Acts Series #21
Back to the Beginning: When Church Was Church
Power in the Hand of God
Let me tell you about an interesting man. He was the grandson of Herod the Great. He was born about 10 BC and sent to Rome when he was 6 years old. He was given the best Roman education. He was a classmate of the Emperor's Son and another notable young man named Claudius. Herod Agrippa, also liked to call himself "Julius" Agrippa, also became good friends with another young politician named Gaius, later to be known as Caligula. Growing up around those kinds of friends, Agrippa learned to like and live in Luxury and Extravagance.
Well this was a problem as spent money he didn't have and constantly was rich then poor, borrowing money, etc. His Uncle Herod Antipas gave him a little money and put him in a Political Position in Tiberias but they argued and Agrippa ended up going back to Rome.
Agrippa had another problem, a big mouth, and his smart remarks about how Tiberius shouldn't be Emperor anymore and Caligula should, got him thrown in prison by Tiberius. For 6 months. Tiberius died, Caligula became King. Caligula deposed Antipas and gave Agrippa territories to rule that Antipas had, then after Caligula was assassinated, the new Emperor, Claudius, old school friend, gave Agrippa Judea and Samaria as well so now he was Emperor over the entire area of Herod the Great!
Agrippa was very pious in his Jewish observances and very Roman at the same time, and had won over the Pharisees. So, That is WHY he persecuted the Early church, to keep face with the Jewish Leadership, the Pharisees
So, that brings us up to Chapter 12 again
Let's Read 12:1-3; 19-25
There is something that we can see in the midst of all of this, and that is the Power in the Hand of God. We tend to only notice God's hand when it's heavy. But God's hand, like his voice, can come in many forms. When God spoke to Elijah in 1 Ki 19 his voice wasn't in the wind, in the earthquake, or in the Fire, but after the fire God came in the unexpected place, in a Gentle Whisper … So we need to see God's hand …
… First we must see God's Hand as …
1. A Hand of Invitation
A. Invitation to Herod
1. The household of Herod had received God's invitation over and over
2. They were no stranger to the invitation of God through Jesus. Herod's family of rulers had received God's invitation through the wise men from the East that came because of Prophesy and the Star and came looking for the King of the Jews born in Bethlehem
Herod The Great's Response was - "kill every baby under the age of 2 living in Bethlehem"
3. God's invitation came to the house of Herod when another Herod took the throne, stealing his brother's wife and John the Baptist preached for repentance and invitation to change his ways
Herod Antipas' response was "off with the head of John the Baptist"
4. God's invitation came to the family of Herod through Jesus Christ himself in the midst of a false trial brought to Herod. Herod found in him no guilt but all he wanted was Sport, entertainment, tricks
Herod Antipas' Response - Mocked him and said "send him back, get him out of my sight,"
5. The life of James was an invitation to Herod from God. We don't have much recorded about the Apostle James but you can be sure that Herod was selecting the Apostle that he felt would most negatively affect the church. James was a great man of faith. By the way remember that James and John and their mother had asked Jesus for the opportunity to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus. And Jesus responded, "are you prepared to drink from the same cup as I will drink?" They said they were, and Jesus prophesied, "you will". Well James became the First Apostle to die for his Faith and took his seat at the Right Hand of Jesus and his brother John was the LAST and thus if you will took the Left Hand seat of Jesus. The life of James was an invitation for Herod to recognize who he was and come to Christ.
Herod Agrippa Responded "Off with his Head"
6. The Life of Peter, the miraculous escape of Peter was an invitation to Herod
7. The Lives of God's people committed and following him living in a fallen world are God's hand of invitation to those looking at the glory of God's grace in our lives
8. It is a challenge to make a choice to continue in the road they have chosen or consider the road we have taken, the road less traveled
B. The Hand of Invitation always precedes a hand of judgment or deliverance
1. Noah preached to the people of his day for over 100 years as he built the ark, but non responded
2. Moses told the Pharaoh, "let my people go or the Lord will bring plaques upon you"
3. Jonah proclaimed Judgment on Nineveh "40 days and Nineveh will be overturned" and they repented and were spared
4. David Told Goliath "you come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down …" Goliath was being invited to surrender to God … not to David
The Powerful hand of God always offers an invitation
Romans 2:4 says "his Kindness leads us to repentance"
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian who died in Prison in Nazi Germany said that the Call to Follow Christ is a Call to "Come and Die"
That is a call to die to self, to die to pride, to die to all the ways we have known … whether to physically die or not, it is a call to come and die
The Invitation is an invitation to FOLLOW ME … Wherever that may be -
For James Follow me meant, follow me to the Gallows
For Peter Follow Me meant follow me today out of this jail but even Peter eventually Followed Christ to the gallows
But the invitation to follow me is always an invitation to experience the ….
2. Hand of Freedom
John 8:31,32 … if you hold to my teaching, you are really my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free
Jesus IS the Truth and Truth will set you free, the invitation of God, when received always leads to the hand of freedom.
Gal 5:1 it is FOR freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery
Romans 8:1,2 there is now no condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Responding to God's hand of invitation gives us the opportunity to live in the FREEDOM that is the nature of the Law of the Spirit of Life that is now at work in us
Read with me from Romans 8 for a minute beginning in verse 7 - 21
What happens to a physical body when it is DEAD … it Decays … but those forces that cause decay are all around us even now, so what keeps us from decaying now, The FORCE of LIFE that is coursing through our veins.
So what keeps our spiritual lives from the decay of sin all around us? It is the FORCE of Spiritual Life that is at work within us
That is why Galatians says IT IS FOR FREEDOM that you have been set FREE
Just as the Angel invited Peter to Freedom and he knew the freedom to be able to sleep in prison before physically set free, so The Spirit of God within us invites us to LIVE in Freedom instead of being bound under the tyranny of sin's control on our lives
God's response to our bondage is to always offer the hand of freedom
Will you respond to his invitation and take the hand of freedom?
When we say "no" to the hand of invitation, and thus miss the hand of freedom then we may be subject to …
3. A Hand of Judgment
A. Judgment at the Hand of God
1. Judgment is NEVER God's desire
2. Judgment is NEVER God's fault
3. How can a Loving GOD Judge someone?
a. Because he is a JUST God.
b. he is EQUALLY Loving and Just because they are part of his nature and Character
4. a Loving God does NOT send a person to hell, they choose their destination by rejecting God's provision of Mercy and Grace
5. Judgment happens when we FORCE God's hand with our REJECTION of his Grace and Mercy and his invitation to Freedom in Christ
6. Judgment is always the result of OUR choices NOT of God's anger
When God pronounced judgment of displeasure on Cain in Gen 4 Cain becomes angry and God says
a. Gen 4:6,7 Why are you angry? … If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it"
b. The only way to "Master sin" is to surrender to God
B. Judgment on Herod
1. vv21-23 READ AGAIN
2. The same angel that Stuck Peter in the side to lead him to Freedom, Struck Herod here to pronounce God's Judgment
3. The Invitation rejected is the road to Judgment, you and we never know how many times the hand of invitation will be extended
4. at the root of God's judgment is always our PRIDE that refuses to surrender to God - Pr 16:18 - Pride goes before a Fall"
a. it brought down Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 4 and after repentance, Nebuchadnezzar said in v37 "… those who walk in pride he is able to humble"
b. Job 40:12 says God "look at every proud man and humble"
5. God does not put up with those who would steal his glory
6. So, Luke tells us the condensed version of what happened, as this was a famous event that his readers would have heard of.
a. He came out, spoke to the people, the people said he was a god, and he didn't correct them so God struck him down, worms ate at him and he died.
b. Now it might sound to us that he just was struck down and died on the spot but the striking was immediate but the dying was not. Luke was summarizing here
7. The Jewish Historian Josephus gives us more information
a. he tells us some interesting facts
b. he tells us that earlier in life when imprisoned, an owl appeared and a man prophesied that Herod should not worry because he was going to be in power again, but that when he saw another owl, he would only have 5 days to live
c. Well this day in Caesarea, Herod was hosting a series of Games honoring Claudius campaign in Britain. But he took the opportunity to honor himself.
d. Agrippa appeared before the people dressed in a Robe made completely of woven solid SILVER. He entered in the early Morning with the low Sun, and the Sun shining off of his Silver Robe Blinded the people with it's Splendor and the cried out "be merciful to us: we have reverenced you as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as immortal"
e. as Agrippa reveled in their praise and the Glory of a god, he looked up and saw an owl sitting on a rope over his head --- Josephus says that he knew immediately what that owl meant -
f. Owl or not, that was God's Angel pronouncing God's judgment
g. a Severe Pain rose in his stomach violently - he said "I whom you call god, am commanded presently to depart this life, while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots as it pleases God …"
h. his pain became more violent … he was carried into the palace
i. it is said that the people put on sackcloth and prayed prostrated on the ground to the point that as Agrippa heard them he lay weeping
j. worn out by the pain in his belly for 5 days, he died at 54 years of age after 7 years on his throne.
k. the Same people who had prayed for him to get better, then reveled in his death and threw such a feast and celebration of his dying, desecrating everything he held dear and doing things that I couldn't tell you of today because of propriety, and Josephus said he couldn't even write everything they did because it was too wicked to write
The people judged him by what they saw and he judged himself by what the people thought of him
But they and he should have judged him by his standing before God.
Those who walk in pride he is able to humble Nebuchadnezzar said in Dan 4
We don't like to talk about Judgment, but Judgment is real.
What was Herod's Sin that brought Judgment?
3) Supplanted God's Rightful Place
How do we avoid God's Judgment? Stand IN Christ Jesus, Walk with Christ, live in his Grace
Rom 8:33,34 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies 32 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us
The safest place to stand when the Fire of God's Judgment comes is where it has already burned, and that is IN Christ who received the burning of God's judgment at the cross - Through Jesus Christ and in him we are NOT appointed for God's wrath 1 The 5 9
You see there is another Power in the Hand of God …
You see in the midst of Judgment, the Word of God, his Deeds, his Promises and his Judgment went forth.
You see as long as we are still here … even if Temporal Judgment has come on us, as Long as we are here, there is an opportunity for the last Hand to be played …
4. A Hand of Salvation
Did you see verse 24 But the Word of God continued to increase and spread
Judgment serves its place in the plan and purpose of Salvation from God
Disaster serves its place in the plan and purpose of Salvation from God
1. The Word grew and multiplied in the midst of the Judgment of Herod
2. When God exacted Judgment on his own children in Ananias and Sapharia and the church feared him greater
3. God brought Judgment on Herod and people took notice of the power of God, the only TRUE God.
4. Do you think that there are people in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana who are looking to God now for the first time, or returning to him with greater fervor than before?
5. Could it be that revival and awakening may be breaking out among those who are displaced and in need of assistance? I pray that it will. If it doesn't then our hearts are too hard
6. I pray that our hearts are not too hard. When the first Gulf War broke out in 1991 our churches filled up in an increase that lasted for the better part of a year. But in 2001 after 9/11 the increase in church attendance was about 2-3 weeks. And there was nothing noticeable in the last Gulf War
But the Hand of Salvation is still held out
Has God brought Temporal Judgment into your life?
Even THAT hand of Temporal Judgment is a Hand of Invitation to the Freedom that comes in Salvation through Jesus Christ
Will you come to him today?
Salvation is available to us today
Innocent Blood has been Shed - Heb 9:22 - without shed blood there is no remission of sin
Salvation is through a Person - Acts 4:12 - "no one else … no other name …" Heb 5:9 he (Jesus) became the source of eternal salvation
Salvation is by Grace through Faith - Eph 2:8,9 Rom 5:1 - we have been justified through faith Heb 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please God
So, there is Power in the Hand of God
Power for a Hand of Invitation to Freedom
Power for a hand of Judgment when Freedom is rejected
Power for a Hand of Salvation to all who will believe and receive
So … The hand God plays next is dependant on how you play your hand
It's your Play … What will you do today?
The story goes that in the 19th century, A poor Native American and a wealthy Anglo American were at the same Gospel Service. Christ was preached with a call to repentance and Salvation. That Native American readily received the offer of God's Mercy and Grace. The white man struggled in distress for a long time near despair before finally surrendering to have his sins forgiven. Some time later the two were discussing their experience with Salvation. The Anglo brother asked, "How is it that I struggled so long with this decision when you accepted God's gift so quickly"? The Native brother replied "O brother, there comes a Rich prince. He offers to give YOU a new coat; but you look pretty good in your clothes and decide they will last you a little longer. He then offers me a new coat. I look at my old blanket; I say, this is good-for-nothing, and you brother, try to keep your OWN righteousness, you won't give it up; but I a poor Indian, had no righteousness, so I was glad at once to receive the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ"
Herod didn't receive God's invitation because he looked too good in his Silver Suit
What about you? Are you satisfied with your Righteousness? Or is it time to replace your filthy rags with the Righteousness of God?