Day 26: Getting Our Bearings-Checking Our Course (Acts 12:24-13:3)
Today’s Passage: Acts 12:24-13:3
In the prior reflections I was drawn to two very specific aspects of life: prayer and pride.
Yet I don’t want us to miss the big picture of the story. Chapter 12 is pivotal.
Let’s just give ourselves a thumbnail sketch of where we have been in our time with Acts.
When we started, we spent time looking backwards to Luke’s Gospel and into the Old Testament. We were working to see Acts linkage to the grand story of God chasing after us and in fact fulfilling his long-awaited promise. Then, in the early chapters of Acts we saw the Apostles “getting their footing” or should I say “getting the Spirit”.
We have witnessed Saul, pursuing Jesus’ followers so he might bring them to death, becoming the one pursued by God in order that he might know life.
We have watched Jesus’ followers pray for boldness. We have seen God answer that prayer.
We have read about the early church growing and working out how to “be church”.
Through it all God is the prime mover. Stephen, the newly minted Deacon/waiter, proclaims the Good News. His martyrdom triggers an exodus which launches a wave of evangelism. God transports Philip and the Gospel is loaded on a transport back to Ethiopia via a fresh convert. Peter is more than a little moved outside his comfort zone as Gentiles are welcomed into the Kingdom of God. And as Barnabas witnesses an explosion of such magnitude, that this new strange group of people are named Christians, he sends for help from Saul/Paul.
In all, we have been immersed in nothing less than the Holy Spirit moving through the hearts of men, women, and children of every tribe and tongue—and it has led up to a head-to-head conflict in chapter 12.
In chapter 12 we see the two forces that operate in our world. The force of those who live for the ruler of this world- Satan, and those who live for God.
We have seen these forces be brought to a crisis before. As Jesus’ following spread, it all came to a head in Jerusalem and reached its climax…not on the Cross of Calvary on Good Friday…but in the Garden of Victory on that first Easter Day.
Make no mistake. What we are reading about in chapter 12 are the current powers of the world trying to snuff out this movement. The symbolism is unmistakeable. It’s Passover and there is a man in jail awaiting a rigged trial that will lead to his execution.
Herod can smell his victory.
Unlike Jesus, Peter is merely a man. Yet here is a key lesson for us today:
A man or woman on God’s mission, sent by the Holy Spirit and connected to God’s people in prayer, is never alone.
Chapter 12 paints the picture. The world opposing God and the world untied to God are yet again coming into open conflict. A singular shackled servant of the Lord seems to be the only person standing in between the two.
However, make no mistake. This is not the battle of a locked-up loner. This is a battle of cosmic proportions that goes vastly beyond the physical realm.
This battle is not against flesh and blood, but against power and principalities in the heavenly realm.
Each side is wielding its power. A powerful one by worldly standards, wielding one of its many tools of might- the sword. The other, the powerless one, wielding the only tool of might is has- prayer.
The chapter starts with Herod on a rampage—it ends with him dead. It opens with the violent death of James and the imprisonment of Peter—it ends with Peter free. It opens with this movement on the verge of extinction, and it ends with “the Word of God increasing and multiplying”.
Yes, megalomaniacs and tyrants prosper for a time, but their pride will be their undoing and the kingdom of God will increase and multiply.
Because the kingdom of God is not of flesh-and-blood, but of power in the Holy Spirit. We are not surprised to read of Paul and Barnabas returning from Jerusalem. No doubt they reported it all. The church in Antioch’s reaction? Worship and Fasting (13:2). Interesting reaction. No strategy meeting. They simply responded to the news of God’s deliverance of the young church with praise and fasting.
We can’t be sure, but I envision it was more than the listed elders involved, I imagine it was the larger church. We read about the amazing diverse leadership, (seriously read those names and consider the varied ethnicity of those church leaders) but as I mentioned, I think it is more than just the leaders who are worshipping and fasting.
The result, again, what appears to look like two men lonely traipsing off on mission is much more. They are, if you might allow, the leading edge of an army of people praying. All powered by the very Spirit of God, with a cosmic battle raging.
This is the Biblical view of what it looks like when we are in mission for the Lord.
Have in view the cosmic battle, it will drive you to your knees, which is where our battles are won or lost.