ACTS 16:11-40 FEBRUARY 26, 2017
“DOING WHAT IS RIGHT”
During my college years, I participated in Campus Crusade for Christ. As we shared the gospel with our fellow students the ministry had great success in leading many students to Christ and then getting them into small discipleship groups. Part of our commitment to these small groups was a commitment to share the gospel with our fellow students. It was during these times that we did face opposition to the gospel. We also had encounters with the demonic: with covens and with Satan worshippers. These encounters that Paul experienced in Philippi still have relevance for today and show us (the church) what we may face.
In Acts 16 Luke records three stories (testimonies) of Paul and Silas’s evangelistic efforts and the consequences of their faithfulness to the command of Christ to go into the world with Christ’s offer of salvation and eternal life. I will focus on the last two stories of Paul’s efforts to share Christ with the people of Philippi.
Paul had started with meeting with those Jews and God-fearers that met for prayer each Sabbath. Paul and Silas ended up staying with Lydia and her household that they had led to Christ and had baptized. Acts 16:16-17 (NIV) “16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”
The young woman was a slave who was possessed by a demonic spirit who was able to predict the future. Luke describes the demonic spirit as a “python spirit”. The python serpent (or dragon) was associated with “the oracle sanctuary of Delphi”, which was about eighty miles northwest of Athens. In the story of the origin of the cult, Apollo killed the large snake that guarded the entrance to the underworld. People were known to travel from all over the Mediterranean world to this temple to consult with the priestess (also known as the oracle of Delphi). (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary).
This story of the young slave girl is very similar to the encounter that Jesus had with the demon-possessed man from the region of the Gerasenes near the Sea of Galilee. Luke 8:27-28 (NIV) “27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”
The demon in both of these encounters used the Old Testament title given to God emphasizing God’s sovereignty over all things. The slave girl shouting out this message became an irritant to Paul. Acts 16:18 (NIV) “18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.” Paul discerned that the slave girl was demon possessed and commanded the demon to come out of the girl in the name of Jesus.
The name of Jesus is powerful. Philippians 2:9-10 (NIV) “9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” We should not be afraid of Satan or his demons. We belong to Jesus and Jesus protects his own. Yet, I caution you to be careful when you encounter the demonic world.
In this instance, Paul was not attacked by the demon, but by the owners of the slave girl. Acts 16:19-21 (NIV) “19 When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” The owners of the girl did not care about the welfare of their property but only about the money they made from her demonic spirit.
Slavery has raised its ugly demonic head once again in our culture. Sexual slavery, including the use of children, is a plague that is wreaking havoc in our world. The church must be aware of this battle. Do not think that this problem is not here in our small town. I have had tribal police tell me of the problem of prostitution that is ongoing in the casino. This is a spiritual battle that we must be praying about.
Sharing the gospel is a part of our faith. God provides us opportunities to evangelize if we will be open to the leading of the Spirit. However, when we share the gospel we must be aware that we will face opposition and even suffering. Acts 16:23-24 (NIV) “23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” Paul and Silas were victims of anti-Semitism and of promoting practices that was not recognized by the Roman authorities. We do not know why Paul did not identify himself right away as being a Roman citizen. He did so later the next day.
What we do know is that Paul used the opportunity to share the gospel while he was in prison. Acts 16:25-28 (NIV) “25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
In spite of their suffering, Paul and Silas were singing songs of praise. God used their praise to speak to the hearts of those listening, including the jailer and his family. The jailer knew what Paul and Silas had been accused of. Acts 16:29-34 (NIV) “29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God–he and his whole family.”
God uses the church to deliver the message. We must trust God to bring about the harvesting. Acts 16:14 (NIV) “14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” As believers we are commanded to share the gospel message. God will use our efforts but God will be the One to open the hearts of those whom he calls to faith.
We should not be surprised when we face opposition, including satanic opposition. John 15:20-21 (NIV) “20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”
We must do what is right even when it is hard. The message of this passage to me is don’t give up even in the face of opposition. Trust in the Lord and be faithful and obedient until he calls us home.
Let us pray.