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Acts 12:25
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

The Story: Saul and Barnabas had watched the unfolding of the horrible and wonderful events in Jerusalem. James was dead. Peter was gone. New leadership was emerging in the church in Jerusalem. And the people were well-supplied by the gifts Saul and Barnabas had brought from Antioch. So they headed home. But what must have been going on in their minds? Did they think about themselves being martyred for the Gospel? The fact that John Mark accompanied them suggests either that they required some assistance in their return to Antioch or they had plans in mind for a young man who showed promise. They don’t appear to have been in the least deterred or distracted from the work of the Kingdom by what happened in Jerusalem. Stuff happens; the work of the Kingdom goes on. Barnabas and Saul are clearly a team at this point. They go together, and they will go together, as we shall see, until John Mark becomes a bone of contention and an issue between them. But even that, as we also shall see, works out for the progress of the Kingdom. Stay tuned.

The Structure: Luke uses this chapter as a kind of bridge into the story of the Kingdom’s wider expansion. Jewish opposition and Roman power will not stop the Word from increasing. Old leaders die, but new ones – James, Saul, John Mark – are ready to rise. The foolishness of unbelief continues on course, but heavenly hosts and an exalted King are pursuing a different agenda, turning the world rightside-up for the glory of God.

In Acts we’re following the ongoing work of Jesus Christ. How would you describe that work to a new believer? What is it? What does it entail? How does it proceed? What is our role in it?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Tragic Ends (2)


Acts 12:20-24
20Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. 24But the word of God increased and multiplied.

The Story: Note the posture and tactics of those who believe political solutions are the ones that matter most. You look for someone to butter-up so you can suck-up to someone you utterly despise. Herod was rather easily contented, don’t you think? He’s angry at people and (probably) threatening an embargo of food against them, but he beams in the light of what he has to know is a phony acclamation: “The voice of a god!” Did Herod really think so highly of his oratory? If so, it goes with the profile of one who callously does violence against good and decent people, then callously commands the death penalty against those who had done no wrong, and callously threatens the wellbeing of people with whom he’s in a snit. Herod deliberately and unashamedly claimed to be a god in this situation. And so an angel – never very far away, as it turns out – struck him with an illness and infestation that ultimately (not right then) took his life. This is not about “getting Herod, the jerk” for what he did to James and Peter and others. It’s about God, and Who is God and who isn’t, and what’s due God, even by those who think the world owes them deference, respect, and honor as some kind of deity. Meanwhile, the Word of God continues, unhindered.

The Structure: This episode dramatically punctuates the story line of Acts: Christ is replacing the kingdom of darkness and the Lie with His own Kingdom. The power of the eternal, spiritual realm is overcoming with good all the wickedness and evil of the temporal, material domains of men. Herod comes under the judgment of God for claiming to be a god, and in him is embodied the ultimate demise of the Roman Empire, as Luke will foreshadow in Acts 178:1-9 and Augustine will explain, 400 years later, in City of God.

The world is a sad, scary, and uncertain place. Meanwhile, in what ways is the Word of the Lord continuing and increasing in your life? In your personal mission field?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Tragic Ends


Acts 12:18, 19
18Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.

The Story: Our story turns suddenly tragic, and that in two parts. Peter is gone, perhaps as far away as Antioch. It is neither cowardly nor unwise to steer clear of those who intend to do you harm. The Kingdom spreads wherever we are, but we must continue to be for that to be the case. Staying in Jerusalem was not an option for Peter at this time, although he will return when things have settled down a bit. We read that “there was no little disturbance among the soldiers” about Peter’s being gone. They understood what this meant. And this time there weren’t any Jewish religious leaders to keep them from Rome’s “justice” (Matt. 28:11-15). Failure of duty was a death sentence in the Roman world, and Herod was only doing what the limits of the law required and allowed. What a callous king! He orders the death of four squads of soldiers, then heads off on holiday to the seaside. It’s interesting to see that the death of James and the attempted murder of Peter had just the opposite effects on the enemies of the Gospel. Do you wonder whether those Roman authorities remaining in Jerusalem were a bit more reluctant to trifle with the leaders of the Church?

The Structure: Here is another example, as in Acts 4, of the blinding power of sin. We might have thought Herod would revisit that policy of laying “violent hands” on church leaders (v. 1). Instead, he does violence to his own forces. Occurring, as this incident does, during the days of Unleavened Bread, it bears some similarities to that first feast of Unleavened Bread, while the people of Israel were preparing their exodus from Egypt: A king’s foolish stubbornness results in his own people’s injury. Meanwhile, the object of his anger escapes by a miracle.

What do you think are the primary obstacles keeping believers from bearing more consistent witness to the Lord? How can we help one another overcome these?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Knock, Knock!


Acts 12:12-17
12When 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. 13And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15They 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!” 16But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17But 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.

The Story: If Shakespeare had written this story and featured it as a scene in one of his plays, we would be in the aisles, holding our sides. And that before this little “knock, knock” game. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Peter. Yeah, right. At this point I am hilarious with joy, as the Lord proceeds to unfold the mysteries of the unseen Kingdom in the very midst of those who are its heirs, citizens, and ambassadors. Didn’t these folks believe in the prayers they were earnestly making to the Lord (v. 5)? Certainly they did. But they could not have imagined how the Lord would answer their prayers. Neither, by the way, can we, so it’s best to just keep praying and expect strange, unlikely, amazing, wondrous things to happen. I love that little touch where Peter shushes everybody: We can imagine them squealing and crying with joy! We note they are gathered in a home, and we are introduced to John Mark, whom we’ll meet again soon (Luke’s way of keeping his history moving forward). This was probably one of many “house churches” in the Jerusalem church of Acts. We also note that James, the Lord’s brother, has already achieved a place of prominence among the Apostles. We’ll see just how prominent in Acts 15. A doubter throughout Jesus’ earthly life, James finally “got it” when the Lord showed Himself to His half-brother after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7) and enlisted him in the work of the Kingdom. Nothing can stand against the power of the risen, exalted Christ.

The Structure: And let’s not overlook little Rhoda (“red”). She recognized Peter’s voice, but was so excited she forgot let him in. When the believers doubted her report, did she stamp her foot, get red-in-the-face-angry, and insist it was so? Knock, knock, knock. “What the…?” Did it make her “red-faced” with a little embarrassment when they finally opened the door and there he was? We don’t need to know this girl’s name, but Luke, we know, loves to play name games. It makes his story more human, and more real.

How does this story about Peter help us to see that Jesus is sovereign in all the daily, mundane details of life? How should that encourage us as His followers?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Now I Get It!


Acts 12:10, 11
10When 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, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11When 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.”

The Story: Peter is bemused. He thinks this might be a vision (been there, done that, Acts 10). But he does what he’s told. They walk right past the first and second guards. Evenin’, gents! Next they arrive at the door of the prison and voilà, it swings open, seemingly by its own power (but not). Now, out in the street, the angel’s work is done, and he steps back through the veil into the eternal realm. He’s still there, and myriads of others, but Peter can’t see him anymore. Peter reflects on the weirdness and wonder of all this and draws the right conclusion: “Now I am sure…” This is really important. The “Now I am sure…” came after the obedience, not before it. We want to be absolutely sure that, if we share the Gospel with someone, nothing terrible will happen. But God doesn’t promise us that. He simply says, “make disciples” and “be My witnesses.” We won’t see the fruit of obedience until we obey. We’ll “get it” about the Spirit’s power to make us witnesses for Christ when we have actually drawn on that power by obeying our mandate, taking the next steps to reach out to the lost, and opening our mouths with the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom.

The Structure: Really, doesn’t this story make you laugh with wonder and joy? It does me, every time I read it. Think of those poor guards. Think of that iron gate, creaking and swaying in the evening breeze. Think of Peter, moseying along to Mary’s home, still scratching his head. Think of the angels in heaven, high-fiving and praising the power of King Jesus! But don’t leave the play just yet; there’s more to come!

What would it look like for Christ’s power to flow through your life for the progress of His Kingdom today?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
So Much for Rome's Power


Acts 12:6-9
6Now 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. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 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.” 9And 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.

The Story: This story is so rich in meaning! Again we note Herod’s precautions: Two soldiers, one on either side to guard Peter; two chains to hold him in place; sentries at the door; four squads of soldiers positioned in various places around. Herod is going to make doggone sure that Peter doesn’t get out. Perhaps he should have thought about how to keep God from getting in? Suddenly, here’s an angel. Where’d he come from? Right there. In the unseen realm. All around us all the time. He just stepped through the veil at the Lord’s command and filled the cell with light. He has come to deliver Peter. Why? For the progress of the Kingdom, of course. But he’s not going to do all the work. Peter has to take responsibility for his part in this little drama. Get up, get dressed, get moving! At each step, as Peter obeys, weird, unlikely stuff begins to happen. Chains fall off. Guards apparently don’t realize what’s going on, even though the angel had “turned on the light” for them. Peter follows an angel toward the door of the prison? Does this make sense? Not to Peter. Not rationally. Not if we’re only going to think in terms of time and matter. But if we’re responding to the commands of God, within the framework of the ongoing work of Christ, then we should expect strange, weird, wondrous things to happen, and just take care of whatever next step is required of us as the Lord commands.

The Structure: OK, now don’t miss this: Christ is seated in glory, continuing His work of overthrowing the Kingdom of darkness and the Lie, replacing it with His own Kingdom. He commands us to make all the nations disciples. And He commands angels to bring Kingdom power to bear on our behalf (cf. Rev. 14:6, 7). “King” Herod gave it his best shot to do his “kingdom” thing to Peter. But the eternal King and His Kingdom are not subject to the whims and wiles of foolish men. Neither are His subjects: Get up! Get dressed! Get moving!

What “next steps” is the Lord calling you to take for the progress of His Kingdom?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Clamping Down, Crying Up


Acts 12:1-5
1About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4And 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. 5So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

The Story: The matter-of-fact tone of this paragraph is a bit startling. James was put to the sword because it pleased some jerk king to do so, and Peter, it seemed, would be next. No hand-wringing, despairing, or cries of outrage. Just the facts. But the tone is important: Luke does not want us to be surprised by the continuing persecution, as though it should be considered abnormal. Jesus promised it, and, well, even His closest companions did not escape. Moreover, death in this life is not the end of things for the believer, so we don’t regard martyrdom as a tragedy. It simply comes with the job description, to one degree or another. At the same time, believers should cry up to God as political powers clamp down on their liberties. Perhaps if we were as “earnest” in our prayers for our religious freedoms as these first believers were, and if we didn’t think that political solutions were real solutions of the best solutions for such problems, we might see the kind of results the first Christians were able to realize. By the way, what does it suggest about Herod that he felt he needed four squads of soldiers to guard one fisherman-turned-preacher? Was this a matter of mere overkill? An attempt to impress? Or was Herod perhaps a little concerned that powers might be at work here which he did not understand, and it’s always best to be prepared? As the story turns out, there is a bit of “divine comedy” in the way God simply thumbs His nose, as it were, at Herod’s precautions. We’ll see how that left Herod feeling.

The Structure: We’ll just note here that Saul and Barnabas were probably in Jerusalem at this time. If the execution of Peter had succeeded, could theirs have been far off? The purpose of Acts 12 is to remind us that the ongoing work of Christ has begun – the work of replacing one kingdom with Another – and not even the greatest military and political power on earth can stand against it. In case we need to be reminded.

What would it mean for Christians today to engage in “earnest prayer” for our persecuted brethren and our religious freedoms?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
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