Thursday, August 09, 2012



1Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. 2And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. 3When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. 5So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

6On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and woke him up, saying, "Get up quickly " And his chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me." 9And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

11When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." 12And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15They said to her, "You are out of your mind!" But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, "It is his angel." 16But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.

GOD OPENS DOORS SO THAT NO ONE CAN SHUT AND SHUTS DOORS THAT NO ONE CAN OPEN. The encouragement to me here is: 1. No matter the "prison" situation in which you find yourself, God is more than able to get you out of it or, more than likely, through it. This is what I like so much about reading through the "Acts of Jesus", because He IS active among us and it's encouraging and empowering to be reminded of how He works.

2. My prayers that I offer to the Lord, many times not expecting them to be answered, are still answered by the Lord in miraculous ways. How many times have I said after praying and having that specific prayer answered, "I can't believe it!" The point is we must learn to believe it as we pray. We must learn to trust Jesus completely in all that we do.

Now, check out verse 21: 21On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. 22The people kept crying out, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" 23And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.

This is an interesting contrast, isn't it. Herod has James killed and then puts Peter in prison with the intent of doing the same thing to him, all to please his constituency. Well, he pleased his constituency even to the point that they hailed him as a "god" and this is precisely what killed Herod. So, Peter, imprisoned, is out of jail free and Herod, free to do anything he wants, is now in the prison of death!

And, most importantly, "But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied." The kingdom of God cannot be imprisoned or shut down. It's like a mustard seed, the smallest of the seeds, that grows into a large bush. Those who follow the God of gods and seek His kingdom will gain all that is significant and live forever. Those who play God and seek their own kingdom may gain the whole world and lose their souls.



1Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, 3saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." 4But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he was given the riot act! They couldn't believe that he was associating with the Gentiles-the unclean-and that he would have given them the word of God in such a way that they received it. So, Peter shares with them the vision he was given where God made it clear,  

"What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." And, he also shared the message Cornelius was given by the Lord to seek Peter out. Then he says, 12"The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings these six brethren also went with me and we entered the man's house.

Cornelius was told that Peter would speak words by which he and all his household would find salvation. 15"And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16"And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17"Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" 18When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."

PRINCIPLE #1-God will continually break down your boxes and burst your bubbles, while blowing your mind! When Jesus is acting, you'll find things gloriously out of control.
19So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
22The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. It's like the home office was nervous again, fearful that some sort of movement might break out without their guidance and blessing, so they sent a very good man-Barnabas. 23Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;

NOTE two things here: 1. Barnabas witnessed the "grace of God", not a new, highly organized program that was working in good ways, but the grace of God among these people.

2. Barnabas encouraged these new believers to keep on keeping on, keep doing what you're doing-true to the Lord. He's not soliciting submission to the home office (the leadership in Jerusalem). He's not asking them to join a certain fellowship.

Luke goes on to say, 24for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

Now NOTE what Barnabas did. 25And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch and for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers.
ONE QUICK NOTE HERE: The name Saul is interesting at this point. I've heard all my life that "Saul was his Jewish name before he became a Christian and Paul was his Christian name." BUNK! If that were true, then Paul ought to be called Paul here, since this is well after being apprehended by Jesus. I think this devilish little mis-truth is one of many little ways to keep us off message. Saul was the Jewish way of saying Paul and Paul was his Roman name. Paul (Saul) was still Jewish after bowing his heart to Jesus. Jesus doesn't change your cultural background, when He enters your life. He transforms you inside out with all your cultural quirks and nooks and crannies.

PRINCIPLE #2-It's not my fellowship; it's the fellowship of Jesus. The leadership of believers in Jerusalem thought this movement around Jesus in Antioch was theirs to guide and control, but it wasn't. By the grace of God, it was the fellowship of Jesus. NOTE-a few people gathered in Antioch around the NAME OF JESUS and a FELLOWSHIP BROKE OUT!

Then, NOTE Barnabas. He was obviously enthused by the excitement and new life of the fellowship in Antioch, so he sought out Saul to solicit his help in loving and teaching the considerable numbers who were gathering together in the name of Jesus. They stayed there for one year, but they didn't feel the need to claim this fellowship as their own or to call themselves church planters at the next "pastors' conference", because it was clear to them that this was the FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS. And, this was the case throughout the early church. There was no misconception as to who owned or who was the planter of the fellowship. It was always Jesus.

What a difference it is today! That's my church. I planted this church in 1980. ME, MY, MINE, and I. And, you know what, I struggle with this same thing with the fellowship where we gather. It's easy for me to be hurt when someone leaves or chooses not to be part of the things we are doing together, as if this is a personal affront to me-as if it is MY FELLOWSHIP. I have to remind myself over and over that this is the FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS and wherever we go, we have the privilege of gathering with others from all of the flavors of ethnicity, religious affiliation and economic levels in this fellowship.