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Killed By Pride

Or-Eaten by Worms

It was exciting and frightening at the same time! The early Christians in Jerusalem had seen God’s power. Three thousand were saved and baptized on the day of Pentecost. The Jewish opposition had threatened, imprisoned, and given commands not to teach in the name of Jesus. Yet the apostles and the new converts persisted in their victorious testimony. Many more received Christ as Savior.

Then Stephen was martyred. Christians were scattered everywhere – but kept preaching the gospel. James was imprisoned and beheaded. King Herod Agrippa 1, seeing that the execution of James pleased the Jews, put Peter in prison, intending to execute him. The church gathered in powerful intercessory prayer, and God miraculously delivered Peter from prison. Herod had the guards executed and then went up to Caesarea.

Herod had a conflict with the people of Tyre and Sidon, but they bribed the king’s chamberlain and were able to negotiate with him for peace. They depended on the king’s good favor for access to needed food. Their hearts were full of any flattery required to get what they wanted.

Agrippa came to a special feast and celebration to honor Claudius Caesar (Wiersbe N.T. Commentary, p. 363) and to meet with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Perhaps he gave a flowery and eloquent conciliatory speech, and they flattered him, saying, “It is the voice of a god and not of a man.”  “Immediately the angel of the Lord smote him because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms and gave up the ghost.” (Acts 12:22-23). (Please note that it does not say he died immediately, but the angel of the Lord immediately struck him. God controlled the timing of this event.)

Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, records this event, saying, “At the same time he was seized by a severe pain in his belly, which began with a most violent attack . . . He was carried quickly into the palace . . . and when he had suffered continuously for five days from the pain in his belly, he died – in the fifty-fourth year of his age and the seventh of his reign.” –Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 19, Whiston chapter 8, Whiston section 2 (tufts.edu)

The egotistical Herod Agrippa 1 was willing to accept the flattery of deceptive people and take credit for himself without regard to the true God. For this sin, God struck him down. “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8).

In the aftermath of this event, Luke makes this significant statement: “But the word of God grew and multiplied.” (Acts 12:24). Herod’s enmity toward Christians and his death did not slow down the spread of the gospel.

There is a parallel story to this event in Acts 14: 8-18. Paul and Barnabas were preaching the gospel at Lystra. There they saw a man impotent in his feet, a cripple from birth. Paul commanded the man to “stand upright on thy feet.”  Immediately, he stood up, leaped, and walked. The crowd surrounding them was amazed and lifted up their voices, saying, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.”  Then they named Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercurius. The gathering was so motivated that the priest of Jupiter prepared to do sacrifice in worship of Paul and Barnabas.

When Paul and Barnabas saw what the people were about to do, they ran in among the people and cried out. We are trying to turn you away from these vanities to the living God who created all things. We are men of like passions as you. We are not gods. And they were scarcely able to restrain the people from making a sacrifice to them.

In the story of Herod Agrippa 1 and the story of Paul and Barnabas, the people praised them as deities. Herod accepted the flattery and died. Paul and Barnabas stopped the people and pointed them to the true God. And God honored them with a fruitful ministry.

James said, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). , “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” And “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:29,31). Referring to the gospel, he said, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Paul also wrote: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”  (2 Corinthians 10:17-18)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not here to make a name for ourselves. We want to glorify Him. We do not need the approval of others but only the approval of the Lord.

About Dale B

I am a born-again Christian who loves to write and share the Good News about Jesus. Raised on a small Wisconsin farm and saved at age 12, I have been active in Christian service since that time. My many years as a pastor, accountant, and lay worker in the church have equipped me to help those in need. In retirement now in Texas, the Lord has led me to writing as a means of winning people to Christ and helping Christians grow in the Lord. By God’s grace I hope to be a blessing and encouragement to you.

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  1. Dale,
    Wonderful message!
    Excellent reminder for all of us. I love the scriptures you used to support the message.
    Well done,
    God Bless~

  2. Excellent article! I am blessed by the truths you pointed out. Thank you for these examples between right or wrong living.

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