Chapter Twelve — Part One: The Book of ActsBy: Pastors Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne
Publish date: 12/19/2021Foundation Scriptures:
1. The Death of James.
a. Acts 12:1 NKJV — Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.
b. This was Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great (who tried to kill the baby Jesus by murdering all the children younger than two in Bethlehem) and nephew of Herod Antipas, who killed John the Baptist.
c. The Herods were Edomites (and not Jews)—who were appointed by the Romans to rule over the Jews on their behalf.
d. This Herod began to harass and persecute the Church and seemed to enjoy doing so.
e. Therefore, he proceeded to escalate his violence and cruelty toward them.
f. Acts 12:2 NKJV — Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
g. James was the first apostle to be martyred.
h. Given the mode of execution, no doubt it was an unlawful and hasty decision.
i. James (and John) were the sons of Zebedee (Mt. 4:21).
j. Jesus prophesied James’ future when his mother asked for special favor for him and John (Mt. 20:20-23).
k. Matthew 20:23 NKJV — So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”
l. The Jews were especially pleased by the death of James because they considered death by the sword to be a disgraceful way to die.
2. Peter’s Arrest.
a. Acts 12:3 NKJV — And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
b. To further please the Jews, Herod had Peter arrested.
c. Acts 12:4a NKJV — So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him…
d. This was the fourth time Peter was arrested for preaching the Gospel (Acts 4:3; 5:18-19, 25).
e. He was imprisoned and guarded by four squadrons of soldiers.
f. There were four watches and four soldiers each watch—two at a time were chained to him, whilst the other two guarded him.
g. Acts 12:4b NKJV — …intending to bring him before the people after Passover.
h. Jerusalem would have been flooded with people coming to celebrate the Passover.
i. No doubt, Herod planned to make a great spectacle by executing Peter immediately afterwards.
j. Some translations use the word “Easter,” which is a very unfortunate translation, because the Greek word, “pascha,” used here, literally means “Passover.”
k. Easter was a pagan holiday, and the Early Church would not have used that term.
a. Acts 12:5a NKJV — Peter was therefore kept in prison…
b. Peter was being ill-treated and suffering persecution.
c. Persecution comes:
- For righteousness’ sake (Mt. 5:10-12).
- For living a godly life (2 Tim. 3:12).
- For the Name of Jesus (Lk. 21:12; 1 Pet. 4:14).
- For the sake of the Cross (Gal. 6:12).
- And for preaching God’s Message—the Gospel (Mt. 23:24).
d. Peter, himself said: “But if [one is ill-treated and suffers] as a Christian [which he is contemptuously called], let him not be ashamed, but give glory to God that he is [deemed worthy to suffer] in this name.” (1 Peter 4:16 AMPC)
e. Luke 21:12-13 NKJV — But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.
f. Every attack of the enemy to stop you and shut you up, is an opportunity for a testimony!
g. It is an opportunity for you to share the testimony of the Gospel.
h. And when the Lord supernaturally delivers you, it’s an opportunity to share the testimony of what He did for you!
i. On this occasion though, Peter probably would not have an opportunity to speak, because his fate had already been decided.
j. This was even more motivation for urgent prayer to be made on his behalf.
4. The Church Prays.
a. The Bible clearly tells us what to do when we are being treated wrongly and persecuted for doing what’s right.
b.James 5:13a AMPC — Is anyone among you afflicted (ill-treated, suffering evil)? He should pray.
c. We do not start grumbling and complaining—we start praying—for ourselves and each other!
d. Acts 12:5b NKJV — …but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
e. The Church began to pray for Peter without ceasing—constantly, around the clock.
f. Greek ektenēs—without ceasing; fervently; with intent; earnestly; assiduously.
g. They prayed intentionally, in faith, earnestly and fervently (James 5:16).
h. They prayed constantly and consistently—without ceasing or fainting (1 Thess. 5:17; Lk. 18:1; 21:36).
i. They prayed in the spirit and with their understanding (1 Cor. 14:5; Eph. 6:18).
5. Peace That Passes Understanding.
a. Acts 12:6 NKJV — And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.
b. Herod arrested and executed James and planned to do the same with Peter—yet here he is, sleeping—not lying awake with worry and fear.
c. What, or Who, gave Peter such confidence and the peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7)?
d. Firstly, he would have had confidence that the Church was praying earnestly for his deliverance.
e. Secondly, he knew the promises of God; for instance: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isa. 26:3)
f. Thirdly, he remembered, and believed, the prophecy given him by the Lord Jesus Christ, that he would die a martyr’s death—but only when he was an old man (John 21:18-19).