In this message we shall consider 12:1-24, a parenthetical section concerning Peter in his ministry.
Why is there the need for such a parenthetical section as 12:1-24 to be inserted here? All the writers of the New Testament were inspired by the Spirit to select the proper material for their composition so that their writing might reach the goal. Based upon this principle, we need to consider why Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, inserted the instance recorded in 12:1-24 at this point. Surely the Holy Spirit within Luke must have had a goal in doing this.
In 11:1-18 Peter related to those in Jerusalem how the door was opened for the Gentiles to come into the kingdom of God. According to 11:18, those who heard these things were silent and glorified God. They could only say, “Then also to the Gentiles God has given repentance unto life.” In the remainder of chapter eleven (vv. 19-30) Luke tells us about the spread of the gospel to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch through the scattered disciples and about the communication between the church in Antioch and the churches in Judea. Barnabas was sent out from Jerusalem to visit the places where the Lord’s work was spreading. When he came to Antioch, he realized that there was the need for ministry. Therefore, he brought Saul to Antioch to help in meeting the need there. It was through this that Saul was brought into the service in the church and was initiated into his ministry.
Saul’s preaching in Damascus was quite prevailing, and he even had disciples. But that was not the right time for him to be fully initiated into the New Testament ministry. We may say that Saul’s preaching in Damascus was something done on his own.
Three brothers were especially related to Saul: Stephen, Ananias, and Barnabas. Through Stephen Saul heard the gospel for the first time. Through Ananias he was brought into the identification with the Body. Then through Barnabas Saul was brought into the fellowship in Jerusalem. Although he was brought into the fellowship at that time, he was not yet brought into the ministry. He was not at that time fully initiated into the New Testament economy. Sometime after Saul left Jerusalem for Tarsus, the time became right for Barnabas to find him and bring him to Antioch. Only when Saul was brought to Antioch by Barnabas was he brought into the service for the churches in an absolute way. We see this in the disciples in Antioch sending their material gift to the brothers in Judea through the hand of Barnabas and Saul. Here we see that Barnabas and Saul were assigned to bring the gifts from Antioch to help the saints in Judea. In this way Saul was brought into a service that was recognized by all the churches. Furthermore, after Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch from Jerusalem, Saul entered fully into the New Testament ministry. Therefore, Saul’s initiation into the service of the churches and fully into the New Testament ministry took place in 11:19 through 12:25, with 12:1-24 being a parenthetical section related to Peter, not Saul, inserted in the record.
It seems that Peter’s ministry has waned by 11:18. Then in 11:19 we have the beginning of the full initiation of Saul’s ministry. This initiation is completed at 12:25. Then, as we shall see, his ministry begins fully in 13:1.
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