When Chains Fall Off & Gates Open

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage begins with the first verse of the twelfth chapter and continues through to the twelfth verse of the thirteenth chapter. “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:1-12).

 

            “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. But he be joining unto them with the and to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place. Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea and there abode” (Acts 12:13-19).

 

            “And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country’s was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 12:20-25).

 

            “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucid; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus: which was with the deputy of the country, Sergio’s Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (For so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord” (Acts 13:1-12).

 

            When you come to the twelfth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find what might very well be the second martyrdom of the early church. It would be in the seventh chapter of this book you find the church’s first martyr as Stephen who was one of the seven deacons ordained and appointed by the early church was stoned to death outside the city of Jerusalem. The narrative and account of Stephen is one that begins in the sixth chapter and with a dispute that arose between the Grecians and the Jewish believers over the care for their widows. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the sixth chapter and the beginning of that chapter you will find the church was multiplying and continuing to grow. In fact the more you read the words which are found in this New Testament book the more you can and will encounter the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding the growth, the increase, and the multiplication and addition of the church. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts without encountering the tremendous truth surrounding the growth of the early church—growth which would begin to take place in the second chapter. There in the second chapter you will find the events of the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon and filled all those who were in the upper room. There would come from heaven the sound as of a mighty rushing wind and cloven tongues of fire rested upon each of those who were gathered together in one accord in that room as they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This is something which must needs be recognized and understood for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the beginning of growth that would take place during the days of the early church.

 

            If you continue reading the words which are found in the second chapter of this New Testament book you can and will encounter the sight and sound of Galilaeans speaking with the tongues of the nations garnering the attention of the devout Jews which were in Jerusalem from all the nations of the earth. Each of them would hear the wonderful works of the living God being declared, proclaimed and spoken in their own native tongue and language from which they were born. While there were some which marveled there would be others who would think and perceive these men and women were drunk with new wine. It would be at this point the apostle Peter would stand up being full of the Holy Ghost and would not only declare the fulfillment of the prophetic words which Joel had spoken but would also preach the word and name of the Lord Jesus. After the apostle Peter had finished preaching many of those who were present would indeed ask what they must do in response to the words which he had preached. Oh if there is one thing I find myself asking and wondering when reading these words is when was the last time the preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus was done in our churches and rather than the preacher or minister giving the altar call men and women came running to the altar being pricked in their hearts and convicted in their consciences and asking what they must needs do. When was the last time the preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus was so incredibly powerful and had the anointing of the Holy Spirit on it that the preacher did not need to ask for any to come forward but men and women would rush to the altar asking the simple question of what they must needs do.

 

            When the apostle Peter heard the words and question which the people had spoken unto him on this particular day he would respond by declaring unto them that every one of them needed to repent and be baptized unto the remission of sins. Moreover the apostle Peter had previously declared that all who called upon the name of the Lord would indeed be saved—something which the ancient Hebrew prophet Joel had emphatically declared and prophesied. Oh this is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for on the day of Pentecost there would be three thousand souls who would believe the word and name of the Lord Jesus and would be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. On the day of Pentecost there would be three thousand souls which would be added unto the n umber of souls which were present in the upper room as the church would experience one of the greatest and largest increases in the history of the early church. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you personally witnessed thousands of men and women rushing and racing to the altar being pricked in their hearts and convicted in their consciences asking what they must needs do? When was the last time you personally witnessed as three thousand souls believed on the word and name of the Lord Jesus and would be baptized in the name of Jesus unto repentance for the remission of sins? On the day of Pentecost the church would see the beginning of growth which would be manifested during and throughout its history there at the beginning. Oh this is something we must needs pay close attention to for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the ministry of the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit would not only produce and bring about g growth but would also bring about and foster a wonderful spirit of community and fellowship among the saints and believers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh consider if you will the following words which are found in the final verses of the second chapter concerning the response of many to the preaching of the apostle Peter, the growth of the early church and the ministry of fellowship and community:

 

            “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to call that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:37-40).

 

            “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 stedfastly 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 favour with all the people. And the LORD added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).

 

            AND THE SAME DAY THERE WERE ADDED UNTO THEM ABOUT THREE THOUSAND SOULS! AND THE LORD ADDED TO THE CHURCH DAILY SUCH AS SHOULD BE SAVED! Please pay close attention to these words which are found and written here for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding the beginning of the growth and addition of the early church. You cannot read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with the continued growth and addition which would take place during the days of the apostles and believers in the word and name of the Lord Jesus. Oh there is something absolutely wonderful and powerful about this continued growth and multiplication which would take place as the book of Acts not only speaks of the growth of the church in terms of general growth but it would also speak of growth on a daily basis. Here in the final verses of the second chapter we find growth mentioned and spoken of in the general sense of three thousand souls being added to the church in a single day as well as the Lord adding to the church daily such as should be saved. Oh we must recognize and pay close attention to this and how absolutely wonderful it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely astonishing truth surrounding the growth of the early church during the days of the apostles and those who would be added unto the spiritual body of Christ. IN fact I would dare say the narrative and account of the early church is indeed one that was centered upon the growth and addition of the early church as it was never intended on being simply those who were present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts concerning the growth of the early church during those days:

 

            “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 5:4).

 

            “And by the ands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people: (And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:12-16).

 

            “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected of the disciples” (Acts 6:1).

 

            “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly: and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

 

            “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).

 

            “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:10-21).

 

            It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize and understand these different passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the continued growth and increase which would take place during the days of the early church. From the day of Pentecost unto the time when Herod the king would stretch forth his hand to vex certain of the church and would kill James the brother of John with the sword the church would indeed experience continued growth. This is something we must needs recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the early church and how during the days of the early church one of the greatest realities and manifestations which would take place in the midst of it would be the growth, the multiplication and addition of those to its number on a daily basis. What we must also recognize and understand is that with the continued and sustained growth of the early church would also come a tremendous persecution toward and against it. As much as we read about the growth and multiplication of the early church there is a great need for us to recognize that with that growth would indeed come persecution which would break out against the church itself. What’s more is this persecution would initially begin in a small degree and measure as it would be limited unto the apostles themselves. Moreover this persecution would originally begin with and against the apostles Peter and John as they would be used of the Lord to pronounce healing upon the man who was lame from his mother’s womb and laid daily at the gate of the Temple which was called Beautiful. If you want to truly understand the early church you must needs understand it in terms of the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, you must understand it in terms of the word and name of the Lord Jesus, you must understand it through the lens of the growth of the early church, you must understand it through the anointing of the power of the Holy Spirit, you must understand it through the lens of the expansion of the church into all Judaea, Galilee, Samaria and ultimately unto the uttermost parts of the earth, and you must needs understand it in terms of the persecution of the church and its members.

 

            The more you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more you can and will encounter the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding this persecution which would indeed and would in fact break out against and upon the early church beginning in Jerusalem and with the apostles Peter and John. In fact you cannot read the book of Acts without coming face to face with this persecution as the Sadducees and the chief priests would begin by threatening the apostles Peter and John against preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus. In the very next chapter we read of the senate of the children of Israel together with the religious and political community not only threatening the apostles but also beating them before letting them go. What’s more is in both the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book we find and read of the apostles being put in prison with the angel of the Lord delivering the apostles from the prison and commanding them to go and stand in the Temple preaching the word of life. It wouldn’t be until the seventh chapter of this book where we find and encounter the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the death of Stephen which would indeed be the catalyst and launching pad for the persecution of the early church. It would in the seventh chapter of this book we read of the stoning of Stephen thus making him the church’s first martyr while in the eighth and ninth chapters we read of the persecution which would break out against the church after and upon the death of Stephen. What’s more is this persecution which we read about in the eighth and ninth chapters would be referenced again in the eleventh chapter. In addition to this we also read how after Saul was converted and would begin preaching and publishing the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus both the Jews in Damascus and the Grecians in Jerusalem would seek to kill him. Moreover it would be in the twelfth chapter of this New Testament book we not only read of Herod the king putting to death James the brother of John but also imprisoning the apostle Peter with the full intention of putting him to death.

 

            Having written these words I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding this great persecution which would break out against the early church. Within the New Testament book we find the apostles threatened, we find the apostles being imprisoned, we find the apostles being beaten, we find Stephen being stoned to death, we find Saul consenting to the death of Stephen and unleashing a torrent and tidal wave of persecution against the early church and continuing to breathe our murderous threats against it. What’s more is that in the New Testament book of Acts we find the jews in Damascus and the Grecians in Jerusalem seeking to put Saul to death in response to his preaching the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. Not only this but when we come to the twelfth chapter of this New Testament book we find and encounter the absolutely wonderful reality of the death of James the brother of John by the sword at the behest of Herod the king and the apostle Peter being imprisoned with the full intention and expectation to kill and put him to death the following day. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which describe the tremendous persecution which would break out against the early church, against the apostles and even against Saul of Tarsus and against James the brother of John and the apostle Peter:

 

            “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, we’re by we must be saved” (Acts 4:1-12).

 

            “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uncleanred and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took ,nowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that is spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them god, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed” (Acts 4:13-22).

 

            “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought> But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold,  ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:17-32).

 

            “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space: and said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and draw away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:33-42).

 

            “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrnenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Ciliciia, and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.k And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:8-15).

 

            “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus tanning on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:54-60).

 

            “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and filling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4).

 

            “And Saul yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).

 

            “And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:23-31).

 

            “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none by unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was at Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:19-26).

 

            There is a great need for us to recognize and understand these passages of Scripture for within them we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous persecution which would indeed break out against the early church. What would initially and originally begin against the apostles Peter and John would eventually touch all the apostles as they would not only be imprisoned but would also be threatened and beaten before being let go. When you come to the sixth chapter of this New Testament book you will find a number of different sects seeking to dispute and reason together with Stephen, however, they were unable to dispute and reason together with him nor resist the wisdom given unto him by the Holy Spirit. As a direct result of this they would—out of envy—raise up false witnesses who would accuse Stephen of blasphemous words which he had never spoken. When Stephen was asked whether or not the accusations were true he wouldn’t really defend himself as much as he would give them a powerful history of the Jewish people and how from the times of their fathers they were a hard-hearted and stiffnecked people. It would be as a direct result of this they would all gnash against him with their teeth and would not only drag him out of the city but would stone him to death. It would be as a direct result of the death of Stephen a great persecution would break out in Jerusalem against the church and those who were followers of the way. This persecution would be spearheaded by Saul of Tarsus who would wreak havoc against and upon the early church as he would drag men and women out of their homes and would cast them into prison.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this New Testament book and am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the persecution that would break out against the early church and the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that when you come to the twelfth chapter of this book you will find Herod the king entering into the fold and stretching forth his hand in persecution within the city of Jerusalem. It is in the twelfth chapter of this New Testament book we encounter Luke’s words concerning Herod the king and how he stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the church. Scripture doesn’t reveal who he specifically stretched forth his hand to vex, however, we know that he would indeed have James the brother of John put to death by the sword. When Herod saw that this action pleased the Jews he would proceed to have the apostle Peter imprisoned—and not merely imprisoned by secured in the inner prison guarded by four quaternions. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for the word and language we find in the twelfth chapter of this book describe the second angelic prison break which would take place during the days of the early church. In all reality while we do in fact speak of buildings being shaken during the days of the early church, while we read of signs, wonders and miracles being performed, while we read of men and women being filled with the Holy Spirit, and while we read of persecution against the church we also read of two distinct prison breaks as the angel of the Lord would bring deliverance to the prison(s). The first mention of an angelic prison break would indeed be found in the fifth chapter of this New Testament book as the angel of the Lord would bring forth the apostles out of the prison where they had been cast and would command them to preach all the words of this life.

 

            If there is one thing I absolutely love about the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of this New Testament gospel it’s how Herod had every intention to kill and put the apostle Peter to death. Herod had seized and laid hold of the apostle Peter and had put him in prison that he might hold him until the opportune time would come when he could indeed put him to death. Within the twelfth chapter of this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the imprisonment of the apostle Peter at the behest of Herod the king. Luke writes that when Herod had apprehended Peter he put him in prison and delivered him to four quaternions of solders to keep him intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Scripture doesn’t specifically reveal Herod’s intention to kill the apostle Peter and perhaps even put him to death with the sword, however, we must understand that he undoubtedly had an intention to put him to death that it might please the Jews. Luke writes that Peter was kept in the prison but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. Pause for a moment and consider just how absolutely wonderful and incredible this truly is as the beloved physician Luke would indeed write how Peter was kept in the prison but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. Despite the fact that Peter was indeed imprisoned and kept securely in the midst of the prison there would be continual and constant prayer for him as the church would lift up their voices unto the living God for him on his behalf. Oh this is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the prayer of the saints for and on behalf of the apostle Peter. The church and believers were well aware of the fact that the apostle Peter was held and kept in prison and would make continual and constant prayer for him and on his behalf.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is not only that the church would make constant and continual prayer for the apostle Peter but while they were praying the angel of the Lord would be dispatched in response to their prayers. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for Scripture seems to indicate that the Lord did not reveal unto those who were praying for the apostle Peter that which He was planning on doing. Moreover the Lord didn’t reveal unto the church and those who were making continual praying that which He was doing in the midst of the prison. The Lord never revealed unto the early church the reality that he had dispatched an angel to enter into the prison and not only deliver the apostle Peter from the chains which bound him but also open his prison door, lead him out of the prison and deliver him out of the hand of Herod the king. There is absolutely no mention in this passage of Scripture that the early church which made continual and constant prayer for the apostle Peter was at all aware of the fact that the angel of the Lord would indeed be dispatched to deliver the apostle Peter from the prison. The Lord didn’t shout, announce or reveal that which he was about to do and that which He was planning on doing. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for there are times when we make continual and constant prayers before and unto the living God for something and while He doesn’t reveal to us that he is actually beginning to work He actually dispatches the answer and response to that for which we were praying for. The Lord would indeed send one of his angels unto the prison where the apostle Peter was being held in response to the prayers which were made for him by the church and those who would make continual and constant prayer for him.

 

            I absolutely love the words which are found in this passage of scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the continual and constant prayer(s) made by the church and how the Lord would indeed respond to their prayers. I am fascinated by the fact that the Lord never revealed unto the members of the church that he was about to act, nor even that He had acted nor that He was acting in response to their prayers. They would continue praying without ceasing for the apostle Peter and their prayers would ultimately reach the ears of the Lord who was present in the highest heavens. In direct response to their prayers the Lord would dispatch an angel unto the prison where the apostle Peter was and begin one of the greatest prison breaks in the history of the church—and not only in the history of the early church but also perhaps in history itself. Stop and consider the fact that during the night the prison was flooded and filled with light as an angel of the Lord would strike Peter on the side while he was sleeping between two guards. There in the midst of the prison the chains which were upon the wrists and ankles of the apostle Peter would fall off as the angel would command him get dressed. The angel of the Lord would then open the prison door which kept the apostle Peter bound and would not only lead him out of the prison cell where he was being kept but would also lead him out of the prison itself. What’s more is that as you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that when they came to the gate of the city it would open of its own accord without the hand of man bringing it about. The gate of the city would indeed open of its own accord and it would be at that particular moment when the apostle Peter would realize and recognize that this was not a vision he was seeing but was actually happening in real life.

 

            If there is one thing I find absolutely incredible about the words which are present in this passage of Scripture it’s that while this whole scene was unfolding—beginning in the prison with what happened unto the apostle Peter—he thought and believed that this was simply a vision which he was seeing. The apostle Peter did not immediately recognize and understand that what was happening was indeed real life and that the angel of the Lord had entered into the prison and delivered him out of the hand of Herod the king. The evening before the apostle Peter was to be brought before the people and perhaps even executed the angel of the Lord would enter into the prison and would not only deliver the apostle Peter out of the prison and from his chains but would deliver him out of the hand of Herod the king. Despite Herod’s desire and intention to destroy, kill and put the apostle Peter to death and despite the fact that Herod the king had seized and imprisoned the apostle Peter he would not carry out his murderous thoughts and intentions toward and against him. It would be during the night before the apostle Peter was to be brought before the people the angel of the Lord would be dispatched by heaven and would enter into the prison—not only delivering the apostle Peter from the chains which bound him but also delivering him from the prison and leading him out as far as the gate of the city. Oh how absolutely wonderful this truly is when you take the time to think about it for there is something truly amazing about the response of the Lord to the prayers which were made for the apostle Peter by the early church who would make prayer without ceasing for him. Scripture doesn’t reveal how long the church made prayer without ceasing and without quitting for the apostle Peter, however, we do know the Lord heard their prayers and would indeed response to them by dispatching the angel of the Lord to deliver the apostle Peter from the hand of Herod the king.

 

            CHAINS FELL OFF! WHICH OPENED TO THEM OF HIS OWN ACCORD! CHAINS FALLING, GATES OPENING! Oh I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and how there is something which must needs be recognized and understood—namely how the angel of the Lord not only caused the chains to fall off the wrists of the apostle Peter but after leading him past the first and second ward would cause the gate of the prison to open without the assistance of any man. What we find in this passage of Scripture is absolutely and utterly amazing and captivating when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of the angel of the Lord being dispatched from heaven in response to the prayers of the early church. The church would make prayers without ceasing for the apostle Peter—undoubtedly day and night—and although they weren’t aware of the fact the Lord was responding to their prayers he would indeed begin moving and responding to their prayers. Oh this leads me to something quite astonishing and captivating when you take the time to think about it for it brings us face to face with the reality of the Lord answering prayers without announcing or proclaiming He is actually answering them. It is possible that the Lord can in fact and does in fact answer prayers which we are praying without announcing unto us that He is actually answering them. It is indeed possible for us to make prayers without ceasing before and unto the Lord and perhaps not being aware of the fact that the Lord is indeed responding to our prayers. What’s more is that it is possible that we aren’t even aware of the fact that the Lord has responded to our prayers until the answer to our prayers is actually presented before and unto us. What we find in this passage of Scripture is incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it for within it we are brought face to face with the early church continuing to make prayer for the apostle Peter up until the time when the answer to their prayer would indeed be presented unto them at the gate of the house.

 

            The more I read and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth that the church would make prayers for the apostle Peter without ceasing and would continue to make prayers without ceasing—even up to the time when the Lord would present the very answer to their prayers. If there is one thing I would love to know when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s what the church prayed for when they made prayers for the apostle Peter without ceasing. Did the church make prayers for the apostle Peter and ask that he be strengthened there in the midst of prison fearing that he would be put to death with the sword as was James the brother of John? Did the church pray for Thea pestle Peter that he would not lose heart, that he would not faint, that he would not fear, that he would not doubt and that he would not waver there in the midst of the prison? Did the early church pray for the apostle Peter that he might be able to be strengthened with the might and power of the Holy Spirit there in the midst of the prison fully anticipating and expecting him to be put to death with the sword? What’s more is were there any among and within the church who prayed unto the Lord that He deliver the apostle Peter from prison? Were there any among the early church who thought within themselves to ask and pray for the deliverance of the apostle Peter as he would be there in the midst of the prison as they feared that he would be put to death with the sword as was James the brother of John? Scripture is entirely and altogether silent on that which the church actually prayed for when making prayers for the apostle Peter without ceasing and we are indeed left to speculate as to what exactly they asked for.

 

            In the fourth chapter of this New Testament book we find the place where the apostles and brethren were gathered together praying being shaken as they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. In the fifth chapter of this New Testament book we find the angel of the Lord entering into the prison where the apostles were being held and delivering them out of the prison before commanding them to preach the words of life. Now in this passage of Scripture we find the angel of the Lord being sent unto the prison where the apostle Peter was being held that he might deliver him from the hand of Herod the king. There is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the answer to the prayers of the church. The church would indeed make prayer for the apostle Peter without ceasing and I have to admit there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if they truly did in fact expect their prayers to be answered. When they were making prayers for the apostle Peter did they expect the angel of the Lord to enter into the prison and to supernaturally deliver the apostle Peter by causing his chains to fall off, and to lead him past the first and second ward and to lead him to the gate of the city and cause it to be opened of its own accord? Oh I would absolutely love to know what the early church prayed when they were praying for the apostle Peter without ceasing and offering continual prayers for him. What’s more is there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if they even remotely expected the angel of the Lord to be dispatched from heaven unto the prison and delivering the apostle Peter from his chains and from the prison. Oh there is something truly captivating about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and how the church would indeed make prayer for the apostle Peter and yet the Lord would not reveal unto them what He was going to do nor even what He was doing once He actually began to act. The Lord would hear and respond to their prayers and yet they would not know their prayers had been answered until the apostle Peter arrived at the gate of the house of the mother of John whose surname was Mark and a damsel named Rhoda would declare unto them the Peter was at the gate.

 

            The further you delve into the twelfth chapter of this New Testament book the more you will find an incredibly powerful truth surrounding prayer, the response of the living God to prayer and the answer to prayer. It was James who would emphatically write in his epistle how the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much and it was the apostle Paul who encouraged us to pray without ceasing and to be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and supplication making our requests known unto the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something absolutely wonderful and powerful about the power that surrounds and the power that is present within our prayers. The apostles and the brethren prayed and not only was the house where they were gathered together shaken and they were willed with the Holy Spirit but here we find the early church making prayers for the apostle Peter who was imprisoned by Herod and the Lord dispatching and sending His angel to deliver the apostle out of the hand of Herod. There is something absolutely astonishing and remarkable about the words we find in this passage of Scripture and how the living and eternal God never announced what He was doing nor did He even announce that He was answering and responding to their prayers. There is absolutely no mention in this chapter of the living and eternal God confirming to any of the members of the church that He heard their prayer—much less that He was actually answering it.

 

            As you read the words presented in this passage of Scripture you can and will come face to face with the fact that the living and eternal God had in fact answered the prayers of the church—albeit I would dare say in a way and manner they were neither expecting nor anticipating. I would dare say that even while the early church lifted up their voices before the living God in prayer they had absolutely no idea of what He was doing behind the scenes and how He was dispatching an angel to the prison where the apostle Peter was being held. The living and eternal God would dispatch an angel unto the very prison where the apostle Peter was and would not only wake him from his slumber between two soldiers but would also cause the chains which were upon him to fall off of their own accord. How absolutely wonderful it is to read this passage of Scripture and see a powerful picture of prayer not only being answered by the living God but also prayer causing chains to fall off the hands of those who were bound. The narrative of the apostle Peter being delivered on this particular night is more than simply deliverance out of the hand of an enemy and adversary of the church but it is an incredibly powerful picture of deliverance from chains and deliverance from prison. In fact this is something that is at the very heart of much of the words David wrote in the book of the Psalms as he would continually speak of the Lord delivering him out of the hands of his enemies and adversaries. David would speak of his foes and his adversaries being too much and too great for him and how the Lord delivered him out of their hands. What’s more is that David would also emphatically declare that when his enemies were too great, too strong and too powerful for him the Lord would deliver him from their clutches and from their grasp. David was no stranger to being pursued and being hunted by his enemies and adversaries and yet even with that being said we must needs recognize that David was also no stranger to the deliverance and mighty power of the living God.

 

            I read the words presented in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the wonderful reality of the church making prayers without ceasing for the apostle Peter. The early church knew the apostle Peter’s life was in danger and they were undoubtedly well aware of what had happened to Stephen and what had now happened to James the brother of John. There is not a doubt in my mind the Jews were well aware of the fact that Herod the king imprisoned the apostle Peter with full intent of bringing him forth before the people, making him a public spectacle and putting him to death before their very eyes. What we find here in this passage of Scripture, however, is something which Herod could not contain nor control. Despite the fact that Herod might very well have had every intention of putting the apostle Peter to death there was one thing he could not contend with—the prayers of the church. What’s more is that despite Herod desiring to put the apostle Peter to death he was absolutely and utterly powerless against the prayers and the continual prayers of the church. Oh there is something about when we pray, however, I would dare say there is something about when we pray without ceasing. I am convinced there are many who might very well be good at praying prayers and even many who are good at praying, however, there are very few who are good at praying without ceasing. Like Jacob who wrestled with the angel of the LORD throughout the night and would not let him go until he blessed him and like Elijah who prayed seven times before a cloud the size of a man’s hand would emerge from the sea we as the disciples of Jesus have indeed and have in fact been called to be those who can and will pray without ceasing. With this being said I would dare say there aren’t many men and women who are willing to pray and continue to pray until they receive the answer to their prayer(s). The early church was still praying when the answer to their prayers arrived at the gate of the house and would knock on the door. Oh stop and consider the fact that the church was still in the house praying for the apostle Peter and the very answer to their prayer would arrive at the gate of the house and begin knocking on the door.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be challenged by the tremendous need to pray—and not only the tremendous need to pray but also the incredible need for prayer. Within this passage we don’t just have and find the church praying and lifting up prayers unto God for the apostle Peter but we find them praying without ceasing. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading this particular passage for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding our need to pray—and not only our need to pray but to pray without ceasing. There are many among us who might very well be good at praying and might very well be good at praying prayers, however, there are very few who are willing to pray without ceasing and pray without giving up. Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane who prayed three times before the eternal Father concerning the cup He was to drink and with the divine will of the Father we are and have been called to be those who are willing to pray without ceasing and giving up. Oh in this generation especially there is a great need for those to be such who are continually committed and yielded to prayer and to praying without ceasing as those who will wrestle and contend with God. It was Jesus Himself who declared that if we ask we shall receive, if we knock it shall be opened unto us and if we seek we will find. What we must needs recognize when considering the words found in this passage of Scripture is that it’s not merely about our asking but about our continually asking; it’s not about our knocking but our continual knocking; and it’s not about our seeking but our continually seeking. There is a great need for us as the saints of God and the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to be such who not only pray but those who are willing to pray without ceasing—those who are willing to pray until we receive that for which we have asked for and that for which we have been praying.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous reality surrounding the prayers and praying of the church, the answering of those prayers and the presentation of the answer. I read the words found in this passage and I can’t help but wonder what the church was praying—even though they were praying without ceasing. Moreover there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if they expected their prayers to be answered. This is produced by the apostle Peter showing up at the house, Rhoda coming to the door and hearing his voice and telling everyone he was outside and their thinking she was mad. The very fact that the apostle Peter showed up at the house and a damsel named Rhoda heard his voice and proclaimed unto all of them that he was there and they didn’t believe demonstrates the possibility that they didn’t expect the apostle Peter to show up outside the house and at the door. I would dare say that as we read the words found in this passage of Scripture we must needs recognize the importance—not only of making prayer(s) without ceasing but also praying with faith and believing that we shall have what we ask for. I would dare say that it is not enough to simply pray and even to pray without ceasing for there is also a great need for us to pray with full assurance, with full confidence, with full faith and with full trust in the ability of the living and eternal God to answer and respond to our prayers. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely wonderful it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the need to pray with faith nothing wavering. It was James who declared that one who prayed and asked for something in prayer and yet wavered in their heart was a double minded man who was unstable in all his ways. Moreover James would also declare how that man ought not to think they would receive anything from the Lord because they did not pray nor did they ask in faith with nothing wavering in their hearts and their spirits.

 

There is a tremendous need within our hearts and our spirits to be those who not only pray without ceasing but also those who pray with faith lacking absolutely nothing in ourselves. It isn’t enough merely to pray and even to offer up prayers for we must needs be those who wrestle and truly contend with the living God in prayer. The early church made prayers for the apostle Peter without ceasing and the Lord would indeed answer their prayers, however, even when the answer to their prayer was standing outside the door they didn’t immediately respond in faith or confidence. The very answer to their prayers was standing outside the door knocking waiting to be let in and they initially thought Rhoda was mad. I would dare say there were very few in that house who actually thought—much less expected the apostle Peter to stand outside the door and knock. What makes this all the more intriguing when you consider it is the apostle Peter showed up at the house and didn’t merely knock but would continue knocking until they opened the door unto him and were astonished that he was indeed present among them. Oh this is something we have a great need of thinking about and considering for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need to be those who are willing to wrestle and contend with the living and eternal God in prayer. There are many among us who might be good at praying and yet when it comes to perseverance and endurance in prayer they give up far too easily. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for we have great need to be men and women who fully land completely give ourselves to prayer, to continual prayer, to praying without ceasing and praying without wavering. We as the saints of God and disciples of Jesus must needs be those who commit ourselves to praying without ceasing and praying without wavering as we firmly believe the living and eternal God is ready, able, capable and willing to answer and respond to our prayers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s