SERIES: 44 Acts - 2017
MESSAGE: Acts 12
SPEAKER: Skip Heitzig

The Herodian dynasty was filled with proud, dysfunctional, evil kings. Herod Agrippa I persecuted the early church, killing James and imprisoning Peter. In this message, we learn about the power of prayer and see how God's sovereignty triumphs over the pride of man.


  1. Introduction
    1. So far in the book of Acts
      1. A rabbi fought God and was converted (see Acts 9)
      2. A centurion followed God and was converted (see Acts 10)
    2. In chapter 12, we learn about a king who fought God and was slain
      1. He hardened his heart
      2. He failed to repent and exalted himself
    3. Theme of serving a sovereign God
      1. King Nebuchadnezzar recognized the sovereignty of God (see Daniel 4:30-37)
      2. God rules over the kingdom of men
      3. Those who govern are stewards of God
    4. Jesus said He would build His church (see Matthew 16:18)
      1. He built it first in Jerusalem
      2. It grew north toward Damascus
      3. Philip took the gospel to Samaria and shared with a eunuch who took it Africa
      4. It spread toward Turkey through Antioch
    5. We sometimes struggle with the role that prayer plays in the sovereign plan and purposes of God
  2. Acts 12:1-11
    1. King Herod
      1. There is more than one Herod mentioned in the New Testament
        1. The Herodian dynasty was a bunch of bad people
        2. The family who fought against God
      2. The Herod mentioned in this chapter is not the same as the Herod mentioned at the beginning of Jesus' life
        1. Herod the Great (Herod at the time of Jesus' birth)
          1. An Idumaean (from the genealogy of Esau)
          2. His father, Antipater, converted to Judaism
          3. He met with the magi and killed all the babies in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:1-16)
          4. He was a great builder but a horrible person
          5. Married ten times and killed several of his wives and sons
          6. One of his wives, Mariamne, was a Hasmonean Jew, and he killed her along with their son, Aristobulus
          7. He commanded that upon his death, all the notable citizens of Jerusalem were to be executed so that there would be mourning when he died
        2. Herod Philip I
          1. Son of Herod the Great
          2. First husband of Herodias
        3. Herodias
          1. Responsible for the death of John the Baptist
          2. Married another of Herod the Great's sons, Herod Antipas
        4. Herod Antipas
          1. Ruled in Galilee
          2. Jesus briefly stood trial before him
          3. John the Baptist denounced him for marrying Herodias, and she made sure he was killed
        5. Herod Archelaus
          1. Ruled in Judea, Samaria, and others
          2. He was a bad king and was deposed and replaced by Herod Philip II
        6. Herod Philip II
          1. Luke 3:1
          2. Built Caesarea Philippi
        7. Aristobulus
          1. Son of Herod the Great and Mariamne
          2. Killed by his father
          3. Father to Agrippa
        8. Herod Agrippa I
          1. The Herod we read about in Acts 12
          2. Educated in Rome and familiar with the leaders
          3. Friend of Emperor Caligula
          4. Garnished favor with the Jewish people because he observed many of the Jewish rituals
          5. Persecuted the early church, which pleased the Jews
        9. Herod Agrippa II
          1. Showed up in Paul the apostle's life
          2. Paul stood trial before him at Caesarea
    2. Herod killed James
      1. Brother of John
      2. One of the chief apostles
      3. First martyr among the apostles
    3. Herod arrested Peter
      1. Delivered him to sixteen soldiers
      2. Herod probably knew that Peter had been in prison once and escaped
      3. He intended to kill Peter after the Passover
        1. It was against Jewish law to execute someone during a high festival
        2. Jesus was killed during Passover, being illegal on many fronts
          1. Fulfilled prophecy
          2. The Passover Lamb (see John 1:29)
      4. James was as dedicated and loved Jesus as much as Peter, so why was he killed?
        1. God's ways are not our ways (see Isaiah 55:8)
        2. God is sovereign
        3. James suffered as Jesus did (see Mark 10:35-39)
        4. As a child of God, you are invincible until God is done with you
          1. Revelation 11:7
          2. James had finished his testimony and Peter had not
          3. He beat Peter to heaven
    4. The church prayed for Peter
      1. Prayer will change the outcome
      2. God loves to partner with His people to get His will done
    5. Peter never had a problem with insomnia (see Matthew 26:40; Mark 14:37; Luke 9:32)
      1. This was a sleep of faith and peace
      2. Peter knew he wasn't going to be executed
        1. Jesus told him he would die "when you are old" (John 21:18-19)
        2. He rested in the promise Jesus gave him
        3. Peter was living in the presence of God (see Isaiah 26:3)
    6. Though the doors of justice were closed, the door of prayer remained open
      1. It was the church's secret weapon
      2. Many times we fail to engage in it with real faith
      3. When you pray, it's like bringing a gun to a knife fight with the Devil
      4. It's unfortunate that it takes extreme situations to bring prayer
    7. God does the impossible, but He expects you to do the possible
    8. God has editing rights over your prayer life
  3. Acts 12:12-25
    1. Many were gathered in prayer
      1. The house of John Mark is believed to be the headquarters of the early church in Jerusalem
        1. John Mark was probably the author of the book of Mark
        2. His mother, Mary, was a prominent member of the church
      2. Though they prayed continually, it does not seem like they prayed expectantly
        1. Even though they didn't have faith, God answered their prayers anyway
        2. Lazarus died even though many prayed he would be made well (John 11:1-45)
          1. He was raised from the dead even though they did not have faith that it would be so
          2. Despite all lack of faith, Jesus raised him
        3. Jesus healed the son of a man who had a shaky faith (see Mark 9:17-27)
    2. "There was no small stir" (v. 18)
      1. Luke's way of saying, "There was a big hullabaloo"
      2. Luke used this same language in Acts 15:2
    3. Death of Herod Agrippa I
      1. Because he did not give glory to God, an angel struck him and he was eaten by worms
        1. Some scholars believe this was the result of a bursting cyst due to a tapeworm
        2. No matter who you think you are, God is perfectly capable of taking you on (see Philippians 2:10-11; Romans 1:18-21; 14:11)
      2. Both Peter and Herod were struck by an angel, with two very different results (see vv. 7, 23)
        1. The Greek word patassó means to strike
        2. It can be forcefully or gently, depending on the context
        3. Do you want God to nudge you gently or strike you forcibly?
Figures referenced: Antipater, Aristobulus, Caligula, Claudius, Herodias, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Herod Antipas, Herod Archelaus, Herod the Great, Herod Philip I, Herod Philip II, Josephus, Mariamne, Jean Sloat Morton, J. Oswald Sanders, Thomas Watson

Greek words: patassó

Cross references: Isaiah 26:3; 55:8; Daniel 4:30-37; Matthew 2:1-16; 16:18; 26:40; Mark 9:17-27; 10:35-39; 14:37; Luke 3:1; 9:32; John 1:29; 11:1-45; 21:18-19; Acts 9; 10; 15:2; Romans 1:18-21; 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11; Revelation 11:7

Topic: Sovereignty of God

Keywords: sovereignty of God, government, leaders, rulers, martyr, prayer, faith, unbelief, pride

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