Persecution spreads the Church!
Scripture reading for June 18th: Acts 12:1-23
The church experienced times of peace, but also went through times of conflict. The church could grow in times of peace but did not stop growing because of conflict! God is able to use even the wickedness and wrath of man to bring Him praise and nothing will stop Him from accomplishing His program of winning the lost from the whole world!
King Herod began to persecute the church and arrested James, the brother of John and had him put to death. He also seized Peter during the Jewish celebration of unleavened bread following Passover. He wanted to gain some political capital with the Jews. The church began fervent prayer for Peter, who was imprisoned by being chained to guards in a locked cell.
In the night, Peter was awakened by an angel. He was told to get up and dress. As he obeyed, the chains fell off his wrists and he followed the angel out of the prison past the sleeping guards and having locked doors swing open before them. (Acts 12:9-10) Peter went to Mary’s house and knocked on the door. The disciples were there praying and a slave girl answered the door. When she heard Peter’s voice, she ran and told everyone but they thought she was crazy! Peter kept knocking and they finally let him in to tell his amazing story!
Why James died at the hands of Herod and why Peter was spared is not answered by God’s word. We do know that after James’ death, when Peter was seized, the church began to pray fervently. (Acts 12:5) God heard and answered! Prayer moves the hand of God and can open closed doors.
Herod seemed oblivious to what God was doing. He questioned the soldiers guarding Peter and then had them put to death for allowing Peter to escape. God was not mocked, however. Herod was sitting on his throne sometime later giving an address and the people were worshiping him as a god. Herod was soaking in the worship instead of giving praise to God. An angel of the Lord struck him down and he was eaten by worms. (Acts 12:21-23)
Through all of this persecution and spiritual conflict, the word of God increased and continued to spread. (Acts 12:24) Conflict purifies and unites the true church for prayer and ministry. Be prepared for the battles that are coming!