Acts 11 and 12
Read Acts 11:1-15 This section will serve as a review of Chapter 10.
Why were the other Jewish believers criticizing him? Why is Peter telling them everything that happened? Do you think Peter understands why they are upset?
Read Acts 11:16-17
Peter begins remind them about what Jesus had said to them right before He ascended into heaven Acts 1:
1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
These Jewish believers knew exactly what Peter was talking about. They had either experienced the happenings on the Day of Pentecost for themselves or had heard about what happened.
Read Acts 11:18
When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
When they heard what Peter had to say, they fell silent. Not only didn’t they argue with Peter, they glorified God! They understood without a shadow of a doubt that God had accepted the Gentiles and given them salvation.
Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Read Acts 11:19-24
Notice that the preaching up to this time has been to the Jews alone. The Hellenists were Jews who spoke Greek and observed Greek customs.
So many people were being converted by faith in Christ that word got back to the church in Jerusalem. They sent Barnabas to Antioch to see what was going on! The first time the believers were called “Christians” was in Antioch. Do you remember what they were sometimes called before that? With this mention of Antioch, we’re going to begin to notice that Antioch is an important center of Christianity, along with Jerusalem.
Barnabas became the pastor of the church in Antioch. How is he described? Do you remember when we first heard the description “full of the Holy Spirit and of faith?” The church grew quickly so Barnabas went to Tarsus to bring Paul back to work with him in Antioch. They stayed there a whole year and the church grew and many people were taught.
Acts 11:27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
The prophet Agabus, like all true prophets, spoke by the Spirit. He brought news that there was going to be a famine. So the church in Antioch sent gifts to the believers in Judea. Notice who they selected to carry the gifts to Jerusalem; Saul! The same man who “breathed out threats” and persecuted the church is now bringing help to the church in its time of need.
Chapter 12 brings us back to persecution in the church, this time through King Herod. King Herod Agrippa was the grandson of Herod the Great, who was the King who killed the boys who were born at the time that Christ was in an attempt to kill him.
Matthew 2: 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
This King Herod was against God and the people of God, too. This marks a change in the persecutions of the early church. Always before, the persecution of the church had been at the hands of the religious leaders (Sadducees). The Jews were persecuting the believers. Now the government joins in.
Herod killed James, the brother of John, with a sword. This is not the James who wrote the book of James and was the leader of the believers in Jerusalem. James is the second recorded martyr.
Read Acts 12:3-4
The Jews were pleased with the death of James, so Herod decided to go after Peter next. They captured him and put him in jail. It was the time of the Passover, so they were holding him until after Passover. Peter was heavily guarded during this time.
Read Acts 12:5-12
The church in Jerusalem knew that Peter was in jail. They prayed for him earnestly.
The night before he was to have been brought to Herod, Peter was chained to two men and there were guards outside his door. He must have been asleep because the angel had to poke him in the side! The angel raised him to his feet and the chains fell off. The scripture doesn’t say that the men who had been chained to him were asleep, but there is no evidence that they were aware of what was happening. The angel told him to get dressed and follow him. Peter did, but he thought it was a vision. He didn’t understand that he was really leaving the jail!
Read verse 10. Think about how far they had to walk together, and yet no one followed after them. As soon as they got out of the gates, the angel left him. As soon as the angel left him, Peter “came to himself.” Immediately, he understood what had happened! He knew that God had delivered him from the hand of Herod.
Peter went to Mary’s house, the mother of John Mark. They were gathered there for prayer.
Read Acts 12:13-15
They are gathered together, praying for Peter’s delivery from Herod but when he comes to them, they are shocked! The servant girl leaves him standing at the gate. When she tells them Peter is there, they think it’s his ghost! But God heard their prayers and answered them.
Read Acts 16-17 Peter went in to them and told them what had happened. He relieved their fears, but then he left.
Acts 12:18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.
When Luke says there was no little disturbance, he is really saying “there was an unbelievably HUGE disturbance!” Herod questioned the guards and then had them killed. Then he left town. He went to Caesarea, which we learned already was a Roman city, full of government officials.
Read Acts 12:19-23.
Why do you think the angel of the Lord struck him down?
Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other.
Read Acts 12:25.
Barnabas and Saul finished their ministry in Jerusalem and returned to Antioch. They took John Mark with them.
Next week we will start the missionary journeys of Paul, when the Gospel goes out into all the world. Read Chapter 13 and 14 for next week.
*These lessons are written for use with elementary aged students. You can find lessons for previous chapters here.