God is in Control of Everything
Acts 12:1-11 (Pastor Heo)
12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So 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 sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.”
Chp 8:1 “On that day, a great persecution broke out…”
The rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem brought fierce persecution. The Jews launched a direct attack upon the Christian leaders beyond mere threats and warnings – this time Herod had James executed and Peter arrested. These were tense and traumatic times, but the church began to pray earnestly.
It is important to remember that God wasn’t finished with the Jewish church, nor Jewish Christianity – even though the emphasis soon shifted to Paul and Gentile outreach. But still, God was working.
In this chapter, we can see 3 events:
- Herod killed James (one of the 12, the brother of John)
- Herod tried to kill Peter – but he was rescued by an angel of the Lord
- This Herod was killed by the hand of the angel of the Lord (maybe the same that rescued Peter)
“12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So 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.”
Who is this Herod? This evil, wicked Herod. In the NT, we can see several Herods. This one is the grandson of Herod the Great who killed all babies under 2 years old in Bethlehem and its vicinity – to kill Jesus.
In the NT, at least 4 generations of Herods are mentioned:
- Herod the Great – when Jesus was born (killed all babies in Bethlehem) – he also killed his wife, son, and daughters
- Herod Antipus – took his brother Philip’s wife (Herodius) as his wife – had John the Baptist beheaded – and was involved in the trial of Christ (Jesus called him “fox”)
- Herod Agrippa I – killed James, tried to kill Peter
- Herod Agrippa II (chp 26) – one of Paul’s judges
Unfortunately, ALL Herods left behind an evil legacy.
Parents affect their Children
From this story, we can know that good or bad, parents have a powerful and lasting influence on their children. Traits of parents are passed on to their children and the next generation. Often the mistakes and sin of parents are repeated by their children.
So ask yourself, “What example am I setting for my children?”
What is important is not our words, but our actions – for children copy our actions, not our lectures.
“More is caught than taught.”
Herod arrested some Christians including James, whom he killed. So, James became the first of the 12 apostles to be martyred.
If we ponder the death of James in Matt 20, Jesus spoke to James and John (with their mother). They approached Jesus and asked for thrones of glory. He said, “Can you drink of the cup I must drink?” “Yes, we can.” they answered, though they didn’t understand what they were saying. But later on, ultimately, they discovered the high cost of winning the throne of glory.
Now, James is arrested and killed, and his brother John became an exile on the island of Patmos.
Indeed, they DID drink of the cup of Christ, and share in his baptism of suffering.
So, why did Herod try to kill Peter again? At that time, he was hated by the Jews – he was half-Jew, descended from Esau (brother of Jacob).
When he killed James, an important leader of the church, the Jewish leaders who were against the church (Pharisees, Sadducees) were happy. So, he thought that if he killed Peter, they would like him even more. But at that time, it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread – but killing during that time was not permitted. So, he arrested him to kill him AFTER the Feast.
This is Peter’s 3rd arrest.
- With John in chp 4?
- With other apostles later
- This experience
But this experience is totally different from other experiences.
In the other experiences,
- he was arrested by the Sanhedrin –
- with co-apostles –
- and was not chained –
- but he was given an opportunity to defend himself.
But in this prison now,
- he was arrested by king Herod,
- with at least 4X4 soldiers (16) guarding him (at least),
- and bound with chains.
- He had no chance to witness or defend himself.
- This prison followed the death of James with the high possibility of his own death the next day.
In this situation, under these circumstances, what could you do? Even sleep? Peter was sleeping.
Interesting, 16 soldiers who were watching him could not sleep, but he fell into a deep sleep. He was so sound asleep that an angel had to strike him on the side to get him up.
This is an important lesson for us. What is the secret? The mystery? What gave Peter such SOUND sleep in this moment before he should meet his own death?
1. Many believers were praying for him
(v. 12 also mentions this) – they prayed ALL night – night and day – this helped to bring Peter peace. Yes, true prayer under the guidance of the HS gives us true peace and rest of the soul.
Phil “Do not be anxious about anything, do not worry, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God in the name of Christ, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.”
Prayer also reminds us of the PROMISES of God’s Word. Do you know how many verses in the whole Bible? More than 30,000 – and ALL verses are a promise. And when we pray, we remember these.
Isaiah “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I will strengthen and uphold you with my mighty right hand.”
The written Word of God = logos – if you apply this in your practical situation, the Word will be ALIVE and act – rama
So, logos (written) should become rama (applied)
2. Peter’s knowledge that Herod could not kill him
Yes, the situation looks very bad, but he knew that Herod could not kill him – because he was holding the promise of Christ given him in the gospel of John:
“Feed my sheep; feed my lambs. When you were younger, you dressed yourself, and went wherever you wanted to go – but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and he will lead you to where you do not want to go.”
Jesus had already predicted that Peter would live to be an old man, and crucified on a Roman cross – this was the prophecy given to him by Christ.
In this situation, we might ask,
- WHY was James killed, but Peter rescued? Did he favor Peter?
- Why was Stephen killed immediately just for his great sermon, but his co-evangelist was used for a long time?
- Were Stephen and James failures and Peter and Philip successes? NO.
The only answer is:
The Sovereign Will of God
Yes, we agree that the heavens cannot contain all of God. His thinking and design is far beyond our own.
Heb 11 is the faith chapter.
Some conquered kingdoms by faith, some escaped death by faith, some quenched the fury of flames by faith, some shut the mouths of lions by faith.
Yes, these stories are very great.
But at the same time, the same chapter says,
Some were tortured and refused to give in by faith, some were put to death by faith, some were stoned by faith, some were jeered and imprisoned by faith, some were sawed in two by faith, some went around in sheepskins, persecuted and mistreated by faith.
Also these stories are great stories.
Those who live by faith can receive ANY situation because we believe Romans 8:28 “For we know that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.”
We may not always understand his ways, but we know that his sovereign will is always best. Remember that God is in control of everything.
God’s sovereign will is always GOOD and BEST (whether we understand it or not)
“If I live, I live for the Lord; if I die, I die for the Lord; whether I live or die, I do it for the Lord.” Yes, we can glorify God through our lives, but we can also glorify God through our deaths.
When Jesus told Peter this story about his death personally, the next verse says, “Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.”
Physical death is the end of our bodies on earth, BUT death is NOT the end of ME. Death is not the end of your existence. Death is not your termination. It is just your “terminal” – your transition into eternity.
“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 sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.””
Once again, we witness the ministry of angels in which they brought light into their prison cells.
In chp 5 also, “when they were in prison, during the night, an angel opened the gate and brought them out.”
This is the second time angels have come to get them out.
- Who are angels?
- Who is higher in position: you or angels? YOU
- Angels = God’s servants (always) – in this world and in the world to come
- We = God’s children
John 1:12 “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Yes, angels have many ministries, but here is a summary of two:
- In Greek, angelos = “herald” = they deliver the message of God
- They also help the children of God (Heb 1:14 “Angels are the ministering spirits who will help those saved by God”)
In this situation, the angel did something extraordinary – he came and got Peter out. But, Peter also had his own job to do. He had to GET UP, GET DRESSED, and GET OUT.
- The angel did something extraordinary,
- Peter did something ordinary.
Even in miracles, Jesus is always practical.
- God created all beasts, birds, and plants (extraordinary),
- man had to name them (ordinary).
- Jesus turned water into wine (extraordinary),
- men had to put water into jars and take some to give to others (ordinary).
- Jesus multiplied fish and bread to feed 5000 plus (extraordinary),
- the disciples had to distribute and gather (ordinary).
- Jesus raised Jarius’ daughter from the dead
- man had to give her something to eat,
- Jesus raised Lazarus (extraordinary),
- man had to remove the stone from the tomb’s entrance and take off the grave clothes (ordinary).
This is a practical principle of Christ.
Jesus does EXTRAordinary, we do ordinary. Jesus does SUPERnatural, we do natural.
But when we do these things, Jesus calls us his co-workers, to share in his victory, in his glory.
Even today, what are you doing inside and outside the church? Yes, ministry in or out of the church looks small – it looks very ordinary. But even these small things, by our faith and expectations, Jesus does something EXTRAordinary, supernatural.
We are doing ordinary things, but through these ordinary things, God is doing extraordinary things.
Believe and expect something great from God.
God bless you.
Let us pray.