When pastors & churches receive the encouragement of Barnabas, the result is often the missionary heart of Paul.
Christians are often blowing wind to knock down and stir up but seldom to set sail for destiny. Our ships get stuck in the harbor and miss experiencing the mission for which we were made. It’s time for fresh wind. Believers, let’s help each other launch into this next season with words and witness of faith, hope and love. We don’t have time for ego, bitterness, or lethargy. This unholy trinity is the enemy of the community we need to accomplish our purpose.
- What is the Spirit impressing upon you personally?
- What is one way you can help SP become like the spiritually healthy Antioch church?
- What can we earnestly pray for you? You initiate, we’ll join.
 Darrell L. Bock, Acts, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 423.
 Oswald Chambers, https://utmost.org/classic/greater-works-classic/
 Darrell L. Bock, Acts, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 426. (Josephus, Ant. 18.6.7 §196)
 Ibid., p. 211.