An angel of the Lord rescues Peter from prison. Then Peter goes to the house of Mary, Mark’s mother, where people are gathered to pray. When Rhoda hears that it’s Peter at the door, she runs to tell the others but they respond saying, “You are beside yourself!” They can’t believe that the prayers they have been praying for Peter were actually heard and answered. “Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.” Peter says to go and tell James, Jesus’ brother, and the others that the Lord delivered him from Herod. James, who once was not a believer, came to faith when he saw his brother Jesus resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:7); he will go on to become a leader in the Jerusalem church.
While Herod sat on his throne receiving glory from the people, the Lord strikes him “because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God grew and multiplied.” Herod had his own plans for his own political gain of persecuting Christians and stopping the growth of the church to increase his popularity. However, nothing will stop the plans of the Lord as written in Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but the purpose of the Lord will stand.” In spite of Herod’s attempts to shut down Christianity, the word of God grew and multiplied, which is often the case when Christians come under persecution.
Over in the church at Antioch, we see the process the Lord uses for selecting missionaries. The leaders pray and fast, and the Holy Spirit separates Barnabas and Saul, also called Paul, “for the work to which I have called them… Then having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”
So Barnabas and Paul go out, and everywhere they go they preach the word of God in the synagogues until they get run out by unbelieving Jews. When the rulers in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia ask them if they have a word of exhortation for the people, Paul stands up and shares Jesus the same way Jesus revealed Himself to the men on the road to Emmaus, the same way Stephen defended his faith before the Jewish council, and the same way Philip explained Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch. Paul tells the story of the Bible beginning with their fathers, who dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, to the Exodus Era with their forty years of wandering in the wilderness, to the Conquest Era where they conquered and settled into the promised land, to the Judges Era where for roughly four hundred and fifty years the Israelites lived out seven sin cycles, and Paul lands on the Kingdom Era with King David – “From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.”
Paul teaches of Jesus’ death and resurrection and tells them, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
On the next sabbath at Antioch in Pisidia, practically the entire city shows up to hear the word of God. “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.’…Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”
Once again we see when people hear the story of Jesus, hearts are set on fire. Some burn in love and repentance and some burn in jealousy and anger. And depending on how your heart burns for Christ, in love and repentance or in jealousy and anger, He either saves you or condemns you. The ones with hearts burning in anger try to attack and kill Paul and Barnabas, so they leave, and wherever they go they preach in the synagogues. While in Lystria, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium track them down and stone Paul, leaving him for dead, but Paul does not die. “And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”
[Summary of Paul’s missionary journeys from the book 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders:
1 – Galatia for 2 years (Acts 13-14)
2 – Greece for 3 years (Acts 15-17)
3 – Asia for 4 years (Acts 18-21)
4 – Roman prison for 2 years (Acts 22-28)]
Tomorrow concludes the first missionary journey and Paul writes a letter to the churches of Galatia. Keep reading.