Coachlight Bible Study - Acts Chapter 12

A Fervently Praying Home Church


Ever since the conversion of Paul, we have not heard of the Jews persecuting the saints at Jerusalem. It might be that they had heard of Saul's Damascus Road Experience, and thought of Gamaliel’s advice- “to let those men alone, and see what would be the issue.”

In this chapter we will see Herod Agrippa causing havoc with the church, to the delight of the Jews, with persecutions and murders.  He proudly kills James and puts Peter in prison. The Word of God multiplied despite the persecutions, and Herod dies a terrible death.


 I. The martyrdom of James the apostle, and Peter's imprisonment by Herod Agrippa, king in Judea (v. 1-4).

A. Who was Herod? - from Josephus

1. Originally of an Edomite family yet seems to have been a proselyte to the Jewish religion - he was zealous for the Mosaic rites, a bigot for the ceremonies.

2. He was not only (as Herod Antipas was) tetrarch of Galilee, but had the government of Judea committed to him by Claudius the emperor.

3. Lived mostly at Jerusalem, where he was now.

B. He did three things

1. He stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church, (Vs. 1)

a. He began with some of the not-so-well known , and later came after at the apostles themselves.

b. He began with vexing them, imprisoning them, fining them, spoiling their houses and goods, etc and then went to execution.

2. He killed James with the sword, (Vs. 2).

a. Who was James?

1. James the brother of John

2. One of the first three of Christ’s disciples, one of those that were the witnesses of his transfiguration and agony left only 11 disciples

3.  One of those whom Christ called Sons of thunder

4. One known for his powerful preaching had provoked Herod and those close to him, like John the Baptist did the other Herod

5. One of those sons of Zebedee whom Christ told that they should drink of the cup that he was to drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that he was to be baptized with, Matthew 20:23

b. What kind of death

1. Slain with the sword - his head was cut off with a sword, - the Romans thought it was a more disgraceful way than beheaded than with an axe

2. Beheading was not ordinarily used among the Jews, but when kings gave  orders for private and sudden executions, this was the quickest.

3. Herod most likely killed James, as the other Herod killed John Baptist, while in prison


3. He put Peter in prison - had heard more about Peter than the other apostles

a. He proceeded further - after James to take Peter

b. He did this because he saw it pleased the Jews

c. It was during Passover - pretending to be zealous for the Law, as Jews came to keep the feast (of deliverance), they were more interested in getting rid of Christians.

d. He had 16 soldiers guarding Peter so he couldn't escape.

e. Herod’s purpose was, after Easter-(bad translation) (meta to pascha - after the Passover) to bring him forth unto the people.


II. Peter's deliverance  in answer to the prayers of the home church (v. 6-19).


A. Peter's deliverance happens while the saints pray for him (Vs. 5)

1. Peter was kept in prison well - it was impossible to get him out.

2. Peter's trial delayed

3. Prayer was made without ceasing;



1618 ektenhv ektenes ek-ten-ace’

from 1614; TDNT-2:463,219; adj

AV-without ceasing 1, fervent 1; 2

1) stretched out

2) metaph. intent, earnestly, assiduously


Robertson's Word Pictures:

{Therefore} (men oun). Because  of the preceding situation.


{Was kept} (ethreito). Imperfect passive, continuously guarded, waiting for the feast to be over.

{But prayer was made earnestly} (proseuch de hn ektenwv ginomenh). Probably de here is not adversative (but),  merely  parallel (and) as Page argues. It was a crisis for the Jerusalem church. James had been slain and Peter was to be the next victim. Hence "earnestly" .  In the N.T. only here, Luke 22:44 & 1Peter 1:22) prayer was {going up} (ginomenh, present middle participle,  periphrastic imperfect with hn). It looked like a desperate case for Peter. Hence the disciples prayed the more earnestly.


Luke 22:44   And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

1 Peter 1:22   Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:



A. When the king’s commandment drew near is when Peter was delivered. -

1. It was like Esther 9:1


Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;)


2. It was when he was bound with two chains, between two soldiers; so that if he was to stir he wakes them; and with the prison doors locked still the keepers before the door kept the prison, that no one could rescue Peter.

3. It was while Peter's soul is at ease - even though death was imminent - even in prison, between two soldiers, God gives him sleep.


Psalms 27:3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident


B. An angel was sent from heaven to rescue him – Three  word pictures

Psalms 34:7   The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.


1. The angel of the Lord came upon him; 2186 efisthmi ephistemi ef-is’-tay-mee  - stood over him. - and a light shined in the prison


{Stood by him} (epesth). Ingressive second aorist active indicative of efisthmi,  intransitive. This very form occurs in Luke 2:9 of the sudden appearance of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds. Page notes that this second aorist of \ephistêmi\ occurs seven times in the Gospel of Luke, eight times in the Acts, and nowhere else in the N.T.


Luke 2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.


2. and he smote Peter on the side, pat-as’-so - 3960 patassw patasso



Old word, but only here in the N.T. {He smote Peter on the side} (pataxav thn pleuran tou petrou). More exactly,  "smote the side of Peter." Strongly enough to wake Peter up who was sound asleep and yet not rouse the two guards.



3. A powerful arise, 450 anisthmi anistemi an-is’-tay-mee


 {Rise up} (anasta). Short form (_Koiné_) of anasthyi,  second aorist active imperative of anisthmi,  intransitive. Ephesians 5:14.


Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.


Which was a paraphrase of Isaiah's Prophecy about the Gentile rise and ministry:

Isaiah 60:1-2


1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.


This miracle was necessary if Peter was to escape without rousing the two guards. (Robertson's Word Pictures)


4. His chains fell off from his hands

5. He knew not that it was true which the angel did, it just happened to him, but he thought he saw a vision; - if he did, it was not his first vision (Acts 10:10) - it was like he was dreaming.


Psalms 126:1

 When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

C. Peter went to his friends at the home church

1. He considered the thing (v. 12),

a. He had been very close to death

b. He had a great deliverance

c. Herod would be looking for him

2. He went directly to a friend’s house, - the house of Mary, a sister of Barnabas, and mother of John Mark, - a home church.

3. There he found many that were gathered together praying,

a. At the dead time of the night,

b. Praying for Peter's deliverance - the next day would be his trial

As in Isaiah 65:24

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.


D. Peter had to continue knocking to get them to open the door

1. A damsel came to hearken; not to open the door till she knew who was there

2. She knew Peter’s voice,

a. She had often heard him pray, and preach

b. She did not let him in - opened not the gate.

c. She did not want to open the gate - it could have been the enemy.

3. They said, "Thou art mad; it is impossible it should be he, for he is in prison.’’

4. She said, It is his angel, v. 15. -  angelos can mean angel or often signifies no more than a messenger. Luke used it that way at least twice:

a. It is used of John’s messengers - Luke 7:24 & 27


24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

b.  It is used of Christ’s messengers - Luke 9:49-52


49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.

50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,

52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.

54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

5.      Finally they let him in (v. 16): as he continued knocking

E. Joy to Peter’s friends at the home church

6.  Peter gave them an account of his deliverance

6.      Go, show these things to James, and to the brethren with him,







8. Peter is still not supreme over the church - seemed to be one of the three pillars:


Galatians 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right  hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

F. Confusion of Peter's enemies

1.There was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.

2. Houses were searched in vain for Peter (v. 19)

3. Herod sought for him, and found him not. - Just like the Lord hid Jeremiah and the scribe Baruch

Jeremiah 36:26  But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet: but the LORD hid them.

4. Herod found out that they could not give an account how Peter got away; he commanded that they should be put to death, according to the Roman law:

1 Kings 20:39, If by any means he be missing, then shall thy life go for his life.


III. The cutting off of Herod in his pride (v. 20-23)

A. The death of Herod. - God dealt with him, for James' death, and intent to kill Peter

1. Herod was "fighting Mad" at Tyre & Sidon

a.       The men of Tyre and Sidon had evidently, offended Herod.

1.      They were now under the Roman rule

2.      They had been guilty of something that Herod did not like.

b.      Phoenicia belonged to Syria and Herod Agrippa had no authority there.

1.      The quarrel may have been over commercial matters.

2.      Tyre was a colony of Sidon and had become one of the chief commercial cities of the world because of the Phoenician ships.

c. Tyre and Sidon were equal residents of the Romans with Gallilee - Herod could not make war with them

d. Because their country was nourished by the king’s country

1.      Tyre and Sidon were trading cities, and had little land belonging to them

2.      They were always supplied with corn from the land of Canaan; Judah and Israel traded in their market, with wheat, and honey, and oil, Eze. 27:17.

e. They made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, probably with bribes - wanting to make peace with Herod

f. He made a political speech to Tyre and Sidon – they said:  It is the voice of a god, and not of a man, v. 22.  .








B. These praises went to his head so that he was full of pride.

1. Herod appeared in all the pomp and grandeur he had: He was arrayed in his royal apparel (v. 21), and sat upon his throne.

Josephus gives an account of this splendid appearance in his Antiquities:


"Herod at this time wore a robe of cloth of silver, so richly woven, and framed with such art, that when the sun shone it reflected the light with such a luster as dazzled the eyes of the spectators, and struck an awe upon them."


2. He gave not God the glory - it was his destruction


 Proverbs 16:18  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.


3. Nebuchadnezzar had been a very bloody man, and a great persecutor; but


Daniel. 4:30-31.

30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?

31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.


4.His sin was punished: Immediately (v. 23) the angel of the Lord smote him and he was eaten of worms above ground, and gave up the ghost. He was dealt with

a. For vexing the church

b. Killing James

c. Imprisoning Peter

d. His pride.

5. This story of the death of Herod is given by Josephus:

"That Herod came down to Cesarea, to celebrate a festival in honor of Caesar; that the second day of the festival he went in the morning to the theatre, clothed with that splendid robe mentioned before; that his flatterers saluted him as a god, begged that he would be propitious to them; that hitherto they had reverenced him as a man, but now they would confess to be in him something more excellent than a mortal nature. That he did not refuse nor correct this impious flattery (so the historian expresses it); But, presently after, looking up, he saw an owl perched over his head, and was at the same instant seized with a most violent pain in his bowels, and gripes in his belly, which were exquisite from the very first; that he turned his eyes upon his friends, and said to this purpose: ’Now I, whom you called a god, and therefore immortal, must be proved a man, and mortal.’ That his torture continued without intermission, or the least abatement, and then he died in the fifty-fourth year of his age, when he had been king seven years.’’


IV. Barnabas and Saul's return to Antioch (v. 24, 25).

1. The word of God grew and multiplied, as seed sown, which comes up with a great increase, thirty, sixty, a hundred fold; wherever the gospel was preached, multitudes embraced it, and were added to the church by it, v. 24. After the death of James, the word of God grew; - The more the church, was afflicted, the more it multiplied.

2. Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch  When they had fulfilled their ministry,

       they returned from Jerusalem.

3. Took with them John, whose surname was Mark, - his mother’s house (sister to Barnabas) fervently praying Church House of verse 12.