The Incarcerated Word of God
In consideration of our series, “Preaching Through Resistance” from the Book of Acts, we now move into another account of resistance. Peter remains the key figure in Acts 12, and with the exception of a brief reference in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council, this is our last full account of his activities.
Peter presided over the events and preached at Pentecost (Acts 2); he healed the lame beggar and then preached in the Temple (Acts 3); he was arrested and warned (Acts 4); he articulated God’s judgment against Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5); he was jailed with the other apostles (Acts 5); he joined with the other elders in the church at Jerusalem in giving himself to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6); he had a vision and preached to the Gentiles at Caesarea (Acts 10); and he defended his ministry to the Gentiles before the circumcised believers at Jerusalem (Acts 11).
External persecution continued to intensify against the church at Jerusalem. Famine had come to the region, and a gift from the growing church at Antioch comforted the saints at Zion. Grief ensued with Herod Agrippa’s mistreatment of many (v. 1) and execution of the apostle James, the brother of John, the sons of thunder (v. 2). It was Passover in the spring of A.D. 44. Peter was arrested and jailed, again.
Those who persecute the church have one primary objective — remove the Word of God from access to the public. Here are just a few examples: Joseph (Gen 39); Samson (Judges 16); Jeremiah (Jer 37); Daniel (Dan 6); the three men in the furnace at Babylon (Dan 3); John the Baptist (Mt 14); Paul and Silas (Acts 16); and John (Rev 1:9). The future holds similar trouble for preachers, according to the prophet Daniel, “But the people who are loyal to their God will act valiantly. These who are wise among the people will teach the masses. However, they will fall by the sword and by the flame, and they will be imprisoned and plundered for some time (Dan 11:32b-33).”
Peter represented the Word of God. Every preacher of the Word is an ambassador for Christ with a message to proclaim. When one Christian is denied the freedom to share Christ, the Word of God is in bondage. Peter was being prepared for a public trial and likely public execution (v. 4). Many are the accounts of the martyrs of the faith who preached their last sermons on their way to the place of execution. Beautiful are the feet tied to a stake and lit on fire, for they have rejoiced in the miles of ministry walked in the footsteps of the Master.
It is imperative for us to identify the key verse, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church of God (v. 5).” The prayers of righteous saints accomplish much. In this case, they were aligned with the will of God to set Peter free in another supernatural prison break (see 5:19). When Peter was released by the angel, he proceeded to Mary’s (the mother of John Mark) house to report his freedom. The amazed gathering was instructed to give an account to the leaders of the Jerusalem church (vv. 16–17). Whenever I read this account, it is always my hope that the leaders were praying somewhere else in town, and Peter found it safer to go to Mary’s house. We must all pray.
The sovereign will of God leaves questions unanswered, “Why are some imprisoned and martyred, and why are some delivered to continue the ministry?” Mystery cloaks the answer; and it reproves us to redeem the time and freedom we are given to make Christ known.
In conclusion, we have learned the adversary mutes and removes the Word of God from the people of God. To arrest and imprison the man of God is to incarcerate the Word of God. Prayer by faithful saints, who long for the Word of God to be free to meet the masses, will avail much. At times, we will see the unleashing of the Word from the box of bondage, and at other times, we will see the man of God ground into seed to return to the dust.
The blood of the martyrs remains the seed of the Gospel advance in the world. Let us join with the brethren at Jerusalem in praying for the men and women of God imprisoned because of the testimony of Jesus, today. Let us protest with loud voices those who remove the Word of God, and in this, we join the saints across the ages in fighting principalities and powers with the voice of truth. Pump up the volume.
Spokane Valley, Washington
July 2, 2021