Good and gracious Lord,
we praise and thank You
that our moral failings do not take You by surprise.
You told Peter he would deny you three times
before the rooster crowed.
Forgive us for the ways that we have denied You
by loving the approval of others more than Yours.
Grant us renewed boldness
to openly identify ourselves as Your followers.
Make us people of honest confession,
unshakeable assurance, unquestioning obedience,
abiding joy, and full devotion.
For we pray in the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The Only Power that The Powerless Possess – Vespers Guide
I. A CRISIS: A fledgling church faces a crisis (12:1-4)
- Herod arrests, persecutes and kills church leaders.
- A crisis rocks the fledgling church: James is beheaded. Peter is imprisoned.
- Why? In order to appease and curry favor of a group of powerful religious leaders.
II. THE RESPONSE: How do we tend to respond to a crisis? What could this little community of Jesus, in its powerlessness, do against the armed might of Rome? (12:5,12)
- The Church gathers to pray.
- How did they pray? Earnestly, fervently, intently – being stretched out.
- When did they pray? Through the night.
- What does this phrase imply: “The night before” (v.6)? God is seldom early, but He is never late.
- According to this passage, for what purposes does God use suffering in the lives of His children?
- Imagine you are in this prayer gathering. How do you respond to Rhoda’s news and the sight of Peter?
- Has God’s answer to prayer ever surprised you?
III. OUTCOMES: What are the outcomes? (12:6-24)
- EVERYTHING IS REVERSED. Here we have the complete reversal of the church’s fortune. At the beginning of this chapter Herod is on a rampage – arresting and persecuting church leaders; at the end he himself is struck down and dies. The chapter opens with James dead, Peter in prison, and Herod triumphing; it closes with the power of God to overthrow hostile human plans and to establish his own in their place. Tyrants may be permitted for a time to boast and bluster, oppressing the church and hindering the spread of the gospel, but they will not last. In the end, their empire will be broken and their pride abased” (Stott, The Spirit, The Church and The World, p. 213).
- ANSWERED PRAYER. Peter is freed through the divine intervention of an angel.sent from God (vv.7-11, 17). How ironic that the group who was “praying fervently and persistently for Peter’s deliverance should regard as mad the person who informed them that their prayers had been answered” (Stott, p. 211). Why was Peter spared and James was not?
- THE PROUD ARE HUMBLED: The Lord judges the tyrant Herod due to his pride (vv.19b-24).
- THE WORD SPREADS: The Word of God continued to increase and spread (v. 24). What might it cost you for the Word of God to spread through you?
IV. What are some lessons that we can learn from Acts 12?
- Is there a situation that you feel powerless to resolve? Prayer is the only power that the powerless possess.
- “Here are two communities, the world and the church, arrayed against one another, each wielding an appropriate weapon. On one side was the authority of Herod, the power of the sword and the security of prison. On the other side, the church turned to prayer, which is that only power which the powerless possess” (Stott, pp. 208-209).
- Paul sings hymns in prison. Peter sleeps like a baby. Both are equally defiant in the face of death. You can be too.
- If you have a position of leadership and something you do goes well, how do you appropriately give glory to God?
Our Vespers Worship Guide through Acts 11
At times God’s plan and agenda doesn’t jive with ours. This study sets forth how we naturally respond and how the Lord leads us to embrace His agenda and plan.
Here are several lessons we learn from this important chapter in the life of the early church.
- God saves sinners (insiders and outsiders) by His gracious initiative alone. These sinners have their sins forgiven. They receive the Holy Spirit. They are baptized and welcomed into God’s family on equal terms. “The case of Cornelius is so manifestly one of grace reigning in every stage of his story, that we can hardly doubt that this was just the feature of it which they meant here to express. And this is the grace that reigns in every conversion.” – The People’s New Testament
- Since God doesn’t make distinctions in his new society the church, we have no liberty to make them either. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not only for “insiders” but also for “outsiders.” On one level, we can easily affirm this truth. And yet, practicing it may not come as easily as believing it. For example, Peter had a bad relapse in Antioch that is recorded for us in Galatians 2:11ff. The sin of discrimination has kept reappearing in the church throughout her history. This is blasphemy to God and is offensive to Him because He accepts without discrimination all who repent and believe the gospel. So should we!
- Let us not undervalue or overlook the role of the Holy Spirit and His work today.
- The importance and necessity of conversion… Devout, God-fearing, generous, praying, and religious people must hear the gospel, repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus.
The title of this post served as the original motto for the group that started Trinity Church. This focus has resulted in one of our hallmark strengths being relationships.
Last night at Wednesday Vespers we studied and prayed through Acts 10. In it you see the Lord going to extreme measures to link people with people in order to fulfill His purposes. Attached is a simple study and prayer guide through this important passage. It will provide you with a simple list of things you can pray for our church based upon Acts 10.
Linking People with People to Fulfill God’s Purposes – Acts 10