by Judy Laredo

In Warren Wiersbe's commentary, he divided Acts chapter 12 into 3 sections. And he used 1 Peter 3:12 to help break out the sections. 1 Peter 3:12 says, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (NKJV). Peter was quoting from Psalm 34:15-16.

Here is how Wiersbe breaks down Acts chapter 12:

  1. In the first section: ACTS 12:1-4 -
    Wiersbe titled this section: GOD SEES OUR TRIALS
    1 Peter 3:12a - “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous”
  2. In the second section: ACTS 12:5-17
    Wiersbe titled this section: GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS
    1 Peter 3:12b - “And his ears are open to their cry”; and
  3. In the third section: ACTS 12:18-25
    Wiersbe titled this section: GOD DEALS WITH OUR ENEMIES :
    1 Peter 3:12c - “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil”

ACTS 12:1-4

GOD SEES OUR TRIALS: 1 Peter 3:12a - “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous”

Verses 1 - 2:

In verse one, it says, Now about that time, it's speaking about the time when Paul and Barnabas left Antioch to take the relief offering to the saints in Jerusalem because of the famine predicted in Acts chapter 11.

Herod the king, is Herod Agrippa I. He is the grandson of Herod the Great, the one who ruled at the time of Jesus' birth

and the one who gave the order to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem and in all its districts. You can read more about that in Matthew 2.

Agrippa was the nephew of Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas had a role in the trial of Jesus (Luke 23:7-12). Agrippa's kingdom is basically the same area as that of his grandfather Herod the Great.

Agrippa was friendly to the Jews. He himself was partly Jewish being of Hasmonean descent. He was known for going to great lengths to win the Jews' favor. And since the Jewish leadership hated the early church, Agrippa was happy to stretch out his hand to harass some from the church. And…

He killed James, the son of Zebedee, and the brother of John the apostle. James became the first apostle to be martyred and he is the only apostle whose martyrdom was documented in scripture. The apostle, Judas Iscariot was not martyred. He killed himself after he betrayed the Lord.

Except for these two apostles, the bible does not provide any details about the deaths of the other apostles. All we know about their deaths are from writings by ancient historians. A few commentators suggest that some of these writings may not be very reliable. Therefore, this account in the bible, regarding James the apostle's death, is the one we can fully trust.

James killed with the sword,means that he was more than likely beheaded. In David Guzik's commentary, he writes of Eusebius (of Caesarea), a Greek historian of Christianity, who relates a story from Clement of Alexandria, another notable Christian scholar in the early church, regarding the soldier guarding James the apostle. He writes, "the soldier guarding James before the judge was so affected by his witness that he declared himself a Christian also and was also willingly executed for Jesus alongside of James." (Eusebius, Church History 2.9.2-3).

Verses 3-4:

Agrippa understood and catered to Jewish leadership. And because he saw that killing James pleased the Jews, he imprisoned Peter with the intention to have him killed as well. So, Peter is arrested and put in prison.

Butit was during the Days of Unleavened Breadso Agrippa didn't immediately kill Peter because he knew that executing anyone during the festival would violate Jewish law and therefore would have greatly displeased the Jews to whom Agrippa was trying to curry favor.

In John Walvoord’s commentary, he writes, "it is believed that, for at least two reasons, Herod would find it expedient to execute Peter. First, Peter was known as the leader of the church. Second, he engaged with gentiles." Which the Jews detested.

Agrippa put Peter in prison and delivered him to four squads of soldiers. That is, to four squads of four soldiers.

A total of 16 Roman guards watched Peter day and night. It was thought that the guards did a six-hour rotation. Two guards were chained to Peter, one guard on each side, and the other two probably guarding the prison cell just outside the door.

Some commentaries suggest the reason for so many guards were because they ". . . remembered that Peter had a habit of disappearing from prison." This would be the third time Peter was in prison. The first time was in Acts 4:2-3 and again in Acts 5:17-24.

ACTS 12:5-17

GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS: 1 Peter 3:12b - “And his ears are open to their prayers”

Verse 5:

The Bible Knowledge Commentary said, "The contrast is obvious: Peter was bound but prayer was loosed!" We know, in all circumstances, we as believers are commanded to pray. Like the church, we are to "Pray without ceasing"
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV). James 5:16 says, "…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (NKJV), and Colossians 4:2 says, "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving" (NKJV).

Guzik wrote, "Earnest prayer has power not because it in itself persuades a reluctant God. Instead, it demonstrates that our heart cares passionately about the things God cares about, fulfilling Jesus’ promise in John 15:7, "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you" (NKJV).

Verse 6:

Peter was sleeping the night before his execution. One commentary said that "Peter was so trusting the Lord that he was sound asleep the night before his trial. He did not fear for his life because Jesus had said he would live to an old age ." In John 21:18-19, Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me" (NKJV).

Verses 7 - 10:

Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him.So, do you think Peter was expecting an angel to deliver him from prison again? I mean, it happened the last time he was in prison, right? So, Peter was ASLEEP! Even the light that shone in the prisondidn't wake him up! The angel had to strike him on his side to wake him up. And God caused the chains to fall off his hands. We know with God, nothing is impossible.

He alone can bypass the laws of nature. He created them. God can make chains fall off.

The Angel said, Gird yourself and tie on your sandals; put on your garment and follow me. In Wiersbe's commentary, he said, "The angel could have snapped his fingers and Peter would be dressed . . .The same angel that removed the chains from Peter’s hands could have put the shoes on Peter’s feet, but he told Peter to do it . . . It was a good lesson in humility and obedience. In fact, from that night on, every time Peter put on his shoes, it must have reminded him of the prison miracle and encouraged him to trust the Lord."

Supernaturally, God caused the chains to fall off Peter's hands, get him past the first and the second guard posts, and open the iron gate. Wiersbe also said, "The angels are servants who minister to us as we serve the Lord." As it says in Hebrews 1:14 "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (NIV). He also pointed out instances where God sent angels to minister to His people in Acts 5:19 - 8:26 - 10:3, 7 - 12:7–11, 23 - 27:23.

This is the second time, recorded in scripture, that an Angel helped Peter escape from prison. Peter acknowledged that it was the Lord who sent His angel to deliver him from Agrippa and the Jews. Psalm 34:7 says, "The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them" (NKJV).

So, Peter goesto the house of Mary … where many were gathered together praying.Commentaries point to this house possibly being a principle meeting place of the church since Peter went there immediately after leaving the prison.

It seems that Mary was a woman of prominence and means because many were gathered there to pray. And because her husband was not mentioned, it is believed that Mary may have been a widow. John whose surname was Mark , is the same person who was with the apostle Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. John Mark is the writer of the Book of Mark.

Verses 13 - 17:

So,a girl named Rhodaanswered the door. And some commentaries believe that she may have been young (maybe 13-14 years old). So, little Rhoda answered the door. But she was so filled with joy and amazement that it was Peter, that she ran to tell the others but didn't open the gate to let Peter in. By the way, the name Rhoda means Rose.

They said to Rhoda,you are beside yourself!That's another way of saying "Rhoda, you are mad" or "you are not in your right mind.” But Rhoda kept insisting. So, they said, “It is his angel:Hello? Angels don't knock, they just appear!

Warren Wiersbe said, "God could get Peter out of a prison, but Peter can’t get himself into a prayer meeting

After arguing if it really was Peter or his angel, they finally opened the door and saw him, and they were astonished.

The saints were earnestly praying for Peter‘s release, but they did not expect an answer so soon. Wiersbe said, "We must face the fact that even in the most fervent prayer meetings there is sometimes a spirit of doubt and unbelief."

Matthew 21:22 says, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (NKJV). E.M. Bounds said, “The only limits on prayer are the promises of God and His ability to fulfill those promises.” Luke 18:1 says, "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart" (NKJV), and Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (NKJV).

In verse 17, Peter said to tell these things to James and to the brethren . The James Peter was talking about was the Lord's half-brother since we know that James the apostle had already been killed. Even though James was raised in the same home with his big brother, the Lord, James did not become a believer until after Jesus’ resurrection.

Before Jesus' resurrection, John 7:5 says, “For even His brothers did not believe in Him” (NKJV). But after the Lord's resurrection, Acts 1:14 says, "They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus" (NLT). 1 Corinthians 15:7 says, “After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.” (NKJV)

James, the half-brother of Jesus is the one who became the recognized leader in the Jerusalem church and the one who wrote the Book of James. In fact, Paul later listed James, Peter, and John as “pillars” of the church in Galatians 2:9
“and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (NKJV).

So, after he spoke to those gathered at Mary's house, Peter departed and went to another place . The place that Peter went to is still unknown today. Some commentators suggest Peter went to Asia Minor because of 1 Peter 1:1, and later he was at Antioch of Syria (Galatians 2:11). But no one knows.

ACTS 12:18-25

GOD DEALS WITH OUR ENEMIES: 1 Peter 3:12c - “But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”

Verses 18 - 19:

Notice it says as soon as it was day. In verse 6 , it said that night, Peter was sleeping. It wasn't right after Peter escaped from prison that the guards realized he was gone. The Lord delayed the manhunt by either keeping the prison guards asleep or seeing something else until Peter departed and went to another place.

Agrippa searched for himand did not find him. And when they did not find him, he called in the guards to question them. Wiersbe’s Commentary states, "If a guard permitted a prisoner to escape, Roman law required that he receive the same punishment that the prisoner would have received, even if it was death." We don't know if all sixteen guards were put to death or only the four who were on duty when Peter escaped. But we do know that Agrippa was intending to kill that morning. So, he killed.

Verses 20 - 23:

In Walvoord's commentary, "Tyre and Sidon were in Agrippa's domain and for some reason incurred his wrath. Because these cities depended on Galilee for food, drink and oil ( Ezra 3:7 ) they needed to make peace with Agrippa. It is believed that they probably bribed Blastus who was a trusted personal servant of the king, to work out a reconciliation."

So, on a set day, Agrippa was to give an oration. In Guzik's commentary, he quotes the Jewish historian, Josephus--

“Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theatre early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so dazzling that the people looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another (though not for his good), that he was a god…A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner… when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.” (Antiquities of the Jews, 19.8.2)

And because Agrippa enjoyed the praise, and did not give glory to God, An angel of the Lord struck him.

Notice the word struck. An angel of the Lord struck Peter (verse 7) and struck Agrippa. Perhaps it was the same angel that struck both Peter and Agrippa.

The word struck: Is patassō (pa-tas-so)in the Greek. The word struck For Peter: to strike gently: as a part or a member of the body. The word struck For Herod Agrippa I: to smite: to afflict, to visit with evils, as with a deadly disease, to cut down, to kill, to slay. It's the same word used two different times but had two different outcomes.

Verse 24:

John Walvoord called this verse a “progress report."Luke gave 3 progress reports prior to this one and three more after this. These progress reports can be found in Acts 2:47; 6:7; 9:31; here in Acts 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; and 28:30-31. Despite opposition and persecution, the Lord Sovereignly prospered the work of His church.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus said to his disciples, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (NKJV)

As a reminder: Acts 1-7: takes place in Jerusalem; Acts 8-12: In Judea and Samaria; Acts 13-28: The Ends of the Earth.

From Antioch the gospel message was now ready to go to Asia Minor. God shows us who's really in charge. Herod Agrippa I was judged, and the church was blessed.

Verse 25:

This was the famine relief money Paul and Barnabas took to Jerusalem. This famine was mentioned in Acts 11:27-30.

And this is the same John Mark, whose mother, Mary, held the prayer meeting for Peter in her home. One commentary noted that Marcus was his Latin surname, and his Jewish name was John.

John Mark was a companion of Paul in some of his missionary journeys and he was Barnabas' cousin.

Colossians 4:10 says, "My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. . ." (NIV).

In John Walvoord's Commentary, he writes, "…This section of Acts confirms Israel's rejection of the Messiah. Luke has skillfully woven this theme throughout the entire book and it can be seen up to this point . . . This animosity of Israel set the stage for the first missionary journey."

In Acts 1 - 12, the focus is on Peter - In Acts 13 - 28 , the focus is on Paul

So, some application: Like the early church, when trials and problems come, we respond by turning to God in prayer. I like what Pastor Steve Santos of CC Westside Maui said, “You stop, you drop, and you pray.” Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (NKJV).

1) How do you respond when the trials come?

a) Is it anger, fear or bitterness? Or is it prayer?

2) When we do pray, we need to believe and expect God to answer our prayers.

a) The answer may be yes, no, or wait, but we need to continue asking Him in prayer.

b) Why? Because, like the early church, while they were in the process of asking, God is answering. He knows all things. He knows what we’re going to say or ask.

(1) Psalm 139:4 "For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether” (NKJV).

3) We also need to Examine ourselves:

a) Is there sin in our life? We know that sin can hinder our prayers.

i) Isaiah 59:2 says, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear" (NKJV).

4) Do we have the wrong motive or attitude when we pray?

a) Proverbs 20:27 says, "The LORD's light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive" (NLT).

5) Is it for His glory?

a) Psalms 115:1 says, "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth" (NKJV).

b) Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (NKJV).

God gets all the glory!

In closing: In preparing for this study, I listened to many bible studies and read many commentaries on Acts 12. And one pastor caught my attention regarding verse 6. He taught that Luke pointed out certain CONDITIONS and certain OBSTACLES Peter was facing. He even suggested that maybe some of these conditions and obstacles could be applied to the church today.

Peter was asleep. Peter was bound. Peter was in prison. Those were the conditions. There were chains. There were guards, and there were iron gates. Those were the obstacles.

So, what conditions or obstacles are we facing today? Are we bound by chains of fear? Bound by chains of unforgiveness? Bound by chains of compromise? Bound by chains of ___________ (fill in the blank). Chains hold us back, hold us down, and hinder our progress so we can’t grow or move forward.

But God!

God breaks chains. It doesn’t matter how the enemy chains us down. God breaks chains in the name of Jesus.

Psalms 121:2 says, “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth” (NKJV).

Isaiah 40:29 says, "He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength" (NKJV).

The pastor pointed out that after the angel departed, ”Peter kept on running from the prison. Like Peter, we need to run from what God delivers us from. Like Peter, we need to run to the house of prayer. There was a crisis. James is dead, Peter is in prison, and Herod is mad.” The church turned to God in prayer and God answered their prayer while they were still asking. Isaiah 65:24 says, “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear” (NKJV).

We need to keep following the example of the early church. When there was a crisis, they gathered together and fervently prayed. Like the early church, we need to bring Christ into our crisis. And we need to be in the Word of God.

Jesus wakes us from our slumber (or lukewarmness). Jesus breaks chains and Jesus opens doors. Luke 1:37 says, "For with God nothing will be impossible" (NKJV). Jeremiah 32:27 says, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (NKJV). E.M. Bounds said , “Prayer breaks all bars, dissolves all chains, opens all prisons, and widens all straits by which God’s saints have been held.”

It doesn't matter what conditions or obstacles we face. It doesn't matter how the enemy binds or imprisons us. God can set us free. God makes chains fall off.