Nepaug Bible Church - http://www.nepaugchurch.org - Pastor's Evening Sermon Notes - http://www.nepaugchurch.org/ev/ev19980111.htm
ACTS: THE LOCAL CHURCH AS GOD'S AGENCY FOR DISCIPLING MEN
Part XXV: God's Permissive USE Of The Harming Of Godly Leaders For His Church's Welfare
(Acts 11:29-12:25 with 15:1-2, 12-19, 30-31)
Lesson: The sudden death of James in Acts 12:1-2 immediately followed by the capture and release of Peter was a CATALYST God used to knit Peter with Paul and James as a tight unit, further influencing the coming watershed decision in Acts 15 to fav or justification by faith apart from works! The REST of us in Church History in part owe this doctrinal watershed event's outcome to the catalyzing martyrdom of James, making his sudden death ENORMOUSLY valuable to all of us!
- Acts 4:11-12 tells us that God has given church leaders to the Body of Christ to equip it to do the work of the ministry in building itself up in the faith and in love. From such a text, we may assume that th e value of such leaders then is found in their earthly welfares being sustained so they can keep equipping the saints.
- However, God sometimes permits terrible persecution of even godly leaders as the best way for them to be used in the Church, and that example is supplied for us in the account of the death of James in Acts 12:1-2:
- God's Permissive USE Of The Harming Of Godly Leaders For His Church's Welfare:
- It could at first appear that God was not "fair" in letting Herod to put James to death in Acts 12:1-2:
- For God to let James die so quickly opposite His multiple deliverances of Peter could seem "unfair":
- Before James was put to death, God had worked to free Peter from prison, A. 5:17-20.
- After James had been put to death, God again freed Peter from prison where Jame's murderer, Herod Agrippa I had placed him to do to him what he had done to James, Acts 12:3, 7-11.
- One could thus think God rescued Peter too many times and James not enough to be "fair"!
- Besides, James death would have touched a very sensitive chord, really humanly hurting the believers:
- The death of James, the brother of the Disciple Jesus had especially loved, the brother of John, would have deeply grieved John, Acts 12:2.
- Well, from John 19:26-27 we know that John took care of Mary, the Mother of Jesus in his home. For James to die would have afflicted Jesus' earthly mother by way of her identification with J ohn, a very distasteful and seemingly "unfair" event for God to permit!
- However, James' death, when viewed from the broad angle of God's purposes, was necessary for the doctrinal and brotherly unity of the Church throughout Church History for the following reasons:
- The Greek text in Acts 12:1 reveals that Herod put James to death literally "at that time", cf. C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom-Book Of New Testament Greek, p. 59. This "time" in the context marks the event of Paul and Barnabas' return to Jerusalem with a collection for the needy in Jerusalem, cf. Acts 11:29-30.
- Since Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch with John Mark acc. to 12:25, we surmise that Paul would have shared in the shock at James death and joined the prayer group at John Mark's mother's home, 12.
- This knitting under duress, according to Jesus' intercessory prayer in John 17:22-23 makes for a very tight knit of perfect oneness, a very notable fact to keep in mind in view of important events to come!
- Also, when God's angel miraculously released Peter from Herod's prison, and when Peter in turn went to the prayer meeting where Paul would have been present, he told the people to inform James, the half-brother of Jesus, of his release, 12:17, 19a. This sharing showed Peter's unity with James, that James would have been very relieved and happy to have Peter released!
- This close unity of personalities following James martyrdom takes on colossal significance in Acts 15:
- The Church Council met in Acts 15 to settle a watershed doctrinal issue - whether or not God required Gentiles to be circumcised as Jewish proselytes along with believing to be saved, 15:1-2.
- Well, the unity between Paul and Peter, already seen in Paul's joining the Church in Acts 12 to pray for Peter's release, plays out powerfully as Peter supports Paul's claim at this meeting that Gentiles are saved without being circumcised -- without also becoming Jewish proselytes, Acts 15:7-11.
- Peter's words allowed Paul to share his testimonies with others now willing to listen, Acts 15:12, 7a.
- Then James, already honored and recognized by Peter in Acts 12 upon Peter's release, who also appreciated the fact that Peter was alive, honored Peter's words and Paul's corroborating testimonies, and as the head Church official gave his verdict of justification by faith alone, Acts 15:13-19.