Tue. Jan 26th, 2021

LESSON EIGHT
THE PERSECUTED CHURCH

Persecution Foretold:
• “But he shall receive… with persecutions” (Mark 10:30).
• “They shall lay hands on you, and persecute you” (Luke 21:12).
• “The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
• Jesus had warned his disciples that they could expect to be persecuted.
• This persecution began almost at once with the arrest of Peter and John following the healing of the lame man at the gate beautiful.
• Five times in eleven years the church at Jerusalem encountered persecution.
• 1. By the Sadducees, elders, rulers and scribes (Acts 4).
• 2. By the Sadducees because of the preaching of the resurrection (Acts 5).
• 3. Stephen’s trial and martyrdom (Acts 6).
• 4. Intense persecution under Saul’s leadership (Acts 8:1-3).
• 5. Persecution instigated by Herod (Acts 12:1-25).
• These persecutions were permitted by the Lord and undoubtedly accomplished a definite purpose in the growth of the church.
• The persecutions were some of the means God used in scattering the church so that the gospel message might be preached everywhere.
• The persecutions kept the church strong and developed strong faith as the saints prayed and witnessed the power of God manifested to deliver them.

Early Persecutions:
• The first persecution was directed against Peter and John following the miraculous healing of the lame man.
• The apostles were thrown into prison overnight.
• When brought before the Council Peter preached a marvelous sermon.
• Instead of being the accused, he became the accuser.
• They were threatened with violence and dismissed.
• The second persecution was directed against all the apostles (Acts 5:17-42).
• The religious leaders became indignant and took all the apostles and threw them into prison.
• God’s angel delivered them.
• The next morning when the council was set for trial, they found the apostles were gone.
• At that very moment they were in the temple preaching the Words of Life.
• In the account of this persecution the student should note the words of Peter (verses 29 & 32): “We ought to obey God rather then man” and “So is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
• In this latter statement it makes it very clear that obedience is necessary in order to receive the Holy Ghost.
• The wisdom of Gamaliel (Paul’s teacher) should also be noted.
• When the council heard Peter they were convicted deeply and began to plan how to kill the apostles.
• However, Gamaliel gave them splendid advice.
• “Let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found against God.”

The Persecution By King Herod (Acts 12:1-25):
• King Herod brought this fifth persecution upon the church.
• This Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great who was the king when Jesus was born.
• He had cultivated the good will of the Jews by observing their customs.
• In order to further win the favor of the Jews, Herod had James the brother of John killed.
• He had the head of James cut off, a similar death to that of John the Baptist.
• It should be noted that of the apostles, one of these brothers was the first to be killed, the other, John, was the last to die.
• When Herod saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter planning to kill him.
• However, he did not want to kill him until after the rituals of Passover.
• The church went to earnest prayer and God delivered Peter the night before his planned execution.
• Although Peter was to be killed the next day, he was not lying awake worrying.
• He was sleeping.
• Herod had taken strict precautions.
• Two chains and four soldiers (two by his side and two at the door held Peter).
• In spite of this an angel of the Lord delivered Peter.
• Peter went to the house where the church was praying.
• This was the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother.
• Although the church was praying it was difficult to believe that their prayers had been answered.
• It was so miraculous!
• Why did God rescue Peter and allowed James to be slain?
• We do not know and we must never question the will of God in similar events.
• Finally, we should note the horrible death of Herod.
• The very thing, which he desired, the applause and acclaim of the people brought judgment and death.
• When the people shouted, “God’s voice, not a man’s!”
• Herod accepted this acclaim and died a horrible death. History states that Herod immediately was seized with violent internal pains and he lingered in agony for five days before he finally died.

Peter’s Deliverance:
• The story of Peter’s deliverance is a wonderful illustration of what God does when He delivers a sinner from sin.
• This passage of Scriptures makes a wonderful text for a gospel message.
• 1. The sinner’s condition is described by Peter’s condition in prison bound by chains.
• 2. A light shone first.
• 3. Peter was smitten on the side next to the heart – this speaks of conviction.
• 4. He was told to arise – this he had to do first.
• 5. Then the chains fell off.
• 6. The Peter was told:
• (a) Gird thyself,
• (b) Bind on thy sandals,
• (c) Put on thy garment,
• (d) Follow me.
• 7. The gate opened on its own accord – the magic of the electric eye is not as new as we might think.
• 8. Finally, Peter was able to say; “NOW I KNOW.”

The Final Record of Peter’s Ministry:
• In Acts 12:17 we read “And he departed, and went into another place.”
• Apart from a brief mention of Peter appearing and speaking at the first church council (Acts 15) the above Scripture completes the record of Peter’s ministry.
• He went into another place but nobody knows where he went.
• The Roman Catholic Church claims that he went to Rome but there is no proof for that claim.
• He simply disappears.
• He had used the keys and unlocked the door to the Kingdom.
• This is all we need to know regarding the ministry of Peter.

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