Church Tested (1)
There must be a test to every testimony. The faith of the early believers was about to be put through fire. James was about to be slain by Herod. James was one of the two who wanted to sit on thrones beside the Lord in His kingdom. When their mother made that request she had no idea of how closely James would follow Jesus. James was the first to die, John the last. Sometimes the test comes in losing our life with grace and sometimes in living it. The obituary notice for James’ death is short. It mentions a sword. That is all. Then the text goes on to talk of the living.
Peter had every reason to believe that he was to be the next to the chopping block. We find him incarcerated in verse three. He is released from prison in verse nine, where it says “and he went out.” What we do in prison is the Christians bar exam. The whole church was praying for Peter “without ceasing.” Not only was Peter in prison, but he was held with two chains. A guard was stationed at the door. One might say, it did not look good for Peter.
The church was very concerned to say the least. Peter did not appear worried. As a matter of fact he slept so soundly that the angel sent by God had more trouble waking him from his sleep than springing him from jail. The angel “smote” him on the side.
The fact that the church was “astonished” (16) is telling. Sometimes we pray with little faith. Sometimes we “ask” but neither “seek,” nor “find,” and it is not God’s fault. The church was being tested in more ways than one. This was an opportunity for the early church to give their prayer meeting a “test flight.” James was not released. This is not to say that no one prayed for him. John the Baptist was beheaded. Stephen experienced a shower of stones. The lesson is found in the calm and peace of Peter as much as in the prayers. Nothing can happen to us until God is finished. The important thing is not that we are released from prison. The important thing is that “The word of God grew and multiplied.” (24).