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launch of space shuttle November 17 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Acts 12

Launching Our Faith

When we are attacked or threatened by our enemies, what do we do? Do we plan a defense? Do we seek retribution? Do we quit? Some of us may do these things. Others may see this as an opportunity for God to launch our faith.

The early church was thought to be a Jewish cult. Religious leaders were jealous and threatened by her growth, so they persecuted her. They claimed she was trying to change their beloved traditions and the Law of Moses. Saul was an especially zealous Pharisee (religious leader) who tried to put an end to this new Christian movement, but he was strangely converted to Christianity (see November 14-15 Bible study). After this, the church was under attack by King Herod Agrippa I, a ruler popular with the Jews because he was partly Jewish, being of Hasmonean descent (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T. edited by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.384).

Why did Herod attack the church? The reason is not clear, but Herod may have felt this growing movement threatened his regime or he just wanted to please the Jewish leaders and people who opposed it. In today's Bible reading, King Herod kills James the brother of John (not Jesus), and has Peter arrested and imprisoned (Acts 12:1-3).

What is the response of the early church to Peter’s arrest? The church could have tried to negotiate Peter’s release and agreed to tone down their evangelistic efforts, but they do not. Instead, they fervently pray for him. They experienced the recent death of James, and do not want Peter killed as well, so they make their appeal to God. Do we realize the value of fervent intercessory prayer? God wants our dependence to be on him—he wants us to look to him for deliverance. He wants to launch our faith.

How is Peter delivered? The night before his trial, he is bound in chains and imprisoned, sleeping between two soldiers with two more soldiers at the entrance of the cell. Most people in similar circumstances would be uncomfortable and filled with anxiety; they would not be able to sleep. But Peter is asleep—he knows whether he lives or dies he is in God’s hands.

Amazingly, although there are four squads of four soldiers each to guard him (Acts 12:4), they do not see what happens next.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.

“Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so.

“Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him.

Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him (Acts 12:7-10, NIV).

After Peter is released from prison, he goes to the house where all the disciples are praying for him and knocks. They are shocked to see him! God often answers prayers in ways we do not expect, but he does it for his glory. He wants to launch our faith in him. The account that Peter shares with them about how the Lord delivered him, encourages their hearts and emboldens them to witness of God's saving grace. This is obviously why Peter instructs them to share the story of his miraculous release with James, an early church leader and half brother of the Lord Jesus. Aside note: It is interesting that Peter tells them that the Lord had delivered him (Acts 12:17), not the angel. Either Peter is giving the Lord the credit for the miracle, or perhaps the angel looked like Jesus.

Acts 12:20-23 records the strange incident of Herod’s death. Herod dies because he does not give God glory but takes it for himself. His death temporarily slows down the persecution against the Christians and emboldens the them to testify of God’s sovereignty.

Acts 12:24 provides one of several summary statements on the progress of the church: “But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied” (NIV). This growth is in spite of King Herod’s persecution. Jesus said to Peter “upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” ( In Matthew 16:18, NIV). No man or king or any other power will be able to stop the church when God wants it to grow. The Christian message is launched, and no one can stop it.

Lessons to Live By

  • Do we have faith in God? He can give us forgiveness, peace, spiritual life and confidence to launch our faith (more...)
  • In times of trouble or persecution, God can be our defense. Let us intercede for others with fervent prayer, and expect him to do something great.
  • God often answers prayers in ways we do not expect, but he does it for his glory. This launches our faith in him
  • Let us share what God has done so others may be emboldened in their faith and witness.
  • The rockets are firing—no man or king or any other power will be able to stop the church when the Lord wants it to grow.

Focus Verse

Matthew 16:18b (NIV) Jesus says, “upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Watch a video of today's Bible lesson. Start at 1:15:27 and end at 1:21:31

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A Look Ahead: Taking the Gospel to the World. What can we learn about missions from the first missionaries? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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