Sunday: Acts 11:30
v30: Indeed the believers in Antioch followed through on their commitment. A gift was sent to the elders in Jerusalem by means of Barnabas and Saul. Paul (Saul) describes this visit in his letter to the Galatians (Gal 2:1-14). He says the trip took place 14 years after he met Christ (Gal 2:14). He and Barnabas had been asked to carry the gift to Jerusalem and while there Paul seized the opportunity to present the gospel, as he preached it, to James (the Lords brother), Peter and John, inviting them to correct him if he had erred in any way. They had brought with them a young Greek believer named Titus, and his very presence served as a test case.
Monday: Acts 11:30
v30 (continued): Would the leaders of the Jerusalem Church require this young Gentile to be circumcised before welcoming him into their fellowship? They didnt require it and welcomed Titus just as he was. In this way the righteousness that comes by faith alone was endorsed. Then these pillars of the church (James, Peter and John) gave Saul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, meaning they formally acknowledged that what was happening in Antioch was a valid ministry of God. And finally, they encouraged them to keep preaching to Gentiles, but stated that they themselves would continue preaching only to Jews.
Tuesday: Acts 11:30
v30 (continued): In the midst of this account (Gal 2:1-14) Paul mentions that false brethren slipped into these meetings. He says they pretended to be friendly, but actually came as spies. They were there to examine his gospel, hoping to find a way to discredit him so they could demand that the converts in Antioch observe the ceremonial laws of Moses. Paul said their real motive was to enslave us (Gal 2:4). Apparently, they tried pulling rank on him, positioning themselves as his elders, but he says, not for an hour did we yield in subjection to them. We can only imagine the intensity of those debates. When the dialogue was finished Paul said the Jerusalem leaders added nothing to me, meaning he learned no new truths from the confrontation, nor could they find fault with anything he preached. When this difficult confrontation was over they still asked them to remember their poor, and Pauls amazing response was, the very thing I was eager to do (Gal 2:10).
Wednesday: Acts 12: 1, 2
vs1-2: During the time Barnabas and Saul were in Jerusalem (v25) the church in that city experienced violent persecution. Herod Agrippa I, Herod the Greats grandson, seized some to harm them, and in the process executed the apostle James with a sword, which most likely meant he had been beheaded. Herod Agrippa I reigned from about A.D. 37-44 (46?) and held onto power by being both fiercely loyal to Rome and by conducting himself as a devout Pharisaic Jew. Persecuting the church was a way he could show the nation how zealous he was for the Law of Moses. He too was outraged by these followers of Jesus, in particular those who had begun to drop the cultural barriers that separated Jew and Gentile (Ac 10, 11). If word had already reached Jerusalem that Jews were fellowshipping with Gentiles in Antioch, that news alone would have been enough to reawaken hostility toward the church (Ac 22:21, 22; 28:28, 29).
Thursday: Acts 12:3
v3: Herod carried out his attack during the days of Unleavened Bread, which is the week following Passover. It was one of the three festivals held each year during which Jews from all over the nation and the world would gather in Jerusalem. By executing James during this busy season, Herod ensured the greatest number of people possible would see his display of religious zeal. His selection of James to be the first to be executed means James must have been widely viewed as a principle leader of the church.
Friday: Acts 12:3
v3 (continued): Seeing how much James execution pleased the religious leaders, Herod decided to execute Peter as well. That he did not target James, the Lords brother, for execution may be due to the fact that he led the very observant portion of the Jewish church (Ac 21:17-22). This group believed in Jesus as the Savior, but still devotedly observed the ceremonial laws of Moses. They were not suspected of fellowshipping with Gentiles. We know from one of Pauls letters (Gal 2:1-10) that they had formally welcomed Gentile believers at a gathering which included representatives from the church in Antioch (Gal 2:7-9), but even then they had made it clear that they had no intention of regularly fellowshipping with Gentiles or of trying to evangelize them (Gal 2:9). This may be why the attack seems to be focused on the apostolic portion of the church, not the highly observant portion led by James and the brethren (v17).
Saturday: Acts 12:4-6
v4: Peter was arrested and placed under maximum security. He had already escaped from prison once before (Ac 5:18-25), so Herod put him in jail, delivering him to four squads (four soldiers per squad) to guard him, planning after the Passover to bring him up to the people. He intended to execute Peter after the festival of Unleavened Bread was concluded. v5: By delaying the execution, Herod unintentionally gave the church time to pray, and they used those days to pray fervently. Luke describes their prayer this way, ...prayer concerning him was continually being stretched out by the church toward God. And their prayer had a powerful effect beyond anything they expected. v6: Peter was manacled, with a chain attached to each arm. These two chains were attached to two soldiers who were rotated every three hours so they would stay awake. Two different sets of guards were also posted outside his cell, and finally, there was an iron gate at the outer wall of the prison. In other words, everything humanly possible was done to prevent him from escaping.