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Scripture Reading: Acts 12:1-4

Death and Life

(Acts 12)



1.  While the gospel was spreading northward among Gentiles (Antioch), the church in Jerusalem continued to be harassed and harmed, 12:1.

  a.  Eight or more yrs. since the persecution that started with Stephen’s death had ended with the conversion of Saul (A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures).

  b.  Political persecution occurs; the word of God continues to grow.

2.  God’s power, protection and punishment are on display in Acts 12.



  A.  The Jerusalem Church is Pressured by Famine and Persecution12:1; cf. Jno. 16:33; 2 Tim. 3:12.

    1.  “Now about that time”: Time of famine when Barnabas and Saul took relief to needy Judean saints, 11:29-30 (A.D. 44-45).

    2.  Herod: Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great and nephew of Herod Antipas (beheaded John and mocked Jesus); Ruled in Judea A.D. 42-44.

      a.  Stretched out his hand: Used his authority to harm the church.

      b.  Set out to eliminate the church by executing leaders (apostles).

    3.  Death of James (bro. of John), cf. Mk. 10:35-41; Murdered.

    4.  cf. Restraint of Luke: 7 Greek words (11 English). Such brevity only accounted for by Luke’s inspiration.

    5.  No apostolic succession (cf. Judas, Acts 1:25): Silent.

    6.  About 14 years after church began; one of Christ’s witnesses dies.



  A.  Peter Arrested in Order to Please the Jews, 12:3-4 (11).

    1.  The church was no longer in the good favor of the people (2:47); the persecution is endorsed by the ruling politicians.

    2.  Days of Unleavened Bread (Passover + Feast of Unleavened Bread): 8 days.

    3.  Peter guarded by 16 soldiers in prison.

  B.  An Angel of the Lord Freed Peter from Prison, 12:5-19.

    1.  Constant prayer being offered for Peter, 12:5, 12; 1 Ths. 5:17.

      -Lesson: Prayer works! cf. Jas. 5:16; Lk. 18:1

    2.  Peter secure in prison, 12:6.

    3.  Angel of the Lord led Peter to freedom, 12:7-10 (5:19).

    4.  Peter went to his brethren, 12:11-17.

      a.  House of Mary, mother of John Mark (cousin of Barnabas, Col. 4:10; Mary is Barnabas’ aunt); of some means (large house with gate, many gathered there; cf. Acts 1:13; Lk. 22:10).

      b.  Peter attributes his freedom to the Lord (cf. Acts 5:19-20).

      c.  Peter goes to an undisclosed place; go tell James and the brethren (apostles), cf. Gal. 2:9.

    5.  Lesson: God frees us from the prisons of:

      a.  Sin, Rom. 6:17-18.

      b.  Fear of death, Heb. 2:14-15.

      c.  Fear of men, Matt. 10:27-28 (Heb. 13:5-6).

      d.  Anxieties that distract and discourage, Phil. 4:6-7.

  C.  Results of Peter’s Escape, 12:18-19.

    1.  No small stir (great commotion, Acts 19:23); Appeared as if soldiers helped him escape!

    2.  Soldiers (16) examined and executed. Herod kills them instead of believing them and acknowledging a miracle had happened.



  A.  King Herod Revels in Divine Praise and Honor, 12:20-22.

    1.  Political alliances are as old as politicians! 12:20

    2.  Historical account (Antiquities, xix.8.2, Josephus).

  B.  Herod Failed to Give Glory to God, 12:23; cf. Rev. 7:10-12.

    1.  An angel of the Lord: This time, with divine retribution (cf. Rev. 14:6-8).

    2.  Divine judgment upon a godless, murderous ruler, 12:23.

    3.  Herod died five days later according to Josephus.

  C.  The Word of God is not Restrained, 12:24-25; cf. 2 Tim. 2:9.

    1.  Persecution, prison, and pompous politicians did not prevent the spread of the gospel and the salvation of lost souls.

    2.  This means the Christians were living the gospel and teaching the gospel to others in the face of these trials.  What about us?

    3.  The relief to needy Judean saints was not hindered by Herod – his demise enables this service to be fully accomplished, 12:25.

    4.  John Mark goes to Antioch with Barnabas and Saul.



1.  Rom. 8:35-39: Acts 12 stirs our hearts with full confidence in our God; His purposes will be fulfilled, His people will be protected and His judgments are sure upon all evil.

2.  This ends the first major division of the book of Acts.

3.  Luke will now take up some of the prominent events in the life of the apostle Paul as the gospel spreads “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).



By: Joe R. Price

Posted: August 1, 2013