The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail
Authentic Church • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 48:24
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we’re coming to the end of Luke’s account of work of the HS in the Jewish world
though the HS continued to work among the Jewish people he shifts Luke’s focus to the work of Paul and his team in the Gentile world
The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to show the progressive fulfillment of Acts 1:8
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.”
in the previous chapters the HS has clearly revealed the sovereign work of the Father and the Son in establishing and building the church
Examples of the sovereign work of the Father and the Son in establishing and building the church.
giving of HS at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13)
the transformation of the disciples into bold preachers unafraid of persecution (Acts 2:14ff)
the exponential growth of the Jerusalem church under the foolishness of preaching (Acts 2:41)
defeating Satan’s efforts to hinder, halt or destroy the church through persecution and sin
escalation of persecution from the Sanhedrin: verbal warning (Acts 4:1-22), beating Acts 5:17-42), killed Stephen (Acts 7:54-60)
God turned each into an opportunity for the spread of the gospel
the Sanhedrin heard the gospel, the disciples encouraged each other to persevere and rejoiced that they had been counted worthy to suffer and prayed for continued boldness, the spread of the gospel beyond Jerusalem as the result of Saul’s ravaging of the Jerusalem church
Ananias and Saphira put to death by God for attempting to deceive the church (Acts 5:1-11)
Saul’s ravaging of the church caused the gospel to go to Samaria (Acts 8:1-3)
the uncovering of the false Christian, Simon the Magician (Acts 8:9-25)
the supernatural ordering of Philip so that he crossed the path of the Ethiopian eunuch resulting in his salvation and baptism (Acts 8:26ff)
Saul’s miraculous conversion and 180 degree turn around from a murderous opponent to a preacher willing to give up his life for the gospel (Acts 9:1-25)
bringing the Roman centurion Cornelius together with the Apostle Peter to break down the Jewish wall of hostility to the Gentiles and pave the way for the gospel to go out into the Gentile world (Acts 10-11)
Jesus to Peter when he confessed him to be the Son of God
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Examples of those who fought against God and resisted his purposes.
the folly of fighting against God or even resisting his purposes
Pharaoh and the 10 plagues
the kings of the Promised Land who were all destroyed along with all their people
Balaam and Balak when they tried to curse Israel
Assyrian king Sennacherib when God destroyed his army and sent him home where his sons murdered him
Herods of the NT
Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus in the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem
Jesus was already safe in Egypt
Herod Agrippa I of Acts 12
curried the favour of the Jews in order to stay in the good books of those who had power over him in Rom
declared all out war on the Jerusalem church
Acts 12:1-5: Herod the King attacks the Church
Herod the King
has the power of the Roman army to do his bidding
was in trouble with those in Rome who had authority over him
desperately needed the support and approval of the Jews to maintain his position so he attacked the church knowing that it would please the Jewish authorities
laid violent hands on some believers
a violent hand = punching, slapping, beating, etc
he sent his soldiers to harass and beat up Christians
Herod killed James with the sword
God permits some of his faithful servants to be killed
Stephen was the first
James the first apostle to be martyred and the only one recorded in the NT
seeing that his attack on the church and his killing James earned him favour with the Jews he arrested Peter
planed on bringing him out before the people
Herod’s initial objective was to secure the support of the Jews
his success made him think he could do the same with Peter
behind Herod was Satan
Jesus in John 8 as to why the Jews who wanted to kill him
44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Paul to the Ephesians about who believers are really fighting against,
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Satan’s objective is the destruction of the church by cutting off its leaders
this is often Satan’s method: he thinks that if he can destroy the leaders the followers will be disheartened and scattered and made useless
he obviously had not learned from Stephen but sin does that
it makes slaves of sin think they are wise when they are in fact fools!
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
note that if Satan cannot destroy the church’s leaders his other plan of attack is to plant unbelievers in the church in order to lead it away from the truth!
if he cannot attack it from the outside he will try from the inside
days of unleavened bread (v.3)
James was killed before Passover
Peter was arrested during the feast of Unleavened Bread which followed and lasted a week
would have gained Herod the maximum amount of publicity as the city would be inundated with Jews from all over the world
would have brought Peter out on Sunday!
4 squads of soldiers - total of 16
Herod was likely aware of what happened the last time that Peter was imprisoned
19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,
according to v.10 the other squads were guarding the other sets of doors which led down into the dungeon where Peter was being held captive
Herod was taking no chances with his prize prisoner!
Herod’s behaviour is typical of unbelievers
when they oppose God and their efforts fail they try harder rather than admit he is the Almighty, Sovereign God
if at first they don’t succeed they try harder rather than accept that they cannot win their fight against God!
The response of the church to Peter’s predicament was earnest prayer.
the response of the church: earnest prayer (v.5)
earnest or fervent = stretch muscles to limits
same word used to describe Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
is also used to describe Christian love and service
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king!
church responded like it always did when persecuted (Acts 4:23-31)
they got down on their knees and pleaded earnestly with God
does that characterize your prayer life?
if it doesn’t it won’t characterize our church!
why do God’s people earnestly pray even when the situation seems hopeless?
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Peter is sound asleep in spite of his awful circumstances!
the chains, the presence of the guards, the hard cold floor, the wretched prison conditions, the imminent threat of death could not keep him from sleep
a deep sleep at that!
7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”
The source of Peter’s peace: he trusted God
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”
he was not old so he knew he would not die no matter how dire his circumstances
he had also been jailed before and God delivered him
he had already experienced God’s faithful care in the midst of trouble
this is what trials and troubles do for us, strengthen our faith
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
the source of our peace:
2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
angel leads Peter out of the prison into the city
“when Peter came to himself”
up to this point Peter thought he was having a vision or a dream
soldiers were completely unaware of the light, the angel, the chains falling off, Peter dressing, doors opening and closing as Peter walked out!
was not sure what was happening was real until he was out of the prison, in the city, standing by himself, free
“now I am sure” - before this he wondered if it was just a pleasant dream
Peter’s encounter with the praying church
How the church dealt with Peter’s dire situation: they were earnestly praying
many were praying
Acts 2:42: devoted to apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers
prayers were earnest - v.5
compare to church prayer meetings today where there are few who are committed to this holy task
public prayer is dependant on private devotion and prayer
poor attendance at public prayer point to anemic personal prayer
the shocked amazement of the church
The church was not expecting such a speedy and miraculous answer!
their natural expectation: somehow Herod would have a change of heart and release Peter
God honoured their earnestness
God went above and beyond their expectation
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
asking, seeking, knocking
churches that are committed to prayer experience God’s mighty works
Herod’s Purpose Reversed
Herod’s Purpose Reversed
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.
Herod the King planned to murder Peter but instead killed 16 of his own soldiers!
1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
should motivate us to pray confidently knowing that God who has redeemed us from slavery, raised us from our spiritual deadness and adopted us as his children, is ready and willing to give us everything we need
should cause us to boldly stand for Christ
Questions for review:
What does the sovereignty of God look like to you? If you were in Peter’s situation how would you sleep?
What does your prayer life look like? How does it affect Eastwood’s mission?
How should Acts 12 affect our attitude toward our political leaders?