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During the early years of its existence, the church enjoyed great success. In fact, only a short time after its inception on the day of Pentecost, “the number of men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). Because of the growing influence of the church, the Jewish leaders began to persecute those who preached Christ Jesus. At first, this persecution came in the form of imprisonments and warnings, but it was not long until the persecution expanded to the point that Christians were being put to death.
In spite of the persecutions of men, Christianity continued to grow and flourish. And a chief reason for this success can be seen when we compare the way that Christians approached life with the way that their persecutors did so. For example, regarding the actions of Herod, Luke wrote: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3). From this passage, we learn that Herod was not motivated by what he considered to be right right. Instead, his concern was with the reaction of the crowd. It was only after “he saw that it pleased the Jews” that he took Peter into custody.
In stark contrast to the mentality that seeks to please men, Peter had previously preached: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And during the time that he was being held by Herod, “constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5). Herod approached men; the church approached God.