12:24 With Herod out of the way, there were fewer hindrances to the spread of the good news, which flourished and multiplied.
12:24 word of God In contrast to the speech of Herod that brought on his destruction, the word of the true God—that is, the proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and new life in the Spirit—continues to grow and spread.
12:24 the word of God increased. No power can triumph over the word of God (cf. 6:7; 13:49), and those who attempt to harm God’s people will in the end face judgment themselves.
12:24. In contrast to the mortal consequence on Herod, the word of God grew and multiplied. With this progress report Luke concludes his fourth major division. The nation’s leaders (or the nation) clearly align themselves with the wicked Herod (who rightly suffers God’s righteous judgment) and thus they clearly reject the Messiah and God’s plans for them. The church nevertheless established itself in Jerusalem with the presence of the apostles and the leadership of James. Furthermore, a Gentile outreach began with the Gospel’s reception among the Hellenists.
12:24 Meanwhile, the gospel expands its outreach continually. God makes the wrath of man praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He restrains (Ps. 76:10). He makes the devices of the people of no effect, but the counsel of the Lord stands forever (Ps. 33:10, 11).
The prosperity of the church (12:24).
12:24. But the Word of God continued to increase and spread (cf. similar wording in 6:7; 13:49; 19:20). In spite of opposition and persecution the Lord sovereignly prospered the work of His church. With this progress report Luke brought another section of his work to a conclusion (cf. 2:47; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30–31). From Antioch the gospel message was now ready to go to Asia Minor.
12:24. Though Herod attempted to eliminate the church’s leaders, in the end, he was eliminated. His death made it possible for the Word of God to continue its advance.
God’s sovereignty is a mystery. James was executed, but Peter was miraculously released. Why God did not intervene to rescue James is a mystery that defies finite understanding. The mystery continues today. We still do not understand why God delivers some believers from danger and even death, but not others. Christians who suffer and die, sometimes as martyrs, are not notorious sinners. They are godly and love the Lord, yet the Lord allows the enemies of Christianity to persecute them. In many places in the world today, Christians suffer and die for their faith. Stott, however, has reminded us that the victory of tyrants is temporary. He said, “Tyrants may be permitted for a time to boast and bluster, oppressing the church and hindering the spread of the gospel but they will not last. In the end their empire will be broken and their power abased” (Acts, 213).
We do not know what would have happened to Peter if the church had not prayed. We are not even certain that they were praying for his release, since they seem to have been embarrassingly surprised when he suddenly appeared at the house where they were meeting. Like God’s sovereignty, prayer is also somewhat of a mystery. Scripture makes it clear that we ought to pray and that prayer does make a difference. God answers prayer. But contrary to what some believe and teach, we do not need to have a gigantic measure of faith, only enough to believe that God will hear us and answer according to His sovereign and unalterable purposes.
24. But the word of God continued to increase and multiply.
After Herod’s death, the Roman emperor appointed a governor to rule the land of the Jews. The Christians once again enjoyed freedom from persecution. As a result, the church continued to increase numerically. Luke implies that the messengers of the gospel went everywhere with the Good News. Wherever these ministers proclaimed the message of salvation, there the church was strengthened in the faith and supported by numerous additional believers. At the beginning of his book, Luke mentions figures to indicate the phenomenal growth of the church. But as the church expanded in ever-widening circles, Luke speaks only in generalities and states that “the word of God continued to increase and multiply” (see 6:7; 19:20).
Growth of the Word of God (v. 24). Occasional summary statements are a characteristic feature of the Book of Acts (cf. 6:7; 9:31). Verse 24 is such a summary. It presents a vivid contrast: the tyrant, eaten by worms, dies (v. 23); “but the word of God grew and multiplied” (v. 24). “Gave up the ghost” (v. 23), translating an aorist tense (point action), signifies the death of opposition. “Grew” and “multiplied” are both present tenses and speak of the continuing growth, etc., of the word. “Meanwhile the Lord’s Message kept extending, and spreading far and wide” (tcnt).
24. At intervals Luke has commented briefly on the progress of the church (6:7; 9:31), and he now does so once again, to demonstrate that despite the attacks on the church from outside, the word of God continued to spread (for the language see 6:7). This was more important than the fact that the persecutor of the church suffered retribution for his deeds. The work of God went on despite the death of James and the departure of Peter.
24. And the word of God. When the tyrant was once taken out of the way the Church was suddenly delivered, as it were, out of the jaws of the wolf. Therefore, though the faithful be accounted as sheep appointed to be slain, (Psalm 44:23,) yet the Church doth always overlive her enemies; and though the word of God seem oftentimes to be oppressed with the wicked tyranny of men, yet it getteth up the head again by and by, (Rom. 8:37.) For Luke determined not only what had happened after that Herod was dead, but also by this example to encourage us, that we may be assured that God will do that, in all ages, which he then did, to the end the gospel may at length break through all impediments of the enemies, and that the more the Church is diminished, it may the more increase through the heavenly blessing.
Ver. 24.—The word of God grew and multiplied in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood, in spite of Agrippa’s persecution. The blood of the martyr James was the seed of the Church, and the speedy vengeance taken by God upon the persecutor doubtless gave fresh courage to his people to confess the Name of Jesus Christ. As regards the preceding account of Herod Agrippa’s death, it is corroborated in the most remarkable manner by the narrative in Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ xix. viii. 2). He there tells that when he had been three years King of all Judæa (see ver. 1, note) he went to Cæsarea. And that on occasion of a festival celebrated “for the safety of Cæsar” (some think to celebrate his return from Britain, while others, as Wieseler think that they were the ordinary Quinquennalia, celebrated in the provinces), he exhibited games and spectacles in honour of Claudius. On the second day of these games, when a vast number of people were assembled in the theatre, Agrippa came in, clothed in a garment wholly made of silver, which reflected the rays of the morning sun with a most dazzling and awful brilliancy. Whereupon his flatterers cried out that he was a god, and offered prayer to him. The king, he adds, did not rebuke them nor reject their impious flattery. He was presently seized with a violent pain in his bowels, which soon became so intense that he was carried out of the theatre to his palace, and expired after five days of excruciating pain. It is curious that in the above account Josephus says that Agrippa saw an owl sitting over his head, which he recognized as a messenger (ἄγγελον) of evil to him. Eusebius, quoting Josephus (‘Eccl. Hist.,’ ii. x.), leaves out the owl, and says that Agrippa saw an angel sitting over his head, whom he recognized as the cause of his sufferings. Whiston, in a note, seeks to exonerate Eusebius from unfairness in the quotation, by suggesting that the manuscript of Eusebius is in this place corrupt; but Bede quotes Josephus just as Eusebius does, unless perchance he is quoting him at second hand from Eusebius.
12:24 / So died the church’s persecutor. Meanwhile the church itself continued to prosper—another of Luke’s summary statements (see disc. on 2:42–47). “The seed is the word,” said Jesus (Mark 4:14), and Luke tells us now that the seed continued to increase and spread. In the Greek text, this verse is identical with the first part of 6:7 (cf. also 19:20).
Summary Statement (12:24)
24 Luke’s third panel on the Christian mission within the Jewish world ends with a summary statement comparable to the summaries that concluded the two preceding panels at 6:7 and 9:31. In its immediate context, v. 24 contrasts the progress of the gospel to the awful end of the church’s persecutor Herod Agrippa I. More broadly, it implies that though Luke’s attention throughout the remainder of Acts will be focused on the advances of the gospel to Gentiles, within the Jewish world “the word of God continued to increase and spread.” In other words, God was still at work in behalf of the Jerusalem church and its ministry and was still concerned for his ancient people Israel.
God’s Purposes Cannot Be Frustrated
But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark. (12:24–25)
Again Luke keeps us on track with the church’s growth by reporting that despite the furious opposition of men, the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. They could no more stop its spread than King Canute could stop the tide from coming in.
After stating the fact that God’s purposes cannot be frustrated, Luke cites as an example Barnabas and Saul, who returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission. They had completed their mission of bringing famine relief to the Jerusalem church (11:30). That mission took place after Herod’s death. He died, but the church he persecuted lived on.
Luke notes that John, who was also called Mark, accompanied them. From Colossians 4:10 we learn that he was Barnabas’s cousin. As he accompanied them on their relief mission to Jerusalem, so he would accompany them on their first missionary journey (13:5). His defection during that journey (13:13) would eventually lead to a rift between Paul and Barnabas (15:36–40).
Verses 24–25 mark an important transition in Acts. They introduce again the apostle Paul, with whose ministry the rest of the book will be primarily concerned.
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