Today’s severe the reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ which is the church as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke in the book of Acts. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty-five verses of the twelfth chapter.when you come to this particular portion of scripture you Ko find the book of the Acts of the apostles and early church transitioning from that which we find and read in the previous chapter. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the eleventh chapter you will find and take notice that it begins with the apostle Peter returning from Capernaum where he entered into the house of Cornelius the Roman centurion after an angel of the Lord appeared unto Cornelius while praying and fasting in his house, as well as after the Holy Spirit had spoken unto the apostle peter while he was lodging in the home of Simon who was a tanner. After seeing a vision from heaven with a large sheet full of four footed creatures and creeping things and beasts and birds, and after hearing the voice of the Father command and instruct him to rise, kill and eat, the apostle peter became aware of three men who were at the gate of the house asking for him by name. It was while the apostle Peter was atop the roof praying before and unto the Lord that he not only saw the vision of the beasts and creatures being let down from heaven, but he also heard the voice of the Lord declared unto him that he was not to call unclean or common that which the Lord hath sanctified and cleansed. After inviting the guests whom Cornelius had sent unto him to lodge for the night, the apostle Peter left on the morrow and went with them from Joppa unto Capernaum where he would enter into the home of Cornelius and would stand before both he and all is household and those who were gathered together with him. After discerning that what was taking place was of the living God the apostle peter began speaking unto and preaching Jesus the Christ unto them—how He was anointed by God with power to heal and go about doing all manner of food among the people. What’s more, is the apostle Peter would speak unto those to whom he was sent concerning the death, the burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. While the apostle Peter was speaking the Holy Ghost fell upon all those who were in the house filling them completely and giving them the ability to speak with other tongues and magnify the living God. Even more than this, is that after they had been baptized in the name of Jesus the Christ, and after they had been baptized with the Holy Ghost the apostle Peter immediately called for them to be baptized in water according to the word which the Lord had spoken concerning John indeed baptizing with water, but Jesus the Christ would baptized with the Holy Spirit and with Fire.
As you continue reading the words which are written and recorded within the eleventh chapter you will find that word had come unto the apostles and church in Jerusalem how gentiles had received the word of God, and undoubtedly how they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The beloved physician Luke writes and records how those who were of the circumcising contended with the apostle Peter concerning his going in unto the Gentiles and entering into their home and eating with them. Upon hearing all the words those of the circumcision had spoken unto the apostle he immediately and forthwith began rehearsing unto them all that had happened—from the angelic vision which had taken place in the house of Cornelius, to the interaction the apostle Peter had with the Lord, and even how the apostle Peter spoke unto Cornelius and his household concerning the gospel of Jesus the Christ. Furthermore the apostle Peter had spoken unto and declared unto them that it was while he was speaking in the house of Cornelius that the Holy Ghost fell in that place and fell upon those who were there. What I so love about that which the apostle peter speaks unto those who were present within Jerusalem—those of the circumcision—was that he made the emphatic declaration that he was not one who would stand against and oppose the living God. It’s quite remarkable that the apostle Peter recognized and discerned that what was taking place was of God, and despite the fact that it might not have made any sense to him, he was not one to stand in the way of that which the living God was doing. The apostle Peter spoke unto those of the circumcision that what had taken place in the house of Cornelius had the fingerprint and hand of God all over it, and that despite the fact that it went against everything they had been taught and believed, what he had done was simply obeyed the voice of the living God in the matter of going unto the house of Cornelius the centurion, as well as speaking unto him and hide household concerning Jesus the Christ, and His death, burial and resurrection. What’s more, is that as you read the words which the apostle Peter rehearsed in the hearing of the circumcision and those who contended with him you will come face to face with the tremendous and incredible reality that there are times within our lives when our obedience to the voice and direction of the living God may very well go against everything we have been taught and have been led to believe. There are and there will be times within our hearts and lives when the Lord can and will ask and demand obedience of us, and will ask such obedience—even if it goes against everything we have been taught and have been led to believe within and throughout our entire lives. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we will possess and have the courage to obey the voice of the living God—even if we might not have a context or framework for what He has asked us to do.
Ultimately and inevitably, you will find that after hearing the words which the apostle Peter has spoken unto them, all those of the circumcision held their peace and acknowledged that what Peter had spoken of was from the Lord, and that the Gentiles themselves had not only received the words of God, but had also received the Holy Ghost as evidenced with magnifying the living God and speaking with other tongues. The apostles, the brethren, and all those who spoke with and unto the apostle Peter had come to the place where they would acknowledge that what had taken place in the home of Cornelius was indeed and was in fact of the living God, and that they were not to stand in the way, nor deny or dispute that which the living God was doing. It’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that there in Caesarea Cornelius and his entire household had received the word of God concerning Jesus the Christ, and had even received the promise of the Father which was the Holy Spirit as evidenced in speaking with tongues and magnifying the living God. The apostle Peter has not only discerned that what was taking place was of the living God, but also recognized that he was nothing and was no one to stand in the way of that which the living God was doing. The apostle Peter had spoken unto the apostles and unto the brethren who were in the midst of Jerusalem concerning what had taken place in Caesarea and how the Holy Spirit had been made available unto the Gentiles as well. Undoubtedly the apostle Peter has absolutely no clue what was going to take place and what was going to happen when he entered into and came unto the house of Cornelius, and I would dare say that he was much surprised by what had actually taken place, and how the Holy Ghost had fallen upon the Gentiles, and had given them the same experience which up to that time had only been made available to the Jews and those who were of the circumcision. How absolutely wonderful and remarkable it is to think about and consider the fact that not only was the word of God preached unto Gentiles, and not only had the Gentiles received the promise of the Father which was the person of the Holy Spirit, but they had also received the baptism of johns which was baptism in water unto the emission of their sins and transgressions. If you read that which is found and contained within the tenth chapter of the book of Acts you will come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that not only had the Gentiles received the word of God, but they had also been baptized in John’s baptism which was in water unto the remission and forgiveness of sins, as well as the baptism of Jesus the Christ, which was the baptism of the Holy Ghost and with fire. Simply because the apostle Peter faithfully obeyed the word and voice of the Lord when He spoke unto him while at Joppa the Gentiles had not only heard the word of God concerning Jesus the Christ, but were also baptized in the baptism of John, as well as were baptized in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Before getting into that which is found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we continue reading what is found in the eleventh chapter, for what we find in the final verses of the eleventh chapter help set the stage for what we find and read in the twelfth chapter. If you begin reading with and form the nineteenth verse of the eleventh chapter you will find that those which had been scattered abroad as a result of the persecution which broke out against the death and martyrdom of Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the word unto none by the Jews only. Luke writes and records that some of those who were at Antioch were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which when they had come unto Antioch, spoke unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. Luke writes and records how the hand of the Lord was upon those who preached the Lord Jesus the Christ, and how a great number believed and turned unto the Lord. Eventually the tidings, the testimony and report of what was taking place in Antioch had made its way unto the church in Jerusalem, and they sent forth Barnabas in order that he might go unto Antioch and minister unto those who were present in the midst of that city. Upon coming unto Antioch and seeing the grace of God which was manifested in that place, Barnabas was exceeding glad and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord with all their heart. Please don’t miss what we find and read within this passage of Scripture, for what we find within it is not only the preaching of Jesus the Christ and conversion, but we also find within this passage the mark of discipleship, as Barnabas was sent by the church in Jerusalem to disciple those who were found in this city. This is quite unique and remarkable when you think about and consider it, for within this passage—as well as within the book of Acts up to this point—you will come face to face with the reality that conversion and baptism is not enough, and that there is a work which is to take place after conversion which more often than not we neglect and don’t pay much attention to. As you read the words which are found within this passage you will find that Jesus the Christ was indeed and was in fact preached, and that many did in fact believe in and turn unto the Lord, but how conversion wasn’t enough then, and in all reality, it isn’t enough now. I am completely and utterly convinced that conversion has never been enough, and that there are a number of men and women who place a tremendous emphasis on conversion, and yet they completely neglect and even ignore the reality and necessity of discipleship and the further work of the Holy Spirit. In all reality, I would dare say that the Holy Spirit is one of sanctification, and is one of discipleship; in the body of Christ, for the Holy Spirit calls and prepares men and women for a further work after baptism in water—namely, discipleship and sanctification. I am becoming increasingly convinced that the work of the Holy Spirit is one that centers upon discipleship and sanctification, as the Holy Spirit desires that men and women transition beyond merely being converted unto the Lord Jesus the Christ, and actually become disciples of the Lord Jesus the Christ.
As I sit here this morning and think about and consider how the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas unto Antioch after hearing and receiving report of men and women coming to the faith and believing in the Lord Jesus the Christ, I can’t help but come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that Barnabas was sent with and for one single purpose and one single mission—namely, that he might engage himself in discipleship of those who were present and found within Antioch. Undoubtedly those of the church in Jerusalem recognized that conversion and baptism in water weren’t enough, and how it was absolutely necessary for further discipleship in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was indeed true that the Holy Spirit was indeed an advocate for the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ, and that the Holy Spirit did indeed come alongside the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ and would speak all things concerning Jesus the Christ, however, there was a great and present need for discipleship within the hearts and lives of all those who would make the conscious decision to commit their hearts and their lives to Jesus the Christ. What we find and what we read in this passage of Scripture is a truly wonderful and remarkable reality concerning the need for discipleship, and how once we have been converted to Jesus the Christ—and have even been baptized in water unto the remission of sins—we must press on to maturity and growth before and in the presence of the living God. In all reality, this is what the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews sought to write and proclaim in that epistle found within the New Testament, for they recognized and understood that conversion itself wasn’t enough, and that there was indeed a tremendous need for growth and maturity. In fact, I feel it necessary to take a moment to pause right here and present you—not only with the words which the author of the epistle of Hebrews wrote concerning maturity and growth, but also that which the apostle Paul wrote concerning maturity and growth in the epistle which was written unto the Ephesian congregation. Consider if you will—first the words which are written and found within the fourth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian church and congregation, as well as the words which were written in the epistle written unto the Hebrews concerning the same reality:
“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted but that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye heave heard him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:11-24).
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall way, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which heareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 5:11-6:8).
It is quite obvious when reading the final verses of the eleventh chapter that conversion itself is not enough, and that even if we have been baptized in water unto the remission of sins, there is a secondary work of sanctification and discipleship which must go hand in hand with the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts and lives. Perhaps one of the most astonishing and remarkable realities we find within the New Testament book of Acts is not only the works of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ which is the church of Jesus Christ, and not only the arrival and manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but also how the Holy Spirit calls believers and disciples of Jesus the Christ into a place of discipleship and sanctification beyond merely conversion and believing on the name of the Lord Jesus the Christ. The whole reason and purpose Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem unto the church in Antioch was that the church there might be edified and strengthened and that they might come into maturity and growth in the Lord Jesus the Christ. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for it is absolutely necessary that we come face to face with the fact that conversion itself is not enough, and that there is a great and present for discipleship. IT is discipleship that presses us on to further growth and unto further maturity, as.it is the divine will and purpose of God that we become a perfect man and attain to a degree and measure of growth and maturity within our hearts and lives as disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ. Oh how absolutely wonderful and important discipleship truly is, as we have been called to a deeper life beyond conversion and even beyond Sunday. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that there is a relationship and there is a reality that exists beyond Sunday morning religion and mere conversion to the faith and making the decision to walk with and follow Jesus the Christ. Conversion itself is great and it is necessary as the first step and first part of our relationship and walk with the Lord, however, the baptism of the Holy Ghost is absolutely necessary and critical within our lives as a work of sanctification and discipleship which must needs take place on a continual and daily basis. Any preacher, or any minister who preaches and would state that conversion in and of itself is enough and that there isn’t a greater need for discipleship and maturity is not only deceived in their own hearts and minds, but also runs the risk of deceiving you who have made the decision to walk with, follow and believe on the Lord Jesus the Christ. We must come to face with the wonderful reality that maturity and growth are absolutely critical elements of discipleship within our hearts and lives, and are in fact a wonderful working of the Holy Spirit within our hearts and lives. If there is not an inner working of maturity and growth within your heart and life, and if you yourself are not pressing on to discipleship and growing up in Jesus the Christ, I would dare say your experience might very well be incredibly shallow and in need of a complete overhaul and transformation.
With all of that being said—as you continue reading in the eleventh chapter you will find the setting and stage being set for what we find and read in the twelfth chapter. In the final verses of the eleventh chapter we read of Barnabas coming unto Antioch and encouraging them in the Lord, and to with one purpose and one heart faithfully follow the Lord, but we also find Barnabas leaving Anitoch and journeying unto Tarsus for as to find Saul. Upon finding Saul in Tarsus Barnabas brought him back with him unto Antioch, and it came to pass that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church and taught much people. There in Antioch the disciples and followers of the way would first be called Christians, and it was there in Antioch where they would be strengthened and encouraged in the Lord through the teaching and preaching of Barnabas and Saul as they faithfully declared the word of the Lord and labored among them who were present there. What’s more, is that Luke writes that for a whole year the church in Antioch was strengthened and encouraged by the teaching and ministry of Barnabas and Saul, and faithfully experienced discipleship and growth in the Lord as a direct result of their teaching and preaching. What we must recognize when reading this passage is that while we read of discipleship, growth and transformation, there were prophets who came from Jerusalem unto Antioch, and there stood up one of them named Agabus who signified by the Spirit that there would be a great death and famine throughout the entire world, which would come to pass during the days of Claudius Caesar. During the days of the great famine and dearth which took place within and upon the whole earth the disciples, and every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea, which when they did it, sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. It’s absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to what is found in the final verses of the eleventh chapter, for within these verses—not only do we encounter and come face to face with discipleship, but we also come face to face with community, as the disciples of the Lord Jesus the Christ determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea. What we read and what we find in this passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful picture of community within the body of Christ, and the disciples of Jesus the Christ esteeming others as better than themselves. What’s more, is that here in the eleventh chapter we find a wonderful expression of that which we find and read in the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book, for what we find in those two chapters is a truly glorious picture of a church that not only works together in community, but which also takes care of their own and which looks out for each other. Consider if you will the words which are found—both in the second, as well as the fourth chapter—of the book of Acts, and the truly wonderful ministry of body of Christ according to the effectual working and ministry of the Holy Spirit:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (Iwhich is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
At the conclusion of the eleventh chapter—not only do we find discipleship taking place there in Antioch, but we also find present during those days a tremendous and wonderful sense of community, sacrifice, and selflessness, as the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ came together to send relief unto the brethren which were in Judaea during the days of the great famine which had struck the earth. Oh how absolutely wonderful and remarkable it is to think about and consider the fact that in those days the early church and body of Christ so cared for and so looked out for one another that when one member suffered they all suffered. What a wonderful sense of community and unity was found within the church and body of Christ during those days, for the body of Christ did not esteem their own possessions and goods as belonging to them, and gave cheerfully and freely in order that the whole body might be cared for and looked after. It is in the context of a great famine which had come upon the earth that the events of the twelfth chapter come to light and come to play, for at the very outset of the twelfth chapter you will find the beloved physician Luke writing how “about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.” Please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of that which is written and found within the twelfth chapter of the book of Acts, for it comes directly on the heels of that which is found in the closing verses of the eleventh chapter. At the end of the eleventh chapter we find a great famine and a great dearth striking and coming upon the earth, and the church and body of Christ determining to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea. If you take that which is found in the eleventh chapter and that which is found in the twelfth chapter of the book of Acts you will not only read of famine and dearth, but you will also that at the same time there arose another persecution against certain of those who were in the church of Jesus Christ. The beloved physician Luke writes how during those days—during the days of the famine and dearth which took place upon the earth—Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church, and how he put James the brother of the John to death with the sword. What’s more, is that as if it weren’t enough that he put James to death with the sword, he proceeded to seize the apostle Peter and put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him, in order that after Easter he might bring him forth unto the people. The beloved physician Luke writes how Peter was kept in prison, but how prayer, intercession and supplication was made for him without ceasing. It is absolutely critical that we recognize and understand the reality that continual prayer and intercession was made for the apostle Peter, for there is not a doubt in my mind that the events we read in this chapter are as a direct result of the prayer(s) and intercession(s) of the church.
If you continue to read in the twelfth chapter you will find that while the apostle Peter was there in prison being held under constant guard and watch, endless prayer was being made for him by the saints. Although the apostle Peter was imprisoned by the Herod the king in order that he might bring him out unto the people, endless and continual prayer was made for the apostle Peter. The question I can’t help but wonder within my heart and mind is what the saints of God and disciples of Jesus the Christ were praying when they interceded on behalf of the apostle Peter. When they prayed for the apostle Peter, did they pray that his faith might be strengthened and that he would be encouraged in the Holy Ghost while there in prison? When they prayed for the apostle Peter, did they pray that his faith would not waver and that he would remain steadfast and unmovable in his faith? Or, did they earnestly pray that the Lord might deliver the apostle Peter out of the hand of Herod the king, and would somehow bring him forth out of prison? If you read the book of Acts you will notice and discover that there was already one prison break and already one divine intervention which had taken place earlier in the history of the early church. If you turn your attention back to the fifth chapter of the book of Acts you will find that all the apostles were seized and put in prison, and how it was during the night that an angel of the Lord entered into that prison, brought them forth out of that prison, and instructed them to go unto the Temple that they might preach the word of God concerning Jesus the Christ. In the fifth chapter of the book of Acts we find and read how an angel of the Lord had not only entered into the prison where the apostles were being held, but how the angel had also delivered and brought them forth out of the prison, and had instructed them to stand in the Temple and preach the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. It is quite possible that the early church remembered how the angel of the Lord had entered into the prison where the apostles were held, and how the angel of the Lord delivered and brought them forth out of the prison, and did in fact pray and intercede on behalf of the apostle Peter that he too might be delivered and brought forth out of the prison he was being held. Is it possible that the saints of God remembered how the angel of the Lord had delivered the apostles out of the hand of the Sanhedrin and removed them from the prison, and that they prayed earnestly unto the living God that He might intervene on behalf of the apostle Peter? Were the saints of God aware of the fact that Herod the king might also intend on killing the apostle Peter after Easter and after the Passover, and cried out unto the living God earnestly for his deliverance and freedom? What I so love about what we find within this passage is that despite the fact that the apostle Peter was kept in prison by Herod the king, the early church and saints of God cried out unto the living God on behalf of Peter. While we don’t know what exactly that prayed for on behalf of the apostle Peter, we do know that something happened as a result of their prayers, for Luke writes how an angel of the Lord entered into the prison the night before the apostle would be brought out before the people, and would deliver him out of the hand of Herod the king.
THE GOD WHO ENTERS PRISONS! THE GOD WHO OPENS PRISON DOORS! THE GOD WHO CAUSES CHAINS TO FALL OFF! THE GOD WHO OPENS CLOSED GATES! The more I read and consider the words which are found within this passage, the more I can’t help but come face to face with the awesome and incredible realization that not only was the Lord able to enter into the prison where the apostle Peter was being held and guarded, but the Lord was also able to completely deliver and set free the apostle Peter. What we have and what we find within this passage is a truly astonishing picture of the angel of the Lord not only smiting the apostle Peter to wake him up, but he also instructed him to rise quickly there in that prison cell. As you read the words which are found in this passage you will read how not only did the chains which bound Peter fall off from his hands, but also the prison door itself was opened, thus allowing the apostle to come forth out of the cell where he was. What we find within this passage of Scripture is not only chains falling off the hands of the apostle Peter, and not only do we find the prison door opening, but we also find it written how the gate itself opened of its own accord, and how the apostle Peter was completely and totally delivered out of the hand of Herod the king. I have to admit that I find that which is written in this passage completely and utterly fascinating, for what we find within this passage—together with that which we find in the fifth chapter of the same New Testament book—is a wonderful and powerful picture of a living God who is able to enter into prison cells, and a living God who is able to not only cause chains to fall off His saints, but how He is also able to open prison doors in order that His people might emerge completely delivered and set free. In all reality, within the book of Acts you will find three different occurrences where the saints of God were in prison, and how the Lord not only entered the prison, but also how He brought about a wonderful and mighty deliverance. In the fifth chapter we find how the angel of the Lord entered into the prison where the apostles were being held, and how the angel of the Lord opened the prison door before them, and instructed them to depart and go and preach in the Temple of the Lord the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ. In the twelfth chapter of the book of Acts we again find an angel of the Lord entering into the prison where the apostle Peter was, smiting him to awaken him, causing the chains to fall off his hands, opening the prison door before him, leading him out of the prison, and causing the gate before them to open of its own accord. What’s more, is that when you come to the sixteenth chapter of this same New Testament book you will find that when Paul and Silas were imprisoned themselves, they worshipped the Lord at night, and about the midnight hour while they sang praises and hymns unto the living God, a great earthquake shook the prison, all the prison doors in the prison were opened, and every man’s shackles and chains fall off of their hands and feet. Oh please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this, for one of the greatest realities of the early church was the fact that the early church entered into prisons, opened prison doors, caused chains to fall off the saints of God, and even led His servants out of prisons.
WHEN PRISONS ARE INVADED AND HOUSES SHAKE! I sit here this morning and I can’t help but come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that what we find within the New Testament book of Acts is a truly wonderful and astonishing picture of prisons being invaded—even shaken in the midnight hour by a great earthquake—and houses where the saints of God are praying being shaken. It’s truly astonishing to think about and consider the fact that not only do we find and read of houses where the saints of God are praying being shaken, but we also find and read of prisons where the saints of God are being held also being shaken. What’s more, is that we find prisons being invaded—not once, not twice, but three times—as the living God enters into and invades prisons in order that He might deliver His servants. There is an expression and manifestation within the book of Acts that is centered upon the reality of chains falling, prison doors being opened, and the saints of God being led forth from the prison which they were being held. Of course in the case of Paul and Silas we find that the angel of the Lord did not lead them forth, and how when the guard thought that the prisoners had escaped under his watch, he thought to strike himself dead. Upon hearing the apostle Paul declare unto him that they were all present and accounted for, the jailer and guard invited them into his home, heard and listened to the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ, and both he and his entire household received Jesus the Christ and were baptized. Oh, when we read the book of Acts we must understand and come face to face with an expression of the saints of God that isn’t all that often talked about and discussed—namely, that there is the manifestation of prison doors being opened, chains falling off, prisons being invaded, and even gates being opened in order that the saints of God might be delivered and set free. The question we must ask ourselves as we read the words found within this book is whether or not this is in fact an expression in our midst, and in our churches and congregations, and if the Spirit of the Lord still enters into the prisons where some of us are being held and bound. We must ask ourselves whether or not the living God is still causing chains to fall off, and is still causing prison doors to be opened, thus allowing the saints of God to walk forth in complete and utter freedom before and in the presence of the living God.