Afghanistan. Haiti. Lebanon. Ethiopia. Myanmar…. The headline news can be deeply distressing at times. The weak seem to get weaker, the abusive seem to get ahead.
Acts chapter 12 is a violent chapter. The opening verses say as much:
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
This was a dark time for the church in Jerusalem. James, one of the original 12, was now dead. There were other unnamed ones imprisoned. Peter was next in line for a violent death. It all seemed for sport, political maneuvering, power seeking.
We read the same in the news feeds today. People in power meant for protecting and furthering the flourishing of their citizens, instead use their power for their own corrupt ends.
The Greater Reality
There is an interesting chiastic structure to Acts 12 . Note how the chapter unfolds:
> King Herod Kills James 12:1-2
>>>>> Herod imprisons Peter 12:3-4
>>>>> Angel of the Lord frees Peter (Romans guards put to death) 12:6-19
> Angel of the Lord Kills Herod 12:20-23
Note Luke’s next statement. Though Herod is silenced, not all is silenced:
“But the word of God continued to increase and multiply.” Luke 12:24
How does the Word Multiply?
Thematically in Acts, Luke records that the word spreads (13:49), it increases and multiplies (6:7 and 12:24).
How does the word increase and multiply?
In John 15 Jesus tells us that there is a bundle of gifts that indwell us. Jesus says he abides in us (15:4-5). His Love abides in us (15:9-10). And his word abides in us (15:7). He exhorts us to abide (remain) in Him, his love, and his word.
When we hear the word of God, the Spirit stirs in us faith (faith comes by hearing the word Romans 10:17). When we respond in faith, receiving the word, the word is implanted in us. This happens every time we hear the word proclaimed and taught. Ever notice how a well proclaimed message of the word stirs faith in you?
All of our journey with Christ we grow in the word and the word, by the Spirit, grows us. Our spiritual understanding grows. We progress to discern good from evil. We are changed from the inside-out.
This is not only head knowledge; a truck load of doctrinal data (though doctrinal truth is essential). This is relational knowing – intimacy and communion with God.
At the time of the Acts 12 events, the word of God was spreading across the Middle East and into Asia Minor. It was transforming lives one soul at a time. As each individual received the word, the word multiplied, it increased, it spread.
That did not make the news then and it does not make the news today.
The Word Multiplies Today
Pray that the word would continue to increased in all our nations that are immersed in duress and violence. Pray for pastors, house church leaders, and evangelists who boldly, persistently proclaim the good news in hard times. Pray for those in prison to be strengthened by the Spirit and the word.
And you, abide in the word. Everyday, every single day, receive the gift of God’s word. Allow the word to draw your gaze back to the Living Word – Jesus.
As you read the written word (Bible) the Spirit nourishes you in the Living Word (Jesus). The word is the primary means by which we are instructed, encouraged, strengthened and nourished in Jesus. It is the means by which we come to know and receive the Father’s love to us in Jesus.
Ask the Spirit to draw your heart to the Father and Son as your read the word. Ask the Spirit to nourish you in Jesus, to reveal the beauty of Jesus afresh.
Though the world is often a violent place, it does not have the final word. God is always watching over his word to do it (Jeremiah 1:12).