Why Didn't God Spare James (Acts 12:1-19)?
Jan 24, 2011 by Craig Blomberg | 0 Comments
“King Herod. . .had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.” (12:1-2; updated NIV)
“Why did God allow my brother to die?” “Why hasn’t he healed my cancer?” We ask these and countless questions like them over and over again. The church in Jerusalem no doubt wondered why God hadn’t spared, James, the brother of John, the son of Zebedee. He was the first apostle to be martyred and, unlike Stephen, the first known Christian martyr overall (recall Acts 6:8-8:3), he hadn’t said anything to inflame the authorities.
Most of Acts 12:1-19 is about Peter’s imprisonment and miraculous release. That makes the question about James all the more poignant. God could have rescued James as well, had he wanted to. The kinds of claims some Christians have made throughout church history don’t fit this passage. Nothing is said about Peter being more faith-filled or obedient than James; what we know of Peter elsewhere in the Bible makes that highly unlikely! Luke does refer to Christians praying for Peter, but we dare not infer that no one ever prayed for James.
The truth is we don’t know why God miraculously intervened to spare Peter but not James. We must be content leaving it in his sovereign and gracious hands. We should recall that miracles are rare or we’d stop calling them miracles. Most of the time in a fallen world, God does not intervene to prevent evil. The only question we should ever ask is why he does very occasionally work miracles. He obviously had more for Peter to do. Beyond that, we dare not surmise.