BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday February 19, 2012
KNOWING CHRIST CAN SET US FREE
(In CHRIST we can find true freedom)
In Acts chapter 12, Luke chronicles the story of King Herod Agrippa I, and his persecution of the Christian Church and its leaders at Jerusalem. Herod Agrippa I, was the grandson of Herod the Great, who was ruler over Palestine around the time when JESUS was born. He was the son of Aristobulus, Herod the Great’s son by his wife Mariamne. Herod the Great murdered Mariamne, and subsequently, murdered their two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, shortly after they found out that he had killed their mother.
Mariamne was a princess who descended from the Great Jewish dynasty, known as the Maccabees. Therefore, Herod Agrippa I was a direct descendant of the Maccabees. He was educated in Rome, and throughout his life, he adhered strongly to Jewish laws and customs. This made him very popular with the orthodox Jews, and through his persecution of the newly formed Christian Church, he no doubt sought to further improve upon his popularity.
In Acts chapter 12, taking up at verse 1, we are introduced to Herod Agrippa I, as he orders the death of James, one the original Disciples of JESUS. James, the brother of the Apostle John, became the first of the original Disciples to be martyred, as he was killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish leaders, he arrested Peter, with the intent to kill him also, as soon as the Passover celebration had ended.
While Peter was in jail, the Church prayed earnestly for him, and on the eve of his trial while asleep in his cell, he was awakened by an angel of the LORD. The angel instructed him to “get up quickly”, and the chains that bound him between two guards, fell from his wrists. Then the angel told him to “Get dressed and put on his sandals and coat and “follow me”. So Peter did as the angel instructed, but all the while, he thought it was just a vision and had not yet realized it was really happening.
They passed the first and second guard posts, and then finally, they came to an iron gate that would open into the street. The gate opened by itself, and Peter was able to walk with the angel to freedom. As they were walking down the street the angel left him and he realized then, that it was not a dream. He now knew that the LORD had sent HIS angel to rescue him from his impending doom.
Peter then goes directly to the home of the mother of John Mark. John Mark is the man who became the eventual author of the Book of Mark, and is also the cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). He would also, later, travel with Barnabas and the Apostle Paul, on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5). The home of his mother was apparently one of the meeting places of the followers of CHRIST in those days, and no doubt, was where they had gathered to pray for Peter during his incarceration.
When Peter arrives there and knocks on the door, a girl named Rhoda came to answer it. But after hearing the voice of Peter, whom they thought was still incarcerated, she, in her excitement, ran back to tell the others instead of opening the door.
The people inside, first, thought she was out of her mind, but finally concluded that she had, no doubt, heard an angel. But, when she insisted, they finally went to the door where they themselves heard Peter’s continued knocking. When they opened the door, they were amazed to see Peter standing there. Peter motions for them to quiet down, and then, tells them the story of how the LORD had led him to freedom. Before he left Mary’s house, he instructed them to go and tell James, the brother of JESUS, and apparent leader of the Church at that time, and all the others, what had just happened.
At dawn there was a great commotion among the palace guards about what had happened with Peter the night before. Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for Peter, but he couldn’t be found, and so he interrogated his guards and then sentenced them to death, before leaving for Caesarea to sojourn there for a while.
At that time Herod Agrippa was also angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. The people of Tyre and Sidon were afraid of the king because they depended on him for their food supply. And so they befriended Herod’s personal assistant, Blastus, and he set up an appointment with the king for them.
When they arrived, the king put on his royal robe, sat on his throne, and proceeded to make a speech that so impressed them, that they began shouting, “This is the voice of a god, not a man”. Instantly an angel of the LORD came and struck Herod down because he accepted the peoples’ praises, instead of giving the glory to GOD, WHOM he had been raised by his mother to serve and fear all of his life.
In John chapter 8, verses 31-32, JESUS tells those who believe in HIM that, “If ye continue in MY word, then are ye MY disciples indeed; And ye shall know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH shall make you free (KJV). JESUS goes on to tell us in verses 34-36 that, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house forever: but the SON abideth ever. If the SON therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”. There are very few passages in Scripture that show us such a vivid picture of what discipleship really is. True discipleship always results in freedom. It results in freedom from four things, “fear”, “self”, “other people”, and, last but not least, “sin”.
First of all, “Fear” leaves us when we choose to walk with GOD, instead of walking alone. Secondly, “Self” is a person’s greatest handicap, because it is impossible for us to change ourselves. However, GOD gives us freedom from self, because GOD has the power to recreate us from the inside out, through our getting to know, and becoming accustomed to practicing HIS HOLY WORD.
Thirdly, GOD gives us freedom from “Other People”. It was H.G. Wells who said “The voice of our neighbors sounds louder in our ears than the voice of GOD”. Some peoples’ lives are dominated by what other people think or say about them. The true disciple only cares about what GOD thinks and says.
And finally, GOD gives us freedom from sin. JESUS’ vicarious sacrifice, on the Cross, broke the chains of our slavery to sin. From that moment on, we are no longer under the dominion of sin, and, we are also freed from the curse of the Law.
JESUS’ conquering of sin and death on the Cross put us into a position where we could, thereby, re-enter into a relationship of friendship with GOD, in spite of our many sins against HIM. When we come to know CHRIST, it becomes possible for us to fall in love with goodness, and then, wrong things, will no longer fascinate, and have power over us. It becomes more difficult for us to lose our hearts to the things of this world, as our relationship with GOD, through CHRIST JESUS, becomes our greatest asset. And so, therefore, in CHRIST, we have “true freedom”. Amen.
(1). True Christian discipleship always results in freedom. It results in our
overcoming the four things that can keep every human being out of the will of
GOD. They are “fear”, “self”, “other people”, and “sin”. Let’s re-examine these
four things, which were previously mentioned in my commentary. First of all,
there is fear. If you fear what man can do to you, more than you fear GOD,
then, you are in a “spiritual prison”. I’ll give you just one example of this. If you
don’t pay your tithes (ten percent of your earnings) to the building of
CHRIST’s Church kingdom, before you pay anybody else, or any other bill, you
are in spiritual prison. The obligation you take care of first is the one you have
the most respect and reverence for. Trusting in GOD, by giving GOD the first
fruits of your harvest, can free you from this prison of “fear”.
(2). “Self” has always been man’s worst enemy. This is because, man, no matter how
long, and how hard he tries, can never change himself. GOD is the creator of
man, and therefore, only GOD can change a man. Man can only change those
things that GOD allows him to create, or have control or dominion over, on this
earth, i.e cars, houses, computers, etc. Man can also alter, and has altered, some
of GOD’s creation, but only for the worst. He can never improve upon GOD’s
creation, even though he is not totally convinced of that yet. Man’s surrender to
GOD allows him to experience a lasting change that will benefit him, both now,
and, in the world to come. He becomes free from the spiritual prison of “self”.
(3). “Other people” is not only one of the leading reasons for our spiritual
imprisonment, it is also one of the leading reasons for our financial
imprisonment. We go to great lengths to try and have what others have, do what
others do, and look like, what others look like. We try to make others envious of
us, because, we ourselves, are in fact, envious of other people. When a person
comes to know CHRIST, their standards are raised to a higher level, and we
only wish to imitate HIM. We no longer care what “other people” think of us,
we only care what GOD thinks of us. We become free from the spiritual prison
of “other people”
(4). And finally, only GOD can give us freedom from the spiritual prison of “sin”,
and HE does it, through the vicarious sacrifice of our LORD and SAVIOR
JESUS CHRIST. CHRIST has already paid for the sins of every human being,
past, present, and future, and this means, all mankind in general, and those who
believe in HIM, in particular. Coming to CHRIST, frees us from the spiritual
prison of “sin”.
Pray and ask GOD to grant you “true freedom” through the power of the HOLY SPIRIT. Express to HIM that you are ready to be set free from the bondages of fear, self, other people, and those sins in your life that you continue to try to hold on to. Ask GOD to release you from these spiritual prisons, so that you can serve HIM in all completeness and fullness.
KEY VERSE: Acts 12:11
A Book by Book Bible study by,
Larry D. Alexander