In reading Acts 12, I remembered an old sermon preached 50 years ago by the late Robert Jackson who raised the question, “Did Peter deny the grace of God?”
I remember it well, because I “borrowed” it and preached it several times in my early days of ministry.
The chapter records that Herod Antipas was harassing the church. He killed James with the sword. And then imprisoned Peter. Probably, Herod had in mind the same fate for Peter.
Luke records several divine acts that Peter experienced.
(1) An angel appeared to him. He was God’s messenger. And he came to rescue Peter from prison.
(2) Then the chains fell off. Peter was bound with two chains between two soldiers. Peter didn’t have a key. And the angel didn’t unlock them. They just miraculously fell off.
(3) Peter then passed through two guard posts without being seen. Four squads of soldiers were watching Peter. Each squad consisted of four men. So he went unnoticed by 16 men. How? It had to be a divine act.
(4) The iron gate opened by itself. The Bible says, “they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord” (v. 10). Another miracle.
Now suppose you saw Peter on the street and asked, “Peter, how you get out of prison?
He would respond, “The Lord delivered me” (v.17).
“How do you know?”
Peter would recount the miraculous occurrences that could only be the working of the Lord.
However, there were some human acts involved as well.
(1) The angel told Peter to, “Get up.” The angel could have picked him up. The Lord could have miraculously transported him out of prison. But Peter had to get up on his own.
(2) “Put on your clothes,” the angel commanded. The angel didn’t dress him. Peter dressed himself.
(3) “Put on your shoes,” he was further instructed. Peter could have said, “This is a waste of time. I’m not going anywhere.” But he didn’t. He got ready.
(4) “Follow me,” the angel announced. Peter could have objected, “There are too many guards to get past. We’ll never get out of here.” Or he could have said, “You carry me.” Instead he simply obeyed.
Now, if you ask, “Peter how did the Lord deliver you?” He would have told you what he did.
Now, Robert’s question and mine is this: “Did Peter deny the grace of God?”
There’s an idea among many religious folks that one is saved only by grace. Nothing else. You can’t do anything to affect your salvation. But Peter’s actions did not nullify God’s grace.
Today there is a divine role in our salvation. God’s love, grace, and mercy have made salvation possible (Eph 2:1-8). Without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, none of us could be saved (Jn 3:16: Rom 5:8). The Gospel is God’s saving power (Rom. 1:16). God did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
However, just like in Peter’s release from prison, there’s a human element involved. The Word must be preached (1 Cor. 1:21) “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). If you refuse to hear, you will be lost.
Furthermore, we must believe (Heb. 11:6). But not faith only. Faith works (Jn 6:29) and touches our hearts affecting godly sorrow causing us to turn from our sins in repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Like the Ethiopian treasurer of old when we learn who Jesus is and what he did for us, we will confess that He is the Son of God (Ax 8:37).
All of this leads us to be “baptized for the remission of sins (Ax 2:38). Baptism puts us into a relationship with Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). Inducts us into the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). Washes away our sins (Rev 1:5; Ax 22:16). And saves us (I Pet 3:21).
Our primary obedience and our future adherence to the Lord’s commands, does not negate God’s grace. It only highlights how wonderful and amazing God’s grace is.
If you want to escape sin’s shackles and Satan’s imprisonment, listen to the Lord. Get up! Obey His Word. And follow Him.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman