Acts 12:1-5 An Apostle Is Killed

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

An Apostle Is Killed

I am not quite why Herod had the authority to kill James.  I thought that the Romans had to sanction that kind of thing like they did with Jesus.  However, a year has passed since Jesus’ death and Christianity has spread and developed a name for itself.  It is causing division among the Jewish people.  The result of the tensions is that Herod not only imprisons a disciple but has him killed.

Herod, whose life was ruled by political posturing, saw that this increased his popularity with the populace and so he arrested Peter with the idea of killing him also.  The security that Herod placed around Peter is given in great detail.  Things looked dire for Peter.

However, before we move on to the story about Peter’s deliverance, let’s remember that James was executed.  We often share a gospel with our friends in the 21st century promising them a better life.  We say that if you have Jesus you will find happiness.  Doesn’t that sound like a lie when we look at the life of James.  He was killed with a sword.  I don’t know if he was stabbed or decapitated, I would assume the latter.

We may think of this as an ancient experience at the hands of kings and queen long since forgotten.  However, in this day and age Christians are again imprisoned and decapitated for their faith.  In America, to be a Christian is no longer to enjoy the privileged position of power it once was.  Christians are often talked about as a problem and movies mock the way that the church has conducted itself.  To be a Christian means to be an outcast or worse.

The question is, if choosing Jesus meant standing up against a wooden post and having a person cut off your head, would you still choose Jesus?

Symbol associated with Christians in Syria


In these days when owning You does not mean a life of ease and comfort, give us the strength to be faithful to you.  Be everything to us so that martyrdom makes sense.  Help us to choose you each day in every decision so that when the difficult days come we still choose you.


  1. What happened to James?
  2. What happened to Peter?
  3. Why did God let these things happen?
  4. Who is being killed for their faith today?
  5. How does that change how we communicate about our faith?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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