It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.
He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.
Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him.
Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating."
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.
When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!"
"You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel."
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. "Tell James and the brothers about this," he said, and then he left for another place.
In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.
After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while.
He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply.
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people.
They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man."
Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
But the word of God continued to increase and spread.
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.
When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus,
who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.
But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.
Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,
"You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?
Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun." Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.
From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.
After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak."
Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: "Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!
The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country,
he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert,
he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance.
All this took about 450 years. "After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.
Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.
After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'
"From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.
Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.
As John was completing his work, he said: 'Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.'
"Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.
The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.
Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.
When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.
But God raised him from the dead,
and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
"We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers
he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: " 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father. '
The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: " 'I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.'
So it is stated elsewhere: " 'You will not let your Holy One see decay.'
"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.
But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
"Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.
Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
" 'Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.' "
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath.
When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.
For this is what the Lord has commanded us: " 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' "
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.
But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.