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 ACTS 12:1-17

pETER'S eSCAPE FROM pRISON!

 

 A Preacher in his Study

 

 

 

LESSON 1, VERSE 1:

It was a miracle, no doubt about that.

The night Peter was delivered from prison, directly by an angel, just hours before his pending death, martyrdom.

The account is recorded for us in Acts 12:1-17. Its importance is illustrated by the amount of Scripture dedicated to each small part of the event. Seventeen verses, nineteen really, that's a lot!

We must cover our Text verse by verse. So we're going to be focusing on Peter and the angel and the church at Jerusalem and a little servant girl named Rhoda, and the God Who wrought such a mighty deliverance.

"Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church." Acts 12:1

This is Herod Agrippa, as far as history is concerned. He is the grandson of Herod the Great, who murdered all those babies when Jesus was born. He's also the nephew of the Herod who killed John the Baptist! These men were haters of the Holy, despisers of God and His Work!

Don't tell me that wickedness does not run in families. The sins of the fathers do influence the actions of their children and grandchildren!

The verb "vex" must be considered too. It's "kakoo," directly related to the Greek adjective "kakos," meaning "harmful, evil, wicked." This man plans to "hurt" the Church, maybe destroy it if possible. Expressed as an aorist infinitive, Herod's malice was short lived. He failed! He did not annihilate God's people.

Of course even Herod cannot persecute everyone in the body of believers. Too many by then, thousands! So he chose "certain" ones to hinder or imprison or slay.

Who were these "targets?"

The leaders, of course. James and Peter and soon, Paul too. If you want to  decimate a group of people, start with the "head."

Hence Peter is the one to imprison, and later kill.

Now a practical note today. The devil still follows the same line of reasoning. His "devices" have not changed since Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 2:11, using "noema" as the noun, "thoughts, one's "mindset," and  his "purposes" even. Satan's "wiles" have not changed, Ephesians 6:11. That's "methodeia" in Greek, his "methods" remain basically the same.

He tried to neutralize the leaders of the early Church, and he's still at it today! That Liar hates your Pastor. He despises those who are examples, faithful men and women, in the place you attend services!

Let's pray for our preachers and teachers and faithful elders in the faith! The devil would harm them if at all possible.

Paul, when asking for prayer, more than once suggested this request. "Pray that I will be deliver from unreasonable and wicked men " 2 Thessalonians 3:2, and again in Romans 15:31 as well.

"God, keep our preachers safe," we pray. "Give them liberty to keep proclaiming the precious Word of God. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

                                                                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2, VERSE 2:

Herod Agrippa, the Roman "puppet" ruling Israel during the days of the early Church, was a murderer. He came from a family of killers too.

Sadly, the Holy Spirit records: "And he killed James the brother of John with the sword." Acts 12:2, with the "he" being Herod himself.

This, our verse today, is a strange statement. Yet one full of practical insight. Peter is now under arrest, but not yet slain. And as we know by reading ahead in Acts 12, Peter will not be killed now. And never by Herod!

Look!

One disciple murdered.

One freed from prison, miraculously!

Both loved God.

Both were preachers.

Both had relatively equal potential for bringing sinners to Jesus.

But God could afford to sacrifice one and magnify the other!

What's going on here?

It's called the Will of God, I think.

And truly our Lord has a different plan for each life.

Paul will have his head severed from his body, dying a heroic martyr at the hands of Nero.

But John, even though exiled on Patmos, lives to an extremely old age!

God's Will!

We all, as His children, are His possessions, His charges!

In His Hands!

To do with as he pleases!

After all, He has redeemed us, bought us with the precious Blood of Jesus!

The Apostles reminded us again and again, "We are not our own." See places like 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 for proof.

The parable in Matthew 20 about the laborers in the vineyard has the Lord saying, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" Precisely, this is Matthew 20:15.

James dead.

Peter alive and well!

God knows best.

Plus this about James. he was, along with his brother John, once nicknamed by Jesus "son of thunder." See Mark 3:17, notice the word "boanerges." This means literally "sons of rage." Or perhaps "sons of fire!"

Maybe, just perhaps, the temperament James possessed partly contributed to his death. I mean nothing critical of James at all. John the Baptist, also a martyr and also slain by a Herod, was that way too! Fiery, unbending, non-compromising, blasting sin unashamedly!

Had Elijah been in that jail cell, alongside James, he no doubt would have been killed too! But Elisha, kind and sweet as he was almost all the time, would perhaps have been spared.

Yet God needs, and has, both kinds of preachers!

Yet we are right back where we started. God's Will, that is the determining factor in all the issues of life. God's ultimate, absolute Wisdom! God's supreme Power and Insight!

Then this too, possibly. Jesus could see potential in people, spiritual capability I mean. Peter possessed the traits to sway multitudes for Jesus! Think back to Pentecost, and its 3,000 souls saved in a few hours!

James may have been more expendable to the cause of Christ. Maybe he would not have ever left Jerusalem. Maybe he would have been caught up in one of those Moses-Jesus arguments, law-grace situations. If so, he could have harmed the cause of Christ more than helped it.

Only God knows such things.

Yet again James may have been better able to face the sword, at that time in his life anyway, much more than Peter. Or James could have been more mature, better able to die for his faith without wavering.

Peter died later, as a martyr. Or so history says. But at that point, at Acts 12, could Peter have handled such a thing? Without denying the Lord yet again?

Let God decide!

His Will must reign!

To His precious Plan, we must all bow!

After all, He has never made a mistake yet.

Nor will He ever do so!

Amen.

                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3, VERSE 3:

Politics!

Herod, extremely wicked according to our text, was still quite the politician. He did much of his governing with the "people," in mind. That "public opinion" thing!

Herod did so even to the point of executing certain people, killing, them, to please the crowds!

"And Herod 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." Acts 12:2-3

"It pleased the Jews," the unsaved, legalistic Israelites living in Judea. Those who despised the Gospel and Jesus the resurrected Saviour in the first place.

"And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. Then were the days of unleavened bread." Acts 12:2-3

The expression "pleased" utilizes "arestos" as part of its composition. It means "agreeable." More fully, "to accommodate oneself to the desires and wishes and opinions of others."

If this is being done unselfishly, it's noble and is called serving others. Pure acts of real love. If this is being done for personal reasons, for selfish desires, it is political in the worst sense of the word.

Then I say again, Herod was a master politician.

The verb "take," as when Herod imprisoned Peter, translates "sullambano," simply meaning "to seize" a person. Violently, if necessary.

Whatever the people, the masses wanted!

Peter was loved by God's people, the truly saved Jews and Gentiles. But despised by those who did not believe in the Grace of God.

Hated by the majority!

This makes the man of God "prey" for hungry predators. Vicious politicians like Herod I mean.

"Lord, deliver us from politics at Church! From little 'bosses' who tell preachers or whole congregations how things are going to function!"

Then notice one more thing with me please. The time at which this particular arrest occurred. "Then were the days of unleavened bread."

This is Passover week.

When focus was supposed to be on a little slain lamb, a clear picture of Jesus and His shed Blood!

It was then that the devil hit the hardest! Let any Church, or preacher, or Christian worker at all start emphasizing the Cross of Calvary! The vicarious Death of our Saviour! And he or she just might expect satanic attack! Lucifer cannot stand the Atonement, Redemption, Salvation through our Lord!

Yes, spiritual conflict is a reality.

Godly Christians are often the targets.

And dubious methods are usually in operation, that "good old boy" syndrome!

But, and thank God for this, victory is assured to the faithful Believer! To the one who stands for the Truth. Either things will be ultimately "all right" here and now, or in the sweet by-and-by, in Glory one day.

Just a few thoughts from a single verse of Scripture, one written word for word by the Holy Spirit of God.

"And because Herod saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. Then were the days of unleavened bread." Acts 12:3

"Lord, make us hungry for Thy Word! Eager to ingest the reality of the Scriptures. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4, VERSE 4:

It is rightly called the New Testament Book of history, Luke's masterpiece named Acts. And the verse we're studying today provides ample proof. "And when Herod had apprehended Peter, 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." Acts 12:4

The Roman Official overseeing Israel has now arrested the most well-known preacher of that day, preacher of God's Word. The verb "apprehended" translates "piazo," a rare word used only a dozen times in the Bible. It means "to use force" on someone. It also can mean "to inflict violence" on that person.

A "quaternion" is a four-person group. Herod went to an "extra security" measure here. Four guards, for a single preacher! Of course Peter had been in prison before, and had escaped with the Lord's help. See Acts 5:17-20 for that account.

The noun "Easter" is interesting. This is the only time it's used in Scripture. It is spelled "pascha" in Greek, but is Aramaic in origin. It means "passover," the annual time the Jews slew that little innocent lamb to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt.

See how matter-of-fact this verse appears to be. Again, it's history. That's the kind of literature it is, though inspired by the Holy Spirit as well.

We are here given the very "thoughts" and "plans" and "devices" of wicked King Herod's mind. That's astounding!

Does God know what we think?

In John 21:17 Peter, this same Peter, said just that to our Saviour. "Lord, Thou knowest all things."

Yes He does!

And can this great God control things, even the workings of an ungodly king? Even to the point of executing an escape from this inner prison where Peter is incarcerated?

Again, yes!

Proverbs 21:1 proves the point. "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will."

Pure history today, our verse.

"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." Again, it's Acts 12:4.

But though all history, it's enough information to make us praise the Lord for hours and hours to come. All the way to Church and back, to the worship service I mean!

Let's go.

                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5, VERSE 5:

A prayer meeting!

The Church at Jerusalem was praying about Peter.

Peter who had been arrested by Herod and sentenced to die!

"Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him." Acts 12:5

Prayer is a powerful force.

The noun "prayer" is a translation of a Greek word spelled "proseuche." The verb "euchomai" means "to express a wish, a desire or a craving!" And the prefix, a preposition really, is "pros," meaning "to" or "toward" a person, especially that individual's "face!"

Prayer then grammatically is meeting God face to Face and telling Him our desires and hungers and longings and needs!

The phrase "without ceasing" is unusual. "Ektenes" is the word. It's from the verb "teino," meaning "to stretch!" Those first two letters, "ek," just mean "out" or "out of," another preposition. Elsewhere in the New Testament our word here is translated "earnestly," as in Luke 22:44. And once more it is "fervent" in 1 Peter 4:8. "Stretching out," as in "doing your best," or "expending real effort!" That's what the Church was doing, laboriously in prayer for Peter.

They prayed "for" Peter. Another preposition, "huper," really "on behalf of" the man of God. "For the sake of" Peter.

Dozens of people maybe, praying.

That many Believers, when God has already made some great promises about united group prayer!

"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." Matthew 18:19

The power of unified force, Old Testament style! "And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword." Leviticus 26:8

Thank God the Church prayed!

And God answered those prayers evidently!

Do any of you have a prayer partner?

Someone who prays with you, maybe even by your side?

If so, how blessed you are.

You are harnessing that power of united prayer!

Indeed!

It worked for the early Church.

It still does today!

Let's pray!

                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6, VERSE 6:

The wicked plans of an ungodly King!

"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." Acts 12:6

Four guards!

One night before Peter's "mock" trial too!

In an uncomfortable jail cell!

And Peter was doing what?

Sleeping.

Yes, this man of God was resting and at peace hours before his scheduled execution! Decapitation probably.

This is amazing.

How can Peter sleep right now? That Greek verb is "koimano," derived from their verb "keimai," meaning "to lie down." It's a present participle in the text, on-going sleep! Lots of it apparently!

I know what Psalm 127:2 says. About the Lord giving us sleep. "For so He giveth His beloved sleep." God has surely done so for Peter, bestowed him rest.

But how so?

I think it might go back to something Jesus said to Peter, prior to our Lord's Ascension back to Heaven. But after His Death, Burial and Resurrection.

Let's listen.

Jesus to Peter: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." John 21:18

Look carefully now. Jesus just told Peter "when thou art old," when the Apostle became an elderly man! Our Lord actually promised Peter that he would live to an old age! Something many men in those times never achieved!

A promise!

A promise from God!

Specifically to Peter!

He will be old when he dies!

And I really believe that night as Peter was in that cold jail cubicle, awaiting the sunrise, his supposed death day ... he was relying on those words of Jesus!

You see, Peter was not all that old yet!

He just couldn't die on the morrow!

Jesus' Promise had to be true!

Peter will preach again.

Travel more too.

He will be spared from Herod's evil plot!

And herein no doubt the man of God found peace!

Peace in the time of great trial!

Peace enough to sleep!

Talk about standing on the promises of God!

Peter did.

So can we.

A preacher once told me there are 7,000 or more promises in the Bible!

That's sufficient!

Let's rest in the Truth of God's Word!

Let's draw peace from those promises!

Sleep too!

Peter sure did.

                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7, VERSE 7:

It's a miracle!

Really it's a series of miracles.

How the Lord rescued Peter from jail, Acts 12:1-17.

"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." Verse 7, word for word.

God has "angels." The noun "aggelos" means "messenger" basically. To get some "news" and "lead it,  direct it, accompany it" to the proper destination! God's "errand runners," I call them.

Along with the angel, into that dark and damp jail cell, came some "light." In Greek it's spelled "phos." How very practical! Light to see the chains! Light to see the exit! Light to see how to dress! The angel brought light, or radiated it perhaps!

The angel had to arouse Peter, to wake him! He was sleeping that soundly, the night before he was supposed to die! The verb "to smite" translates "patasso," meaning "to strike gently." Kindness, even in an escape attempt!

Reckon Peter had a stiff back? Or some form of what we'd now call arthritis or rheumatism? The angel had to help "lift" him, "egeiro" meaning "to cause to rise."

There's even some encouragement here, with haste! "Arise up 'quickly' Peter." This second "arise" verb is synonymous with "stand up", obviously now in his own strength.

Peter apparently was in no hurry!

Then look what happens next. "And his chains fell off from his hands." We believe this literally.

"Fell off" is the verb "ekpipto," dropped from his body! Actually they "failed" to hold him any longer! As if they lost strength in the presence of the angel of the Lord.

Here's my thought today.

What Peter needed, to avoid execution the next day, was a miracle.

God provided just that!

Including the light.

Including the wake-up call.

Including the soft nudge.

And including the supernatural loosening of the chains!

God's Will cannot be hindered by man's silly plans!

Herod was determined to kill Peter! God was determined to set His Preacher free!

Peter yet has work to do, service for Jesus.

It's like Proverbs 19:21 teaches us. "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."

Yes it will!

Or like Paul so clearly asked in Romans 8:31, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Amen!

It was God's Will that Peter walk out of the prison that night long ago. "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."

Yes, I believe the miracles of the Bible, that they really occurred. Including this angelic encounter!

And that same God is still on the Throne today!

                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8, VERSE 8:

Our verse today is so filled with everyday activities that it's going to be hard understanding it as part of a "miracle" passage of Scripture.

But it is!

It's one of the central statements in the inspired account of God's rescuing Peter from prison, from maximum security prison!

From the grip of Herod himself, enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

An angel has come to get Peter, to lead him to freedom and safety.

"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." Acts 12:8

Step by step instructions.

On getting ready to leave the jail cell, covertly.

Let's make a list.

A list of the things Peter was to do.

"Gird" thyself translates "perizunnumi," meaning "to wrap one's belt around himself." This was a wide belt, not always leather either. It held all the other clothing in place, more or less. The verb is expressed as a command too! An imperative is being issued to Peter.

"Bind on" thy sandals, Peter. "Hupodeo" means "to chain something, to securely tie it" with the prefix meaning "underneath." Here it's a pair of wood or leather shoes which are strapped gently around one's feet.

"Cast" thy garment about thee! "Periballo," actually "to throw" one's clothes "around" his or her body. "Garment" usually means the upper or outer part of one's outfit.

Then Peter, says the angel, "follow" me. The noun here means to continue going down the same "road" your leader is walking. It's spelled "akoloutheo" in Greek.

What this verse is telling us, among other things, is this. At least this, angels will not do for us the things we can do for ourselves.

God can, miraculously of course, do things for us that are beyond our ability. And He often does.

But not jobs like getting dressed or tying your shoes!

Or even getting out of bed!

The old saying "God helps those who help themselves" may actually have some verification in this verse!

Pray.

Pray fervently.

Then do all you can to bring it to pass.

God can do the rest, the humanly impossible things!

He did for Peter.

And Peter slipped through Herod's grip one more time!

Do all you can friend, with that problem you're facing.

Then trust God to do the rest.

After all He's the One who asked with confidence: "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?" That's from Jeremiah 32:27.

Let me answer that question as I close today, "No!"

Nothing is too hard for our great God!

God is all mighty!

"Omnipotent," the theologians often say.

Trust Him.

                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9, VERSE 9:

The Bible is such a practical book.

Everyday events are recorded as well as once-in-a-lifetime situations. And sometimes the two are combined!

Peter is being led out of jail, by an angel of God!

Acts 12:9 tells us about the "escape." Let's read it. "And Peter went out, and followed the angel; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision."

Peter might still be sleepy.

Not fully awake, having been so suddenly aroused by the angel.

The Text tells us that the Apostle thought he was seeing a "vision." This  interesting little noun translates "horama" in Greek. It just means a "spectacle." Literally, "something seen!" The root verb is "horao," that is "to see with the eyes." The word occurs 12 times in the New Testament, once rendered as "sight" and all the other times as a "vision," just like here.

But why would Peter think this was all a vision?

Because he has prior experience with them!

Acts 10 comes to mind. With Peter being on a rooftop, taking a nap while on an apparent vacation.

Here's an excerpt of that event. "Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: "And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance. And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth. Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold ...." Acts 12:9-17

The vision had meaning, of course.

Something about a dirty old gentile sinner named Cornelius who wanted to be saved!

Visions, one of God's ways of speaking to His people in days past.

Days long past!

The Prophets had visions too. See Isaiah 1:1 for example. Or just read the Books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Daniel and Nahum, among others.

Yes, God spoke in visions.

But now, today, God is speaking another way.

Primarily so.

How?

Through His Word!

The Bible!

Let me today urge us all to look to Scripture to hear from Heaven! To perceive God's Voice and Will and Plan for our lives.

Peter did not have a Bible, not a complete one.

No Old Testament saint did either, obviously.

Of course God spoke to them in dreams and visions and by signs and wonders.

But we have something better these days!

That being 1,189 chapters of divinely inspired, inerrant Text, the Word of God, the Holy Bible!

That's our way of knowing God.

His Word as motivated and illuminated by His Holy Spirit!

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the child of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Second Timothy 3:16-17

I'm now not looking for visions!

I'm reading the Scriptures!

Oh, what a better way!

Peter called our Bible "a more sure word of prophecy."

More sure than what?

Than being alive when Jesus walked the earth!

Than even being an eyewitness to our Lord's very Transfiguration!

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." Second Peter 1:19-20

Amen!

Hand me the Bible, please.

                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10, VERSE 10:

Today's verse is multifaceted. Peter, accompanied by an angel, is on his way out of a jail cell. He had been sentenced to die within twenty-four hours. And Luke, in Acts 12, is casually telling the story, including some rather mundane facts.

"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." Acts 12:10, perhaps mundane, but certainly important information.

The noun "ward" is spelled "phulake," essentially a "guard" station. The verb "phulasso" means "to keep watch" over someone. "Phule" means a "tribe" of people, probably from the idea of their "isolation" from other groups of different folks.

Peter's area of this prison was definitely "maximum security!" Acts 16 uses the expression "inner prison" to describe such a place where Paul and Silas were once held.

An "iron gate" lends credence to the picture being drawn by the Holy Spirit, "no way out" of this Herodian holding area! Peter was doomed, or so it was thought!

But with God all things are possible. He is indeed omnipotent, possessing supreme power.

Now the Book of Acts "personifies" this huge gate! It makes it come alive! "The iron gate which openeth to them of his own accord."

Wow!

If God wants a gate opened, He can get the job done!

He got that grave opened, didn't He? Jesus' empty tomb! An angel came and rolled the stone away.

John writes of our Lord, "He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." Revelation 3:7

Including prison doors, apparently!

And hard hearts!

"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." Acts 12:10

Now outside, the angel goes with Peter "one street." Only one street! "Mia rhume," being translated "one trail, one lane, one highway." Probably Peter knew the City so well, Jerusalem, that he needed no further guidance.

Angel departs!

Peter is on his own now!

"Forthwith" means "immediately" and is spelled "eutheos" in Greek. "Straightway" is the normal King James rendering of the word.

What's Peter going to do now?

He's a "wanted" man, more than ever perhaps.

What a time for the angel to leave!

But "departed" really is "aphistemi," merely meaning "stepping away" a little bit! Gone, but quite nearby anyway!

What a comforting thought!

In keeping with Psalm 37:4 too! "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him."

Oh yes.

Let's thank God today for divine protection, even for you and me!

Peter is free!

                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 11, VERSE 11:

What do you do first, when at long last you can do whatever you choose? That's a pretty good test of one's character, of his or her true priorities! What's at the top of the list?

Peter faces such a situation in today's verse.

He has just gained an early release from prison! Miraculously so, delivered by the angel of the Lord!

Now, is this all real?

What's a man to do, a preacher like Peter?

"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." Acts 12:11

First of all, one thinks!

Plans future actions.

That opening clause literally says, "When Peter became himself." When Peter got back around to being Peter.

Here's what Peter reasoned.

God had "delivered" him! "Exairo" is the word, someone having been "lifted up and out" of a situation! It's almost the concept of "rapture!" Being "taken away!" Or "caught up!"

Delivered from what, from whom?

The dangerous hands of Herod.

The wicked desires of the non-believing Jews.

And this all happened by the hand of an angel!

The Lord's angel, "his" angel literally. How many such angels does the Lord have? "Innumerable" is the word Hebrews 12:22 uses, "an innumerable company of angels."

But the point that hits me the hardest today is this. Peter's words, "Now I know of a surety."

No doubt about it!

These events have really happened!

"Now I know of a surety."

There are just some things in the Christian life that we can know!

That verb "know" is "eido," really a word that means "to see!" Better yet, "to perceive." To understand, to behold with the mind's eye, metaphorically anyway. Knowledge we have because God the Holy Spirit has implanted it into our hearts!

And the word "surety" is "alethos," literally "of a truth." It comes from the noun "alethes," meaning something that is so real, so dramatic, so intense, so surreal that it "cannot be forgotten!"

Positively known!

John even believes we can know for sure that we are saved! "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life." First John 5:13, that we may know we have it!

Yes!

Thank God for the sureties of our faith!

Like the deity of Jesus Christ!

The authenticity of God's Word!

The reality of Truth!

The presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

Do you know?

                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 12, VERSE 12:

It's one of the most captivating verbs I've seen in a while! The first one in the following verse, just the next verse in our overall Text, Acts 12:1-17.

"And when Peter 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 12:12

The verb "considered" is definitely not the usual word used in this type setting. Usually "considered" is a translation of "katanoeo," which means "to think intently" about something.

This "considered" is a translation of "sunorao," meaning "to see or perceive or know" with the prefix "sun" meaning "along with" someone else!

Peter is standing one street away from the jail where he had just escaped, with angelic help mind you, and all alone ... he is pondering and reviewing something along with someone else!

Who?

The angel is gone.

No friends are around the man of God!

He is by himself there!

Or so we thought!

He is "perceiving" right "alongside" another person! Literally "with" another person!

Or should I capitalize that noun Person? Is this a proper noun now? Is he communing with Deity?

With God Himself?

Yes!

Yes, of course he is!

No other possibility exists!

He is thinking and planning and deciding his next move ... in concert with the Lord!

Maybe even in conscious fellowship with God the Father!

And God the Son, the Resurrected Saviour Peter knows so well!

And God the Holy Spirit too!

The Trinity!

The "Godhead" as Paul calls Him!

No wonder Peter made the right decision!

Can I do that, become such a friend to God?

Talk back and forth with Him?

Yes!

"Come now and let us reason together," He invites clearly!

We can fellowship and commune with the Triune God in Heaven above!

"And when Peter 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."

No wonder then Peter soon reached a decision.

He went to a house, a house where the Christians had gathered.

That infant Church in Jerusalem.

Where they had come together to pray!

Oh yes!

That's where God will lead us.

That's where help is available.

That's where prayer is conducted.

And that's where we need to be investing our time.

"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together," Hebrews 10:25 carefully advises us!

Do you have a Church home?

Do you gather there often?

We should.

                                                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 13, VERSE 13:

Peter was going to Church, to a prayer meeting really.

And he was in a hurry! That's because he was an escapee from prison! And a wanted man!

Yet when he arrived at "Church," really a private home where the Christians gathered, he could not get inside the building!

He did not force himself into the crowd either!

Apparently the door was locked, bolted shut.

"And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda." Acts 12:13

Peter knocking at the door!

Peter, the man who no doubt preached there every time he could come. Peter, the best known of all the Disciples. Peter, one of the Lord's very best friends. Yet he has no open access to the Church!

"And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda." 

The verb "knocked" has caught my attention. "Krouo" means just what it appears, "to tap or hit something," primarily to gain attention.

The word is only used nine times in the Bible, this specific verb. Jesus used it most of all. It's the very word He employed in His great Sermon on prayer. "Knock" and it shall be opened unto you!

I guess whatever we need to do in order to gain access to a worship service, to hear the preaching of the Bible or to join in prayer ... it's worth the effort!

Knocking included!

Some Churches are not easily entered!

The "damsel" who answered the door, but did not open it, was named Rhoda. "Damsel" means "young boy or girl," here a girl because the gender is feminine. "Paidiske" means a young person who is subject to strict discipline and training, "whippings" included! All that is implied in the word's definition and history. Likely Rhoda was a slave girl.

The verb "hearken" means "to listen" or "to hear." Voice recognition must have been important at that house. Especially at a time when the Roman government sent "spies" into the Christians' assemblies to identify and arrest and imprison some of them, the leaders especially.

"And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda." 

Now lastly today, Rhoda's name needs to be mentioned. It means "Rose!" And apparently she lived up to the meaning of the word!

She could have been bitter about her life.

Captured and sold as property, such is a slave. Especially back in those dark days. Oh yes, she could have been angry at everyone!

But not so.

When her owner renamed her, as they did all slaves, they tagged her "Rose," spelled "Rhoda," that bright and cheerful and love-associated little flower of brightness!

Rhoda, talk about bringing good out of a bad situation!

Rhoda!

In this verse today she might have become the preacher!

The bearer of spiritual truth!

While Peter is still standing outside the Church, knocking at the door!

How beautiful is every verse of Scripture, how practical and wise! All 31,102 of them in the Bible's 1,189 chapters! All divinely inspired!

Let's read some of it today!

                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 14, VERSE 14:

Every verse of Scripture, from the Holy Bible I mean, contains great potential. It can either correct us when we are wrong, or point us in the right direction for life. Then again it might just impart some practical piece of advice for godly living.

Today's Text is no exception. "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." Acts 12:14

The "she" of our verse is a little servant girl, a foreign slave no doubt, named Rhoda. She was employed by a wealthy Jewish lady named Mary, one in whose large house the early Jerusalem Church held prayer meetings.

We learn four quick facts about her, and how each of us can be better servants to our Master too!

She "knew" Peter's voice! "Epiginosko" means "to be certain, to have full assurance!" Look at this! She had heard enough preaching, Peter's preaching, to identify his voice when he was not even present, not visible anyway.

This girl is faithful to attend Church!

Then we notice a rather startling but informative development. "She opened not the gate for gladness." She got excited! Peter is out of jail! He is free, and standing at our door! What joy, "chara" in Greek she felt! But the gladness hindered her from doing her duty! From bringing Peter into safety, into the house! "Gladness" got in the way of "faithful service!"

I think I've seen this happen at times in Church services yet today. Shouting and praising God are good things! I love it when folks say "Amen" and lift their hands in honor to the Lord. But at times, quietness might be needed too. And focus on duty and service and obedience to our Saviour! God can still work in a "still small voice" I'm pretty sure.

Then watch Rhoda "run" as she shares one message after another. She is diligent in her work! Not lazy at all! "She ran in" and told the news about Peter! Wouldn't it be wonderful if all God's children were that fast in sharing the message? That energetic and enthusiastic!

Lastly, she told the facts just as they were. "She ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate." She was a good witness to the truth. Accurate in her presentation. Rhoda was thus another good example to us as Believers. Tell the story of God's Grace, God's Power, God's Deliverance, God's Salvation ... and do so with great precision and detail!

Tell the Story of Jesus! Just like Rhoda told the story of Peter. Jesus wants the world to know.

"And when Rhoda knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate." Acts 12:14

Four quick thoughts, lessons really, about living our best for the One Who died to save us from our sins.

Thank you, Rhoda.

Thank you, Luke for writing this account in the Book of Acts.

And thank You Holy Spirit, for inspiring and preserving this account, really the whole Bible too. The inerrant Word of God, without mistakes!

                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 15, VERSE 15:

How do Christians talk?

Ones who have just been in an old-fashioned fervent prayer meeting?

We have one at least one example from Scripture, Acts 12:15, and I'm afraid it's not too complimentary.

Let me show you what I mean.

People in prayer meeting, to a little servant girl, on being told that Peter was standing at the door knocking. "And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel."

Some have taught that these folks were asking God to get Peter out of jail. For his release. If so, they sure acted strangely when Peter arrived at Church!

They told Rhoda, "Thou art mad." The very thought: Peter at the door! Now the verb "art mad" translates "mainomai," meaning "to rave, to be beside oneself." It's derived from "mao," which means "to long for something," as in an insane "craving!" Disproportionate desires! They are accusing Rhoda of being mentally ill! And the girl was right all the time! Peter was at the door!

Yet all their doubt did not phase Rhoda! She still "constantly affirmed" that the preacher was at the door. This verb is strange, diischurizomai." It means "to be strong, very strong" in one's affirmations. Or in anything else really! Rhoda would not yield to their taunts. Every time they accused her of being out of her mind, she insisted that Peter was standing outside! At least let's admire her tenacity. Her "sticking" to the truth.

In fact, she seems to have won the argument. If it can be called an argument. A discussion, maybe that's better. I say that because the congregation now believes something else, something different about Peter.

Rhoda, what you are seeing is not really Peter, not in his body, not in the flesh ... but Peter's angel! That's what we've encountered. His angel, of course. Now this statement reveals one of two attitudes about Peter's status.

They might be saying that Peter is still in prison, to be slain early in the morning. But that his "guardian angel" has come to represent him here at Church. Of course that belief cannot be validated Biblically. Or at least only half validated. I know of no record of a person's "angel" leaving him and going to Church on his own! I do suspect each Believer in Jesus has an angel who cares for him or her! Based on Hebrews 1:13-14 anyway. Those angels are the "ministering spirits" mentioned here. "But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" If saved, you are one of those heirs of salvation!

The other possibility,  "Then said they, It is his angel,"  might be this. They thought that Peter by then had already been killed. By Herod, decapitated. And that his "spirit" had come to tell them such! Sort of like a "ghost" in days gone by. But that's not Scriptural either. Paul teaches us that when a saint of God dies, his spirit goes straight to Heaven! It does not wander around the streets of an earthly city somewhere! "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Second Corinthians 5:8

Mercy!

These early Christians may have been "on fire" for God. But they lacked, looks like, a strong foundation in some of the fundamentals of the faith. Then again, perhaps they just were that excited or scared or agitated ... so as to speak too quickly.

Had they let Peter come into Church a little more quickly, he might have had time to preach them a sermon! Then Acts would have had one more chapter! It would have been placed right here too, in the middle of our text.

Church talk!

Half right, half wrong.

We're human!

But when God talks, all right!

One hundred percent!

He never makes a mistake.

That's why we take God's Word, and not man's!

That's why Paul wrote Romans 3:4 so very clearly. "Yes, let God be true, but every man a liar."

Be careful what you hear at Church, unless it's read or quoted directly from the Bible! Only then can we feel totally safe.

Amen!

                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 16, VERSE 16:

It might be the crucial trait that distinguishes leaders from followers, the exceptional leaders at least.

And Peter finally possessed it. As is illustrated by our text today, Acts 12:16. The Apostle, having immediately escaped from jail, with angelic help I might add, stood outside a home in Jerusalem. Trying to gain entrance to a prayer meeting that apparently had been occurring all night long.

"But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished."

Why is Peter continuing to knock?

Because they, for one reason or another, will not let him in!

He has knocked for quite a while now.

He was not going to quit either! He needed to get into that Church, for several reasons. To encourage the brethren and sisters there, probably with a short sermon. To send a message to James, another man of God. And not unimportantly, to find safety from Herod's patrols, all looking for Peter no doubt!

Peter "continued" knocking!

He did not run elsewhere.

He did not sit down and pout.

He did not break the door down.

"Peter continued knocking."

That's it! The single trait that will be found in every God-called, effective leader, persistence. Not quitting, Being steadfast and unmoveable!

"Peter continued knocking."

The verb "continued" translates "epimeno," basically meaning "to remain" on task! To keep on and on! Diligence and steadiness!

Great job, Peter!

You have taught us well.

You have grown in the Lord too.

This is the Peter who not long before did not stay faithful!

But Pentecost has come, and the Holy Spirit of God! Whose fruit is faithfulness and longsuffering and temperance!

"But Peter continued knocking."

Then our verse also "continues," giving us the results of the Church people's realization that Peter was really there!

"But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished."

They were "astonished." In Greek, "existemi," a beautiful word, so very picturesque. It means "standing outside oneself!" Beside oneself! Almost as if it's an out-of-the-body experience, not literally but grammatically.

They were so amazed they could hardly believe it!

Answers to prayer can be that dramatic, too.

So can everyday living for Jesus.

So can faithful study of God's Word.

A single verse, from a passage that's not focused on any single theme really, unless it's just giving us our last full view of Peter. Yet filled with godly help in living the Christian life, living for Jesus.

"But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished."

The inspired Word of God!

                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

lesson 17, verse 17:

This has been a long series of Bible studies. Longer than usual. Seventeen installments, with one more after today, Lord willing. But Acts 12:1-17 is so typical of this little New Testament book of history, Luke's masterpiece. One miracle after another, souls saved daily, Christ exalted constantly!

Peter has been rescued from prison, yet again. And he has journeyed to the Jerusalem house where the Church has met for prayer. Prayer for Peter in some way, no doubt.

Peter is inside now, and has something to say to the Christians there. "But he, beckoning unto them with the hand 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." Acts 12:17

The verb "beckoning" indicates his "moving or shaking" his hands, for emphasis no doubt. Or maybe in excitement! In fact it looks like everyone is talking at once, Peter having to ask for silence. "To hold one's peace," in Greek "sigao," means "to be quiet."

The Peter speaks, "declares" our Text says. "Diegeomai" means "to lead" someone "through a story." To give a narrative account of recent events! It's not a normal preaching verb, maybe being more like a testimony.

But what did Peter relate to the church that day? "How" the Lord had brought him out of prison! He told of God's great Power! He told of the salvation afforded him! He magnified his Saviour!

By the way, that verb "had brought" translates "exago," a term vaguely similar to that of the noun "exodus." Peter sees his deliverance as a picture of the "exodus" of Old Testament history!

One more thing, Peter wants "James" to know of his miracle, his escape from prison. This is the man who was the leader, the pastor, of the Jerusalem Church. Or so it seems. He also would have been related to the Lord Jesus, having the same Mother but not the same Father! See Mark 6:3 for proof, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?"

Peter wants one part of the body, James the pastor, to know what's happening to the other parts of the body, Peter the Apostle. Paul in Ephesians 4:25 mentions this concept. "For we are members one of another." As also in "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Romans 12:5

Then lastly, almost casually, we are told that Peter went away. "And he departed, and went into another place." Where we are not told. He just left, probably left town. Remember he is still a "wanted" man. His death warrant is still in effect as far as Herod was concerned. Common sense dictates that a man go to some secluded, unknown habitat. And Peter had, and exercised, such logical reasoning.

Thank the Lord.

What a combination of the natural and supernatural, Acts 12:1-17. Us living for God, and God living through us! Regular, mundane things juxtaposed right beside astounding miraculous things!

Such is the Christian life.

Praise the Lord!

                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 18, CONCLUSION:

The Text has been studied, all seventeen verses. But some things happened soon after Peter's miraculous escape, angel assisted though it was. Things that need to be discussed.

Here's the record from Luke's pen.

Acts 12:18-19 tell us: "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." Peter's cruel guards are now dead!

Acts 12:21-23 also: "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 of 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." Herod, the murderer, is gone too, slain by God Himself it appears.

God not only protected and delivered Peter. He also visited Peter's tormentors with justice! Reminds me of what the Lord says in Psalm 105:15. "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."

Wow!

There we have it, the whole story. And Peter does now withdraw from view here in the Book of Acts. It's mostly Paul the Apostle, formerly Saul of Tarsus, whom we now see.

Both are great men of God.

One preacher noticed a pattern in Acts 12. Something Peter later outlines in his writings. Read with me First Peter 3:12 and see if you think it's the pattern for our Acts 12 story. I sure do.

"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil."

Three parts to the verse, three parts to Acts 12.

Peter was under God's watchcare, even while in prison. "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous."

The Church was praying. "And God's ears are open unto their prayers, the righteous."

And God soon afterward judged and punished those who were wicked to His preacher, to Peter! "But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil."

Amazing!

But that's to be expected from Scripture, from God's Word!

What a Book!

                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

 

                    

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