What a marvellous era it was – under God’s guiding care when the church was first established. – “the word of God increased and multiplied” as we read at the conclusion of today’s 12th chapter of Acts.
There was opposition – Herod “laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church”- in particular he “killed James the brother of John with the sword” [v.1,2] Some of the believers were confused – the devout adherents to keeping the Law were critical of Peter because he went “and ate with” non-Jews when Cornelius was converted. Peter explained, how “the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning ” [v.15] and said “who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” [v.17] “The circumcision party” [11 v.2] tested the faith of the apostles!
Is it really that much different today – issues arise to test our faith? In the end, the true faith is stronger for this – but we must respond to any testing in a Christ-like way.
Herod “proceeded to arrest Peter also.” [12 v.3] and he “was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” [v.5] Let’s step back and try to see, what might be called ‘the big picture.’ It is ‘bad’ events that cause more earnest prayer. The picture develops that “the word of God increases” more effectively when it has opposition to overcome – those converted are more committed!
We read the account of Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison – how that must have built up the faith of the believers after the tragedy of the death of John’s brother James.
Herod is revealed as a man of great pride – and when “the people of Tyre and Sidon” [v.20] “asked for peace … Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’ Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory …” [v.21-23]
No one gives “God the glory” today – they even deny his creative work. How long before God sends the angels? The last ingathering is surely nearly completed – we have seen how “the word of God” has “increased” – let us be bold in being part of the final ingathering “for whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of (them) will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” [Mark 8 v.38]
By Bro D. Caudery